Sunday, April 29, 2018

It's Jet Jaguar, You Moron!

Jet Jaguar is all smiles upon learning he won't be sued by the producers of Pacific Rim. Photo by Brett Homenick.

I know I shouldn't bother. I know it's a waste of time. But I have to do it. There are some things you just can't ignore, and for me, this was one of them.

A few weeks ago, I read an American writer's contention that we've had it wrong all along. The flying robot's name in Godzilla vs. Megalon (1973) was never Jet Jaguar, you see. According to him, it's really Jet "Jaeger." And, luckily for the rest of us, he was the first one to figure it all out.

Sounds strange, doesn't it? I mean, no reference book in either Japan or the U.S. has ever referred to the character by that name. And the katakana ジャガー sure sounds nothing like the German word "Jaeger."  

Knowing full well he was wrong, I went ahead and did some research, anyway. I consulted work colleagues, my students, and even a veteran of the production of Megalon for their input. Long story short: The writer in question simply doesn't know what he's talking about.

Some of this seems to be attributable to a misunderstanding of Japanese culture and history. The writer asserts that Japanese often use German words in science and medicine. Yes and no. During the Meiji period (which took place from 1868 until 1912), it is true that many German words were indeed adapted into Japanese, but not all of them were borrowed for medical (or scientific) purposes. The Japanese アルバイト, for example, is borrowed from the German "arbeit," but it refers to a part-time job. Hardly scientific. In any case, other languages were also extensively borrowed from during the Meiji period, particularly French.

But that was then. In modern (postwar) times, English is by far the language most borrowed from today, especially in the scientific realm. You might be surprised to learn that when the Japanese need to coin a new scientific word, their first instinct isn't to shout, "Quick! What do the Germans call it?!" Thus, no scientist in 1973 would have felt obligated to give his invention a German name just because.

In the world of monster movies at least, the Pacific Rim films provide what is certainly the best-known use of the word "Jaeger." So how is Jaeger rendered in the Japanese release of Pacific Rim Uprising? Is it anything like the katakana of Jet Jaguar (ジェットジャガー)? Well, take a look at the image above. As you can see, it's much closer to the actual pronunciation of "Jaeger" and is demonstrably different from the katakana rendering of  ジャガー. 

As if that weren't enough, I recently had the opportunity to speak with a member of the SFX crew of Megalon for his take. Unsurprisingly, he rejected the "Jaeger" name. But he also denied "Jaguar," too. He said that the name doesn't mean anything (in the same way that the name Godzilla doesn't mean anything). So it seems that something like "Jagger" would be more appropriate. It would also explain why the name is sometimes rendered as "Jet Jagger" in official Toho materials. 

That said, the Hong Kong dub makes the name Jet Jaguar a legitimate name to call the character, and that's exactly what I will continue to do. On the other hand, "Jet Jaeger" is total nonsense based on ignorance. 

One other thing. This same guy also tried renaming Infra-Man's Princess Dragon Mom something else (it's not important what), asserting the "Mom" part of her name must be a misinterpretation that everyone who has ever seen the movie has carelessly made. However, Professor Chang also refers to the character as Ma Demon at a certain point in the film. Both names sound pretty motherly to me. So I don't think I need to fly to Hong Kong to debunk this one.

The upshot? Nothing's changed. It's still Jet Jaguar (or Jet Jagger), just as it always has been. Same with Princess Dragon Mom. Other than that, the whole world could wake up and live again. 

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