Crest names and translation

This has been something I’ve been turning over in my head for a long time now, but after several months of consideration and consultation with others, I’ve decided to translate 純真の紋章 (“junshin no monshou“) as “Crest of Sincerity” and “誠実の紋章” (“seijitsu no monshou“) as “Crest of Integrity” going forward, and I also plan to retroactively update most of my past translations to reflect this. Those who have followed my translations may know that I’d been using the translation “Purity” for 純真 (“junshin“) and “Honesty” for “誠実” (“seijitsu“) up until now. On top of explaining my justification for the changes, I thought I also might as well take the opportunity to write about Adventure and Adventure 02‘s Crest names in translation.

Please keep in mind that the below is only representative of my own way to approach the issue. Other translators may disagree, and that’s fine; translation is, as always, something that involves a personal judgment call!



Why not just use official terms?

I’ll be using the terms “official translation” and “official localization” for the rest of this post, so for the sake of clearing up confusion, this is what I mean by that:

  • Official translation: English and romanized terms provided for the official Japanese side of the franchise. These are usually found in places such as merchandise text, official English subtitles for undubbed anime, official Japanese websites, or some English translations made for the Southeast Asian market. Example: “Baby”, “Child”, “Adult”, etc.
  • Official localization: English and romanized terms officially used in products localized for the English-speaking market, including in anime dubs and localized video games. Most of these were done with the North American market in mind, but some dubs/localizations in other languages have translated their terminology from this instead of from the original Japanese. Example: “Fresh”, “In-Training”, “Rookie”, “Champion”, etc.

Usually, my policy as a translator is to fall back on official translations/localizations when they exist, especially for the sake of avoiding confusion. However, when doing fan translations for Digimon, the only thing I can really do is take both official translations and localizations as a “suggestion” at best, completely ignoring them if need be. In the case of official translations, since they usually weren’t made for English speakers in the first place, they can often be awkward, misleading, or nonsensical. In the case of official localizations, to put it bluntly, Digimon official localization is a bit of a trainwreck; names, terms, and lore are inconsistent, and many translation choices are sloppy or done without foresight. In addition, several currently-released things, especially those related to Adventure and Adventure 02, will often reference things that are inconsistent or even mutually exclusive with official anime dubs due to how much the latter changed. Sometimes even “official translations” will have an identity crisis, which is why some official subs for Japanese anime will use officially translated terms while others use officially localized ones.

The only thing a fan translator like me can do is just wing it and play it by ear, taking official terms when applicable and using my own judgment when necessary. This is also why these terms differ from fan translator to fan translator; we don’t hate each other’s terms or anything (and in fact I respect other translators deeply), but we’re all independently handling the same mess, so sometimes the results will come out differently. Of course, being able to sidestep the issue like this a luxury I only have because I’m a fan translator; I don’t envy anyone who has to work on the franchise’s officially localized products and deal with the resulting nightmare.

The sheer “no” energy this screenshot has is admirable. (Translation from Crunchyroll)

It is no exagggeration to say that the Crests are among the most important concepts in Adventure and Adventure 02, since they’re basically ways of shorthand summarizing their character arcs. Adventure and Adventure 02 are known for their high amount of character depth and nuance, so while the Crest names might seem like simple words at most, it’s very important to take even little nuances into account when thinking about how to translate them. As a result, I’m rather particular about the following:

