The Complexities of One Localised Title

I’m actually really glad I didn’t talk about Magical Girl Boy this season…even though I did. Confused yet? Just keep reading…

On Crunchyroll’s initial simulcast announcement, they called Mahou Shoujo Ore “Magical Girl Boy” and I remember going, “What’s up with that localised title, anyway?” in the first seasonal line up post before they decided to change it. Well, even though that localised title sounds really paradoxical, there’s a bit more to that name in and out of context…

In the story itself, Ore – the Japanese pronoun with a capital letter, not a word for a rock – is the name given to the protagonist Saki’s magical girl form. (Even though Ore is technically a buff man, everyone calls him a “magical girl” anyway, so no technicalities there.) Strangely, this doesn’t carry over to Sakuyo because her magical girl form is called the even-more-ridiculous Sakigasuki, which would be “IlikeSaki” in English but put in katakana in Japanese (since it’s meant to retain the same meaning as its kanji counterpart and yet read as a name). I don’t think anyone really knew this was a problem until at least a few episodes in, though…

The thing about the pronoun ore is that it’s a lot more masculine than some of the other choices Saki could’ve slipped up to use, like the gender-neutral watashi which Saki normally uses – she picked ore as a way to not be found out, because it would be stranger to have a muscleman like Ore use watashi than it would for a girl-transformed-into-a-buff-guy to use ore. Indeed, this gets lampooned in a filler episode with the title-clearly-riffing-off-Ore Mahoutsukai Watashi, right down to having concept images of Saki herself, and gets further pointed out with the name of the 12th episode being Magical Girl – Watashi, as if Saki were going to finally get her wish of being an actual magical girl (and not a magical girl in name only).

Furthermore, the thing with this title is that there’s no clear-cut way of translating it properly to English. Unlike the case where there is a lucky word that works – like “Quirk” for kosei in Boku no Hero Academia – no matter what way you slice the title Mahou Shoujo Ore, you lose out either way…the best way anyone could get around that is going “I’m A Magical Girl (Boy)”, which explains where the oddness of the localised title comes from.

However, it’s just the complexities of language that make it hard to convey why Mahou Shoujo Ore is such an untranslatable title. Even still, I find fudge-ups like this fascinating because after a while, it becomes easier to look back on silly incidents like this with some contextual knowledge and the added bonus of hindsight.

I think there’s also a bit of personal pride in my relief though…because I think I’d feel somewhat embarrassed with myself if I ended the spring season having written posts on a series with the English title Magical Girl Boy. I can live with a lot of titles, even Cute High Earth Defence Club LOVE!, but even I have my limits with this one…


So, do you think having a localised title (one that isn’t Magical Girl Ore, of course) for this show would be a good thing or a bad thing? Are there any better ways to convey the original meaning of the title without making it sound like a mess?

 

 

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