FE7 Blazing Blade Localization: Karel’s “Sword” – Physical Blade or a Technique? [JPN vs ENG]

This post is part of a series on reader requested (and personal curiosity) comparisons between Fire Emblem games’ Japanese and English scripts.

Today’s post concerns a reader from reddit’s curiosity regarding Karel. To quote:

Could you possibly take a look at Karel and Karla’s supports to see if they are strictly referring to the art of the sword or if there actually is a physical sword passed down in their family? I argued once that their English supports establish there is a physical sword (which is not named in game and in particular is not the Wo Dao).

They mention the quote (in the screen shot above) which is the line in question. One would likely assume it is indeed a physical blade as opposed to any sort of “way of the sword” as a result. It may be worth noting that Karel holds a bloodied sword in his official artwork too that some assume may be said sword.

Upon researching it, it’s an interesting case that leans toward mistranslation, and that the sword is actually meant to be a style and not a physical blade. But let’s take a thorough look at the matter.

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Now let’s get to it!

First, for context, here is Karel and Karla’s localized C-support conversation in its entirety. I highlight some words we will address afterward.

Official Localization:

Karla: Brother!

Karel: Karla…

Karla: It really is you! I’ve finally found you.

Karel: I have been looking for you as well. Of the six of us, four are gone. You and I are all that remain.

Karla: ! No… It can’t be!! Brother…our parents…

Karel: Slain by my blade.

Karla: Unthinkable…

Karel: You are of the same blood; you must understand. Only one can wield the sword. Our clan lived for this sword, as they died by it. Our father knew this and tried to protect the sword.

Karla: ……

Karel: You were not worth fighting at the time. But time changes… everything. Beautiful, Karla.

Karla: Brother?

Karel:Your swordsmanship. It truly is a thing to behold. So much that I can barely resist the urge to strike you down.

Karla: You would kill…me, too?

Karel: Eventually, yes. It is you or I, Karla. One and only one can carry this sword.

Karla: ……

Upon reading this, whether you are familiar with the game or not, one would likely assume that yes, this sword is indeed a physical blade that he is rather possessive over. The highlighted lines show all the places to address, after all, sometime he says “the” sword and sometimes he says “this.” “This sword” does sound quite physical, like he’s referring to an object currently in his possession. “The sword” meanwhile could apply to a wider range, such as the [way of the] sword.”

However, the green line (“slain by my blade”) would stand out as odd, as he may have said “slain by the sword” too had he been talking about a weapon. But, one may say he is simply being possessive and asserting said blade is indeed his own now.

Why is the “swordsmanship” line highlighted? That plays a part later, after we look at the Japanese and literal translation side by side:

Comparison table:

Japanese Literal Translation Official Localization
Karla: 兄者・・・! Karla: Brother…! Karla: Brother!
Karel: カアラか。 Karel: Karla. Karel: Karla…
Karla:本当に・・・兄者なのですね。やっと見つけた・・・ Karla: It really…it really is you! I finally found you… Karla: It really is you! I’ve finally found you.
Karel:私も、お前を探していた。我ら一族六人のうち、四人はいなくなった。あとは、お前一人だカアラ。 Karel: I’ve been looking for you too. Of our family of six, four are gone. You’re the last one, Karla. Karel: I have been looking for you as well. Of the six of us, four are gone. You and I are all that remain.
Karla:!まさか・・・兄者は・・・父上たちを・・・ Karla: No…brother…you…father and the others… Karla: ! No… It can’t be!! Brother…our parents…
Karel: 斬った。 Karel: Cut them down. Karel: Slain by my blade.
Karla: そんな・・・ Karla: No… Karla: Unthinkable…
Karel:お前も一族の者なら、心得ているはず。剣を継ぐのは、一人。我ら一族は剣のために生まれ、死ぬ。父もそうして、この剣を守ってきた。 Karel: You should know, being of the same family. Only one can inherit the sword[1]. Our family is born of the sword, and dies by it. Father sought to protect this sword with that in mind. Karel: You are of the same blood; you must understand. Only one can wield the sword. Our clan lived for this sword, as they died by it. Our father knew this and tried to protect the sword.
Karla:・・・・・・ Karla: … Karla: ……
Karel:以前のお前は、斬るに値しなかった。だが、時は人を変える。美しくなったな、カアラ。 Karel: Back then, you were not worth killing. But, people change overtime. You’ve grown beautiful, Karla. Karel: You were not worth fighting at the time. But time changes… everything. Beautiful, Karla.
Karla: 兄者・・・ Karla: Brother… Karla: Brother?
Karel:今のお前の剣・・・実に美しい。斬らずにはいられぬほどに、な。 Karel: Your swordsmanship[2] now…is truly beautiful. To the point I must cut you down. Karel: Your swordsmanship. It truly is a thing to behold. So much that I can barely resist the urge to strike you down.
Karla: 私も・・・斬るのですね? Karla: You…will kill me too? Karla: You would kill…me, too?
Karel:いずれ、な。お前か、私か。生き残った方が剣を継げばよい Karel: Someday. You, or me? Whoever remains alive shall inherit the sword.[3] Karel: Eventually, yes. It is you or I, Karla. One and only one can carry this sword.
Karla:・・・・・・ Karla: … Karla: ……
  1. Very literally: 剣を継ぐのは、一人 “Inherit/succeed/taking up sword is only one person.”
  2. Very literally: 今のお前の剣…実に美しい “Now’s sword of yours [is]…truly beautiful.”
  3. Very literally: 生き残った方が剣を継げばよい “Which side is alive is [the one] to inherit/succeed/take up the sword.” (Same verb/phrase as before).

