Vol. 2 | Chapter Two: Cabals at the Demonic Capital (i)

Ecbatana, the royal capital of Pars, had been occupied by the invading Lusitanian army ever since autumn of the year 320…


Notes under the cut:

1. Most of you probably haven’t been around long enough to remember my original translation of this chapter’s title from a few years ago (“Statues of the Demonic Capital”, which obviously makes no sense whatsoever). But for those of you who do, the phrase in question here is 群像 (gunzou), which taken very literally is just “group of statues”. And in fact the phrase does have that meaning in the artistic sense, i.e. a themed collection.

But there’s another, kinda metaphorical meaning that I hadn’t been previously aware of, which is much harder to translate, but often implies a clique or a subculture or movement of sorts. Basically still a “themed collection”, but applied to humans. Or even better, an “ensemble cast”. “Cabals” is honestly a pretty bad translation, since it adds a negative/active connotation that’s not necessarily there in the original, but I just couldn’t think of a better way to put it. (Maybe I should have stuck with “Ensembles”, but I can’t help but associate that word with music.) I think a better translation might actually be “Portraits of ___”, but that’s probably just as confusing as most of the other options that I considered and discarded.

For further reference, the example that every online dictionary lists is 青春群像 (much too loosely, “The Youths”), which is the Japanese title of the Italian movie I Vitelloni.

Long story short, the title should be interpreted as the more or less neutral “Let’s take a look at what’s going on with everyone at the capital.”

2. Not sure about Pedraos (ペデラウス, pe-de-ra-u-su). Though I’m sure no one really cares. 😄 Options I considered: variations on Peter (“Peder”). Pedros/Petrus/etc. (the syllables are usually transcribed differently). Petheraus/Petheros (also more likely to be transcribed differently). As always when stuck, I just picked whatever looked least annoying when typed out.

His rank is given as 伯爵 (hakushaku), which is generally translated as count/earl. My understanding of the etymology is that “Count” is more accurate here.

On the other hand, “Knight Commander”, which I also used in the previous book for Guiscard and is a pretty literal translation of the Japanese (騎士団長, kishidanchou), is British. There are equivalents in other countries (Chevalier, Commendatore) but I believe these are all post-medieval ranks anyway and didn’t spend too much time thinking about it. Either way it’s just an indicator that they’re ordained knights. (I should note and apologize here for being very inconsistent with the usage of “knight” — sometimes using it to mean the medieval European figure and sometimes just as shorthand for “mounted warrior”.)

Finally, 司教 (shikyou) is usually the term for a Catholic bishop (and is in fact part of the term I translate as Archbishop for Bodin). As I’m pretty unfamiliar with Christian/Catholic clerical hierarchies and I’m not so hot with medieval European history either, I had to look into some of the historical context, because I wondered if “prelate” might be the safer translation. Went with bishop for clarity after deciding I was probably overthinking the issue.

3. On a semi-related note, wasn’t sure about ecclesiastical terms of address (apparently in some places it’s “Your Excellency” and elsewhere it’s “Your Grace” for archbishops). The Japanese term itself (猊下, geika) is actually etymologically strange. To be fair, I haven’t had the opportunity to encounter any of the Japanese religious honorifics before (or at least never paid much attention to them before, and unlike the royal/noble terms of address there doesn’t seem to be any crossover with Chinese) — but I found this one particularly unexpected because 猊 refers to one of the Chinese Ming dynasty “nine sons of the dragon” (a leonine creature generally taken as a folk/Buddhist symbol associated with censers).

Brief research indicates that in RL usage, “geika” seems to be primarily for the Dalai Lama, which makes sense. It’s also used for specific cases in Japanese Buddhism (when the priest has imperial/aristocratic lineage) and other such “princely” religious figures. In fact, the wikipedia entry explains that it’s also used for Roman Catholic cardinals, so that’s probably Tanaka’s motivation behind this choice… and so I settled on “Your Eminence” for Bodin. I just hope Wikipedia isn’t lying to me. 😛

4. The Parsian woman Guiscard’s not in the mood for: this is a convoluted sentence I’m not quite sure I’m parsing correctly and feel really nervous about, but the general meaning should be intact. Similarly, it’s ambiguous whether Guiscard’s very first line of dialogue is spoken out loud or if he’s talking to himself (Tanaka tends to punctuate Guiscard’s thoughts as normal dialogue before indicating that no, he didn’t actually say that out loud XD), but this paragraph seems to indicate the former. The Chinese, which skips most of this paragraph, takes the opposite interpretation.

edit: In the process of fixing this! (Fixed, with much gratitude to Colle. Man, I hate it when Tanaka nests clauses everywhere.)

5. The description of execution by fire is probably referencing this.

6. “Templars of Sion”: In text this is a single term: テンペレシオンス, te-n-pe-re-shi-o-n-su, translated as 聖堂騎士団 (seidou kishidan), pretty literally “temple knights.”

