Sunday May 16, 2004


Shurayuki-hime is the title of a manga (Japanese comic book) which has been made into a movie twice. The first movie came out in 1973, and I just saw it this weekend. It's getting a burst of attention recently because it was an influence on Kill Bill: Vol. 1—in fact, the song that Tarantino used over the duel in the snow is its theme song. I haven't seen the second movie yet, but the story has apparently been moved from Meiji-era Japan to the near future. I still want to see it, though, since it's got pretty girls with swords. In any case, it's the English translations of the titles that I wanted to write about.

The 1973 movie's English title is Lady Snowblood. This is a pretty straight translation: 修羅 (shura) means roughly "carnage" and is also apparently one of the Buddhist hells, 雪 (yuki) is snow, and 姫 (hime) is an honorific meaning "princess" or "young noblewoman". 修羅雪, the main character's name, is the hardest part to translate, and I guess they went with "Snowblood" because it avoids rankling the sort of people who would be rankled by "Hellsnow"—not to mention that that sounds a little bit like a "snowball in hell" joke. Interestingly, the liner notes say that the title of the manga was a pun on 白雪姫 (shirayuki-hime) the Japanese title for Snow White.

The 2001 movie's English title, on the other hand, is Princess Blade. "Princess" is just as good a translation, if not better, for 姫 (hime), but "blade" is pretty far from "carnage", and "snow" is nowhere to be seen. However, it turns out that the fight choreographer for this version was also the fight choreographer on Blade II, so maybe they were going for some kind of tie-in. (The plot of this newer version sounds different enough that I suspect it's not actually based on the same comic, even though several reviews I've read online claim that it is. I'll post an update after I see it.)

So, two movies with the same Japanese title, but entirely different English titles. Weird.

[Now playing: "The Flower of Carnage" by Meiko Kaji. That's a third translation of the title, which Tarantino used for the theme song on the Kill Bill soundtrack.]

[Update: I just watched the 2001 movie, and if it weren't for the fact that the authors of the manga were credited in both movies I wouldn't have have believed they were based on the same story. Only the barest skeleton of the plot is similar: there's this girl who kills people with a sword, she has a reason for revenge involving her mother, and she meets a guy. That's pretty much it. The new movie had lots of fighting in the first half hour, then about 45 minutes of people talking, healing, evaluating their lives, and learning valuable lessons about their feelings, and finally there's another fight at the end. The action scenes were overedited, as is usual these days—I wonder what what would happen if they hired somebody who could make the swordmanship look real instead of trying to patch it up in editing? The not-exactly-a-love-interest guy (a) was irrelevant to the plot, and (b) had the biggest, fluffiest, prettiest hair I've seen on a man since Duran Duran—it was distracting.

Not to mention the false advertising. The cover of the DVD appears to show several girls with swords, but it turns out it's all the same girl. I thought I was renting Fox Force Five, but it turned out it was only Fox Force One.

And why are they using swords if it's 500 years in the future, anyway?

Verdict: disappointing.]

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since it's got pretty girls with swords

If you know what's good for you, buy The Wife a sword now, before she gets jealous.

Posted by: Semantic Compositions at May 17, 2004 11:20:14 PM

The Wife has several swords of her own already, but there is always room for a few more. Hmmm. I do seem to have a birthday coming up...

Posted by: The Wife at May 19, 2004 10:17:54 AM