So: a literal translation is not actually too helpful here. The reason is because the localization is a very accurate translation. However, the few choices in words they took are what caused the issues. For one, you can see sometimes I wrote in the literal translation “the sword” and they wrote “this sword,” and sometimes I wrote “this sword” and they wrote “the sword.” So let’s go really in depth and in order.

A quick note: You can skip to the conclusion as this may be a lot of dead horse beating, so please only read if you want to see all the nitty-gritty details that helps reach the conclusion that it is, indeed, in fact, a sword style.

So first things first:

The word for “sword” in question is the character 剣 (ken/tsurugi, the same “sword” in the title of the game, 烈火の剣 (Blazing Blade) and the sequel 封印の剣 (Binding Blade). Indeed, fans used to refer to the games as Blazing Sword and the Sword of Seals for this reason. It’s also the ken in kendo 剣道 (lit: way of the sword). I point this out as the character 剣 I will keep coming back to, as sometimes the localization uses “blade” and “sword” in different contexts.

Next, Japanese has no “the.” It does, however, have a “this” at times. As a result, I made sure in my translation to only translate it as this sword when the word for “this” (この) is used. Normally “this” would be used with creative liberties but this article delves into very minute semantics so it requires this kind of precision.

Now we have to break down the dialogue, step by step.

Karel: 斬った。 Karel: Cut them down. Karel: Slain by my blade.

Karel’s word in Japanese means to kill, or cut [down] via blade. I point this out because this makes his localized line of “slain by my blade” irrelevant (in the sense that, there is no blade mentioned, simply implied). As trivial as that sounds, this is a post about whether it’s a physical blade or not, so it matters.

You can see too that the character 剣 is nowhere to be seen.

Karel:お前も一族の者なら、心得ているはず。剣を継ぐのは、一人。我ら一族は剣のために生まれ、死ぬ。父もそうして、この剣を守ってきた。 Karel: You should know, being of this family. Only one can inherit the sword.[1] Our family is born of the sword, and dies by it. Father sought to protect this sword with that in mind. Karel: You are of the same blood; you must understand. Only one can wield the sword. Our clan lived for this sword, as they died by it. Our father knew this and tried to protect the sword.

Here’s where the problems begin. Above I wrote a note on this line (marked by [1]). The verb used here (with the sword 剣 as the direct object) usually translates to “inherit.” Inheritance’s connotation is often more toward a physical inheritance rather than say, a conceptual inheritance (i.e. a sword style). The same verb can also mean “succeed” or “take up [where one leaves off].” The result of having multiple meaning is that it’s up to the translator to interpret the meaning and translate it accordingly in their image.

Here we start to see wording that may confuse a reader in English more than Japanese:

  • “Inherit the sword” (literal) is made to “wield the sword.” Wield leans much more toward the physical blade, as a style is not “wielded” but can be “inherited.”
  • “Born of the sword and dies by it” to “lived for this sword and died by it.” In this context this could work for style, too, though, due to “the” sword being referenced in the previous line. But, it shows they chose to put this where it didn’t exist.
  • Oddly, now when he says “this sword” (and the father’s attempt to protect it), the localization said “the” sword.

