November 09, 2007
Buffy (in Japanese)
Movies and television series imported to Japan often take the original title and convert it phonetically to kana. Even though Star Wars would yield a straightforward literal translation, it is rendered 「スター・ウォーズ」 ("Sutaa Waazu"). Spider-Man becomes「スパイダーマン」("Supaidaaman") and Bruce Almighty becomes「ブルース・オールマイティ」("Buruusu Oorumaiti").
Angel, on the other hand, is simply "Angel," because everybody knows what an angel is.
In the case of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, though, they got creative. Now, the whole concept of vampire slaying is not a unique one in Japanese F&SF, which is perhaps why they avoided both the kana-conversion and literal translation routes. Rather, the title focuses instead on what is culturally unique about this particular vampire slayer.
[Catholic iconography is widely (mis)used in Japanese fantasy to reference Christianity and Christian culture in general.]
Hence the Japanese title for the series:「バフィー／恋する十字架」. Reverse the translation and we get: "Buffy--Beloved of the Crucifix." Though the verb implies "smitten" or "head over heels," and can be read either transitively or intransitively, so other translations might be: "Buffy--Crush of the Crucifix." Or: "Buffy--Crazy about the Cross."
Pretty cool, I think.