Monday, July 15, 2013

Death of the "Swan Song"

Between the fan created term "swan song" and the use of "ultimate song" in the FUNimation subs, it was never really clear what "zesshou" was intended to mean in English. But today we have an answer.

In the beginning, fansubbers of the 1st season adopted the term "swan song" after the occurrence of its use in episode 1 where Kanade dies. However I have long held that "swan song" is an improper translation due to the connotation it holds as a "final song." Overall, it has created much confusion in the fanbase, especially after Tsubasa, Chris and Hibiki all survived their own use of "zesshou." At one point an anon on 4chan made a good point that "zesshou" is much more akin to "magnum opus" than anything else, but the FUNimation subs, which at one point could be considered official, opted for the term "Ultimate Song" which I felt was more accurate. However the FUNimation subs were discounted when "Fine" was provided as an official spelling, whereas they had used "Phine" (meaning there was no clear approval process of the FUNi terms by the creators).

Later on, I was a bit disheartened when I discovered the the translator of Mika-tan's blog used "swansong" as a translation when she covered the Tsubasa nendoroid. But at that time I had no idea if that had passed through any official channels or not. So I was stuck with no solid proof to back up my claims that "swan song" was never the intended translation for "zesshou."

But today I'm happy to say that the creators have provided us with an actual English translation. Technically this happened in episode 2, but I waited until the keyword was on the official site to confirm my suspicions. It all comes back to the question of: what does S2CA stand for?

Well, it's: Superb Song Combination Arts

Written right there in English on the page. It's also what Tsubasa and Chris said before they executed the attack: "Superb Song! Combination Arts! Set Harmonics!"

Seeing as how S2CA is an attack with utilizes the "zesshou" there is no doubt that it what "superb song" refers to. More to the fact, "superb song" is the dictionary definition of "zesshou" itself.

So while it may just have been the use of a Japanese-to-English Dictionary, the creators did opt to use English terminology for this particular attack and this was the result. Personally it's very satisfying for me to know that the creators took the time to determine what the English terminology was to be used, even if they likely didn't consider many options.

Anyway, I don't expect some sudden shift in the fandom. I expect people will continue using "swan song" because the term has stuck and that's just fine. But for all future translations and references on this blog or in the manga I will be using "superb song." Sorry if this disappoints any of you.

Now, if only the creators could do the same for "senki"...

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