That third point, however, in Japanese makes sense as a style, as the “this” that is used in that case is indeed referring to his previous lines of talking about [the] “sword” and such. By “protect” (or “guard”) he may have meant that the father wished to basically hold onto their clan’s unique sword style, rather than a physical object.

Regardless it’s not anything to draw a conclusion from. Let’s go to the next part:

Karel:今のお前の剣・・・実に美しい。斬らずにはいられぬほどに、な。 Karel: Your swordsmanship[2] now…is truly beautiful. To the point I must cut you down. Karel: Your swordsmanship. It truly is a thing to behold. So much that I can barely resist the urge to strike you down.

So this part I point out simply because the localization refers to the same 剣/sword as “swordsmanship” just as the literal (and original Japanese) said. Super literally, the original Japanese says “your sword.” The translator correctly discerned that Karel meant Karla’s sword style or skill and not the physical sword itself –which is odd given the other circumstance and topic of this very post.

The next part is probably what sealed reader confusion:

Karel:いずれ、な。お前か、私か。生き残った方が剣を継げばよい。 Karel: Someday. You, or me? Whoever remains alive shall inherit the sword.[3] Karel: Eventually, yes. It is you or I, Karla. One and only one can carry this sword.

The “inherit” pops up here again, the same one from before. But, more importantly, localization put the nail in the coffin by writing: “only one can carry this sword.”

With the simple word usage of “carry,” we now are more likely to imagine quite a physical object indeed. One who carries this sword. Unlike before where they utilized “this” simply to avoid grammatical awkwardness, there is no immediate clear indicator to “the” sword.

It’s interesting how the “this” and “the” makes a difference. Someone who is playing the game and reads the Japanese though for these last lines would be able to tell that they are talking about swords as a concept. Unfortunately, the English reader would not get the same reaction, due to the connotations of words like “carry” and “this sword.”

However, how can we be sure the Japanese isn’t referring to a physical sword? After all we are assuming it isn’t, and thus the translation looks odd. But maybe we’re wrong?

Well, we have to look at other parts of this game (as well as the next game). It is also definitely worth noting that a translator would be devoid of the context that a player is given when translating these, which likely played a big part in this mishap.

Let’s look beyond the C support in small relevant snippets.

Karla’s B Support

In the B support, Karla says the following in the localization:

Brother… I hated the sword. I never wanted to learn a skill that could only be used to kill. But it was the only way I could get close to you, Brother.

The Japanese:

兄者・・・私は剣など嫌いだった。他を斬り捨てるためだけの剣を学びたくなどなかった・・・だが、兄者に近づくにはこれしか方法がなかったから・・・

Brother… I hated [things like] the sword and such. I didn’t want to learn the sword that is simply used to cut down others… but, there was no other way to get close to you, brother…

Here, “the sword” is used, as well as “learn a skill that could only be used to kill.” The first line could refer to a physical object, but the second line hints at the “skill” of such sword. One may think Karla hates that sword which Karel has? It can be taken as a little vague in English (likely to avoid grammatical awkwardness), as she says “a skill.” But, in Japanese, it clearly says “learn the sword” (or, “the way of” one would assume) from this.

More importantly, though, that would mean the translator (who we could assume is the same one or the C support) had the right idea, and the presentation perhaps was a little mishandled. That does assume it is the same translator!

The point of presenting this little blurb is meant to just be a potential throwback to the idea that the translators indeed were aware it is a style, and the original Japanese leans toward this, but unfortunately made the presentation of such vague to the reader.

Karla’s A Support

Just a quick note, Karla says:

We are less than human now. We are no different from our swords themselves. Our hearts are cold, and we count the days we live solely by the flesh we cleave. What meaning can there be in such an existence?