  1. This should probably go without saying, but each Crest needs to make sense in story context. In particular, six of the Crests correspond to two characters, one from Adventure and one from Adventure 02, so I’d rather avoid using a translation that would work well for one character but not the other.
  2. It’s usually not a good idea to get too fixated on the meanings of component kanji (Chinese characters) compared to the word as it’s used in practice, but there are times when it’s good to at least take them into account when considering nuance. (There was one time I was translating a song for The Caligula Effect: Overdose, and using the word’s dictionary definition instead of considering the kanji would have been a detriment.) With the exception of Light and Kindness, all of the Crests are two-kanji compounds, and it makes them look very nice and neat in marketing when they’re all lined up together, so I don’t think it’d hurt to factor in the kanji meanings.
  3. Adventure and Adventure 02 have a strong emphasis on personal agency, so I want to preserve that. In other words, I want it to be clear that the kids are good people who saved the world because they worked hard to be good people who saved the world, instead of things just happening to turn out that way.
  4. It needs to sound nice. These are important words that are used often in the course of the story, and if it doesn’t sound punchy and to-the-point, it’s not worth using.
  5. I don’t want to cause unnecessary confusion, so I’ll only go against official translations or localizations if the existing words have nuances that I feel to be detrimental enough.

Courage — 勇気 (yuuki)

  • Official translation: Courage
  • Official localization: Courage, Bravery
  • Component kanji: 勇 (courage) + 気 (spirit/mood)

As you might expect, this one is pretty straightforward. It means exactly what you’d think it means based on the dictionary definition, so I don’t see any reason to do anything special with it.


Friendship — 友情 (yuujou)

  • Official translation: Friendship
  • Official localization: Friendship
  • Component kanji: 友 (friend/companion) + 情 (emotion/feeling)

Also another straightforward one. While we’re here, I do want to point out that the presence of the 情 kanji indicates friendship/connection on an emotional level, and not just “acquaintance”. Therefore, Yamato and Daisuke get this Crest not out of merely being amiable or “friendly”, but out of fully connecting with others and having trust in them.


Love — 愛情 (aijou)

  • Official translation: Love
  • Official localization: Love
  • Component kanji: 愛 (love/favor) + 情 (emotion/feeling)

I don’t usually translate “aijou” as “love”. In fact, you’ve probably seen me translate the title of the second Tamers ending song, “Days -Aijou to Nichijou-” (Days -愛情と日常-), as “Days -Affection and the Ordinary-“. It’s a slight difference in nuance, but “affection” has a slightly stronger emphasis on expression of love, such as expressing love for friends, family members, Digimon partners, or even beloved pets. Therefore, Sora and Miyako get this Crest not only because they love their friends, but because they also they go out of their way to make them feel cared for. On the flip side, Sora initially believes that she was “raised without affection” because of her mother’s cold way of handling her, and therefore that she’s incapable of expressing true affection towards others (obviously false, as Taichi points out).

Despite that, I’ve decided to continue sticking with the “Love” translation because of points #4 and #5; I don’t like the sound of “Crest of Affection”, and I also don’t think “Love” is off to the point I want to go against the official term. The only real concern I would have with “Love” by itself is that it has a stronger association with romantic love, but even that word can be used for friendly or familial love too, and I think in-series context should make it clear enough that the word here doesn’t use the strictly romantic definition.

As you may have noticed, the 情 kanji is the same as the one used in Friendship (友情).


Knowledge — 知識 (chishiki)

  • Official translation: Knowledge
  • Official localization: Knowledge
  • Component kanji: 知 (know) + 識 (discern)

As many fans of Dungeons & Dragons will tell you, there’s a difference between “knowledge” and “wisdom”, and context in Adventure and Adventure 02 actually leans more towards the latter. Koushirou didn’t earn his Crest by just happening to know a lot of things, but by having an active desire to gain more knowledge (curiosity) and the ability to use it analytically and wisely. Likewise, Iori may not have technical know-how like Koushirou does, but he does have an interest in understanding things better and putting what he knows to good use.

However, this nuance issue goes back to the Japanese word itself as well; “chishiki” usually refers more to knowledge or information than it does wisdom. Combined with point #5, going against this would be risking overstepping my bounds as a fan translator, because fan translators are usually expected to stay closer to the Japanese text than official localization teams with official approval would. But if I were working in any official capacity, you bet I would be fighting as hard as I could to get this changed.


