I was expecting Persona 5 to have a lot of new words. I was both more and less prepared than I thought.
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona
If you don’t know what Persona is, and you like JRPGs, my first recommendation is to try and get a copy of Persona 4. It ain’t easy, actually, getting your hands on Persona these days. 1 and 2 are PlayStation 1 games, and 3 and 4 are PlayStation 2 games, though both have been released on other platforms since. 3 being a PSP title and 4 a Vita title. The original 1 and 2 are quite different from 3 and 4, but still good, from what I hear.
Persona focuses on daily life for a high school student who finds themselves tied up in another world that rests in parallel to their normal one. While the main characters must help solve mysteries that tie the worlds together, they also need to attend class and study. The RPG battling and dungeon exploration is a pretty big part of the game, but no bigger or more important than the conversations you have with people around town as you build up relationships in a well-realized world.
The Persona games all take place on a year timeline, which means you’re living on a roughly 365 day schedule, and planning out how you’ll use that time is of the essence. Time only passes when you do an activity, so you have as long as you want to actually decide on what you’ll do with your time. I’m not one for timed games, but Persona does it right.
Persona 5, of course, is the next game in the series. In America and Europe, it comes out on April 4th. But, in Japan, it actually released last September, and I finally got it this past December. In Japanese, of course.
The Language of Persona 5
I’m sure when the game is released in America, there will be posts about the language of the game and how it expresses itself. Certain topics at the heart of Japanese culture, are brought up and splayed out. How do you confront people of authority? Who is responsible for students being bullied? What power do rumors hold?
But I’m being far more literal. The Japanese language is the language of Persona 5, and it doesn’t hold back.
Persona is in a category of games that treat themselves like literature at times. The result of which can be words commonly written in hiragana like あなた written as the full Kanji 貴方 and はず written like 筈. Characters will use Kanji 95% of the time, which is fine with me.
It also uses a lot of older, odd words. Again, words I’ve been exposed to before. Whenever you make a new relationship, you get this message:
I am you. You are me.
You have taken a new pledge.
A pledge that, in other words,
Is the way to escape this captivity.
I have received the blessed wind of the birth of the [some kind of] Persona,
To attain freedom and become a greater power.
And it’s pretty cool. But it doesn’t really matter that you fully understand.
Also, I should really translate you as “thou”, since 汝 has the old-timey sense of you. And if I were a localizer, there would be more words like “thy” and “art” and whatnot.
In fact, in Persona 3, when making a new pact it uses a pretty simple:
Thou art I… And I am thou.
Thou shalt have our blessing when thou choosest to create a Persona of the [whatever] Arcana.
So yeah, they took that route officially too.
While Persona often has these flavorful ways of saying things, they also have daily life. And that means school teachers who use big words for their classes and friends who use slang that even modern day Japanese people might not be aware of. The kind of stuff you might find on the internet. A good example was a character using the term マジレス, which means a “serious response” (in response to something that was a joke), a term that originated on the 2chan message boards.
So while a teacher might explain something about Japanese with:
Your friends talk to you with all the casualness of real life.
With a little anime flair thrown in there. Real people almost never use things like ぜ to end their sentences.
The end result is that you have a game which employs many different kind of speech patterns and words for each of those. Which is fine by me, as I’ve learned a lot so far.
New Words From Persona 5
So I’m about 15 hours in so far. One week of playing. And I have… 153 new words tagged in my dictionary app as having seen and not entirely understood while playing. That’s in stark contrast to 2 for Mario and Luigi: Dream Team, 10 for Yokai Watch, 17 for Final Fantasy XV, 68 for I am Setsuna, and 78 for Tokyo Mirage Sessions. Incidentally, Persona and Tokyo Mirage Sessions are both Shin Megami Tensei (真女神転生) games, which makes sense. The big difference is that I’m only 15 hours into Persona 5.
Why all these words? Well, with the focus on conversation, and the limited time to do everything, there’s a lot at stake. When a character talks to you, you want to respond as best you can. When a teacher quizzes you in class, correct answers mean stat increases. When you’re trying to acquire a new Persona in battle, talking to the enemy correctly can be the difference between success and failure.
So, there’s a lot of words. Let’s see:
確信犯 – かくしんはん – doing a crime but thinking it’s the right thing to do, or premeditated crime in common useage
暴君 – ぼうくん – tyrant
正真正銘 – しょうしんしょうめい – genuine (definitely seen this before when studying)
無縁 – むえん – unrelated
果報 – かほう – good fortune
わんさか – a lot
顧問 – こもん – adviser
実績 – じっせき – actual results (guessed the meaning easily, but didn’t know it was an actual word)
モルモット – guinea pig (for research or otherwise)
快癒 – かいゆ – recovery
ご贔屓に – ごひいきに – “Thanks for your continuous help” or thereabouts
治験 – ちけん – clinical trial
代物 – だいぶつ – substitute
疲労 – ひろう – fatigue (easy to guess)
鈍る – にぶる – to grow dull (don’t know how many times I’ve heard this and forget it)
まやかし – phony
閉塞 – へいそく – blockage
くぼみ – hollow, cavity (e.g. to put something in)
闘志 – とうし – fighting spirit
命乞い – いのちごい – pleading for one’s life
身嗜み – みだしなみ – personal appearance
面妖 – めんよう – strange
技量 – ぎりょう – ability / competency
必需 – ひつじゅ – necessary (a word I knew from Mandarin, but always forget the pronunciation)
柵 – さく – fence (I always forget the pronunciation, but easily understand the Kanji when I see it)
名言 – めいげん – wise saying / proverb
命日 – めいにち – death anniversary (guess it’s a thing they have in Japanese)
非売品 – ひばいひん – article not for sale
古着屋 – ふるぎや – second hand clothes shop
即座 – そくざ – immediate
捗る – はかどる – to make progress (definitely learned this a bunch of times)
後生大事 – ごしょうだいじ – “with utmost devotion”
奥底 – おくぞこ – depth, bottom of one’s heart
遂行 – すいこう – accomplishment, execution of a task
期日 – きじつ – fixed date (knew the meaning from context easily enough, but with any 日 word, I second-guess the pronunciation all the time)
課す – かす – to impose (e.g. taxes)
段取り – だんどり – programme, arrangements
理事会 – りじかい – board of directors
殊勝 – しゅしょう – admirable
もうじき – soon (like もうすぐ)
容体 – ようだい – condition of something (e.g. person in a hospital)
煩わしい – わずらわしい – troublesome
接客 – せっきゃく – serving customers
繁盛 – はんじょう – prosperity (another word I forget all the time)
言動 – げんどう – speech and conduct (I think I looked this up because I forgot if it was げんどう or ごんどう)
車掌 – しゃしょう – train conductor
見繕う – みつくろう – to choose at one’s own discretion (like, if there’s lots of things and you only have enough money to buy one or two)
拝む – うがむ – to worship
運搬 – うんぱん – to transport
Anyways, that’s enough for now. The point is, I’ve learned a lot, and it’s been a good experience. I’m excited to keep playing, but I always make sure to bring my dictionary with me.
I recommend the game, if you can get it and are at N2 or N1 level. No region locking means a Japanese version will work on your PS3 or 4.
And, as they always say on the loading screen:
Just solid advice, Japanese learning or otherwise.