In Japanese:

我らはもはや、人ではなし。この刃と、何の変わりもない。心を封じ、ただ斬るために
歳月を重ねる・・・そうやって生き永らえたとて何の意味もない・・

We aren’t human…these blades and us are no different. Our hearts are sealed, and we live to cut things down… what meaning is there to a life like this…

You may remember that I wrote 剣 is what they were using for “sword” before. Here, when “sword” is said, it’s actually a different character, one which is more definitely the physical object of a blade/sword (刃). This is worth noting as it’s translated as “sword” in English. For a Japanese reader, they now see “Ah, this is the physical blade (刃) she is referring to now, not the potential concept of the sword (剣) from before.” But, for the English reader, this differentiation is lost. Both are “the sword. So is she now referring to her physical sword? The family’s physical sword? Or the way of the sword? (The answer is she is referring to their physical blades in this particular instance).

Going back to “only one can carry this sword,” one would still be leaning toward it being a physical blade.

Next we move away from Karla to another point that may have made readers and translators assume it was a physical blade.

Dart’s A Support

In a conversation with Dart, Karel is seeking strong opponents and asking Dart where to find them. At one point, he says (in reference to Karel without realizing he is in fact the one he is speaking of):

I hear about this guy wherever I go! He uses a fairy sword and cuts people in half! He leaves behind only a mountain of bodies and a sea of blood. He is the “Sword Demon,” who lives only to kill! And his name is… Karel!

It immediately sticks out: “fairy sword”?

どこの国に行っても、こいつの噂は聞いた。妖刀を使うっていう人斬りだ。奴の後に残るのは、
屍の山と血の海。戦いにとり憑かれた蒼い刃の魔人・・・その名も、【剣魔】カレル!!

No matter what country I go to, I hear rumors about this guy. He cuts down people with a demonic sword. He leaves behind a mountain of bodies and a sea of blood. He’s the demon-man of the blue blade, possessed by [a lust for] battle… and his name is the “Sword Demon” Karel!

The word that was translated to “fairy sword” is 妖刀, which can mean “magical/fairy/demon sword.” Note the sword here is not 剣 or 刃, but the third 刀 (which is the character for “katana.” Given that his moniker is “Sword Demon” in the very same line, I’m curious as to why it may have been translated as “fairy sword.”

There’s also the “demon-man of the blue blade” (蒼い刃の魔人). Here you can see the blade character (刃) is used again. Interestingly, the “blue blade” part and such were cut out entirely. This was likely due to space limitations, and is probably referring to his signature blue garb, rather than any kind of blade he wields. The use of the word possess is like ghost/demonic possession, but is referring to “possessed by battle/the fight” and not “by the blade” as some may think reading the Japanese at a glance.

So does this mean Karel has a special sword? Not exactly, as this was likely meant to be a comical build up (think of introduction narration in anime about demons or samurai). Karel indeed shrugs it off later calling it all rather exaggerated. It does not seem to be in any reference to his sword –physical or style, but more just a silly play on his being.

Guy’s Supports

These next three snippets come from Guy’s C and B support with Karel:

C: Oh, forgive me! I am Guy, a warrior from Sacae. I would like you to teach me the art of the sword!

B: Please, I implore you! Teach me the art of the sword! I want my name to be known far and wide in Sacae!

B: I know I’m not good enough to fight you now. So, just train me in the sword. In one year’s time, I swear I will master the art. Enough to match you—enough to best you!

The three in Japanese. I do not translate them as the localization is accurate and as isn’t needed to make this point:

C: あ、ちょっと待ってくれよ!おれはギィ!サカの戦士だ。おれ、あんたに剣を教えて欲しいんだ

B: なあ、頼むからおれに剣を教えてくれ!おれはサカ一の剣士にならなきゃいけないんだ!

B: けど、今のおれじゃあんたにはかなわない。だから、おれに剣を教えてくれ。一年あれば、おれは絶対強くなってみせる。

So the point of this section is to show that the character 剣 (the word used for “the/this sword” back in the Karla C support) is now being used to mean the concept, or art, of the sword in all three examples. In Japanese, he says the exact same thing (lit: teach me sword!). The verb is the big hint in Japanese, as he keeps saying “teach me.” A translator can easily discern it must be the concept, unless Guy is pestering him about telling him about a physical sword, which is highly unlikely from both contexts.

So in that conversation one can see how the same “sword” clearly refers to a style, and can be used as such. The difference is the translation here makes it much more clear in its English wording.

Basically, the point of all that was to show that: had the Japanese been referring to a physical blade, they likely would’ve made it much more clear in their word usage.

