The Penguindrum 事件
Not a post I’m thrilled to write, as I love Sentai Filmworks and hate translation quibbles.
But there’s complaining about “Demon Queen” vs “Demon King” and “nakama” vs “friend” and then there are real serious matters that change the meaning of a work.
This is one of the latter.
The following contains a major spoiler for the first Blu-ray set of Mawaru Penguindrum. Be warned before continuing on.
There is a term used in episode 11 and 12 of Penguindrum, 事件 or “jiken”. Literally it means something like “thing that happened,” but it’s translated often as incident. It can also be used in compounds like 自動車事故 where it becomes “jidoushajiko”. In this case, we’d call it an automobile accident since that’s the word we use for automobile incidents when two of them crash. Even though someone may be at fault, it’s an “accident”. In English, there’s a great deal of difference between an accident and an incident, in terms of responsibility and fault.
So if you’re going to translate it as accident, it really needs to be an accident.
The Aum Shinrikyo gas attacks in 1995 could not be called an accident.
I was willing to give the translation the benefit of the doubt because I first heard it in a flashback. But going back to the end of episode 11, in the present day, Ringo still refers to it as an accident.
There’s no point in morally grandstanding about how an intentional act of terrorism is not an “accident” by any definition, but if you do not know what the show is referencing in 1995, what happens in Penguindrum becomes entirely incomprehensible.
This is not cool. This is very, very bad. And it’s a shame, because Sentai’s release does contain translation notes to Haruki Murakami and Night on the Galactic Railroad that I would have missed otherwise.
How this slipped by is a mystery, but this needs to be corrected for the second set. A 事件 like this should not happen again.