Yugioh Has a Lot of Japanese Puns: An Intro

Hey all, it’s Deadborder, one of the resident translator folks for the Org. Over the past few days we’ve been working on “localizing” the stuff in DUEA to eventually put up on Dueling Network, and it got me thinking about one of my favorite parts of translating these things: the sheer amount of wordplay that goes into some of the cards (and seeing if we can approximate them into English).

So what’s the point of this article, exactly? It’s mostly just a way to show you guys some of the behind-the-scenes details about why some cards are named the way they are, and in other cases why we’ve picked certain names for them instead.

So are you ready for puns? Because there’s no looking back now.

Okay, to start things off: one of the greatest sources of wordplay in Japanese comes from the use of kanji, literally “Chinese characters,” which usually have one meaning but multiple methods of pronunciation. This means you can play off homophones to lend multiple meanings or connotations to a word. This isn’t ALWAYS how wordplay is done, but it comes up a LOT, so I may as well start off with it.

Also there is a royal expletive-ton of puns in this game, so I’m not going to list all of them here. This should serve as just a taste of the amount of goofy names that come up. Of course I could just write more of these in the future but let’s not get ahead of ourselves yet, shall we? On to the cards!

FROGS!
The Frog/Toad cards are some of the oldest pun-based cards I can recall, and also some of the simplest to understand. They’re mostly based off the fact that the word for frog, “kaeru/gaeru” is a homonym for many other Japanese words ALSO pronounced “kaeru/gaeru.” Let’s get hopping! please slap me for that

Poison Draw Frog = 引きガエル (Hikigaeru). This is a play on the Japanese name for the toad, “hikigaeru,” but the “hiki” used here comes from the word “hiku,” which can mean “to draw” (a card). So it’s a “toad” but also a “frog that draws cards.”

 

 

Treeborn Frog = 黄泉ガエル (Yomigaeru). The “gaeru” is obviously “frog”, but “yomigaeru” means “to be revived.” Literally it means “return from the yellow spring/fountain,” which may be why Treeborn Frog is yellow. The English pun is somewhat similar, playing off “tree frog” and “reborn” to similar effect.

 

 

Beelze Frog = 悪魔ガエル (Amagaeru). Normally “amagaeru” refers to a tree frog. However, the two kanji here, read as “a” and “ma”, mean “evil” and “demon/magic” so it becomes a “devil frog” instead.

 

 

Swap Frog = 鬼ガエル (Kigaeru). With different kanji, the word “kigaeru” means “to change clothes.” The “ki” here, however, means “ogre” or “oni”, which is why Swap Frog can, well, swap, but also has horns and bright markings like face paint.

 

 

Dupe Frog = 魔知ガエル (Machigaeru). “Machigaeru” means “to make a mistake” or “to mistake for something else.” The two kanji here, read as “ma” and “chi”, mean “demon/magic” (as in Beelze Frog’s example) and “wisdom.” So Dupe Frog gets a little graduation cap, but can also “dupe” enemies into not attacking it.

 

 

Flip-Flop Frog = 裏ガエル (Uragaeru). “Uragaeru” means “to be turned inside out”, but “ura” is a kanji with several different connotations, such as “tails” (instead of “heads”), “back” (instead of “front”), and most importantly for Yugioh, “face-down.” This is why Flip-Flop Frog has a Flip-based effect – or is it the other way around?

 

 

Substitoad = イレカエル (Irekaeru). “Irekaeru” means “to replace”, “to switch places”, or “to substitute,” while “kaeru”…you should know this by now. Incidentally, it’s called a “toad” in English because the “Frog” archetype is “gaeru” in Japanese, rather than “kaeru”. This is also why Frog the Jam is the exception for “Frog” cards – its Japanese name uses “kaeru” as well, but it was printed way before Frogs became an archetype! Now you know so will you please stop making awful frog the jam jokes

 

Ronintoadin = 粋カエル (Ikikaeru). Ikikaeru means “to come back to life,” but the “iki” used for Ronintoadin means “chic,” “stylish,” “refined,” or “sophisticated.” …yeah, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Maybe he’s a classy samurai frog…toad…whatever. Just roll with it.

 

 

THE MONARCH SPELLS AND TRAPS!
Recently, with the advent of the Mega Monarchs, we’ve also seen a few spells and traps designed to work with the new big guys, mostly based on if you have an Extra Deck or not. But there’s a reason that each of these cards only features one Mega Monarch – they all contain a bit of wordplay based on the monster they feature!