His artbook profile?

The reader mentioned his profile in the artbook too. I had actually translated this years ago. Back then as I was starting off the blog, translations were quite embarrassingly literal. (And I hope to go back through this book again to make it flow much nicer and prevent misinformation, as reading it again was painful).

But for now, here it is for reference with a few mistakes fixed:

剣こそが生そのもの剣魔と恐れられた男
修行の旅を続け大陸をさすらう剣士。剣を継ぐ者はただ一人という、一族の掟によって親兄弟と殺し合い、父や兄たちを斬って生き残る。その後は憑かれたように、西方三島の「石巨人」ケイレス、イリアの「氷帝」など、強者と次々に斬り渡たったことから、剣魔と呼ばれ恐れられている。

The man who lives only by the sword known as the fearsome “Sword Demon”
Roams the continent on a journey to further their sword arm. In a family where only one can inherit the sword, the family killed each other over it. Karel cut down his family was the sole survivor. Afterwards, as if possessed, he went and slew Kelles –the “Rock Giant” of the Western Isles, as well as Ilia’s “Ice Emperor” among other strong opponents. From these feats, he earned the fearsome reputation as the “Sword Demon.”

For whatever reason in my original translation there were some issues. I feel like it may have been based on his FE Wiki profile back then, regardless, I kept most of it here but changed the problematic parts for the sake of this post, but it’s a reminder that I must re-translate that entire book sometime.

Anyway, the wording is exactly the same from the game. 剣を継ぐ or “inherit the sword” once again. The “possessed” part is like what Dart had alluded to.

The second part:

戦う相手を求めさまよううちにエリウッドと出会い、その才を見抜いて一行に加わる。凄まじい剣技と戦歴から、数多くの逸話が人々の間で囁かれているが、真偽は定かでない。
常に冷静で無口な男だが、仲間たちと接するなかで人間らしい一面も垣間見せる。妹であるカアラとは一子相伝の一族の掟に従い斬りあおうとするが、カアラの真摯な心に打たれて思いとどまる。また、ギィに剣技を教えるうち、彼の情熱に心動かされる一面もある。

He encountered Eliwood while wandering and seeking opponents to fight, and joined his group in order to observe his skill. His frighteningsword technique and great experience was talked about by many people, but how much of it was true was uncertain.

He is always a cool and reserved man, but one can catch a glimpse of his humane side when talking to allies. He originally intended to slay his younger sister Karla in accordance to family law, but gave up after Karla’s sincere heart struck a chord with him. Another example is how he was moved by Guy’s enthusiasm when teaching him sword techniques.

His “frightening sword technique” could be a reference to his general skill or said style. Likewise, “teaching him sword techniques” uses the same word: 剣技 It’s that same sword character, but with art/technique tacked onto it too. It more clearly refers to just sword technique here, and no physical sword.

His main profile suffers the same vagueness (and terrible 2014 literal kantopia translation) present in the game, so cannot offer much either way. But the broader profile/summary at the bottom is definitely a lean toward a lack of physical blade and more just about the family technique.

Beyond the FE7, into Binding Blade

Binding Blade (FE6) is another important part of exploring the idea of physical versus style. Unfortunately, the regular player of Blazing Blade (FE7) would be unaware of the context this game sets up for this issue (and, it’s likely the translator would be unaware, too, as the game was never localized).

FE6 was released before FE7, but featured an older Karel who is now enlightened and referred to as the “Sword Saint.” The most important bits relevant to this post are in his support conversations.

As no official localization exists, there is nothing that will be compared to. I will however provide the translations of the popular fan translation and make any notes as needed.

Note that a fan translation is their interpretation of text, too, so I make literal notes in some places to help give you a better idea and form your own conclusions.

Rutger’s Supports

Rutger: …Everyone who uses the sword knows your name.
Karel: Yes, well, I traveled all around when I was young.
Rutger: …Why are you here in this army?
Karel: My family is here, so I joined as well. I’m hoping that even my rusty skills could be of use.

“The sword” in the first line is 剣をつかう者, “those who use the sword.” This one can be physical, or style both.

But the important line is the last one. The fans translate it as “my rusty skills,” but he said このおいぼれの剣 which would literally translate to “this senile old sword.” While one may translate it to “this rusty old sword,” both ways would be clear in that he is his sword, and that he isn’t holding any sort of old blade in his hand.

