“Traduttore, traditore”: An Interesting Allusion in Kill la Kill

The above Italian proverb is famously translated as “Translation is betrayal,” but even that translation betrays the more literal “Translator, Traitor,” but we would all agree that the former carries the meaning better for English speakers.  In episode 5 of Kill la Kill, I noticed a rather interesting expansion of what was literally said.  Before I get into that, I would just like to say that episode five has by far been the most interesting episode thus far.  The show is starting to get into more of the plot as a new faction has appeared on the scene and we discover that Kamui have killed their wearers.


But, the line to which I’m thinking of is Teme ni wa shindemo watasanee!”  If we were to opt for a literal translation, this would translate to “Even dying, I won’t hand it over to you!”  That does not  make to much sense to English ears.  Better would be “Even if you were to kill me, I would not hand it over.”  But this sounds a little wordy, and does not really seem to fit Matoi’s personality.  What did the translators for Crunchyroll do?  Reference Charlton Heston!  (Requiescat in pace)  “You’ll have to pry it out of my cold, dead hands!”  A more excellent choice that anything based on a literal translation.

Charleton Heston

One of the reasons I study Japanese is so that eventually I might not have to rely on the translators.  How much fun they must have though, especially those who worked in the 90’s!  Some anime of yore have hilarious translations, especially the many and varied ways they translate baka!  Well, wish me luck as I try to find time to tackle my kanji book again.



2 comments on ““Traduttore, traditore”: An Interesting Allusion in Kill la Kill

  1. zeonista says:

    I understand the perils of translation, having studied some Japanese myself in the old days before fansubs and professional subbed shows became prolific. I would be pleased with a good transliteration any day, since a literal translation from Japanese to English does sound awkward. The meaning of the speech is probably more essential. I am frequently disappointed by scripts where thee translator does not aim for context, but just does a plug-and-play translation. The gratuitous added profanity has also been a trial at times. The Japanese are simply not a profane people, and given linguistic & social imprinting, are very reluctant to do so. (Indeed, the easiest way to insult a Japanese person is to use a too familiar form of address. This is a subtle thing that is difficult to put into a 22-minute episode. 🙂 )


    • I agree that the Japanese are simply not profane. The most profane anime I’ve watched is Black Lagoon, and Revy oft needed to resort to English loan words!

      Ah! Showing over-familiarity is difficult in English. In the old days, I suppose we could have used “thou” or added “my good man” at the end of a sentence, but those are archaic.


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