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More pronoun problems in Ranma fanfics

(Edited from a Twitter rant in ten parts.)

One thing I find linguistically interesting about Ranma ½ fan fiction, especially most of the more recent works, is that they make a big fucking deal of Ranma’s pronouns. Mind you, these stories are set in Japan, starring Japanese characters, speaking Japanese. It’s all just rendered in English because Internet.

Third-person pronouns in English have genders. He/she and such, you know the ones. Since these stories are written in English, you’ll often find characters refer to Ranma with one pronoun or the other. No problem there, the original manga and anime do it too. But there’s a twist.

There are lots of stories about Ranma being transgender, especially in recent years as far as I’ve seen. Which is totally understandable, really. That’s not the problem. Write about transgender Ranma all you want. The problem, at least to me, is when characters start mentioning how other characters use this or that pronoun to refer to Ranma.

(This of course applies not just to Ranma but to any other character who shares the same curse. Let’s keep it simple, though.)

Worse, for the purpose of this rant, is this one story where Ranma joins a support group for LGBTQ people and the members all introduce themselves and state their pronouns. See, if these are Japanese characters (they are) speaking Japanese (this is implied), and my research is correct (I can only hope), that is literally not a thing they could do.

Where in English it is the third person pronouns that are gendered (he/him, she/her), Japanese has them in the first person. Ano hito, yatsu, and koitsu, those are all gender-neutral. Boku, watashi, and atai, are all gendered. And that’s just a small sample of first person pronouns.

So the very first time someone like Ranma opens his pie hole and speaks of himself, he’ll use whatever pronoun he wants. That’d be ore, a very manly one, as in “ore wa otoko da,” “I’m a guy.” It’s when Ranma uses a feminine pronoun that the eyebrows rise. Mind the phrasing there!

I was reminded of the Twitter rant this post is adapted from by another fanfic I read last night, where Genma caught himself thinking about his recently-cursed child with female pronouns. As in, the English third-person ones. It didn’t do much to damage the scene or anything but I felt mildly distracted by the idea that a Japanese man would think in English terms.

There are in fact fanfics, written in English, where Ranma will say something and maybe there’s something about the phrasing in English, and another character remarks that Ranma used a feminine pronoun, perhaps even saying the pronoun itself in Japanese, in the middle of a story otherwise written in English. Just as an example: “Ranma used atashi just now instead of ore, and he’s not trying to trick Ryōga. Something’s going on here.” Something like that. It’s quite interesting how you might handle this difference.

The episode Am I Pretty comes to mind, where Ranma’s entire way of talking changes right along with his first-person pronoun. I only watched it in Japanese, but I’d imagine the dub just only has his way of talking change. If you’ve seen it dubbed, feel free to let me know how they handled it in the comments.

Suffice it to say, as weird as pronouns can get in one language, it gets so much weirder when there’s two in play.

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Some personal notes on the case of byuu v. Google

Put simply: if the warnings were to escalate for not being addressed, I could see my entire website potentially blocked, which is something I’ve personally seen happen to a friend of mine who also hosted a completely safe binary: EliteMap, which was an editor for Pokemon games.

— byuu, Google Safe Browsing

That was me. I am the friend. Now, byuu described an issue somewhat different from mine. That article is about the higan multi-console emulator and how its latest release was googleblocked for being an “uncommon” download. No shit, we all cry out, it was just released that day. Now, byuu’s fear of the whole damn site being eventually turned red isn’t unfounded but I’d still like to describe why exactly mine was.

EliteMap was not an uncommon download. I’ve had this very subdomain for years now, and one of the first versions of my site had a custom-made content system with a matching uploader. That uploader happened to use the filebin directory, and I used it to release EliteMap 3.7 way back then. The problem was that DJ Bouché and I made it in Visual Basic 6, and I wanted to keep the download size down a bit so I compressed all the executables that made it up with UPX.

Bad move.

Some antivirus applications were a bit notorious even back then and the contents of elitemap37.zip were considered harmful by over-eager heuristics that thought if a Win32 executable is UPX-compressed, it must be hiding something. Oh well, no biggie. Just put up a note saying Avast sucks and get on with it, right?

I’ve replaced my site several times since then, though I still have backups. The one constant that I never removed for long? filebin/elitemap37.zip and filebin/sappy12.exe. I did that once, and soon enough people contacted me about it. So I put it back. History demanded it.

Then some time back, Google struck. I got word on the search console that elitemap37.zip was considered harmful and should be removed. I appealed, stating that the file is perfectly fine and AV are being silly about it… and it wasn’t long until my entire site was flagged and every page you’d try to open would turn the whole damn window red with danger. Twice, even.

So I heaved a heavy sigh and finally, after what might be ten years or more, deleted the damn file. And Sappy 1.2 along with it just in case. Sent word back to Google about having “fixed” it, and the red flag was lifted.

Happy new year to all of you, and a hearty fuck you to Google 🖕

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