Lyrics - Bakemonogatari - Kimi no Shiranai Monogatari + translation comparisons

A bit of warming up before I fully get back into the swing of translating narci2. So a comparative translation exercise on a song that I’ve had looping a bit too long. More commentary (esp. the comparative part) at the end of this.

The comparative part is rather long, but it’s just another of my experiments in playing around with the craft of translation, and trying to show what goes on behind the scenes at the keyboard, hidden away from the general audience.

Kimi no shiranai monogatari, relatively speaking it’s about 4+ months behind in the grand scheme of things? Oh well, details details.

君の知らない物語 The story you don’t know
Lyrics, Music & Arrangement: ryo  
Sound Produced by ryo  
Vocals: nagi  
  Translated by Agilis
いつもどおりのある日の事 On one typical day
君は突然立ち上がり言った you suddenly stood up and said
「今夜星を見に行こう」 “Tonight, let’s go look at the stars!”
「たまには良いこと言うんだね」 “Sometimes you say good things”
なんてみんなして言って笑った everyone laughed and said
明かりもない道を On the street with no light
バカみたいにはしゃいで歩いた we laughed like fools while walking
抱え込んだ孤独や不安に So that we wouldn’t be crushed
押しつぶされないように by the loneliness and worry we held
真っ暗な世界から見上げた looking up from the pitch dark world
夜空は星が降るようで the night sky looked like it was raining stars
いつからだろう 君の事を When was it I wonder
追いかける私がいた that I found myself chasing after you
どうかお願い Oh please
驚かないで聞いてよ don’t be surprised, listen
私のこの想いを to these feelings of mine
「あれがデネブ、アルタイル、ベガ」 “That’s Deneb, Altair, Vega”
君は指さす夏の大三角 the Summer Triangle you pointed at
覚えて空を見る Remembering and looking at the sky
やっと見つけた織姫様 I finally found Orihime
だけどどこだろう彦星様 but where’s Hikoboshi?
これじゃひとりぼっち That’s being all alone
楽しげなひとつ隣の君 You were next to me looking amused
私は何も言えなくて I couldn’t say anything
本当はずっと君の事を Really, had I always thought of you
どこかでわかっていた I knew somewhere
見つかったって that I “found it”
届きはしない but it won’t reach you
だめだよ 泣かないで No, don’t cry
そう言い聞かせた that’s what I told myself
強がる私は臆病で I played strong but was cowardly
興味がないようなふりをしてた I acted as if I didn’t care
だけど But
胸を刺す痛みは増してく that stabbing pain in my heart grows
ああそうか 好きになるって Ah, I see. Falling in love
こういうことなんだね meant this
どうしたい?言ってごらん What do you want to do? Say it.
心の声がする A voice calling in my heart
君の隣がいい I want to be by you
真実は残酷だ Reality is cruel
言わなかった I didn’t say it
言えなかった I couldn’t say it
二度と戻れない I can never go back
あの夏の日 That summer day
きらめく星 The shining stars
今でも思い出せるよ Even now I can remember
笑った顔も Your smiling face
怒った顔も Your angry face
大好きでした I loved them
おかしいよね It’s funny isn’t it?
わかってたのに Even though I knew
君の知らない you didn’t know
私だけの秘密 a secret that’s just mine
夜を越えて Going through the night
遠い思い出の君が the faraway memory of you
指をさす pointing your finger
無邪気の声で with an innocent voice

Now for the comparative translation stuff. Since I was late to the party for this song, and unlike most of the other songs I have on Neechin, this was a popular anime ending theme instead of rather esoteric theme songs from eroge, I knew there’s other versions out there. With a quick google of “Kimi no shiranai monogatari” I yanked out the top few ones just to compare.

A Foreigner’s Tale in Japan hereby ref. as “Tale”

Deciphered Melody hereby ref. as “Deciphered”

Being a dabbling amateur, I’m not out to say whether any of the above are ‘good’ or ‘bad’. I’m just out to compare, see where things are different, where things are the same, and see what falls out.

One thing I noticed as an aside was that on Anime Lyrics, there was a mere transliteration page, but the title was “Your unknown story” while I had “The story you don’t know”. Sort of the similar, but lacking that genitive case… I think the main cause was that without even noticing, I had invoked “no-ga conversion” (google it) and read it implicitly as “kimi ga shiranai monogatari”. I’d need to ask a native if that’s a valid interpretation, but either way that’s one difference.

The Stanza 2 was the first interesting set of differences:

Orig 抱え込んだ孤独や不安に / 押しつぶされないように
- Kakaekonda kodoku ya fuan ni / oshitsubusarenai you ni
Tale In order to crush, / The loneliness and uncertainty we were carrying.
Deciphered as not to be crushed by loneliness / nor anxiety.
Neechin So that we wouldn’t be crushed / by the loneliness and worry we held

It’s hard to tell if Tale had flipped the meaning of ‘oshitsubusarenai’ (to not be crushed by) for style reasons, or just missed the passive construction. Still, the overall meaning isn’t lost or grossly distorted, just slightly off.

