Anime

Gabriel Dropout’s puns (and translations) work

So the first fully 2017 anime I’ve started to watch is Gabriel Dropout, which may seem like an unusual choice, I’ve heard things like March Comes In Like A Lion (which isn’t fully 2017 to be fair), and Interviews With Monster Girls are better, but I wanted something nice and fluffy to help me recover from Steins;Gate. And deal with Konosuba ending soon. And, I’m always drawn by the depictions of religions in anime, and by religions I of course mean Christianity, it’s often a removed depiction and that ends up making it fun without any sense that the creators are sending a message and so is a way to explore religious tropes without anyone being so heavily for one side or the other that it ruins the experience.

Of course, Gabriel Dropout was never going to be so serious as the angels and demons, angelic powers and names that are mostly borrowed from Abrahamic angelic tradition is the only real religious part about this show. Aside: I love characters named Raphael, Uriel, Abaddon, Asmodeus etc. for the most part. As names from apocryphal traditions mostly they feel more towards the cool side of religion and the fact that there are more characters describes helps the whole heaven-hell conflict feel much of a wider, more fleshed-out literary work. To whit, Gabriel and Raphael are straight angel names while the demon names have been feminized, Satania being an obvious Satan, while Vignette doesn’t seem to be a major demon name unless they’re feminising the obscure demon Vine. Maybe the fact that she so clearly does not belong under Hell’s jurisdiction is why there isn’t a demon counterpart, it would make the series a bit too serious were she to be Astarothia or Lilith and it would not fit with her character.

I suppose there’s also the idea that angels are good and help people while demons are mean and trick people. Which the series seems bent at turning on its head as its main driving factor. As Gabriel is completely slothful (hi Betelguese), and Raphael is a deceitful gadfly, while Vigne is kind and responsible and Satania is… well, she’s evil but she’s so adorably evil she’s pretty harmless. It’s a rather good comedic setup and while only Vigne out of the main cast is likeable as in you’d actually want to be friends with her, all of them are very watchable and it’s been an enjoyable enough series. It’s not quite finished yet but all the episodes so far have been ‘pretty good’ anime. The one exception was the Vigne focused episode as it gave me a day in the life of my new favourite anime girl and featured many priceless moments of her ‘trying to be bad’ and failing spectacularly, even innocent by Satania’s ridiculous standards of ‘true evil’.

But what I’ve noticed most about this series since watching it, the cuteness and the antics of friends aside, is the liberal smattering of puns and references in the subtitles that even with my rudimentary knowledge of Japanese I can tell are taking liberties with the translation, as they’re full of idioms, and while I’m sure for a fair amount of these there is advanced Japanese in there that’s giving us a similar counterpart idiom, I think it’s being exaggerated just a little. This includes the obvious ‘it would be hell’, ‘I’m in heaven’ types of phrases, things like ‘speak of the devil’ and ‘faith can move mountains’. A ton of English idioms that relate to religion. There’s even sometimes bits where there was definitely no idiom in Japanese, like with Vigne giving thanks before eating in her focus episode, in Japanese, she said a standard ‘Let’s Eat’ but the translator added in a ‘thanks to the Dark Lord’ or words to that effect. Given that that episode was all about her being too much of a good demon, it was a little bit at odds with the point of the episode.

Yet the main point I’m making here is that this overuse of heaven/hell/angel/devil idioms in the anime is really adding to my enjoyment of it. It’s slightly unnatural speech but I’m used to unnatural translation, I’ve watched and enjoyed Charlotte’s subs, you know, that’s a series that sticks out as doing a more direct translation than most I’ve watched, on Crunchyroll at least. But the result is in Gabriel Dropout whenever one of these ways to fit the word heaven or hell into a character’s speech comes up, I think ‘neat, they’re doing more to fit with the premise’ and secondly, I think ‘I have not heard that idiom in so long, I forgot we had so many in our language with a religious context’. Because this is a pretty normal anime show and it can really do with being reminded of its premise more. I think that it’s a fun show but was never going to be a great one and this is giving it a pretty unexpected USP, even if it’s not technically correct Japanese. That example I’ve mentioned with Vigne above was the only real time I think the disparity clashed with the intent of the show’s plot.

Anyway, Gabriel Dropout is a fairly solid entry to my 2017 anime  exploration, I hope there is more to come. Also, Vignette is best girl, because that needs to happen and she’s so fantastic. I’m pretty sure she’s the character I’ve mentioned most here simply because she’s the most interesting of all of them.

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