Musical Discoveries and Two Translations

Just recently I watched the first two installments of the new Ghost in the Shell OVA (titled “Arise”). One of the many great aspects of the new OVAs has been the outstanding musical selection. Today I’d like to introduce two songs (artists) from the series (both EDs) and my translations of the lyrics.

A classic cyberpunk series, Ghost in the Shell opens the door to a wide range of intriguing philosophical quandaries by closing the distance between the human brain (and body) and computer processors (and prosthetic body parts), re-imagining consciousness as a unique kind of network. By opening up the brain to alteration and highlighting the otherness of physical existence, the series frequently deals with questions regarding the nature of human identity and our ability to perceive reality. The episodes are chock-full of literary references (Salinger’s writings are especially prominent), and the overarching plot employs key concepts from thinkers such as Jacques Derrida and Fredric Jameson.

Both of the following songs were composed by Keigo Koyamada (Cornelius) and the lyrics were written by Shintaro Sakamoto. 

Notes:
The first song is performed by salyu x salyu, and the title 「じぶんがいない」(jibun ga inai) poses several unique problems for English. I’ve decided to adopt a more philosophical interpretation of the phrase for the title, and a more typical one for the text within the song. 

 Salyu x salyu is a unique band that constructs meaning out of broken up sounds. I’ve tried to preserve the rhythm of the breaks and the overall effect as best as possible, although in a few places I was compelled to (I believe harmlessly) alter the order to satisfy English grammatical needs. This resulted in a minor switch in some of the words sung by the backup singer (shown in parenthesis) and the main singer.
Additionally, for the refrain (「なぜいない」”naze inai” ) an English speaker would probably actually say “where am I?” in this kind of situation, but I decided to treat the original Japanese as containing a nuance apart from the everyday usage, and so mimicked the Japanese manner of inquiry in my translation.

I had previously encountered salyu x salyu’s music in this fascinating video, but I thought their song was a perfect fit for Arise.

Song: じぶんがいない (Absence of Self)
Artist: Salyu x Salyu

Lyrics: Written by Shintaro Sakamoto (Japanese here), translated by me.

Absence of Self

Mem          Mem           Mem           Mem           Mem
Mem          Mem           Mem
Mem            o                ries            Mem                o
ries            Mem              o
ries   Mem   o     ries     Mem    o     ries     Mem     o   ries
Mem    o    ries   Mem     o     ries
Memories  Memories  Memories  Memories Mem
ories  Memories  Memories

Fra  ctured    fractured    mem  o  ries
Flowers(birds)   this is     the sky
Clouds    gra  ss     the house where I grew up
In the picture    no matter where(where) I look
I’m not    anywhere    to be found
Why aren’t I there?    Why aren’t I there?
Why aren’t I there?    Why aren’t I there?
Why aren’t I there?    Why aren’t I there?
Why aren’t I there?    Why aren’t I there?
Why aren’t I there?    Why aren’t I there?

Fra  ctured    fractured    beautiful    memories
Right(left)     where    i   s    this?
Buildings   ro   ads    walking
in      the crowds (in the crowd)
I’m    nowhere to be found
The world    The world
The world    The world
The world    The world
The world    The world
The world    The world

continues                 (but)
Expands                  (the sky)
Shines                     (green)
Mountains and        (seas and)
The wind                 (from the past)
Toward the future    (blows)
Leaving                   (me)
All                            (alone)    Haa…

M        e          M        e        M
e         M         e
M   e   M   e   M   e   M   e   M   e
M   e   M   e   M   e
Me   Me   Me   Me   Me
Me   Me   Me
Me Me Me Me Me Me Me Me Me Me Me M
e Me Me Me Me Me M
Why aren’t I there?     Why aren’t I there?
Why aren’t I there?     Why aren’t I there?
Why aren’t I there?     Why aren’t I there?
Why aren’t I there?     Why aren’t I there?
Why aren’t I there?     Why aren’t I there?

The second song is performed by Ichiko Aoba (青葉市子), who I was entirely unfamiliar with until this morning. I really like the soft quirky sound, and the way the song trails off with a repetition of the casually feminine 「すきよ」(“suki yo”= I love you).

Song: 外は戦場だよ (It’s a Battlefield Out There)
Artist: Ichiko Aoba

Lyrics: Written by Shintaro Sakamoto (original Japanese here)  and translated by me.

It’s A Battlefield Out There

Creeping      black clouds
Your eyes are    pretty eyes
You’re going to   line up and march away   aren’t you?
Those ranks    don’t suit you.
Here.

Don’t worry   Come
here     Hide here
Don’t worry   Look
It’s a battlefield out there

Sunlight    from the window    in the afternoon
Times when    you were still    just a kid
Don’t    offer that up       okay?
Don’t    give that up.
Here.

Don’t worry.     Come
Here      Hide here
Don’t worry     Look
It’s a battlefield out there

They can’t see
Can’t see me    Can’t see you
But even if they could
All they would see    are abandoned shells

All the people shouting and screaming have all gone away
See?      It’s quiet
I love you   I love you
Shh…
I love you    I love you    I love you
I love you    I love you    I love you
Love you    Love you

2 comments

  1. Excellent translation, much appreciated it.
    However, I think you made a mistake in translating the last sentence of じぶんがいない」(jibun ga inai).
    It repeats 「なぜいない」. なぜ means why, and いない means non-existence or without, whose usage can often be seen in the sentences like 家にいる人は弟しかいないです or 私は現在携帯と財布しか持っていない.
    Instead of denial to a state, it refers to the nonexistence of such thing.
    Therefore, rather than “Why … is not ?” or “Why aren’t I”, the sentence should be represented as “There is no why” or ” The reasons ceased to exsit”.
    Resonating with the repetition of “Me” in former sentences, it probably means “There’s no answers/questions to my own exsitence”, which fit perfectly to the title じぶんがいない.

    1. Thanks for the comment! Perhaps I can help clear up the confusion.

      As is often the case with Japanese, the subject has been omitted from the final refrain. While there is ambiguity here, the “straightforward” meaning is unmistakable to a fluent speaker.

      In this case, we know that the speaker is not doubting the existence of a reason (or a “why”) both because the word なぜ is not used so flexibly, and also because the verb いない only refers to animate subjects, and never to ideas, words, or inanimate objects.
      It is worth noting that in the two example sentences you provided, the first refers to physical presence, while the second actually denotes an ongoing state (in other words, it’s merely a progressive construction).

      I hope this helps some! Good luck with your studies. ^_^

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