I watched Fate Zero and without Subtitles (Experiment Series)

In a world without available translations there’s only sounds, words, and images to guide you to the true meaning of what is being said. Everything can be heard but not understood. Only little pieces and pieces are known, the rest are all mixed messages muddled by illogical unknown sounds. It’s the weirdest thing. Curious nonsense for they hardly make any sense. This is one of the more curious ones.  It’s a good thing.

First things first. Compared to past experiments I know what I need to know about Fate Zero, I’ve watched the sequel, I have followed every Fate Zero episode since it began and even talked about it in greater depth before. The Experiment is so much different compared to the others because I know what Fate Zero is about and it’s going to be difficult to get the wrong idea about anything. That’s why we’re increasing the level of difficulty to one of the highest levels possible – no subtitles and no subs for a serious show. No hints, no nothing. Only images and only sounds. I’m more than ready to hardly make any sense of the situation. Why insane difficulty. Because that’s what I do.

> Warming up to an experiment of insane difficulty :

Right off the bat the shows gets incredibly wordy. I don’t know about the novel but wordy is probably a word I’ll use for Fate Zero compared to “easy” (not that much) shows. By that we mean that they express properly and eloquently as much as they can. Every character speaks in their own manner. They don’t necessarily resort to using easy words to express themselves. And you know what? They really shouldn’t. They’re being themselves. The problem is on my end, I’m not about to ask them to dumb their speech down because I don’t fully get what they’re saying. The thing is that we’re starting the experiment with a short conversation between Gilgamesh and Kotomine Kirei and I only get the gist of it based on their behavior. Someone is in deep thought. Someone is very Kuyashi. I know that one. That’s the equivalent for upset, isn’t it? I should know. I used to hear that word in Kaiji every 10 minutes. Upsetting show. Very upsetting show.

The trick to learning words is repetition, but we don’t have that much time right now. This experiment would go terribly more smoothly if all characters would use catch-phrases instead of real conversations. Kirie would say iie in a deep voice, Gilgamesh would call everyone a mongrel for no real reason. But I don’t wish for that. I don’t get this conversation either. That makes me currently a mongrel. I’m not a fan of mongrels. I might be a fan of Saber. Not a fan of mongrels.

> While we’re at it. Who is the subject?

I feel I’m awfully unprepared for this. I should be. I should be because Fate Zero requires extensive knowledge of the language to fully comprehend what they’re really talking about. Too many words and too many sentences are going by and I don’t know what they mean. One of the things I’m also realizing is that I am also losing track who they’re talking to. I don’t know what it is being talked about either, and I don’t know “who” they’re talking to either. One moment it is Irisviel is talking to Saber then the next moment she’s looking directly at the camera. Irisviel looking at the camera made me overly conscious because I lost track of the subject of discussion hence the topic of the conversation. Don’t look at me, Irisviel. I’m not in this show, I’m an observer conducting an experiment. This scene showed me one can easily lose track when the subject isn’t properly determined or more are introduced. According to this conversation (to be accurate, according to Maiya) someone was going or was about to be shoot-o. Who exactly? I do not know. She’s weird. What was that conversation between Saber and Irisviel about? I don’t know either. She’s also weird. Caster. Too weird. Mark these words. Characters just seem weirder without subs. 

All these untranslated dialogues sound positively bizarre. Regardless, the experiment must continue. My mission and conducting this experiment can sometimes be much like an anime fan who isn’t dropping a show because he or she is too into the show to be able to drop it. Two or three more episodes to go to finish the show, same as in those cases experiments must continue to reach some results.

> Guessing the context based on their past dialogues :

On the plus side because I’ve been following the story properly I know plenty of things. I know what happened last episode and the one before that. I know that Tokiomi Tohsaka got his spotlight last week when he defeated a badly injured Matou Kariya whose attacks were only flying bugs of doom. Bugs against fire. Kariya wasn’t doing the math right back then but no one can really blame him in his condition. There are many tragic characters and elements in the Fate series, Kariya is one of them, another is F/SN TV.

