So in Code Geass, Emperor Charles zi Britannia is obviously British because Britannia is a glorified, alternate-universe Britain. Thus he has an English name. Makes sense. Since it’s a Japanese show though, they have to transliterate the English name into Japanese, and Charles becomes シャルル (Sharuru). This has always bothered me. I just don’t see the connection between “Charles” and “Sharuru.” Of course I understand that many foreign words translated into Japanese sound strange because of their limited phonetic alphabet, and most of the time, I’d say they do pretty okay. But in this case, I’m thoroughly convinced that they could have picked a better transliteration with the sounds that they have. チャルズ (Charuzu), for example — not worlds different, but different enough to be closer, right?
Further, “Sharuru” seems to be some kind of universally accepted Japanese version of “Charles” because Code Geass was not the only series where I heard the transliteration. Who decided that “Charles” should be “Sharuru”? If someone else decided that they wanted to transliterate it as “Charuzu,” would they be wrong? Are there multiple ways to import a name into another language?
For the reverse case, Japanese names into English, the answer seems to be yes. For FUNimatioin’s recent license, Spice and Wolf, they’ve decided to transliterate ホロ as “Holo” rather than the fan-preferred “Horo.” Since the Japanese use the same sound where Westerners distinguish between L’s and R’s, either version can technically be correct. Nevertheless, the らりるれろ sounds are more often seen as R sounds (ra, ri, ru, re, ro) than L sounds (la, li, lu, le, lo). And for Horo’s case in particular, I can’t shake the idea that “Holo” will invoke “holographic” first and “awesome wolf deity” second. Meanwhile, “Horo” is kindasorta similar to “Horus” an Egyptian falcon god.
And then there is the fun thing they do when they have English names transliterated into Japanese only to be transliterated back into English. Except that the two English versions don’t match. The best example of this is probably Simon from Gurren Lagann. The Japanese have no character for “si,” only し/シ (“shi”), and so, Simon was pronounced シモン (“Shimon”). When Gurren Lagann was dubbed by Bandai, they kept that pronunciation, presumably because of perceived fan pressure. The same can be said for Viral, which retained the “vee-rall” pronunciation instead of “fixing” it back to “vhai-rul.”
In Horo’s case, fan preference may be more legitimate since the name isn’t English to begin with, but in Simon and Viral’s cases, should Bandai have given in? Would it really have been that weird to hear the names pronounced “correctly”? I don’t really think so. And if they were going to play it the Japanese way, why didn’t they go all the way with Viral and leave it as “V/Biraru”? That’d be pushing it too far with the lip movements, I guess? It can be debated whether or not Simon and Viral were intended to be English names to begin with — even though they’re obviously not Japanese, it’s possible that they could be fantasy names instead. But they seem kind of plain for fantasy names, don’t you think? After all, Japanese fantasy has come up with names such as Zelgadis Greywords, Filia Ul Copt, and Yozak Gurrier, and even those are Western-based. I wonder if there really is a “right” or “wrong” way to pronounce Simon and Viral since it’s been passed through languages the way it has. I’m sure fanboys will swear to “Shimon” and “Vee-rall,” but are they just subscribing to the Japanese’s limited phonetics?
Still, as far as natively Japanese names go, I’m glad for the shift towards preservation of pronunciation. The Sakura in Card Captor Sakura was dubbed as “Sa-kuur-ah” with a long “u” sound. The more recent Sakura of Naruto has been dubbed more correctly as “Sah-kuu-rah” with a short “u.” And yet, Akira was dubbed years ago correctly (with a soft “i” sound), and most people I know still pronounce it with a hard “i”?
One last thing… who the hell decided that they could name their child “Light” — an obviously English word — and then assign it the kanji for “moon”? (月 “tsuki”) How does that even work?? Obviously, no one will intrinsically understand that “tsuki” should be read as “Light” (or ライト”Raito” since they can’t actually pronounce “Light”) because Misa didn’t know offhand. So did Light just spend his life ‘”correcting” teachers saying, “No, ma’am, you’re wrong, it’s not ‘tsuki’ like it is in the dictionary, it’s ‘Raito’!”? Says who?? Your crazy parents?
Why do they get to decide that “Light” can be represented by 月 “tsuki”? Why didn’t they just use 光 “hikari” which actually means “light”? Because Hikari is actually a legitimate name? (A female name, but a name nonetheless!) I guess they didn’t want Light to go through life being mistaken as a girl during rolecall, so instead, they made him special by giving him the wrong character for the translation? Maybe that’s why he turned into such a megalomaniac.
The mystery of Light Yagami, solved!
Then again, the forcing of kanji for an English word has happened for things other than names.