Sincerity — 純真 (junshin)

  • Official translations: Innocent, Purity
  • Official localization: Sincerity
  • Component kanji: 純 (pure/genuine) + 真 (true/genuine)

This one is the reason I made this post in the first place. For fans working from the Japanese version, “Purity” has usually been the go-to translation, and it’s also the one I’d been using myself up until now. It’s usually the first dictionary definition that comes to mind when you see the word “junshin“, so it naturally followed, especially since “pure-hearted” fits Mimi and Miyako at first glance.

However, I’d always been bothered by the fact that the word “purity” felt too passive. In my mind, it carried strong negative connotations of Mimi and Miyako being “pure” out of naïveté, or being “pure” just because they happen to have not been “corrupted” yet. I especially disliked “innocence” for this same reason; the word even comes from an etymology of “not guilty”. As per point #3, I want to use Crest words that reinforce what Mimi and Miyako are, not what they aren’t. On top of that, for an adult audience, the word “Purity” almost immediately brings up sexual connotations, which I wanted to stay as far away from as possible.

In fact, the kanji 純 is used in many contexts that mean less “pure”/”uncorrupted” and more “sincere”, as in “sincere, uncomplicated feelings without malicious intentions”. One very common word is “純粋に” (“junsui ni“); this has a dictionary definition of “purely”, and I’d even used “purely” myself in some of my older translations when I was less experienced, but in practice, it means something more like “this is just how I feel, nothing more to it.” For instance, “I’m just really happy about it” (“junsui ni ureshii“). Even “junshin” itself can be used in contexts like “a simple person with simple needs”, and a person described as “junshin” may be described in such a way because they’re open about how they feel without hiding anything. In this case, the “simplicity” and “earnestness” nuances are more relevant.

For Mimi and Miyako, who are both characterized as “being earnest about their feelings with no hidden malicious intentions”, I don’t see why “Sincerity” doesn’t fit here. The word has emphasis on earnest feelings and being well-meaning, being used in phrases such as “a sincere desire”. Mimi and Miyako aren’t necessarily naïve, but they have straightforward ways of expressing themselves and neither of them act maliciously, so I think it would be accurate to describe them as “sincere” people. The fact the official localization had been using it this entire time is a plus.


Integrity — 誠実 (seijitsu)

  • Official translations: Faith, Sincerity, Honesty
  • Official localization: Reliability
  • Component kanji: 誠 (fidelity) + 実 (truth)

When I think about the contextual use of seijitsu in Adventure and Adventure 02, I usually think of two scenes: Jou nearly drowning trying to save Takeru because he’d promised his mother he’d protect him (Adventure, episode 36) and Iori breaking down because he considered himself to be unworthy of the Crest due to having told a white lie (Adventure 02, episode 16). I personally have a very strong impression of both, so I want to use a word that works well with both.

I’m not a fan of the officially localized term “Reliability” for multiple reasons, the biggest one being that I don’t like how it implies that you could just dump tasks on Jou or Iori and expect them to pull through even if they get overwhelmed. As per point #3, personal agency is an important factor, and I dislike how “reliability” focuses too much on the burden of expectations rather than on Jou and Iori’s own will. In fact, Jou is often described as “unreliable” (“tayorinai“) in official Japanese commentary, especially when describing him in early episodes of Adventure when he was constantly tripping over himself. Jou may not have always pulled through when people had high expectations of him, and so he may not have always been “reliable”, but he was always an honest person with integrity even from Adventure‘s first episode.

For similar reasons, I don’t like “Faith” very much, because it would imply Jou or Iori’s faith in others rather than others’ ability to have faith in them. It also contains religious connotations that shouldn’t be relevant to this situation. It’s possible to address this by rewording it to something like “Faithfulness”, but this goes against point #4 in that it’s somewhat unwieldy and awkward to use in the many contexts Crest names come up.