Because I can’t follow the conversations properly as I should I’m going to start making guesses guessing what the dialogues are about. Rin’s father had something to tell Rin which I can only presume the message is about the Tohsaka family as magi, training, passing the torch and the like. Also possibly something about Tokiomi being close to ending (and wining) the war, not to mention being proud of Rin’s potential as magi. Pretty much it? I suppose I’ve boiled down Tokiomi’s dialogues to holy war tactics, sucking up to Gilgamesh, and acting paternal to Rin. Maybe that’s what he said, maybe it isn’t. I gather that was the message in this scene when he gives his daughter the Family Spell book which in the future would later grant her +intelligence and a stats boost to all zettai-ryouiki. I may be wrong but I feel fairly positive about the latter part.

If anything this subtitle-less situation only makes me observe and analyze the characters more instead of their words. When you compare Tokiomi to Kirie one realizes there’s a world of difference far apart from their taste in clothes. Tokiomi has everything while Kirie has nothing. On top of that the man has Kirie moonlight as his personal driver then later would have him babysit his tsundere daughter for many years. Sometimes one wonders why the guy deflected. Sometime one wonders how big an age difference there is between the two when they look almost the same age. These are the type of questions that arise in these peculiar experiments about its characters.

Ai-eels-biiru (Irisviel )

> I understood almost nothing :

I frown at Kiritsugu Emiya. I frown at Kiritsugu using Irisviel to do all the dirty work for pretty much the whole show. The guy gravitates between cowardliness and cunning for I always thought she’d be more of a backup or support ally in this Holy Grail War than anything. It’s crucial to mention this may be just me for I tend to be biased favorly towards Ohara Sayaka’s voice. It’s crucial to mention what I did do was be able to follow the first part of the conversation when Tokiomi thanked Saber and her master for coming as well as introducing Kirie as his whipping boy disciple. That is pretty much it, I didn’t get the rest. From there most of the conversation escapes me.

I have to wonder what exactly this conversation was about. This is (and will be) one of those many times where I’m clueless in this experiment. I assume that this happens after they learned Kirie’s father was killed by crazy magi university professor who was going to flunk Rider’s master for speaking out. I presume all of them were making a “treaty” of some sort now that most of the masters have been taken out. I similarly presume Irisviel was paying Kirie the favor back for going Father Anderson on her in the first season. When everybody turned to look at Kirie I knew that something big had happened. This is nothing new. As always the tension builds up in Fate Zero with ease. Sometimes it does when there’s a plan to be executed. Sometimes when an epic fight is about to commence. Sometimes simply when you’re just waiting for the characters to say a word you actually understand, like Tokiomi saying Dou ii-ou koto ka ne and looking at Kirie awaiting for an answer (as it is the usual case for statements starting with Dou). The more the emphasis, the more an answer is expected.

Dramatic moments are provided by dramatic pauses and people growing quiet all of the sudden, everyone now and then looking a priest. That’s how things work. This undoubtedly proves the scene just got serious. Hear that Saber? Serious.

A hugger is somewhat of a Kia. A Kia is a kuruma.

Saber? More like Rider? In Fate Zero Saber is better known for driving vehicles. One. She’s always driving cars. Two. She drives a motorcycle. Three. she rides waves. Normally I would propose we drop this Saber farce and reclassify Saber as Rider class but we aren’t here to do that. Still sometimes I do have to wonder how actually random these hero “classes” really are. Maybe I’m missing something (in addition to the subs) here, however Saber has always been Saber for me. I remember when I used to think that Saber was her actual name and not her class because everybody called her that. Who’s this Arturia? It’s Saber for everything that is holy.

In any case, ‘Saber remembers a car better’. I’m having a terribly difficult time conducting this experiment when there are too many sentences coming and going without a reasonable translation. Throw me a bone here, Fate Zero. Say a simple sentence for a change that a beginner like me can understand. Luckily, I feel fairly good about the scene where Irisviel  and Maiya get in the cab and start chatting about their situations and personal histories. After all I think I got the madam part right. You know what we’re getting closer to? We’re getting closer to –

> Self-explanatory territory :

