Translating Mononoke-hime Japanese subtitles

I’ve been thinking how to improve my reading, with which I’m struggling. Sure, I could, like, actually read, but I’m struggling with even the simplest stuff. But I have a hunch it’s not because I don’t know (or, at least, I know more than I manage to understand) because I really don’t know, but because I often don’t even try to disentangle the sentence. I think by translating, I’ll be forced to not be vague. And also I’d like to work as a translator one day, so there’s that.

So I’m thinking to translate the subs for Princess Mononoke, 'cause I found this handy site that has subs for it. It also shows the English subs, but they seem too different? Maybe it was done from the dub. I probably won’t use it much.

So why am I doing this here? One, I could use people checking if I’m correct. Wouldn’t want to embed my mistakes. Also, hoping this will motivate me to not give up on it. Two, I don’t want to just take, I’d also like to give. So if I don’t cop-out, I’m gonna explain my translations in hope it will be of use to other learners. I’m basically making the kind of resource I would’ve liked to have access to myself, but couldn’t find.


Furigana: [ruby]kanji[rt]furigana[/rt][/ruby], except >< instead of ][.


Forgot to mention. Numbered lines are the original text in Japanese. Below is my translation. Finally, below that are my translation notes.

1. そこには太古たいこからのかみがみがすんでいた.
There, since ancient times, gods lived. (/ Since ancient times gods lived here)

At first I wrote “here” instead of “there”. Don’t mix up your ここ、そこ and あそこs, kids. Not too sure on the use of には here, but I’m just guessing each works independently. そこ+に is like “at(に) there(そこ)”. は is usually “translated” as “speaking of”, though that’s just a crutch for us foreigners, but it’s useful to point out 'cause that way it’s easier to see what it is doing. 太古 - ancient times, から - from (has more meanings, but this is the most common one), pretty straightforward stuff.
I only noticed this as I’m writing this, but I don’t really get the use of の here. Maybe it’s actually something like “gods from the ancient past” or “gods of the time immemorial”?
かみがみ is “gods” – plural, apparently. が subject particle, indicates it’s the gods that are doing something, and すんでいた, or 住む, as the dictionary form with the kanji goes. It’s in progressive past tense (which I’m informed implies the action isn’t done… does that mean this implies they’re still living there even now?)

2. ヤックル!

The transcription to romaji is actually “Yakkuru”, but that’s not what the English subtitle shows, so I changed it.

3. あにさま!
Big brother!

Has the implication of high respect because of the ~さま、but I don’t know how I’d translate into English better than this.

4. ちょうど良かった
Just in time. (/Right on time?)

Expression, apparently. My Yomichan says:
ちょうど良い | past | exp | adj-i | JMdict (English)
just right (time, size, length, etc.)

5. ヒイさまがみな村へもどれと.
Lady Hii ordered everyone back to the village.

Not sure if さま should be “lady” here, but I’m too lazy to Google how they TL-ed it in the English version. This is what the subtitle from the site says about this line:
“The wise woman wants everybody back to the village at once”.

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3. あにさま!
Big brother!

Has the implication of high respect because of the ~さま、but I don’t know how I’d translate into English better than this.

things like these dont translate all too well into english. The way to describe it is there, but the words are missing. In most translations something gets lost. It’s always been like that.
So if you really want to translate it to it’s core you will have to do it descriptively.

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I know, and it makes me sad. I wish I could preserve ALL the meaning.

Although, now that I’ve thought about it, I think “dear brother” would be satisfactory (if not going for the straight up “brother-sama” or “[name]-sama” or “ani-sama” or something). It’s probably more close to “honoured brother”, but did people in even medieval England speak like that? Legitimately asking, I have no fucking idea.
But speaking of present day, while you could say it that way, I doubt anyone would. And, from my memory of the movie, doesn’t seem like the character even means it that way, even if we could tl it as “honoured brother”. It sounds closer to me to “dear brother” and that is also something that I think I could hear from a native English speaker. Though I might still be losing the nuance of “respected” – I think the closest tl would be be “dear and respected brother” but that’s just too cumbersome.

Also, wrt かみがみ – the English sub says “spirits”. So I was curious why the only dictionary translation of it is “gods”, then? Well, apparently, on, when you search for kamigami, you get gods of different kinds of things (かみがみ/m0u/), such as burial or village gods, which I guess does correspond closer to “spirits” in the English-speaking world.
On the other, other, hand, it’s not like ancient Greek gods weren’t also like that and still considered gods. This linguistic shit is hard, man.

次回, on translating Mononoke:

  1. ジイジもそう言うの.
  2. シイシが?
  3. 山がおかしいって.
  4. 鳥たちがいないの.
  5. ケモノたちも.そうか.

Yeah. When writing subtitles for a movie, localisation is easier than a crash course in comparative religion. If you say “gods” in the English subtitles, then yeah, most English speakers are going to be picturing some kind of Japanese pantheon. Amaterasu and all that.

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But is there really a difference between Amaterasu and these gods/spirits? Iirc from the movie, it’s not like they were less sentient or anything, right? Were they less powerful gods maybe? Maybe they should be called “lesser gods” or “goods of the land”? The switch from “gods” to “spirits” kinda seems unwarranted to me :thinking:

Another edit: I feel like they’d used せい(たち?) or something if they meant “spirits”.

