You don’t need me to tell you that translation is a difficult business. Any given anime sub always comes with quibbles about its accuracy, and some are even hugely controversial and flare up the internet pitchfork-mobs. Personally, I have no special Japanese linguistic knowledge and usually give subtitles the benefit of the doubt, but this week’s episode of Yakusoku no Neverland raises an interesting question.

These kids know about Molotov cocktails?

I mean, they may. I don’t know. But this is an issue that exists only in the subtitles and demonstrates the trickiness of translation. Now, in Japanese what Emma and Roy talk about are 火炎瓶 — you may have heard them say ‘kaenbin’ — and it transliterates to, roughly, ‘flame bottle’. That’s descriptive enough and entirely generic, but the English subtitles I had translated it to ‘Molotov cocktail’. Out of context this would seem the correct translation for a makeshift petrol bomb, but within Neverland… is it? The term ‘Molotov cocktail’ has history behind it, being named (satirically) after, as is easy to tell, a guy named Molotov. So the children referring to a ‘Molotov cocktail’ implies that history, implies that like our world they also had a guy named Molotov who upset the Finns, and indeed that their world may indeed be ours. Is that true? I have no idea. But I would bet that the translator didn’t either. Most likely they didn’t think about it at all and inserted meaning into the dialogue that wasn’t there originally. This is why good translators need to be familiar with the entirety of the material and think about what they’re saying with every word choice.

Again, translation is a difficult business.

As for the rest of the episode, we’re fast approaching the big finish of this story arc so I’ll refrain from commenting too much about it. I’m sure there will be plenty for discussion next week. I do, however, want to briefly talk about Ray. I feel like he’s been given a raw deal. Now, I’ve expected Ray to sacrifice himself for his friends for a while, now. He’s shown himself to be a creature of calculus. If he can sacrifice himself to significantly increase the probability of success I’m sure he will. You may disagree with his philosophy and his friends certainly do. But to refute Ray the story basically had to make him stupid. Norman’s alternative, faking one’s own death, is Thriller Gimmick 101. Surely Ray would have considered that. And even if he didn’t, why didn’t they ever tell Ray about that plan? I mean, they’ve already told all the other kids, what more harm can there be? At the very least when Emma and Ray had their little exposition time Emma could have interjected at any time and said, ‘Yo dawg, we know you plan to off yourself but you don’t got to do that no more.’. Sure, it made for a good scene as Ray definitely came down on one side of the ‘to be or not to be’ debate and provided action shenanigans, but I don’t believe in compromising storytelling for the sake of the scene. I’m a Pixar guy. Story first.

I’m hoping that next week we will get more complexity. Emma, in particular, has never been asked to truly test her own philosophy. She’s been staunchly the ‘save everybody’ voice of our protagonists, and so far she’s been allowed to live by that without much moral challenge. But now as complications arise perhaps she will be called on to make the calculation, to consider sacrificing one for the good of many, to be more Spock and less Kirk. In the end she may succeed anyway, but I want to see that moment of doubt. So far she’s had it easy; others hatched plans to make her ideals reality and we’ve conveniently time-skipped all the hard work of training the other kids and hiding La Resistance from Isabella. Now, though, Emma is the leader. And if she never has to make any hard choices how can we tell if she’s a good leader?


  1. So the children referring to a ‘Molotov cocktail’ implies that history, implies that like our world they also had a guy named Molotov who upset the Finns,
    It’s kinda skimmed over in the anime, but the kids have an entire library of books from human history to learn from. That’s where they pick up most of their information from. I’d say more but spoilers

    Dave K
    1. While the children may study history, using the term ‘Molotov cocktail’ implies that their history is the same as our history, including that there was a WWII. That’s something that’s only in the English subtitles, not the original Japanese.

      1. Your questions on whether or not their history lines up with ours does eventually get explained, unfortunately if you want an answer any time soon you’re going to have to read the manga because it’s not going to get covered unless they get a second season.

  2. Molotov cocktails have been around *forever* and after rocks, were probably the first armed
    ordnance that people used in wars, etc. I’m not bothered by a localization (colloquial term)
    of the 火炎瓶. This is a good translation call — and you’re definitely correct, translation
    is a bitch!