Suddenly this scene became easy to understand becoming surprisingly self explanatory. There are scenes that are easy to “get” what they’re saying about because you’re familiar with the words. Not the full meaning of the sentences. Only words. The words  Homunculus, Holy Grail, reasons, and watashi are thrown around a few times by Irisviel. Sometimes one can roughly be able to piece a message together based on the words they know. That’s one of the biggest factors. The second biggest factor is knowing said character. If it were a character I never knew before I doubt the key words would’ve been enough to figure out the message. It’s because I’m familiar with the character that it is possible to piece the message together with ease. I’m fairly positive the conversation was about Irisviel talking about a homunculus created to aid Kiritsugu and help him win the Holy Grail. And that she was also near her limit. I roughly translated the next part into Maiya telling Irisviel that Kiritsugu’s dream must be fulfilled no matter what and that she shouldn’t die just yet. I liked the first part. Not the latter part. That did not sound very nice. Right about now I’m not seeing Maiya’s character as much of a BFF just yet. There are good valid reasons for these misunderstanding in translations. There’s a reason for Kirie being so dead serious and not a merrier person, it goes against his personal religion.

A monkey this right here could be

> Wrong Translations:

You know what this is? It’s the act of using the wrong words and thus using them incorrectly. Me hearing words that do probably mean what they do, just not in the right context. You can’t just know words and put them together. That’s not really how it always works. There are words which sound similar to others yet they have different meanings. They’re homographs.  Take ‘bear’ if you will. One means an animal the other does not. There are also words like this in Japanese and in many languages because words tend to have more than one meaning. There are also words like heterographs with different meaning and spelling as well. The case here is probably that there is one word that sounds another but it actually has a different meaning. One letter can make a world of big difference. One word you know can make all the difference in figuring things out. One studio can make all the difference. This is true for Fate Zero. This is a experiment. This is a experiment. This is a experiment. This is a experiment. Not a chair.

The Experiment Watching Fate without Subtitles reminds me that I enjoy a lot more the character interactions when I know what they’re talking about. For example I enjoy the conversations between Kirie and Gilgamesh plenty when I actually understand what they’re saying. Without understanding anything they just look like two men talking in different tones. One is a blonde gigolo looking dude the other one is a deadpan priest with a deep manly voice. I really had no idea what they were talking about especially when these conversation aren’t nearly as easy as comedy shows or slice of life. But I knew that when I started this experiment and that’s why this falls under the ‘Insane Difficulty’.

> Missing the Point :

What? That doesn’t even make sense. It’s as if we aren’t even speaking the same language. In fact we aren’t. I feel I’m awfully unprepared for this. I should be. Know what that is? It’s a good thing. It’s a good thing because this experiment can actually work. It works because these conversations don’t make much sense. Neither does most things when you watch anime without subtitles and your Japanese is lacking big time and this experiment happens to be a reminder of that.

What I got was that Kirie got the message and said good job to whoever called him. His conversation with Gilgamesh was filled with secrets plans. I may not know what they were actually saying but I still gathered Kirie has learned plenty because of the secret dying message left by his father (flashback shot) giving him insight for his next move. What I did also hear was that when all the Heroic spirits die (defeated) something will happen and that in the end the loyalty for Tokiomi was for nothing. I can’t say for sure that’s what they were really saying but it sure makes more sense than Kirie saying this right here is a monkey. That’s the type of thing we’re dealing here, realizing what works and what doesn’t, the subtle things we pick up on such as Fate Zero’s masters thus far being more interesting than Stay Night’s, personally liking F/SN’s OP better, Kirie’s voice being too awesome, Gilgamesh likes to ends his sentence in – dewa nai ka because he can. Pure and simple, I’m simply reporting what I’m hearing in these conversations. It is possible a primate was really not the topic of a conversation at some point. It is possible glasses being fine or not were really not the topic of a conversation either.

