Hello everyone, and this is the first article in the series called Japanese in Yu-Gi-Oh 101, featuring some of the terminology or wording in the Yu-Gi-Oh OCG card game as well as the ongoing ARC-V anime series. Hopefully you guys would be able to understand part or even the full text on Japanese Yu-Gi-Oh cards as well as the anime series without subtitles after a number of lessons. So without further ado, let’s move on to the topic of the day!
Before we begin, I would like to clarify that this is a casual Japanese lesson on the phrases, terms and sentences used in Yu-Gi-Oh only. It is not meant to be a serious lesson on the language, and therefore we’ll not be focusing on the tedious grammar patterns or vocabulary in the language.
Monsters. They are the core part of any Yu-Gi-Oh deck in existence and a deck cannot function well without it. One can argue that a deck such as Monster Mash can work without any Spells or Traps but he/she definitely cannot disprove the fact that a Yu-Gi-Oh deck does not need monster cards at all.
In the Japanese Yu-Gi-Oh card game, “Monsters” are written in katakana as モンスター (monsutaa). Katakana is one of the three writing systems in Japanese, the other two being hiragana and kanji. Whereas hiragana is used for Japanese-born words and kanji comes from the Chinese writing system, katakana is usually used for borrowed words from the West, and more often than not, words in katakana usually sound the same or similar to their original counterparts.
Take another example, バス (basu) literally means “bus”, and アルバイト (arubaito) means “part-time job”, being borrowed from the German word “Arbeit”.
Here’s a list of all the 40-50 katakana used in Japanese (Source: kanaquest)
Katakana and hiragana both share the features of dakuten and handakuten, in which the addition of two “apostrophes” or a circle to certain kana can result in a different pronunciation. For katakana, here’s the charts of all the characters with their pronunciations changed (the rules are entirely the same as hiragana):
So as above mentioned, モンスター (monsutaa) literally translates to “Monster”. Sometimes there’s the term カード behind モンスター. Try for yourself whether you can pronounce that term by using the katakana chart above.
The term カード is read as kaado, and you are right, it means “card”. So the meaning of モンスターカード (monsutaa kaado) in Japanese would literally translate to “Monster Card”. Speaking of モンスターカード, how could one forget the memorable scene from Season 4 of the Duel Monsters anime?
Unrelated to the topic, but before hearing the Pharaoh shout out 「モンスターカード！」, I bet you also hear another term while he’s drawing a card from his Deck. That’s right, the term is ドロー, also a borrowed word meaning “draw”.
So the next question to ask is: what is the Japanese for the different types of monsters? But before we answer that question, I would like to introduce the two other types of writing systems: hiragana and kanji. As I’ve mentioned earlier, hiragana is used mainly for Japanese-born words, and they play an important role in grammar and sentence structure in Japanese. The following chart lists all the hiragana: (Source: kanaquest)
For kanji, the story is a little more complicated. These characters come from the Chinese language during ancient Japanese times, and each character has a meaning to it. This is the largest difference between kanji and kana, because a hiragana or a katakana character means nothing (unless used as particles).
For example, the kanji for “dog” is 犬, read as いぬ (inu). And yes, a kanji character must have a pronunciation in order to be able to be read by people, and this pronunciation is called furigana, usually written in the hiragana writing system. Like I said, the furigana for the kanji 犬 is いぬ.
And we are ready to go into the different Monster Cards! First off, we have 通常（つうじょう, tsuujyou).
The kanji 通, by itself, means “through” or “pathway”. Whereas for 常 it means “common”. Combining the two kanji together, they mean “common”, “normal” as a whole. A bit odd, but in fact this is sometimes common (no pun intended) in Japanese, where two kanji combined to make a compound word can mean differently from when they are separated.
And for the meaning of 通常モンスター, yes, it literally means “Normal Monster”. They are the yellow-bordered monster cards that exist since Yu-Gi-Oh began.
Next up, is 効果（こうか, kouka).
