Lost in Translation: Happy and Happiness

Hi there, friends. It's been a while.

If you haven't, you should go check out the Mashima one-shot that follows at the end of the latest FT Zero chapter —"Happy, the Blue Cat."

I'm writing this blog post because that short seven-page work actually had quite the impact on me; I was hoping to share a bit about it with you all. So go read it if you haven't already! This post isn't going anywhere.

First things first; the Great East Japan Earthquake is actually referred to in Japanese as "The Great Disaster" (東日本大震災, Higashi Nihon Dai Shinsai). That should be enough to tell you how much of an effect it had on Japan and its people.

The whole theme of "Happy = happiness" as detailed in the note at the end of the chapter loses a bit of its poignance when translated from Japanese to English, so in an effort to get at least a little bit of that magic back, I thought I'd go into it a bit more.

Basically, whenever the word "Happy" shows up in the one-shot, it's written in katakana (ハッピー), identically to how it appears when it is used to indicate the name of the blue cat Happy. Although most Japanese people understand enough English to understand that this means "happy" as in the emotion, this word, when written in katakana and used as it is in this work, would be read first and foremost as a name, not a word in and of itself. It's sort of like if someone was named Mark; despite the fact that this is an actual English word that means marking, when you see the word "Mark" written like that, you automatically know it is a name.

The point of this one-shot is to play with this idea; on the last page, Mashima writes the word I've translated as "happiness" in Japanese, indicating that it is meant to be taken to literally mean just that. This, coupled with the statement on the preceding page that says that "my name is in everyone's hearts," completes the metaphor that "Happy = happiness." That is, everything Happy's said about his own name throughout the one-shot applies to the concept of happiness itself.

Quite a cute and inspiring little message, isn't it?

I know the world is a crappy, saddening place sometimes. Probably most of the time. But try to stay strong. And maybe, just maybe, do me and Happy a favor today. Think of that tiny little happiness in your heart and try to smile.

- voxanimus

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