Up until now, I’d used “Honesty” as a translation for this. While I can’t check this now, I had memories of it being used in the original Crunchyroll translation of Adventure 02; that translation was permeated with mistranslations and inconsistent terminology, but that particular choice still stuck out to me because it reminded me of the phrase “honest effort”. (The current version of Adventure 02 on Crunchyroll has been revised to consistently use official localization names for Crests.) I felt that “Honesty” worked well with Jou’s desire to make good on his promises, as well as with Iori’s concern that someone who lies can’t be “honest”. I probably would have kept using this translation if it weren’t for the fact I’d decided to switch Mimi and Miyako’s Crest to “Sincerity”; while there is still a nuance difference between “sincerity” and “honesty”, it wasn’t enough to prevent confusion.

So with all of the offically used translations off the table, I ended up resorting to looking at the component kanji, and found that the words “fidelity” and “integrity” came up in regards to both. “Fidelity” immediately gave me concerns about nuances related to marriage, so the remaining one was “integrity”. After thinking it through, I felt that “Integrity” was appropriate in the contexts “seijitsu” was presented for both Jou and Iori, and also that it went along with points #1-4 above.

This was a decision that didn’t come easily. As far as I’m aware, this isn’t a translation that’s been used much (if at all) in Digimon fan or official translation, and I hesitate to go against well-established terms for reasons akin to point #5. I ended up having to run this through multiple people and consulting them for hours on whether this felt like a good decision. Ultimately, everyone I asked about this agreed that it fit, and because this is the Crest with the least consistent name across translations, I decided that I might as well.

In other contexts, I probably wouldn’t normally use “integrity” for “seijitsu“, and I’d probably use something more specific. However, across all of the contexts “seijitsu” appears in both Adventure and Adventure 02, the word carries a wide range of different meanings pertaining to Jou and Iori’s desire to do the right thing, so I believe a word with a broad definition would be appropriate in this case.


Hope — 希望 (kibou)

  • Official translation: Hope
  • Official localization: Hope
  • Component kanji: 希 (hope) + 望 (aspiration)

This is another straightforward one. This is a digression, but if you replace 希 (hope) with 絶 (end/cut off), you get its direct antonym “despair” (zetsubou). Therefore, “hope” is the feeling of chasing one’s aspirations, whereas “despair” is the feeling of having your aspirations cut off.


Light — 光 (hikari)

  • Official translation: Light
  • Official localization: Light
  • Component kanji: 光 (light)

Another straightforward one. As you might imagine, the series has made puns about Hikari’s name matching the name of her Crest and Digimental, although they’re more for fun than they’re plot relevant. Hikari’s name is written in katakana as ヒカリ, so it’s easy to see the distinction in written text.


Kindness — 優しさ (yasashisa)

  • Official translation: Kindness
  • Official localization: Kindness
  • Component kanji: 優 (tender/gentle)

As you can see, the single kanji plus two kana sticks out among this set; I don’t know if this was intentional, but it does make it come off as an odd one out. Perhaps that’s just me, though!

Otherwise, I don’t think there’s much to report on this one beyond what was already clear from series context.


Miracles — 奇跡 (kiseki)

  • Official translation: Miracle
  • Official localization: Miracles
  • Component kanji: 奇 (strange/mysterious) + 跡 (traces)

Yet another one that’s pretty much exactly what the dictionary definition tells you. If I wanted to go harder on point #3, I could try to emphasize the nature of “paving the way for miracles” a little more, but I don’t think any of us want to read something like “Crest of Miraculousness”, so it’s not worth it. Crest of Miracle Maker?


Destiny — 運命 (unmei)

  • Official translation: ?
  • Official localization: Destiny
  • Component kanji: 運 (luck/lot) + 命 (destiny/fate)
Look, I didn’t realize this would be a problem later. (Link to video)

The officially localized term for the Digimental is “Destiny”, and that’s usually what it prefers to translate “unmei” as, but there are exceptions; for instance, the official Survive localization uses “fated partner” instead of “destined partner”. The average English speaker would probably tell you that “destiny” and “fate” are interchangeable synonyms. For the Digimental, most fan translators (myself included) chose to disregard the official “Destiny” in favor of “Fate”. I can’t speak for others, but my personal rationale was that “fate” felt a little stronger and punchier, and it was what I used for Adventure for the PSP. But then one day, LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna attacked came around and reminded me that the nuance difference mattered more than I’d thought.

