Tuesday, June 2, 2009

What's in a Name? Quite a lot actually.

Eidolon Reptile Celestial Spirt (E.R.C.'S.): Ronidrake!

Phew! That's a mouthful, isn't it? (And believe it or not, I trimmed it down!) Where the heck did that come from?

My close friends may already know but to others it may be much more… confusing. EXTREMELY confusing. The name is something of a joke on the ridiculously long names of Japanese Anime that I love so much. The company that a few of my friends and I used to work for (Wizkids Games, before it was bought by Topps) created a piece of merchandise which was referred to as - I'm not making this up - the Spirit Eidolon Solanavi Celestial - and when we were first introduced to the figure we couldn't stop laughing. A previous joke that we heard regarding "extra" special editions of DVD releases (based on what I believe was an online joke regarding the final "Super Tiger Dragon" edition of Lord of the Rings) lead to us referring to the Mage Knight monster as the "Super Tiger Dragon Spirit Eidolon Solanavi Celestial something something." I don't know that any of use could ever make it to the word "Celestial" without breaking into laughter. I'm giggling to myself right now just typing it.

I mentioned in weeks afterwards that the only way to make the "STDSESC" (man that's even long to spell as an acronym) more cool would be to make it a ninja. Or a robot. (It was already a dragon, in our version.) Eventually I began to reason that adding anything onto a Robot Ninja Dragon was extraneous, and that this combination of attributes already made it the most badass and super powerful entity in all creation. But I digress. The real story with this name actually started in 1979. In Japan.

In 1979 Mobile Suit Gundam started airing on Japanese television. Let's look at the origins of Gundam, or at least what I've learned over the years... Gundam was originally concieved as a "super robot" show featuring a suit of powered armor worn by a young man (or boy), called "Freedom Fighter Gunboy". The eponymous Gunboy had a gun or other similar weapon of immense power that he used to fight whatever the fictitious villains were to be. After a great deal of go-between by the show's creators, the general idea and theme of the show were changed to a military drama. The "powered armor" suit grew as the scope of the story evolved, into an 18 meter tall colossus that was piloted much like a vehicle. The name "Gundam" came from the combination of the original "Gunboy" with the Japanese corruption of "Freedom". Gunboy plus "Freedam". Gundam. The extended title "Mobile Suit Gundam" was finalized to describe the nature of the Gundam unit as a Mobile Suit, the giant robotic vehicles the show centered on. Although "Mobile Suit Gundam" might sound a little busy, right?

Well you see, the Japanese have always had a special fascination with adding a lot of words to a single title or phrase that seem… well, complete gibberish. Let's take for example, the Transformers franchise - the original series was simply called "Transformers" in America, sometimes with the line "More Than Meets The Eye" tagged along (less a subtitle, more a slogan they could shout in toy commercials). In Japan the full name of Transformers is literally "FIGHT! Super Robotic Lifeform Transformers". Seriously. It starts with "TATAKAE!" which means "FIGHT!" Typically in all caps, just like that. Additional words were added to each sequel of the original series - my favorite is FIGHT! Super Robotic Lifeform Transformers: Super God Masterforce. So that explains the pile of extra words I tacked on for "no reason" -I had plenty of reason! It's important to maintain FLAVOR in these things.

Super Dimensional Fortress Macross is a great example of combining a weird portmanteau with extra adjectives thrown on the grill for more spice. Originally planned as "Super Dimensional Fortress Megaroad" or "Super Dimensional Fortress Megaload" - the true translation is difficult because the Japanese use L and R sounds interchangeably and because both translations have meaning - the titular "SDF" was a giant spaceship with "extra dimensional" capabilities. Megaroad and Megaload evoke the image of a huge journey or a huge capacity for cargo, and the "Super Dimension Fortress" did/had plenty of both. The ship fits an entire city in its interior and also travels from the farthest reaches of the solar system back to earth after a screwed up "space fold" event (the "warp drive" of Macross literally folds or bends space so that two far away points become connected by a portal that the ships fly through. Great super science! Completely trivializes the ramifications of the theory of relativity and long term space travel).

So where does the word "Macross" come from? Well when the show's creators found a distributor, and as the story goes, one of the higher ups asked that as part of the distribution deal, the name "Megaroad" be changed to "MacBeth." Apparently the higher up was a big Shakespeare fan (pretty cool actually, given that Japanese and English are VERY different languages with very different styles of prose) and loved the sound of the name. Now, readers familiar with Japanese will know, that a word like MacBeth is hard to translate to Japanese. Instead of a seven letter, two syllable word, it becomes a four letter, four syllable word - Japanese letters are each their own syllable. MacBeth thusly translates to "Makubesu" (because in addition to combining R and L, the Japanese also have no "th" sound in their alphabet). Ma Ku Be Su. Ironically, when translating "Megaroad", the word is the same length - four letters: "Mehgarodo."

The creators of the show tried to talk the Shakespeare fan out of it (it's always hard to give up creative control!). Eventually, a compromise was reached. They combined "Ma Ku Be Su" (MacBeth) with "Meh Gah Ro Do" (Megaroad) into "Ma Ku Ro Su" or simply, Macross. Believe it or not, to the Japanese, these three nonsensical words (which have no meaning in Japanese whatsoever) all sound remarkably alike.

All these should bring us back to the name I've chosen for my blog: Ronidrake. Robot Ninja Drake - or rather, Robot Ninja Dragon. Following the same corruption and portmanteau tradition that Anime creators used years before me I have crafted a pure (corrupt) work of art (goonish wordplay). The rest is just the window dressing you would expect from a robot show title - which also, amazingly, form an acronym of my name! Almost. Turns out Blogger wouldn't fit "Eidolon Reptile Integrating Celestial Spirit: Ronidrake!" in the blog title. Fiddle.

So what possesed me to actually USE this naming convention for my blog? Well, robots will always been my first love. Before I knew dinosaurs, before I knew dragons, before I knew ninjas or comic heroes or special forces soldiers or Jedi or Phasers or ANYTHING ELSE - I knew robots. The artificial body! The mechanical colossus! So does it inspire me every time I see one, so I hope to inspire those who read my works here. SUPER GO!

Note: Whoops if this is a double post! I'm new at this and I edited to add a title.

2 comments:

  1. Fantastic blog, can't wait to read more, MOM

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