効 means “worth”, “rewarded”. Whereas for the kanji 果 it itself means “result”. 果 can also be taken to mean “fruit”, as in 果物（くだもの, kudamono). The term 効果 as a whole means “effect” and therefore 効果モンスター literally means “Effect Monster”, the orange-bordered cards.
A frequently asked question, then, is probably: how do we say “a monster’s effect”? In Japanese, the particle 「の」(no) is a possessive particle. Particles are an integral part of Japanese grammar, and they function the similar way as articles, conjunctions, prepositions etc in English. “A monster’s effect”, or in other words “the effect of a monster” is written as モンスターの効果 (monsutaa no kouka) in Japanese.
Take another example, the terms 私（わたし, watashi) and ターン (taan) means “I” and “turn” respectively in Japanese. Using the particle “no“ above, the phrase 私のターン often shouted by Yu-Gi-Oh anime characters at the beginning of their turns then means “My turn”.
The different types of Effect Monsters such as Flip, Toon or Gemini will be covered in the next lesson, so stay tuned to it!
The third monster kind we are going to introduce is 儀式（ぎしき, gishiki).
There is an archetype in the TCG called “Gishki”. Remember what monsters mainly make up that archetype? Correct: Ritual Monsters. 儀式 essentially means “Ritual” in Japanese, and 儀式モンスター refers to those blue-bordered monster cards which happen to be my favorite out of all the types of monsters so far.
Take note though, that the term 儀式 means a lot of things in Japanese. Not only the old-fashioned, traditional, or religions rituals are included in 儀式, but also things such as wedding ceremonies can also be counted as a 儀式 in Japanese.
The next monster type is fairly simple: ペンデュラム (pendhuramu). In fact, the next 2 kinds of monsters are also all quite simple since they do not involve any form of kanji. From the katakana, I hope you can already guess that the monster card we are referring to are the recent Pendulum Monsters.
Moving on to the Extra Deck monsters, we first have エクシズ（ekushizu). Like Pendulum Monsters above, you can guess the type of monster fairly easily and that is Xyz Monsters.
Do take note though, that on the effect text of Japanese Yu-Gi-Oh cards, Xyz Monsters can be abbreviated to simply as Xモンスター, and this rule applies to the next monster type.
Sixth monster type: シンクロ（shinkuro). No doubt that this would then refer to Synchro Monsters.
Similar to Xyz Monsters, Synchro Monsters are referred to simply as Sモンスター in effect texts of cards.
Our seventh and final monster type is then 融合（ゆうごう, yuugou).
The first kanji, 融 means “harmony” by itself, and the second one 合 means “to combine”. Combining (again no pun intended) the two kanji together, 融合 literally means “fusion” and yes, 融合モンスター means Fusion Monsters.
And that’s it for today’s lesson! Hope you guys all enjoyed it and if you have any questions, feel free to put down in the comment section below. Some revision practice questions are available below with answers (highlight for the answers by dragging your mouse at the end of every question), which you can do it for fun and at your own time.
Next lesson, we are going through the subtypes of Effect Monsters, summoning Monsters and a basic introduction to Spells/Traps so do stay tuned! Thanks!
PRACTICE QUESTIONS 1
Q1. What are the pronunciations of the hiragana or katakana below? (Please do not refer to the charts above)
Answer: (u, re, wo, te, ka, ma, hi, ro)
Q2. What are the pronunciations of the hiragana or katakana below?
Answer: (go, pe, za, ji, be, bo)
Q3. Below are some borrowed words written in katakana. Guess what their meanings are?
Answer: A. America; B. coffee; C. juice; D. type; E. present
Q4. Match the names of the type of Monster Card with the correct diagram:
1. 2. 3. 4. 5.
Answer: A-2, B-5, C-3
Q5. One day, you awake to find your favorite monster Black Luster Soldier being turned into a real human being. He says to you: 「私のモンスターの効果は強いですよ！」. What does the underlined phrase mean?
Answer: My monster effect