    You want a tough translation – try any language’s song lyrics. I’ve seen the same Japanese
    song lyrics translated completely different – and yet they both seem to “fit.” There’s so
    much we assume about our own native tongue which is completely different in some other languages.
    It really broadened my (very limited) understanding of the cadence of other languages.

    English, for example, makes heavy use of the definite article (so much so that I can pick out a
    foreigner writing English by the lack of their use). Some languages, not so much. And idioms —
    don’t even get me started there 🙂 … A lot of fun if you’re into that sorta thing…

    Great episode — it’s funny what the episode focuses on. They made pretty light of cutting
    their ear off. Considering how much I cry when I nick myself shaving, I don’t think I could
    “just do it.” Plus the amount of blood – gawd!

    And of course, let’s _only_ worry about saving Ray’s brain from the fire — wow!

    With only one episode left, I have a feeling that there’s going to be Deus ex Machina (I think
    that’s the term) at the end ’cause the odds seem to be hugely against a successful escape —
    and don’t forget the one stranded child clinging to Mom…

    Will they escape and what will their future on the lam be like?

    1. While the idea of a burny weapon one throws has been around for a long time (though certainly not before mainstays like the pointy stick) the name ‘Molotov cocktail’ was invented in WWII. There is a specific history behind that colloquialism that is not in the original Japanese.

    2. I agree with Passerby that the term used pulled me out a bit in how it felt out of place but I have to admit, a great many convinces taken by this story does that.

      Such as two kids cutting off their ears without screaming from the pain. These are pampered and sheltered kids. Doesn’t matter how dark and twisted the world they live in is; they haven’t had to live with excruciating pain, let alone take action while suffering it. I can’t buy the idea that Ray sat quietly and still while Emma hacked off an ear and she proceeded to do the same as she cut off her own. It’s painfully unrealistic. I’d want to see how they managed it; how many times did they start and stop and start again? I don’t need exquisite suffering but I want to see that they surmounted the challenge. Just running around hold ears with occasional triumphant smiles and normal dialogue doesn’t cut it.

      But no….

      1. It was mentioned there was enough anesthetic in the first aid kit for several (I think five) tracker removals. All Emma had to do was inject it and numb her ear before lighting the fire, likewise Ray’s tracker could have been removed without pain.

  3. A few things here
    First, I call bullshit on them spreading the word, training, and gathering resources without Isabella knowing. That was the entire plot for 10 episodes, the cat and mouse game with her and three so called geniuses. now this happens with a bunch of morons and children ?

    Second, as you said why is taking out Isabella not even considered ?

    Third, assuming they can, somehow, escape this place, what do they know about the outside world ?

    And finally, Ray didn’t even consider to fake his death ? I mean come on

    1. anwser to 2nd question: as kurone said, they have a chip in their heart that can notify the headquarters if they died, so yea they couldnt kill her or else the hq would send who knows to monitor the kids.
      3rd question: read the manga if u want to know.

    2. Yeah, I would say this is the part of the story where I had to suspend my disbelief just a little bit. I can believe it, though. Emma explicitly says it works because Isabella suspects only Emma and Ray–not everyone else. I quote, “It’s one of the few things we can use against her.”

      As for not taking out Isabella… it’s rather difficult for a child to take on an adult. We saw how effortlessly Isabella broke Emma’s leg. And I don’t think Emma would allow it besides. Nor is it really a smart move–as we shall see in the final episode.

  4. Re. Molotov Cocktails. It would not be inaccurate for them to use this term given where their education/books are coming from. But saying more is spoilers.

    For those who want to know: Show Spoiler ▼

  5. How faithful is the anime to the manga? I just binged this and definitely don’t wanna wait till another season gets green lit. Can I start from the end chapter of whatever ep 12 gives us or should I read the manga from the get go?

  6. I know the last episode is out already but my subs of choice are not so I’m just being fashionably late.

    Only to add here is, I don’t trust Phil. He stayed behind without Emma’s knowledge purely to keep Isabella in place. Knowing he can escape whenever he wants to. That timing was too perfect.
    Of course, that could also just be convenient timing but no! Phil planned that too! Damn you Phil, what are you up to?!


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