ねえ、空さん。私ね、私たちが〝選ばれし子ども〟になったのは運命だと思うの。でも、宿命じゃないと思うんだ。私は私らしく自由にやるよ。だから、空さんも自由に羽ばたいて。私たちは、いつだって空さんの味方だから。
Hey, Sora-san. You know, I do think we were “destined” to become Chosen Children, but I don’t think it was “fate”. I’m going to do what I want, the way I want. So you should fly wherever you want, because we’ll always be on your side.

–“To Sora

After I’d spent years acting as if the difference between “destiny” and “fate” was too subtle to matter, LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna made it into a significant plot point, including having an entire climactic scene hinge on the statement “we may not be able to change our fate, but we can change our destiny!” (The official English subtitles for the movie don’t handle the issue carefully at all, but said translation is also awkward, sloppy, and mistranslated in other ways anyway.)

The word used for “destiny” is the usual “unmei“, while the word for “fate” is “shukumei” (宿命). Like with “destiny” and “fate”, the difference between “unmei” and “shukumei” is subtle, but present. “Shukumei” uses the 宿 kanji, meaning “dwelling”, but in this context means a fate that one has “carried” since their birth, usually due to something predetermined like karma or reincarnation. “Unmei” contains the 運 kanji, means “luck” or “lot” (as in “lot in life”), implying events that are determined by luck, but still leaving room for opportunities to change things with enough effort. To put it simply, “shukumei” depends on a fate imposed on you that can’t be changed, while unmei depends on luck or chance and can be changed with effort. In LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna‘s context, Menoa believes that losing a Digimon partner is “shukumei” that comes with being a Chosen Child, while Taichi and Yamato believe it to be “unmei” that can be changed or undone if they’re willing to work for it.

With the English words “fate” and “destiny”, “fate” originates as a word meant to describe the decree of the heavens (such as with prophecies from the Greek Oracle of Delphi), whereas “destiny” means “what is established” and invokes the concept of a “destination”; that is to say, “destiny” implies a destination that you still have a choice to follow or not follow, and one that you can avoid if you decide on a different path. Thus, “destiny” functions as a suitable translation for “unmei“, as does “fate” for “shukumei“.

Translation is something that needs to be done on a case-by-case basis, and as I’ve mentioned above, my Crest name translation choices are not necessarly ones I’d use in different contexts. So you might initially think this issue would only be limited to LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna and wouldn’t be relevant to a Digimental from a completely different movie. But this is a franchise that loves to self-reference; any given piece of Digimon media will love referencing other pieces of Digimon media, regardless of whether they’re in the same universe. (This is why translating for Digimon is very difficult if you’re not constantly keping tabs on the franchise.)

LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna‘s conflict has a bit of meta flavor; Menoa represents cynical adults who romanticize their childhood because they think being an adult means outgrowing idealism (or children’s shows), while Taichi and Yamato represent people who are hesitant about adulthood but haven’t given up on idealism (which they learned in the course of the children’s show). Taichi and Yamato invoke “unmei” because it’s a word that came up in the original Adventure in regards to Digimon partnerships and Chosen Children, but it’d be harder to recognize that if the usage of that word doesn’t line up…

This episode title (“Unmei no Kizuna! Tailmon“) has certainly aged well. (Translation from Crunchyroll)

Even that aside, I do feel that anyone who watches LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna is now likely to be more conscious of the difference between “fate” and “destiny”, and as a translator, I myself can’t stop thinking about it when seeing the words now, including when I translate non-Adventure or even non-Digimon media. Ever since I’d started working with LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna material, I’d taken more of a personal liking to the word “destiny”, and in Adventure-related contexts, it lines up with point #3 in that I want to emphasize the kids’ own personal agency. This is what Mimi means when she says that becoming Chosen Children was “destiny” and not “fate”; they may have been initially “chosen” and brought together by others, but they decided to go through with it because they wanted to, not because they had to. This concept had already been brought up multiple times in the original Adventure and its related media, so after all that, I just can’t bring myself to use a word like “fate” for these situations anymore when Mimi herself is telling us not to see it this way.