Instead of going down the path of nitpicking though, here’s a much more interesting comparison:

Orig. やっと見つけた織姫様 / だけどどこだろう彦星様 / これじゃひとりぼっち
- Yatto mitsuketa orihime-sama / dakedo doko darou hikoboshi-sama / kore ja hitori bocchi
Tale I finally found Vega, / But where are you, Altair? / If it’s like this, you’re all alone.
Deciphered I finally found Orihime-sama, / but where is Hikoboshi-sama I wonder? / Isn’t she lonely?
Neechin I finally found Orihime / but where’s Hikoboshi? / That’s being all alone

Three translators, and just as many different ways of doing the same line.
Tale decided to not mention Orihime/Hikoboshi at all, going in some limited sense, “literal”. Meanwhile, Deciphered and I both made references to Orihime and Hikoboshi, drawing in part on the legend of Tanabata and the meeting of the two celestial lovers that only have one day to be together. (How effective the reference is without a footnote or audience knowledge beforehand is open to debate)

Next, the final line is a very tough one. Deciphered took the most natural path, choosing to have the line link with the previous one, asking if Orihime is alone. Tale does a similar thing also I think, though the use of “you’re” makes it seem like the singer is suddenly addressing one of the stars.

I guess I’m out being the loner in this, but I wanted to layer a small ambiguity into things. While from the sequence of lines, there’s a very strong implication that Orihime is the subject of being alone, I wanted to tie back to the original singer — is going back through their memories, searching the sky, alone. Is that ambiguity actually in the original? I don’t know. I feel it’s subtly there, but I’ve nothing to go on other than my gut over how the song sounds.

Orig どうしたい?言ってごらん / 心の声がする / 君の隣がいい
- Dou shitai? itte goran / Kokoro no koe ga sure / kimi ga tonari ga ii
Tale What’s the matter? / Try saying it? / My heart is beating / I’m fine by your side
Deciphered Try saying to me ‘What’s wrong?’” / my heart tries to tell you that, / but being next to you is fine…
Neechin What do you want to do? Say it. / A voice calling in my heart / I want to be by you

For whatever reason, this block was just difficult to work with. Lots of little things to get across in a small amount of space. I read the part as there being a little voice in the singer’s heart telling them to give voice to what they really want. I’m not particularly satisfied with my rendering of it, but neither are the other examples.

Finally, the last half of the final stanza (or I suppose the last stanza depending on how you cut things) is another example of highly divergent interpretations… At this point, I have no idea which is “right” in any sense of the word… It’s just difficult. But each of the examples has a certain validity (or should I say, possibility) to it.

What, you thought translating songs was simple?


  1. 12/29/2009 08:09 AM | #

    This happens to be one of my own much loved songs. My favorite translation of it, btw, is “Deciphered”. (Particularly because they kept the cultural reference of Orihime intact in the song)

    Personally (and I know NOTHING about translating) I can’t imagine how evil it must be to translate songs. Just listening to a normal english song, they are so full of hidden meanings or small cultural references. It’s difficult to understand what a normal song’s intent is just listening to it in your own language.

    I’ve always felt that translating songs must be diabolical and a song like this would present an extra challenge.

    Thanks for the analysis. I really enjoyed it! I think you did a wonderful job.

  2. 12/29/2009 11:37 PM | #

    As songs go this one isn’t particularly too bad. It’s got a few sticky parts but overall, there’s a fairly clear narrative, it’s not drawing on a ton of imagery or leaving lots of things unsaid. There’s plenty of stuff where it’s just not clear what’s going on, or it’s clear it’s saying 3-4 things, but you can only bring over 1-2 at the same time.

    It’s all a bit closer to translating poetry in that you wind up spending a ton of time wondering just what’s going on underneath the words that affects how you pick whether to go down one rendering or another.

    Mostly what I wanted to illustrate here is that there’s just lots and lots of background tweaking that goes on in a translation that people don’t even know of. But it’s rapidly apparently when you start comparing one version against another.

  3. Dot
    01/02/2010 04:51 AM | #

    “A bit of warming up before I fully get back into the swing of translating narci2.”
    You sir, just made my 2010 brighter.

  4. 01/02/2010 11:58 PM | #

    Here’s to hoping that Agilis’ job works out for him, for both his sake and for ours!

    HAPPY 2010!!

  5. Shiny
    01/03/2010 02:53 PM | #

    >>How effective the reference is without a footnote or audience knowledge beforehand is open to debate

    I’m of the stance that it’s condescending to treat readers like clueless idiots; Bakemonogatari is a show deeply drawing on Japanese (pop) culture, so anyone watching it should probably be familiarized enough to pick up on stuff like the Tanabata connection.

    Overall, I agree with your interpretation in all of the passages you’ve pointed out; also, the last stanza makes it pretty clear the title is supposed to be “The story you don’t know”, since the it’s singer who’s keeping a secret against “you” – the feelings she wasn’t able to confess.

  6. 01/05/2010 03:09 PM | #

    Well, it’s always a balance, and who the intended audience is.

    Personally I tend to assume a higher level of familiarity than is common. For example, I typically keep honorifics “just there” with little by explanation, etc.

    That said, being an analyst by trade, I have a very strong aversion to putting things down with no explanation and no way for the reader to have a shot of figuring it out via context or light research.

    I suppose that’s the nice thing about being an amateur. There’s no pressure whatsoever to be broadly accessible (whatever that means) in the name of encouraging sales in a struggling publishing industry.

    Anyways, someday relatively soon, I’ve probably got a bunch of posts to make on the various musings and things that came up during the course of the narci project, but first I need to get that put to bed.

Commenting is closed for this article.