As an interesting exercise, I looked up videos on YouTube recently for both the Japanese and English versions of the futuristic, military game Halo 2. While watching both, I noticed subtle differences in language and voice-acting that I thought would be interesting to share. The clips below cover the same part of the story, but the timing is a bit different.
Warning: This is a violent game, so please feel free to skip the videos if you just want to see my impressions of both.
In this part of the story, the enemy aliens (the Covenant) have invaded Earth, but only in one place. One of their religious leaders, the Prophet of Regret, is aboard the main ship and calling for help.
part 1 (skip to 6:45):
Now here’s the same scene in Japanese.
I noticed a few interesting differences:
- The voice actors for the female characters (Cortana the AI, Captain Keyes), sound more feminine in the Japanese version. When the dropship crashes and everyone wakes up, Cortana’s voice in English sounds much deeper than in Japanese. Also, feminine Japanese is easy to notice because of certain endings like wa (わ), which don’t really exist in English.
- Similarly, the male voice actors in Japanese sound a little deeper and more masculine than in English. The English voice actors already sound pretty masculine (since it’s a military drama), but the Japanese ones even more so.
- The English version has characters speaking with multiple English accents (British, American, Hispanic-American, etc). Since there several countries that speak English, this is not too surprising. In the Japanese version, everyone seems to use more standard Japanese dialect (I might be wrong on this). However, you can still hear a Hispanic character in the Japanese version too.
- As they are fighting, the soldiers in both languages use very terse, rough language, but Japanese and English express it differently. In Japanese, this is expressed using masculine, informal endings like ぞ (zo), ぜ (ze) and the imperative ーろ (ro) verb-ending as in ki wo tsukero (気をつけろ watch) out!).
- By comparison, English doesn’t have these kinds of endings. Instead, English uses separate swear-words like “damnit” or insults like “mongrel”, etc.
- In Japanese military terms seem to be often expressed using only noun + だ (declarative particle) or just the noun (kanryō 完了 “it’s done”, ryōkai 了解 “understood”), etc. There’s no active verb at all used. In English military talk, you still have nouns and verbs, but not much else (“meet you at the gate”, not “we will meet you at the gate”).
Anyhow, it’s just really interesting to see how the same game, same story are expressed in two different languages and cultures. 🙂