Return of the Monarchs = 帝王の開岩 (Teiou no Kaigan) The one with Granmarg! “Kaigan” means “enlightenment” or “spiritual awakening” – the kanji used mean “open” and “eyes.” But for our sad old rock guy, the “gan” here means “rock”! So it’s supposed to be a play on the “awakening” of the Monarchs, though I guess you can say Granmarg is cracking “open” the “stone” as he arises? I dunno.

 

The Monarchs Awaken = 帝王の凍志 (Teiou no Toushi) The one with Mobius! “Toushi” means “fighting spirit” and is made up of characters meaning “battle” and “intention/resolve.” Since it’s for Mobius though, the “tou” meaning “battle” is replaced with the “tou” meaning “freezing”!

Incidentally, there’s a possible second pun here. You can make the word “toushi” using the same “freezing” character, but this second “toushi” means “freezing to death” (the “shi” means “death” here). Vaguely badass or possibly suggesting Mobius is gonna die, it’s up to you I guess!

Ambush of the Monarchs (current Org name) = 帝王の溶撃 (Teiou no Yougeki) The one with Thestalos! Hopefully you’re sorta figuring out this pattern by now. “Yougeki”, from kanji meaning “key point” and “attack”, means “ambush”. But the “you” used for Thestalos (by the way, it’s pronounced like “yo” with a longer “o”) means “to melt.” Get it, because he’s hot and stuff? Okay, maybe a lava ambush sounds like an oxymoron but I’m not the one making these.

 

The Monarchs Storm Forth (current Org name) = 帝王の烈旋 (Teiou no Ressen) The one with Raiza! This one may be less of a pun, as there’s no original word “ressen” in Japanese. Here, it’s a combination of the characters for “fierce/violent” and “rotation.” It’s possible that it’s a play on the similar-sounding “rasen”, meaning “spiral”, but it’s not as clear as the others.

 

NUMBERS!
A good deal of the Number monsters that appeared in Yugioh ZEXAL feature puns in their names, but these wouldn’t be noticeable to English speakers; that’s because they’re hidden in the actual numbers themselves! Remember, there are kanji for numbers as well, so each one has multiple pronunciations. This means that there’s a surprising amount of variety in the number of words you can make.

Also, there’s a lot of Numbers, so I won’t be covering all of them here – just a few whose wordplay is known. I may post more of these in the future, so let us know if you want to see it here!

Number 16: Shock Master = No.16 色の支配者ショック・ルーラー (Iro no Shihaisha Shock Ruler/Ruler of Color, Shock Ruler) There’s two puns going on in this guy’s name. The first is that the word for “color” can be read as both “iro” and “shoku” – this is why he’s got “Shock” in his name. The second is in the number: 1 can be read as “i” and 6 as “ro” – put them together and you get “iro”, the other reading for “color.”

 

Number 39: Utopia = No.39希望皇ホープ (Kibouou Hope/King of Wishes, Hope)
3 can be read as “mi” and 9 as “ku.” Put them together and you get “miku,” meaning “future.”

 

 

Number 43: Soul Marionetter (current Org name) = No.43 魂魄傀儡鬼ソウル・マリオネッター (Konpaku Kugutsuki Soul Marionetter/Soul Puppeteer, Soul Marionetter)
4 can be read as “yo” and 3 as “mi” – the word “yomi” refers to the underworld, perfect for a monster that manipulates souls.

 

 

Number 53: Heart-eartH =No.53偽骸神Heart-eartH (Gigaishin Heart-eartH/False Corpse God, Heart-eartH)
5 is read as “go” and 3 as “mi”; together they make “gomi,” meaning “trash,” fitting in nicely with Dr. Faker’s Garbage deck.

 

 

Number 96: Dark Mist =No.96 ブラック・ミスト (Black Mist)
9 becomes “ku” and 6 becomes “ro” – “kuro” is Japanese for the color black. Yyyyyep.

 

 

 

This is just a brief taste of the huge amount of wordplay that goes on within Yugioh – there’s much, much more, and I hope you enjoyed seeing what it was like! If there are any other cards you’d like to know about, write about them in the comments below and maybe I’ll answer them in the future!

Also I should end this with a pun, but I can’t think of one right now, so good night, folks!

Deadborder

Number V in the Organization and a frog and/or Eva's body double. That other translator guy who likes all the cutesy archetypes and makes puns for card names and stuff. Doesn't really play Frogs, surprisingly enough.

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