Anime meets Classics

Everyone who’s ever tried to write a fantasy novel, or create a fantasy world or campaign, etc., knows that an effective way to give your world that awesome-special-foreign-feel (that’s the technical term, mind you) is to have at least one race that speaks, at some point in the story, another language. Or have spells that are cast using another language. Or columns with an ancient language carved into them. Preferably columns that need to be deciphered lest the world be destroyed FOREVAR. Or, even better, curses in a foreign language (get in those swear words but keep you book PG. SCORE!).

In sum, unfamiliar language = good.  And when you don’t have the time or inclination to invent a language, what better real ones to use than Latin and Greek?? After all, they’re dead! No one uses them any more, so who cares? Besides, Google Translate is the epitome of accuracy these days, right?

…right. And so, in the spirit of illustrating this rightness, I bring you Anime Meets Classics #1. Today’s anime is Last Exile, set on the colony of Prester, which looks pretty much like Industrial Age Earth with airships (steampunk, anyone?). Also, Greek.  Before I begin, however, I should say that this and all future posts of a similar theme should be taken in the spirit of fun — I like to think, at least, that I’m not such a pedant that I can’t actually watch an anime without getting annoyed at its misuse of the ancient world. But I can giggle and snicker, and so I shall!

Anyhow, Prester uses the Greek alphabet. Being an anime, it’s originally written in Japanese and voiced by Japanese voice actors. But, strangely, most of the written words in the show are actually English (okay, so that’s not actually strange for an anime at all), but typed in a Greek font. Cue brain implosion.  Observe:


The above is a screen shot from Episode 3, where the main characters, Claus and Lavie, participate in a vanship race. Think Industrial Age podrace. On the board above is a list of some of the participants in the race. According to the subtitles, they are supposed to say:

Dandy Fly, Yellow Typhoon, Mad Goose, Big Beans, Slender Monkey, South Dolphin.

….hey, don’t look at me. I didn’t write the show. What they actually say (as much as appears in the shot, that is) are:

Dandi Phli, Iello Thai, Mad Doth, Big Buinz, Slenda Mo, Sauth Dolph.

This is what happens when you use a Greek font and then type English, but really, it could be worse! Honestly, I understand everything but Mad Doth. How do you get “Doth” for “Goose”? (Any Japanese speakers want to help me out?) Also, Yellow Typhoon. In order to get those first two Greek letters, you have to type “Ih” into the keyboard, not “Ye”. For that matter, in order to get omega (the one that looks like a ‘w’) you have to type ‘w’, so… I’m gonna chalk it up to keyboard differences and remind myself that I’m thinking too hard.

Exhibit 2:


Here’s the title shot for Ep 3. The title itself is in English, but down below, it (thinks it) reads “Last Exile in the bottle.” Prester is kind of shaped like a sand glass, so maybe that’s what they mean by bottle? Or is it supposed to read “battle”? Or am I thinking too hard again? Bad classicist!

Exhibit 3 is from the first episode and is, in my opinion, the best:


This one reads “dikaios, a, on poleo-os”.

“Huh?” you say. “That’s not even English.” Nope, that’s actually Ancient Greek for “just city” (‘just’ the adjective, not the adverb). I’m wondering if they started out intending to use AG and then decided to just use English instead. Regardless, the best part of this Greek is that it’s (at least in part) straight out of the dictionary. And I mean straight out:

1) The Greek word for “just” is “dikaios”, but Greek adjectives can take any of three genders: masculine, feminine, or neuter, each identified by a different ending added to the root of the word. A dictionary reflects that by listing all three options; in this case, “dikaios, dikaia, dikaion” is abbreviated “dikaios, a, on”. To make the phrase “just city” you would only need the form “dikaia.”

2) “City” is actually “polis”; a dictionary entry might read “polis, poleos”. I’m not quite sure what’s going on here, because they’ve listed the form for “of the city”, but have split it up oddly. Maybe they’re actually trying to say “Justice of the city?” Who knows?  At any rate, normal, healthy Greek words do not have hyphens, which suggests to me they got it out of some dictionary or grammar or another reference book.  Suffice to say it’s… not quite right. 😛

There are many other screen shots I could share, but I think you get the general idea. Also a good idea of my nerdiness. And… this counts as my Greek reading for the day, right? Right??

Read a book/manga/comic or watched an anime/show that contains Latin or Greek and want to know what it really says? I’d love suggestions for future posts! Doesn’t necessarily have to be anime-related; I’ll take anything.

(P.s. Before I go, shout-out to Funimation Studios for being so awesome as to put some of their shows up on YouTube — you guys are awesome!  All the above screen shots are there thanks to Funi.)


5 thoughts on “Anime meets Classics

  1. Wow, I think only you, Kate, would bother to analyze the Greek in anime shows! Very confusing to us “other people”!

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