Star Wars in the Land of the Rising Sun

This author has discovered many benefits in listening to various, untranslated media from other countries. While I only know only two languages, I find there is a great deal to learn about the craft of fiction while viewing and/or listening to stories or songs from other countries. Siervas’* albums are one example. Despite being written and sung in Spanish, the lyrics cannot help but appeal to this writer’s religious sensibilities and imagination.

That is why the below videos are so appealing as well. What could go together better than Star Wars and Japan, which maintains a strong influence on the franchise? This author could not help but be impressed by the Oriental voice over work for Return of the Jedi* and Empire Strikes Back.* Since we in the West are accustomed to seeing anime that has been dubbed into our native tongues, it is fun to see familiar stories “told” from a foreign perspective.

Battle of Endor in japanese

The above scenes from the Battle of Endor are the ones which most intrigue this writer. Having watched subtitled anime, it was not hard for me to pick out words such as “shield,” “Gold Leader,” “Red Leader,” and a few others. English terms and phrases do not always translate exactly into another language. And, since few Japanese words end in consonants, words such as “shield” usually have a vowel tacked on to them. You can hear this most clearly when the X-Wing pilots say “shield.” The Japanese voice actors add an “o” at the end every time they speak it. Other English words in the dialogue have vowels applied to them as well.

It is notable that Nien Nunb is not given a new voice actor in the translation and speaks the same alien gibberish that he does in the English version. Had Star Wars come from Japan instead of America, our translators may have been tempted to give him a new voice or to convert his extraterrestrial language into English. The fact that the Japanese did neither of these things speaks volumes about their respect for the original material.

Luke versus Darth Vader in japanese

This clip from The Empire Strikes Back is also fascinating. When Luke grunts in this scene, it is the Japanese voice actor who makes the sound, not Mark Hamill. In Return of the Jedi, the sounds made by the original actors were not altered (not in a noticeable manner, at least). Here, however, the translators made the interesting decision to have Luke’s huff of pain “translated” for their audience.

As with Nien Nunb, Vader’s trademark heavy breathing is not altered for this rendition of the film. The Japanese voice actor matches the tone of the breaths, as well as the depth of James Earl Jones’ voice. Even though the words are foreign to English speakers, the menace of the original Dark Lord remains intact. In fact, it might even have doubled, since his words are no longer intelligible for the film’s original target audience.

General Grievous Japanese Dub

This next scene from Revenge of the Sith* not only possesses the same signs of subtle artistry, it actually makes the film more watchable for this author. After being disappointed by the previous two prequels, I never gave the third movie the time of day. Watching it in Japanese makes it easier to focus on the acting. The dialogue also flows better than the original (to these English ears, anyway).

Star Wars – Clone Wars – in Japanese

In the case of this clip from the animated Clone Wars* series, the man video-taping the episode has some comments on it. For one thing, he notes that the Japanese voice actors’ have matched their words to the characters’ mouth movements almost perfectly. This is something I have yet to see with any anime translated into English. Usually, there are a handful of scenes where the movements of the protagonists’ mouths and their English dialogue are completely out of alignment, usually because a Japanese sentence ended faster than its English equivalent.

Although this is understandable, it is also a testament to how seriously these Oriental artists take the material they are translating. Few of the nuances of storytelling escape them when they are working on a piece of fiction, no matter the medium.

As far as I have seen, this goes for the majority of their own media as well. The Japanese are meticulous in their attention to detail and craftsmanship. Their commitment to the material they create or adapt rivals the efforts of most contemporary Western film and animated artists. It is enough to make any author jealous – not to mention determined to reach at least a comparable level of skill.

Whether you are a published writer or a beginner, I can say with certainty that there is always, always something new to be learned from studying media from other countries. This isn’t just the myths and fairy tales passed down to us from the Ancients around the world. Contemporary cultures offer plenty of new techniques for Western writers to utilize in their own works. We just have to learn how they do it and then apply those lessons to our own stories in our own unique ways.

Brian Niemeier, Bradford C. Walker, Rawle Nyanzi, and others are doing just that. This author intends to give it her best shot as well. If it has worked so well for us, maybe this style of storytelling is just what you need to get the gears turning.

Enjoy the videos, future writers. And don’t forget to take a few notes. You never know when they may come in handy. 😉

*These are Amazon affiliate links. When you purchase something through them, this author receives a commission from Amazon at no extra charge to you, the buyer.

If you want to see what effect Japanese storytelling has already had on this author, then you might like the lead story in Unbound III: Goodbye, Earth. What happens when a cancer patient who loves popular culture and has a genius level intellect knows she is going to die? Pick the anthology up today to find out!

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