For those items, appreciation was expressed

> Beyond words and everything :

The scenes pretty much speak for themselves. Tokiomi awaiting Kirie’s arrival and saying he’s sorry about what happened to Kirie’s father. Tokiomi suddenly bringing up leaving Rin with Kirie in case a tragedy were to happen.  Kirie saying to leave her to him. Tokomi being grateful and he giving Kirie a dagger. Suddenly Kirie says it’s time for neko-mimi  god knows why, but not after saying he’s grateful for the dagger passed down from Tohsaka family. Tokomie becoming aware that it is getting awfully late. Kyrie coming behind and saying the last words that Tokiomi will ever hear: “There’s nothing to worry about, my master.” Blade going  in and doing Tohsaka in. Gilgamesh praising Kirie’s actions and prompting him to hurry up to carry out their plans. Kirie asking Gilgamesh if he’s ok with the results. Gilgamesh not minding. The Final words spoken “You’re now my master.” Insert villainous grin. This is probably the whole scene and likely (minus the caption) one of the better examples of actually “understanding” something you “don’t” fully understand. Knowing many of the words can help a lot in following the scenes. Still most of these scenes speak for themselves when they really need to. What you see is what you get.

Experiment Results:

One true point to make is that the difficulty level for this experiment was immensely high. More relaxed show have simpler conversations and they’re easy to follow because they use short sentences. They aren’t easy but they are easier than a show like Fate Zero. Fate Zero’s Japanese level is tremendously high as it is more than greetings, catch phrases, and expressions. They’re full-on conversations each of them followed by proper responses. The word difficult doesn’t begin to describe it.

This is one experiment about a series that I have been consistently following and I was still plenty lost +80% of the time as far as translations go, but with decent understanding of most situations. With a few words is possible to guess with high success rate what the characters are probably saying in some cases. Knowing the characters helped tremendously figuring about the topics and their dialogues. Awkwardly hilarious moments when you realize they can’t possibly be saying what you’re hearing will happen. A) You’re hearing it wrong. B) You’re hearing it right, it just means something else. These badly translated dialogues are examples of poking fun at words that may sound like other words but the meanings are entirely different. All of this is the recreation of those situations.

Nothing beats having full understanding of a story and this experiment couldn’t have been conducted if I would fully understand everything without subs. Subtitles, as means of understanding the dialogues, are required to fully understand the story and pretty much everything. Based on this experiment watching an anime without subs results in massive amounts of headaches and guessing with a low percentage of success yet surprisingly still possible. Try it when you can. Try it at home. Don’t try it with shows with heavy conversations for they’re the most hardcore. Try it with easier shows. Nothing beats the full experience.  This was [Keikakudoori-subs] and it really was as if we weren’t speaking the same language because we weren’t. And I was awfully unprepared for it because I should have. Know what that was? It was a good thing.


6 thoughts on “I watched Fate Zero and without Subtitles (Experiment Series)

  1. Haha, great read. Some moments you were spot on, others you missed an important detail, others you missed one or two words which lead you to the complete opposite of what was actually said. I’d like to hear your response after reading the subbed version.
    I’ve had a similar experience reading the PS3 Umineko. I know the story well enough to tell what’s going on, but it’s extremely difficult to tell what they’re actually saying. Fun times.

    • Oh, no doubt about it. Some dialogues sounded right because they did fit their characters so well while there were others that sounded too off to be for real (see captions). I’ll watch the episode soon to find out what these conversations were actually about. I presume the original lacks primates, but I think I can deal with it.

  2. Hmm… i didn’t know what zettai-ryouiki meant so i asked Google and it turns out it was a pretty serious science:
    “According to Hatena Diary, the golden ratio for the ultimate zettai ryouiki is 4:1:2.5 (length of skirt : zettai ryouiki : length of socks above knee) and the acceptable margin for error is ±25%. The ratios are generally off because it is thought that the ultimate zettai ryouiki would generate so much moé that the equivalent energy would be enough to vaporize the planet.”

    I’ve learned another new weird thing about anime and at the same time i saw Kirie being grateful for the nekomimis. Thanks, keikakudoori.

    • My pleasure. Golden ratios are always very much serious business in any field. Anime is one of those fields. I’m glad to be able have been of assistance on this day.

  3. If I recall, Saber classes have the Riding skill, and Arturia’s rank in it is B. She can handle vehicles with ease (and horses, which the motorcycle reminds her of), but she can’t handle large creatures or mythical beasts/constructs. In other words, she shouldn’t be able to control Rider’s chariot.

    I can’t believe you made it through the verbal quagmire of a Fate/Zero episode, unaided. I tip my hat to you sir.

  4. A B isn’t that bad considering it is not her class. Saber would make a decent Rider if it were possible. Granted, she’d have to forget about riding in style.

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