This is beyond FE7 already though so of course it’s possible he tossed any physical sword he may have had aside. But the point is to show how this wording comes up now and again but doesn’t refer to anything physical. Even oft-literal fan translations did not translate it as such, aware of what he was referring to.

The next part of Rutger’s support makes it even more clear:

Rutger: …What do you want?
Karel: I am looking for someone to spar with. Would you care to?
Rutger: …No.
Karel: Why? Am I not a worthy opponent for you?
Rutger: Your sword isn’t used to kill… It doesn’t agree with the path I pursue.
Karel: Perhaps you think so now, but we both follow the way of the sword… All paths of the sword lead to one place.
Rutger: ……

The relevant parts are in bold. In Japanese:

  • あんたの剣は人を倒す剣じゃない・・・ (Lit: Your sword is not one that kills people). Note the same usage we saw in FE7 with 剣. While it only says 剣, clearly he means “style” or “way” as a physical sword is indeed one built to kill. (Unless Karel is now using a reverse blade in the style of a certain other sword demon turned saint…? But this is very unlikely).
  • どちらも同じ剣の道・・・行き着く先はたった一つだけだよ (Lit: Whichever way of the sword [we follow] all lead to the same place). Here for the first time we see it clearly spelled out as 剣の道 (sword’s way/way of the sword). In fact this line is one Karel says to others in the same game too, and is a big part of his character. FE7 would have had this in mind (as it is a prequel and thus this characterization already existed).

The second point would also show that Karel followed a more deranged path before but arrived at this same enlightened conclusion as anybody else would. That wouldn’t make as much sense if he were referring to a physical object.

But, how does this actually contradict a physical sword’s potential existence in FE7? After all he isn’t talking to Karla anymore. Well, let’s look at this last part:

Bartre’s Supports (FE6)

Bartre: Yes. I first met her [Karla] when I was traveling around the world, training myself. And then… I met her at that arena. Her sword…it was almost invisible. …I suffered defeat for the first time in my life.

Karel: …I understand. In our family, the sword is everything. We are brought up by the sword, and it is all we know. The sword was so central to our lives…even to the point that it blinded us from our own human nature.

I likely could’ve saved a lot of trouble presenting this first in retrospect… but we needed some necessary building blocks when we look at the Japanese:

“Her sword” in the first part refers to a physical sword (抜き身の刀), rather than style. It’s evident by context and the 刀 character here.

More importantly is what Karel says. The fan translation wrote “the sword” for each instance it appears below:

・・・無理もない私も妹も・・・一族はしか伝えず しか知らない当時は 人であることに気づくいとまもなかったのかもしれない

…That makes sense, I, my sister… our family taught/conveyed nothing but the sword, and we knew nothing but the sword, and would lead to us not being like people at all.

I provided the super literal translation here even though the fan translation got it across fine. The important verb of conveyance and knowing nothing but the sword really drives home the “style/way” of the sword. It seems that Karel’s family had a unique sword style to it, one that was passed on only within the family. They knew nothing else but to perfect such a thing. Had this been a physical sword, this would make very little sense. While possible that the sword came with the style, it’s highly unlikely as Karla was said (by Bartre) to be utilizing a blade just fine. But we know she wouldn’t have had the “family blade” if it indeed existed. Thus, it was likely her (and Karel’s) style that makes any sword a great threat, and not any one physical one.

What about Karel’s lines in FE Heroes?

Karel has a few lines in FE Heroes that once again sound like a physical sword in English, so what’s it in Japanese?

Upon summoning:

“I am Karel. Care to meet my blade? Oh, let me withdraw the offer. You are not ready…yet.”

Japanese:

“我が名はカレル。 剣の道に生きる者。 お前は、私が斬るにふさわしい強者か?”

I’m named Karel. I live by the way of the sword. Are you worthy of being cut down by my blade?

His introduction in Japanese has him talk about the way of the sword (剣の道 and not just the vague 剣). This is omitted in English.

One of his lines:

“I have taken up my family’s blade, which means that I am now one with my weapon.”

