DrBat (drbat) wrote in namelessmonster,
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A question about Johan and General Wolf


Ok, I'm currently on the 15th volume.

In the 14th General Wolf says that he named Johan, but we see Nina calling Johan by his name in the flashback when they're wandering the Czech Border before Wolf finds them. Is this an error?
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It is possible that that is an error in translation. In the original Japanese, Nina never called him by his name when they were children. She always called him 'Oni-san'. Translated, Oni-san means 'Older Brother'. In Japan, as a general rule, younger siblings do not call their older siblings by name - at least not without the appropriate honorific attached. Doing so would probably be considered excessively intimate... and rather rude.

Unfortunately, 'Oni-san' has no direct English equivalent. I guess the translators took the easy way out by having her call him by name... even though he technically did not have a name at that time. Frankly, it bugs me too.
Thanks for the info.

Weren't Johan and Nina twins, though? Why would she call him "Older brother"?
Yes they were. But apparently, he came out first. So technically, that does make him older. In societies where seniority counts it does make a very significant difference. It does not matter if they were a year or a minute apart. The older sibling naturally assumes the greater responsibilities and has a duty to look after the younger one. The way the twins behaved as children showed that Johan was very aware of this.

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I agree completely. That is why it really bugs me. It is such a well written story, so seeing stuff like this is kind of annoying. Still, I just Ignore it. It certainly will not stop me from enjoying Naoki Urasawa's work. :)
Okay, that makes sense. I don't know why the translators didn't just have Nina calling him "Brother," "Big brother," or something like that. The scene would have still worked.

Also, according to Wiki "Oni are creatures from Japanese folklore, variously translated as demons, devils, ogres or trolls." So Nina calling Johan "Oni-San" might have been a double meaning from Urasawa.
Who knows? I think the characters and pronunciation for the two are different though. Practically every sibling would call their older brother that. They may sound similar to us, but to the owners of the language I am guessing they are two completely different things.

I do know, however, that nii-san is a less formal and more popular form of Oni-san. Oni-san is more polite and respectful, even though it is still intimate. Nina never called her brother plain old 'nii san'. One wonders why there was that odd limit to her ability to be excessively casual with him, despite how close they undoubtedly were. Interesting...