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Lost in Translation: Humanity and Divinity

Hello there everyone, voxanimus again. You were all so kind in your comments on my last blog post that I thought I'd do another one. Well, that and this week's One Piece chapter has yet again a lot of stuff I want to talk about. I think.

Anyway, let's get the more lighthearted stuff out of the way. Several characters' full names were revealed this week, and I wanted to give some background on the references contained therein. Corazon's real name is Rocinante, or the name of Don Quixote's horse in the eponymous book. Law's name contains two references to the Napoleonic Wars: the Battle of Trafalgar is a naval engagement in which British forces led by Horatio Lord Nelson sunk 22 French ships without losing a single of their own. "Water Law" is a transliteration of the Japanese pronunciation of "Waterloo," the name of the battle in which Napoleon was defeated once and for all. Japanese has a habit of using the native pronunciation of a word when adopting it into Japanese; the Belgian pronunciation of Waterloo is closer to "Water Law." This means that transcriptions of the name as "Watel" and the like are clearly wrong. On the heels of this fact, I would like to make a request to all of you readers. Please refrain from commenting other scanlation groups' translations—be it of names, attacks, or dialogue—in the Mangastream comments section. I find it disrespectful to not only my work but that of our other translators. We spend no small amount of time and effort trying to come up with the most faithful and appropriate renderings we can of these manga, and to ignore that work is not very nice, to say the least.

Now, let's talk a little about the main underlying reference of this week's chapter. Again, though, to understand it, we need a bit of historical background.

Following Japan's defeat in World War II, the Allied Forces insisted, as part of the war reparations, that Japan move away from its imperial government and towards a more democratic one. Pursuant to this goal, Emperor Hirohito was required to issue a statement officially renouncing his status as living god, which would thereby decrease his monarchical right to sovereignty and pave the way for the writing of a new Japanese Constitution that would formally enshrine democratic power as the de facto arbiter of Japanese politics. The Emperor and the Japanese royal family would remain as mere symbols of the Japanese government, with little real power. The name of this declaration was 人間宣言 (にんげんせんげん, ningen sengen), which means "declaration of humanity." Sound familiar?

It is certainly very evident that Doflamingo's father's descent from the Holy Land and attendant renunciation of holy status is at least superficially similar to that performed by Emperor Hirohito following World War II. But the similarities do not run as deep as they did last week. Doffy's father's reverse apotheosis, if you will, caused his family to fall into ruin, as they were preyed upon by those they used to rule. Yet, on the other hand, Hirohito's renunciation of divinity was, at least in the long run, a very good thing for Japan. It allowed for the appointment of a Japanese Prime Minister and governance power to rest almost wholly in the hands of the three branches of the Japanese government.

In truth, though, Japan was actually occupied by Allied forces (in effect, the United States) and the majority of the governmental and economic reforms implemented following the war were done so at the behest or even command of the occupying forces. While it is probably not disputable that the long-term consequences of Allied occupation of Japan were beneficial, the attitude of the average Japanese citizen towards the occupation itself is less clear-cut. Some believed that the somewhat ham-fisted occupation's use of power hearkened back to the pre-Meiji days of the shogunate.

Ultimately, I cannot say whether or not Oda is trying to critique, using Doflamingo's family as a foil, the treatment of Japan at the hands of America following the Japanese emperor's renunciation of holiness. I was neither alive during the occupation period nor have I been to Japan and had a chance to talk with Japanese people about this. In addition, attitudes toward these sort of political issues vary from generation to generation, and I know not which generation's reaction Oda is calling upon. What do you think? Leave your opinion, or any suggestions or feedback, in the comments below.

Stay frosty, friends.

- voxanimus