Yes, it’s something like this. With Noun1のNoun2 construct you are allowed to add particle right after the Noun1, like を、で、と、へ、から、まで etc. (A little exception, に must be turned to へ)

For example :
友達の手紙 A friend’s letter
友達への手紙 A letter to a friend
友達からの手紙 A letter from a friend
友達との会話 A conversation with a friend


Yeah, I know about those, it’s combined particles, right? Also, from what I understood about them, the particle without the の would mean it’s about the entire sentence or something like that, while with the の it means it modifies the proceeding noun.

While without the の it would be something like “Yesterday evening, the rain finally stopped”.

Yes, it’s combined particle !
And yes, without の, in this sentence the meaning change completely, as you said it would be something like “It has finally stopped raining since last night.” (literally “The rain finally stopped since last night.”)

But for the one in Mononoke… the meaning is pretty much the same, right ? Maybe There, since ancien times, the gods lived. vs There, the ancient gods lived ?

Edit : I also got the feeling that combined particule feels a bit more literary somehow… fitting for an opening sentence of a movie


I think there’s a difference technically.

そこに太古からかみがみがすんでいた. – imo, is “from ancient times gods lived there”
そこに太古からのかみがみがすんでいた. – “ancient gods lived there”

But practically, I guess those two are the same.

If I had to nitpick, I’d say that, for some reason, I get the “feel” that in the first case, it’s like it could be implying there could’ve been some beings there before the gods. Or that they haven’t been here always (e.g. the gods moved from somewhere else). The second version “feels” more like they were more indigenous.


Could be.

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Not exactly. The first version means that some gods/spirits have been here since those ancient times, but they may have changed over time (e.g., if we were talking about people, you would obviously understand that generations had went on, with people dying and getting born over time).
The second version implies that those are the gods/spirits from ancient times (so there was no change, possibly because they are immortal, have a ridiculously long lifespan or reproduce by making exact copies of themselves or something.)


For anyone still learning から, there’s a trick to help know the meaning: look at the part-of-speech of the word before it. Each time you learn a new meaning of から, take care to note what kind of word it follows.

For example, after a noun, it will often mean “from”, but not “since”. However, when the preceding word is a time word, such as 太古 (“olden times”), から indicates that time as the beginning (of something), and can (depending on the time word) translate into English as “from”, “at”, or “since”. Thus @Nenad’s translation of “since” works.


I’m still glad I was at least right there’s a difference, however small!

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6. ジイジもそう言うの.

Grandpa says so, too.

I’m guessing that the の at the end is more for emphasis, than for an explanation, cause an explanatory tone doesn’t make sense to me here? Might be missing something, tho.

7. シイシが?

What does Shiishi say?

When asking “What about X” they usually, from what I’ve seen in anime, use は. I’m mostly guessing it works the same way here, except maybe this way is more urgent, or emphasizing that the speaker is really interested in this person’s opinion and not someone else’s or something like that. The usual が stuff?

8. 山がおかしいって.

He/She says that there’s something suspicious going on in the mountains.
Literally: Mountain(s) are [funny/strange/improper/suspicious].

9. 鳥たちがいないの.

The birds are gone.
Literally: Birds are not + explanatory の.

10. ケモノたちも.そうか.

There’s also monsters. Is that so?
Literally: Monsters, too. That so?

Guessing that the second sentence is from another character here.
Edit: Just checked the English subtitles. It says “The birds have gone. / The animals too.” for the last two lines. And I think that makes more sense, cause the topic wasn’t changed. So by ケモノ they probably mean “animals” and that they’re running away too, and not “monsters” and how they’re appearing.

I’m a bit confused by the use of Katakana in this batch (and the first when I think about it). Is because it looks cool? Because they don’t use too many kanji, so they want to make the text more readable by using two different kana? Or for emphasis…? The most mysterious one is why is ばけもの in katakana? Is it just the standard for that word or something?[/spoiler]

I had an idea, that it works better like this for people who want to try to translate it on their own first. On the other hand, it would suck for my kind senpai checking my shit. Thoughts?

次回, on Translating もののけ姫:

  1. ジイジの所へ行ってみよう。みんなは早くもどりなさい。
  2. はいっ。
  3. なにかる。
  4. ジイジなんだろう?
  5. わからぬ。人ではない。

This is for tomorrow, but I couldn’t resist looking into る – it means “to come,” same as 来る. So what’s the difference? According to – it’s just the old kanji for the same thing. I’m guessing it was used here for the old school flavour, like using “cometh” in English fiction, or something.

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Thanks to this topic, I suddenly realized that “mononoke” is not just a random name. I’m so used to talk about this movie as “Princess Mononoke” that it never occurred to me that mononoke is actually plain Japanese. :sweat_smile: It’s 物の怪, a kind of ghost/spirit/youkai that resent people.


Yeah, 獣 = beast. Monster is けもの

Because animal and plant names are often written in katakana.

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This is what I hate about localization. There’s no practical reason for Hime to be translated but Mononoke to not be. I wonder how many people have watched this movie and thought “where does Mononoke come into it? What is Mononoke even?” I haven’t watched the dub in a while but I’m not sure the word is used even once. Her name is San, after all.

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Maybe the original translator was simply bad at his job? Didn’t know of the word, and just thought it was a name? :sweat_smile:

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Plus, “Princess of the Vengeful Spirits” sounds kinda cool.