This sounds like a physical blade, but:

“私は一族の剣を継いだ。 それは、我が身を剣とする生涯を選んだということ…”

I have inherited my family’s sword. That means I have chosen that my body and sword become one…

This sounds more like a style. I mention how the style sounds like one that makes the sword (any sword) into a weapon to be feared through skill, but the English use of “blade” obscures this potential meaning. Also note how “family’s blade” was translated from 一族の剣, a point in the next part:

Another line:

“I am practicing a sword technique that we have kept secret within our family—to the extreme.
So, I’ll do you the favor of telling you to walk away. Unless, of course, you wish to see it?”

This time there’s sword technique! In Japanese:

…立ち去るがいい。 我が一族の剣の秘技… 見れば、お前を斬らねばならぬ。”

You should leave. If you witness the secrets of my family’s sword… I’ll have no choice but to kill you.

So here’s something interesting, the above is the same 一族の剣 they translated as “family blade” before, but now it’s “sword technique that we kept secret within our family.” This line here I think shows the vagueness at it’s best, and once again leans heavily back toward style… considering they translated it as such here!

Now let’s look at some lines where he talks about his blade:

“My blade comes out at the…slightest provocation.”

…斬られたくなければ、離れろ。”

“If you don’t want to get cut up, then leave.”

No mention of any actual blades or swords here.

“My body? My blade? We are one and the same.”

“私はこの刃と同じ”

“This blade and I are the same.”

This one does mention a blade! “This blade” specifically, using the physical 刃 rather than potentially conceptual 剣.

“Don’t worry. My blade isn’t meant for you.”

“安心しろ。お前は斬らぬ”

“Worry not. I won’t cut you down.”

True to how FE7 handled it, they often inserted “blade” into where he was otherwise saying “cut/kill.” But no blades mentioned originally.

Now the few times he mentions the sword:

“I was raised to live and die by the sword. Now, among my family members, I live. My sister does too.”

“家族は皆、斬った。妹を除いて…”

“Everyone in my family, cut down. Except my younger sister…”

The English line was likely a reference to what he says in FE6, possibly. Oddly, the English line is now likely referencing the style, but the Japanese makes no mention.

“Only one can wield the sword.”

“剣を継ぐのは、一人”

“Only one can inherit the sword.”

Here’s our friend 剣を継ぐ with that “inherit” (with it’s other meaning likes succeed) once again. In English, they made it “wield,” and hence sounds more like a physical sword.

“I am on the path of the sword. I seek its end—one way or another.”

“剣(つるぎ)の道は、未だ果てなし…”

“On the path of the sword, much remains.”

Do you see the parenthesis there? It’s interesting that it’s listed that way. It means it is going by an alternate reading (tsurugi instead of ken). In the games, we don’t actually know which reading he’s using as there’s no voice work, but there is in FEH, which can give slightly more insight on which meaning/reading he’s using.

But that doesn’t apply here, as it’s followed by “way” anyway, and hence way of the sword more distinctly.

So those are all the FE Heroes lines of relevance! You could see that in Japanese once again there is not as much of an obsession over a physical blade as portrayed in English. The line with “secrets of the family sword” are the most evident to point to a sword style, as indeed even the English translated it as such. They likely want to keep it consistent with FE7’s localization, hence this vagueness –or perhaps it really was a slip up that they translated the family secrets properly…

What about the Nameless Blade in FE Heroes?

When I wrote this article, I was unaware Karel’s sword could upgrade to the “Nameless Blade.” Fir’s can use it, too, meaning it must be that sword, right?

When I looked at the Japanese, though:

無銘の一門の剣

“Sword of the Nameless Clan”

The “Clan” here (一門) can also be “followers/sect.” I would write, “Practitioners of the Nameless Sword” if the FEH weapon wasn’t an actual physical weapon though. However, perhaps it may be a stretch, but it may imply that it’s not the blade that upgraded, but the practitioner using its style?

Regardless, the “Nameless Blade” in English thus follows the vague FE7 convention of it being the sword’s name (likely due to being unable to fit said title into the description), and the Japanese (from name alone) could still be read as a style (of the nameless clan/tribe/etc). Remember, too, that in FE Heroes, weapons are still equipped under “skills.”

If it is physical, then it may be a sword of theirs. Though, that begs the question. Is this a blade of the nameless clan or the blade? Since that would determine if it’s the “one and only” or if it’s just a sword said clan would use with their style.