Bringing this all back to the Digimental and its context in Digimon Hurricane Touchdown!!/Transcendent Evolution! The Golden Digimentals, at the end of the movie, Daisuke tells Wallace that Chocomon will surely return to him someday. Wallace doesn’t obtain the Digimental because of an inevitable “fate” imposed on him, but because he gained the will to fight against his “destiny” of losing Chocomon. Therefore, even concerns about potential retroactive connections to LAST EVOLUTION Kizuna aside, I still feel “Destiny” is more appropriate.


Other

To be honest, I don’t think it’s likely I’ll be working with these anytime soon, but I’m including them here just in case anyone asks: in Digimon Adventure 02: Tag Tamers, there are four “Digimentals” that appear as equippable items: “konjou” (コンジョウ), “nodo jiman” (ノドジマン), “ankoku” (アンコク), and “yokubou” (ヨクボウ). Due to the limitations of WonderSwan hardware, the names are in katakana instead of kanji, although “ankoku” was written “暗黒” (darkness + black) on a trading card (Digital Monster Card Game, card St-433).

  • Konjou” is “Willpower”, and since the item raises resistance to poop-based attacks, the implication is that you’re gritting your teeth while poop is getting tossed at you.
  • Ankoku” is “Darkness”, which is probably meant as a straightforward counterpart to “Light”.
  • Nodo jiman” is “Singing Skills”. This felt so out-of-place that I had to check if this wasn’t a typo (“jiman” by itself would normally mean something like “pride”), but the relevant item in-game increases resistance to sound-based attacks.
  • Yokubou” is “Desire”, although it contains a negative connotation that can be more associated with “greed”. Thus, the Digimental raises resistance to all attacks, but costs ten times as much as the others to make.

2 thoughts on “Crest names and translation

  1. I am intrigued when the official localisation name for Agumon Yuuki no Kizuna in Digimon ReArise is “Bond of BRAVERY” instead of “COURAGE”, and I “believe” that the original Japanese version always hinted at the word “brave” instead of “courage” when referring to Taichi’s crest, one example I remembered is War Greymon’s attack and equipment (Brave Shield, Brave Tornado). Though when I make a Google search, it says that “bravery means acting something without much of a thought, acting with confidence and lack of fear”, which kinda embodies 2020’s Taichi in spades, LOL, and also pointed on in original Adventure where when there’s a hint of fear, he cannot proceed to save Sora, but when the fear is “gone”, Greymon is able to Super-Evolve to Metal Greymon. So yeah, I kinda liked the term Bravery for Taichi’s Crest but I think Courage is more meaningful and fitting the role of the leader he’s supposed to be (though I still think Jou is their leader… ;-D ).

    1. I’m not sure if the Japanese version really hints at this the way it does with the soundtrack motifs; the 勇 kanji by itself could be “brave” as well, so “courage” in this case would be the combination of its two kanji “brave spirit” (or if you wanted to be really clever, “brave heart”).

      “Courage” contains a nuance of being more tied to personal will and being able to stand even when you understand the gravity of what you’re up against, and I think the need to understand that is much more relevant to Taichi and Daisuke’s character arcs, so it’s in line with point #3.

      Honestly, I think the reason ReArise‘s official localization and other recent products used “Bravery” is just because the official localization is being an inconsistent trainwreck as usual. It’s been more than 20 years of consistently using “Courage”, so you’d think that’d be the easiest to get right, but…

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