Dessler’s “old-fashioned” language

Why do villains such as Dessler in Space Battleship Yamato speak in “old-fashioned language”?

Text by Rikao Yanagita, Chief Researcher
Illustration by Yutaka Kondo

Hello, I am Rikao Yanagita of the Dream Science Laboratory. I enjoy discussing manga, anime, tokusatsu (special effects) shows, etc. from the viewpoint of fantasy science. As for this research report…

Mighty Final Bosses have various charms. Their beliefs (though sometimes distorted), and their leadership (even though it may be fear-mongering) are intriguing. And their lines and language are very appealing. I am particularly impressed by the use of language by Dessler in Space Battleship Yamato and the Shocker leader in Kamen Rider, both of which I watched as a child. The use of language was impressive.

Dessler, the leader of the Gamilas Empire who hunted down Yamato, said to his subordinates, “Gentlemen, do not forget to give Yamato a round of applause at the end of its life.” The leader of the world-conquering Shocker organization, plotting world domination, called out, “Glorious Shocker Japan Branch!” Both of them were using old-fashioned language, which was cool.

But why did they bother to use old-fashioned language? Let’s take Dessler as an example.

The floor will snap open when you make a joke!

The Gamilas Empire, under the leadership of Dessler, is a thoroughly hierarchical society.

For example, when General Domel dares to destroy Yamato at the expense of Balan’s base and artificial sun, he is on the verge of desperation when he receives a phone call from Dessler: “You are an extraordinarily wasteful man. Stop this.”

In other words, the work that Dessler’s subordinate had been striving so hard to complete was wiped out with a single utterance.

Another incident occurs at a meeting of Gamilas’s top brass.

Dessler says, “Gentlemen, let us drink a toast to the safety of the Space Battleship Yamato.”

One of the officers laughs uproariously and says, “The leader is quite fond of jokes, isn’t he?”

Dessler looks pained and hits a button with his finger. Instantly, the floor snaps open and the officer is plunged into the abyss. Dessler speaks softly.

“Gamilas has no need of vulgar men.”

Wow! Execution just for making a joke! Even though he himself had made a joke just before! Perhaps a grandiose way of speaking is necessary to show off one’s power in order to maintain this kind of terrible hierarchical society. Well, it is not hard to understand.

Who developed the translator?

What I don’t understand is the conversation with Yamato‘s crew. For example, in the film Farewell to Yamato, Dessler appears on Yamato‘s screen and says, “Great Gamilas is eternal. Gentlemen of Yamato! I regret that soon you will be dead.”

Since Dessler is a Gamilas alien, we should assume that he normally speaks in the Gamilas language. The reason communication with Yamato‘s crew is possible is probably due to an excellent translator on board the ship. In other words, it seems that Dessler spoke boldly and a translator turned it into Japanese for the crew to understand. I’m a bit delusional from this point on, but isn’t it amazing?

Dessler: I’m just speaking politely.
What do you mean, “old-fashioned?”
Kamen Rider: Gentlemen, do I sound old-fashioned as well!?

An ordinary translator would have translated as “Yamato no minasan” into “Everyone of Yamato,” but this translator translated it to “Gentlemen of Yamato!” The translator was probably choosing the tone of voice and the vocabulary based on the age, gender, social status, etc. of the person speaking. This is because the translator must have been created by Sanada, the leader of Yamato‘s science group!

Sanada is also a very talented engineer who deciphered Starsha’s message from Iscandar and deployed the Wave Engine in combat. There is no way he would create an ordinary translator. And if it is such a translator, maybe he thought, “Bad guys use old-fashioned language.” This image was probably formed by the way he had heard bad people speak since his childhood.

Of course, it is unlikely that Sanada actually grew up surrounded by bad people. He must have heard them on TV or in movies. What about people who talk like villains on TV? Evil magistrates and corrupt merchants and the like. They were the ones who exchanged such conversations. Sanada must have watched such programs since he was a child! Because of that, he must have become a scientist burning with justice!

Space Battleship Yamato is set at the end of the 22nd century. It’s doubtful that they would have period dramas on TV at that time. But if you consider Dessler’s way of speaking, I have to reach the fascinating conclusion (or delusion) that “Sanada was a fan of period dramas.”

This time, it had nothing to do with science at all (sorry). But I am personally satisfied with it.

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