Sentimental Sentences: Correctness and Rightness in Unlimited Blade Works

Immortal words uttered by the oh-so-divisive Shirou Emiya. Right up there with “People die when they are killed”, it’s a line that I have often seen presented as evidence for the Fate/Stay night’s lack of quality, and particularly, bad writing.

These lines are dumb. They are dumb because Shirou is dumb. And he is. So the Unlimited Blade Works Blu-Ray subs deigned to fix it.

Now, obviously even the original line came from a fan-translation, and while my Japanese is just good enough to know that the subtitles match up at least roughly to the spoken words, nuances such as this are beyond my capacity, so I’m stuck with the famous ‘Just because you’re correct doesn’t mean you’re right’. Of course, differing translations and their successes and failures at getting across the original creator’s intent is a whole other can of worms that I don’t intend to go into here, so let’s assume both translations are correct, different ways of getting across what is clearly the same message.

Your correctness is only for the sake of being rightThere. That’s theoretically better. From a localisation standpoint, one can avoid the ridicule of the original line while still delivering the same core message. The different language serves to mask the stupidity and contradiction that everyone makes fun of. Based on this, the official translation is obviously the better one!

But.

This change serves as a fundamental misunderstanding of who Shirou is.

Given as a denial of everything that he became as Archer, they encapsulate everything that Shirou is. Seeing where he was told the path of heroism would lead him, Shirou is confronted by the results of his ideals. Yes, Archer is only a possibility, but he is a very real one. Archer is correct: Shirou’s heroic ideals were an eternal battle against the ocean at his own expense. Imagine giving one’s life to protect others, and then being given the chance to do it forever, summoned to kill a threat to the planet and its people. And again. And again. And again. Until your original goal is completely cloaked in blood and and dirt, invisible, and all you’ve become is the planet’s murder weapon. Archer’s actions undoubtedly helped many, but he wasn’t allowed to see that. He was merely summoned to do his job over and over, confronted with the worst humanity has to offer for a literal eternity, and totally losing himself in the process. He saw firsthand that his pursuit of his ideals was endless, resulting only in death and his own eternal misery.

Archer is correct. He has seen tangible results, and he is correct that this would be considered by almost any sane man as an untenable situation.

But Shirou is no sane man.

Let’s make one thing clear. Shirou Emiya is one of my favourite characters in all of fiction. God knows he’s neither eloquent nor particularly intelligent. Furthermore, he displays a clear lack of all his marbles, his whole being shaped by his crippling survivor’s guilt and desire to be a hero of justice. He’s no Shinji Ikari; he doesn’t hate himself. What he does is arguably worse: He is incapable of acknowledging himself as even existing, a human being worthy of rights. I would argue Shirou lacks empathy completely, as he legitimately has zero understanding of what it means to be a human being, and thus cannot understand what it means for others to be human beings either. At the total expense of everything else in the world, he wants to help people. That’s it. It’s why he cooks. It’s why he keeps himself fit. It’s why he fights in a magical war against enemies he know he cannot defeat, only doing so because of dumb luck or allies much more powerful than he is.

And the story goes out of its way to hammer home to the audience the point that this is not healthy. The hero mentality is one that results in a weak understanding of the world and of other people, is an unending battle, and sacrifices one’s life and happiness when taken to the unfortunate extremes that Shirou does. Hell, there are multiple times where he actively makes things worse, with Archer being the prime example.

But none of this is apparent to Shirou, and his single-minded focus on his only goal in life. And as he’s faced with Archer’s correctness, he thinks of the man who saved his life amongst the burning rubble with a smile on his face, and all he knows is that Archer is not right.

He’s no Bard of Avon. So what comes out of his mouth is as much of a stupid contradiction as he himself is.

Just because you’re correct doesn’t mean you’re right.

Of course it sounds dumb. It’s a dumb way of saying that Archer’s conclusion based on a set of facts is misguided due to his numerous logical fallacies and inability to see that good that he’s done, proclaimed by a dumb person talking to another person just as dumb but in a different way, in a dumb story with other dumb characters.

In other words, changing the line replaces the humanity of a well-realised character surrounded by other flawed and human characters with the coldness of a professional translation. This isn’t some wider thing about translations being better than others, but the problem is this line. The translation sucks away the raw emotion of a boy who is right in wanting nothing more than to be a hero, admonishing a man who is correct in knowing that this dream is folly, so forgive me if I get a little sentimental.

 

 

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