In that sense, this mystery still remains somewhat unsolved.

It should be worth noting that Karla does not seem to get this blade (which fits the theme of “only one can wield it”), but that is also inconclusive.

Why may it have turned out this way?

Simply word choice. From what we see the translators are clearly aware that “sword” could refer to the styles just as well. Perhaps they wanted to leave it vague out of being unsure of which meaning, exactly. And, as I always say in these older games –space limitations take a huge toll on writing and presenting more complex ideas in fewer words. We have seen on other posts how things have to be omitted or reworded to fit in the same amount of characters. In doing so here is where the confusion likely came in, revolving around things like “carry this sword.”

That was rather long-winded, but all this evidence is provided simply to give a solid case against the Karla/Karel C support in FE7.

In short/conclusion

Karel and Karla’s family likely has a special sword style, and not a physical sword. Though various conversations in FE7 go back and forth, the ones in FE6 (chronologically released first but story wise is a sequel) help paint a clearer image of it, in fact, being a style instead. The translation in FE7 was accurate –but the word choice was poor (in the sense of being vague) in a few places that ultimately led to a reader being able to conclude that Karel/his family in fact has a special physical sword when in actuality it was very likely a unique (and deadly) style. Karel’s FEH dialogue in English seems blade obsessed, but there’s also mention of the family’s secrets regarding sword techniques.

It is of course possible the family had both a sword and a style, but that complicates this already unnecessarily complicated issue, does’t t?

Reference:

Here is a summary infographic on the matter.


This post was needlessly long, but I hope it got the point across and provided quite a bit of context to be quite certain with the conclusion. I may have forgotten to close some points that were left open ended… but for the most part should work.

It also reminded me I need to re-translate the FE6/7 Character Book…

For the most part, localization did a stellar job with preserving meaning without it being a dull read in Blazing Blade. It wasn’t perfect, of course, as today’s article shows. Guy’s epilogue, for instance, also caused confusion for years due to a translation mishap.

I will continue to look at fun differences between the versions of Blazing Blade as well as other Fire Emblem games!

Any dialogue you’re interested in? Let me know in comments or via email!

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4 thoughts on “FE7 Blazing Blade Localization: Karel’s “Sword” – Physical Blade or a Technique? [JPN vs ENG]

  1. Very interesting pieces of information you found out through the Japanese to English translation. I like reading these and you’re doing a great job, here.

    Although I really wished there was a more valid and understandable reason as to why Karel had gone mad and killed his family members except for his sister besides having to be the only one to have the sword. My guess is that they acted cruel towards him and didn’t let him have the sword, with him being the innocent runt of the bunch and his sister being the only member who was kind to him, until he finds out she has a sword. Not everyone was born or raised by a nice family after all, to be honest with you. I hope they’ll reveal an answer behind this soon.

    I mean, it’s not just that, but I also noticed that Karel’s role and characterization in FE7 has met with controversy amongst fans. It bugs me so much that some fans actually think he’s a villain, which he’s not. Since as we all probably know, Karel was never intended to be a villain, antagonist or enemy in neither of his appearances, and was no more than a Chaotic Neutral kind of anti-hero at worst as the Sword Demon and a more enlightened kind of ally (I’m guessing Neutral Good or True Neutral) as the Sword Saint. Of course, Karel was never a member of the Black Fang, either. After all, he saw the Black Fang as worthy opponents and was recruited by the main protagonists for this reason, to perhaps help him find more opponents. (Speaking of which, I’d love to see you do a translation of the Karel recruitment quotes if you have any free time to do so. That would be a blessing.)

    I’m hoping that a new book on the Fire Emblem series that’s about character information would be made in the future that would clear this confusion on Karel’s alignment and role up and reveal the truth.

    • The artbook hints that the family would compete over said style/sword, so it wouldn’t be too far fetched to believe that there was probably a lot of competition and ill-will toward each other (with Karla as the only exception). Then again Karla didn’t seem to have any ill will toward her family, in fact she seemed quite shocked that Karel would off them like that. I do wish we would get more clear info on them too though!

      I compared him to Himura Kenshin in the article as a joke at one point, but they are likely based on the same archetype. Often raised to not know any better, simply focused on the sword to kill before realizing what the sword should actually mean/reach that enlightenment.

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