Larry Kenny -- Project portfolio

Do as Infinity - 楽園

The Music

I chose this song more by chance than anything – it has sat in my files for years; I doubt I ever knew how or when I obtained it. But being one of the first songs in Japanese I can remember hearing, I figured it was as good a place as any to start my journey through language and music. As it turned out, translation presented some challenges far beyond my level of Japanese, but we'll see what I can glean at this depth.

If you've heard the original song, you can probably remember well the simple cello ostinato that gives pulse to the verses, and the pickup pizzicato figure that sits well on the top. I didn't have the skill to translate these idiomatically to a solo guitar piece, but what I could capture was the verse-chorus contrast: more contemplative verses that focus on the present, and rocking high-energy choruses that drive toward the future.

Below is my translation. It's a bit loose, given that it wouldn't sound very good if it weren't.

Dare mo ga mina shitteru
keseyashinai kizu wo
Dore kurai tsuzuku no
Mō iranai yo
Everybody knows
there are wounds that can never be healed
How much longer will they last?
We don't need them anymore
Dare mo ga mina matteru
arasoi no nai hibi wo
Senjō no heishi-tachi
omoidashite yo
ima haha no nukumori wo
Everybody waits
for days free from conflict
the soldiers on the battlefield
now, your mother's warmth
Kono hateshinaku hiroi sekai ni
jibun dake no chizu egaite
Namida koraete bokura wa
aruite yukō
Tachiagare ima hora nando de mo
nemureru shishi yobiokoshite
Ikite yuku n'da
Ashita e
In this vast, boundless world
draw a map of your own
fighting back the tears,
let's walk together, let's go
Everybody stand up now, however many times,
wake up the sleeping lion.
We'll push forward
to tomorrow
Dare mo ga mina motteru
hitokakera no ai wo
Nikunde mo nani hitotsu
umarenai n'da yo
Sonna no mō irania yo
Everybody holds
a fragment of love
From hatred,
nothing is born at all
We don't need such a thing anymore
Kono kagiri aru jikan no naka de
mada minu rakuen mezashite
Doko made datte bokura wa
aruite yukō
Furimukanaide mae dake wo mite
kono karada kuchihateru made
Ikite yuku n'da
Mirai e
In the limited time we have,
aim toward the yet-unseen paradise
However far,
let's walk together, let's go
Without turning back, looking only ahead,
until this body rots away
We'll push forward
to the future

The Language

An interesting aspect of this song is the use of what is as far as I know considered “old” Japanese. Instead of the usual “to go” verb of Japanese, 行く iku, this song substitutes ゆく yuku, which has the same meaning but is considered to have an antiquated feel. I wonder if this choice reflected the song's time theme, if it feels better to sing an emphatic yu, or if Do As Infinity just shared my affinity for the fish-shaped ゆ kana and wanted to use it when possible. [Note - As I would later discover, substituting ゆく for いく just seems to be a song convention.] A second example is in まだ見ぬ楽園, a “still unseen paradise.” As I understand, conjugation of a verb by appending ぬ nu to its stem renders a somewhat archaic negative. Given that a more textbook translation of “still unseen” might look more like まだ見ていない mada mite inai or even the actually passive まだ見られていない mada mirarete inai, perhaps this was simply the best way to fit “unseen” into a small handful of moras.

The verses were considerably more difficult to translate than the choruses, as they tended to leave explicit connections between images either unspoken or beyond the grasp of my inferior Japanese. Consider a gloss of the last three lines of the second verse:

battlefield-GEN soldier-PL remember-“TE FORM” EMPHATIC now mother-GEN warmth-ACC

So we have a nominative “the soldiers of the battlefield” of unclear case, a verb “remember / recall” which is of unclear mood (though likely imperative given the emphasis / informing particle yo), and “now, mother's warmth” as an object. Unless the last line goes with a verb in the chorus (none of which seem to want it), I suppose your mother's warmth is what's being remembered. Or are these mothers of the soldiers? Given the lack of particle on 兵士たち, it's not clear who's remembering what, unless it is and I just don't get it. Thus, I went with the English translation I did, which is about as unclear. A clever interpretation, or an uninformed cop-out? Perhaps it can be both. [Note - I still kind of like my cop-out, but this is probably just "Soldiers on the battlefield, remember now your mother's warmth."]

Ah, “wake the sleeping lion.” Hey, that's what it says. I just have to wonder – does this sound less lame in Japanese? Or perhaps even more cliché? If you thought it sounded cool, then a thousand pardons.

On the other hand, 朽ち果てる is a terrifically cool verb. To rot away, to die in obscurity, to fall to ruins. (Definitions from here). Given that it is composed of two root verbs - “to rot” and “to reach the end” respectively – I can't give it too much credit for lexicalizing the concept of slow, creeping decay into oblivion, but it's still a flavorful addition to any vocabulary.

As a final translation note, I rendered 歩いてゆこう and 生きてゆくんだ the way I did because the more literal “let's go, walking!” and “it's that we subsist” are clearly not going to work. Though come to think of it, the similarly literal “go on living” is not a terrible choice for the latter. Better translations are heartily welcome.

In the end, the song is about leaving behind the struggles and hatred of the past and moving forward together to a better future – toward 楽園, toward paradise. It feels a bit trite, though that's probably more the fault of my translation than the Japanese. (Then again, wake the sleeping lion, let's go!...) But it's well executed, and it can get pretty catchy. As can most things when you listen to them enough to translate and record them, but just as well. Speaking of which, in the recording I switch a couple lines, but I think the meaning stays intact. I also screw up 生まれない umarenai into 埋まらない umaranai, giving the line a meaning more like “nothing is buried by hatred.” Against all odds, that almost works too. I was totally going for that.