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tinyfaery's avatar

Those familiar with Inuyasha and/or Japanese: I have a question about translation?

Asked by tinyfaery (36189 points ) September 8th, 2011 from iPhone

I’m curious about the translation of demon. It seems to me like there are the big, scary demons and then there are demons and half-demons that are more like people with special powers. I want to know if the translation is off and if a different word is used to describe characters like Shasshamaru and Koga vs. the obvious demons like Naraku and the others.

Are they all just varying degrees of evil, but all demons, or are there separate words to describe each?

And if there are different words, what is Inuyasha?

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7 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

The word used is in the series is yokai and is basically a blanket term for all kinds of supernatural creatures, monsters, etc. There are certain subsets of yokai which are named after their certain characteristics.
Inuyasha himself belongs to the subset of hanyou (half demon) while simultaneously could also be considered an Inugami, or dog demon (Inu means dog), as would be his brother Sesshoumaru.
Kouga would be an Okami, while Naraku is a Tsuchigumo (fitting also because Naraku’s name when he was still human was “Onigumo”, which I think would literally mean “ogre spider”.

tinyfaery's avatar

So I shouldn’t be thinking demon as in evil? More like Inuyasha is half of a doglike, spiritual force? Or Shippo is just the personification of a fox spirit?

tinyfaery's avatar

Thanks so much. That clears it up for me.

Nullo's avatar

“Demon” might be better translated along the lines of “fairy-tale creature,” as @ragingloli‘s explanation demonstrates. The use of “demon” in translation was likely a result of trying to fit Eastern supernatural entities into the Western (possibly even Judeo-Christian) dualism opposite God or gods – which Japanese folklore appears to have in abundance.
Clash of the Titans and Disney’s Hercules do the same thing with Zeus and Hades; if you read the originals, Hades was a fairly decent guy, if a bit drab, and Zeus was hardly a paragon of virtue.

I chalk it up as another annoying attempt at localization, made under the assumption that Viewers Are Morons.

Nullo's avatar

I am presently working on a theory that would be the inverse of my above post – that all instances of non-YHWH supernatural, across cultures, are, in fact, resultant from interference on the part of Judeo-Christian demons. Per this theory, “demon” would, in fact, be accurate.

MissAusten's avatar

We just had a conversation about this at dinner tonight—weird! My daughter has been teaching herself Japanese and is a big fan of Inuyasha. Like @ragingloli said, “inu” is the Japanese word for dog and (according to my 12 year old) yasha comes from the Japanese word for half. Not really much to do with the demon aspect, but I had to comment just because of the timing of this question with our dinner conversation!

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