Aah, the venerable Osakan/Kansai accent. Whenever a content creator needs a fun, boisterous, obnoxious, or otherwise non-conforming character type, this seems to be the go-to accent. Whether we’re talking about Card Captor Sakura‘s Kero-chan (voiced by none other than Aya Hisakawa, voice of Ami Mizuno!) or Azumanga Daioh‘s aptly-named Ayumu “Osaka” Kasuga, this accent is a Japanese media mainstay.
Considering the accent’s popularity, it should come as no surprise that Usagi’s staunch defender and occasionally bossy friend, Naru Osaka, should fall into this category… right?
There’s just one small problem: it’s not exactly clear if Naru even has the accent all.
Nande ya nen?!1 Stay tuned while we tackle the long-time rumor of Naru and the existence — or lack thereof! — of her Osakan accent!
Trying to describe the Osaka dialect2 to non-Japanese speakers is always a bit of a challenge. It’s not that you need years of training to understand or even hear the difference, but to get across the nuances of that difference without the cultural and linguistics background is no easy task.
When they bother to address it at all (which is usually only the case when a series makes a big deal out of a certain character speaking differently), US-made dubs often opt to give the character a “country bumpkin” voice or a thick “US southern drawl.” Putting aside how absurd it is for a fishmonger to speak like a cowboy,3 I just don’t think it is really in the spirit of the Osakan personality.
So, I hear you ask, what does it mean to be Osakan? I’m glad you asked! Let’s take a look at what some Osakans have to say for themselves:4
True Osakans are outspoken and independent. That’s why they don’t work well in large groups. […] Osakans continue to grumble publicly about a decision they don’t agree with, even after it’s been made.
More on attitude…
In Tokyo, the first response to a new idea is to say ‘no.’ They assume that if there is no rule or precedent, it can’t be done. In Osaka, we assume that if there’s no rule or precedent, it might be worth a try.
And on language…
Osaka dialect [is] more warm and friendly. [It] allows you to inflect your voice. […] Tokyoites speak like Washington bureaucrats. Osakans speak like Chicago merchants.
With all that in mind, I always thought that maybe a New Jersey accent would be more suitable. But to be fair, I’ve never been to New Jersey, I don’t know anyone from New Jersey, and I can’t even tell you what the capital of New Jersey is, so I’m probably not the best person to ask.5
So back to our question at hand: does Naru actually speak in the Osakan dialect?
Actually… no. Not in the anime, manga, or in the live-action series. In fact, for the most part, none of the characters in the Sailor Moon series really have any strong differences in their language, outside of different levels of politeness and variations in feminine/masculine speech patterns. They all generally speak like young Tokyo girls in the early 90s would… or at least how Ms. Takeuchi felt they would speak.
I even read and watched through the scenes with Naru’s mother in them, and she doesn’t exhibit any common Osakan speech patterns either. So as far as I’m able to ascertain, there’s really nothing particularly Osakan about Ms. Osaka.
Considering that I’m a non-native Japanese speaker, however, it’s entirely possible that I am somehow missing some of the subtle nuances of language here. So for the sake of being thorough, I also looked up some very thorough lists curated by native Japanese speakers of anime characters that speak with a Kansai dialect,6 and no characters from Sailor Moon appear in it.
So if there’s nothing to support Naru having an accent in the series, why does this rumor persist among fans?
I imagine it’s for two reasons, probably: The first being that many fans hear that her name is Osaka, they know that Ms. Takeuchi is keen on having meaningful names, and they naturally assume that Naru’s name must refer to something, and an accent is an easy guess. The second probably ties back to older North American fans who were familiar with the old DiC dub and “Molly’s” thick Brooklyn accent, so they naturally assume that Naru must have had a noteworthy accent in the Japanese version as well.
With other characters named after cities, such as Ruruna Kobe, appearing later in the series, I think we can safely assume that Naru’s last name is simply that — just a name. Her first name, however, has a lot more potential for fan gossip in my opinion, even though it’s often overlooked: なる (naru) is るな (runa/luna) written backwards, after all.
Since we’re already on this topic, what are your thoughts on introducing accents into dubs/translations? Does it just further complicate things, or do you feel, if done right, that it keeps some of the original flavor? Let me know down below!
- Roughly meaning “What the heck??” See? I can be hip and throw out the Kansai-ben like all those other cool kids! ↩
- A subset of the Kansai dialect, though often treated as the same thing, which we’ll be doing here for the sake of simplicity; see the Kansai Dialect (Wikipedia) ↩
- I’m looking at you, Megaman NT Warrior’s Masa; see Masa ↩
- See The Importance of Being Osakan ↩
- I’m generally not the best person to ask anything, unless you have a question about Sailor Moon trivia… ↩
- See Pixiv — Kansai Dialect ↩