This one I went back and forth on A LOT. From the start I assumed this was an obvious reference to the Knights Templar — but in Japanese the Templars are referred to as テンプル騎士団, te-n-pu-ru kishidan (also literally “Temple Knights” except with “Temple” as a loan word rather than in kanji, and as you can see the ending syllables in question [pe-re vs. pu-ru] are quite different). So I actually put it as Templacions for some time because apparently templacion is an Old Spanish word for “libation,” used strictly in a Biblical context…

But the official French translation (courtesy of colleyuriko @ Tumblr) has it as Tempere Sions. This gave me a lightbulb moment — Sion (Zion) is probably referencing this, a semi-mythological secret society which has often been associated with the Templars. Still seems kind of odd though, and usually the katakana will indicate if a separation of words is intended. Possibly Tanaka’s working with a different language here or an older version of a modern language, but if so I have no idea which one. Some of you may have a better idea!

In the end I decided to compromise and split the term according to my own interpretation (although I held back a little, otherwise I would have gone with “Order of Sion” or something similar :P). But yes, I’m taking pretty major liberties here. There’s just no way to make the term not weird as one word in English, though again, I’m open to suggestions.

8/13/2015: Reader Claudia suggests that it’s a name smush of “l’Ordre du Temple and “le Prieuré de Sion” (and/or influenced by the French name for the Templars, les Templiers). Thanks for the input!

7. Witch in disguise: Guiscard actually calls Tahmineh a vixen, 雌狐 (annotated as megitsune, but this is rather formal kanji that I think most people would read as mesugitsune [mesu meaning probably what you think it means, but more neutral]; a quick google shows that most people write it as the more obvious 女狐). I chose to translate loosely here because the “female kitsune” figure has much richer connotations in East Asian and especially Japanese culture than “vixen” does in English (slightly comparable to Helen of Troy), and “witch” seems like the closest contextual equivalent.

Knowing Tanaka’s interests, this is almost certainly a reference to Daji (who in some folk traditions went on to become Tamamo-no-Mae, although I wish I could find a non-video game reference to this on the net….), i.e. it’s a negative comparison, although Japanese culture (in contrast to China/Korea) actually has historically had a more positive view of fox women in general.

– – –

Apologies for the notes that are practically as long as an actual update… /sweat

I still have no buffer, but the next section is about half as long as this one was, so if nothing comes up I might be able to get it out faster. As always, we’ll see! (I shamelessly admit to being distracted by the Women’s World Cup…)


13 thoughts on “Vol. 2 | Chapter Two: Cabals at the Demonic Capital (i)

  1. Esh says:

    Thank you for taking the time to include these notes–I always find them super interesting to read. =3

  2. moeza says:

    Thanks a lot for your translation. The story keep me intriguing, and comparing even one scene from novel, anime & manga make arslan more interesting. Again, thank you for your hardwork!

  3. namine1 says:

    Will there be further translations in the future? It has been three months.

    • T. E. Waters says:

      Yes, I don’t translate on a schedule (had a lot of spare time over the holidays last winter that allowed me to update regularly for a while, but consider that I started translating in 2012 and have only gotten so far…), and I’ve been working on some other things recently that take priority.

      The next update is actually partly drafted, but I have no idea when I’ll be able to get back to it!

  4. RRaxiel says:

    Just found this, because i wanted to read the novels, found out they hadnt been translated. This is awesome, Thanks!

  5. Dude, thank you very much! ❤

  6. Nobilis says:

    Well I hope you continue tranlating this because it seems your the only one that is doing this. My normal go to baka tsuki isnt doing so yeah. your our only hope.

    • T. E. Waters says:

      Haha yeah, the reason I started in the first place was because I’d first heard about the series in the late 90s, saw the OVAs for the first time about a decade later, and in all that time no one EVER attempted a novel translation or even a scanlation of the first manga adaptation. Unlike Tanaka’s space opera series, which did receive several unfinished attempts.

      … To be honest, I’m actually still a little surprised no “competition” has cropped up now that the series has seen a resurgence in popularity, considering how slow I am (sorry!)

  7. Zack Ali says:

    Looking for the novel translations since the anime just ended today. Thanks for translating and I’m looking forward to your future volumes.

  8. Sayaka says:

    Wki isn’t lying to you!! 😛 Cardinals are indeed the princes of the Catholic church, since its state is an elective monarchy and they elect the pope. Incidentally, Sion is the previous name of Jerusalem (before king David). Even if the Priory of Sion is a very recent association that has not proved its bonds with the Templars, it’s true that “Prior” is an ancient title for a leader of a knigthly order or a monastic order (or both!).
    Thanks a lot for the updates too!

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