Final Fantasy XVI demo sparks linguistic debate in Japanese fandom 

Square Enix released the demo for Final Fantasy XVI on PS Store on June 12. Apparently, the way the name of a certain recurring monster’s name was pronounced in a cutscene of the demo has become a hot topic of debate in the Japanese fandom. 

Please note that the following article contains spoilers for the Final Fantasy XVI demo. 

The monster in question is the Malboro (jp:モルボル/moruboru). The green, tentacled being first appeared in the Final Fantasy series in FFII, and its “Bad Breath” has been inflicting status effects on players ever since. In the FFXVI demo, the Malboro appears as the mid-boss that the protagonist Clive and his subordinates Wade and Tyler encounter while exterminating goblins. 

In the cutscene upon encountering the Malboro, Tyler exclaims, “A Malboro!?” (jp: モルボルだと…!?/Maruboro dato!?). A portion of players were shocked by how the name of the monster was pronounced, specifically, the way the word was accented, and this led to many taking to Twitter to discuss what they believed was the correct pronunciation. 

The Japanese language uses pitch-accenting, which means that within Japanese words, there are morae (similar to syllables) that are pronounced with a high pitch, and morae that are pronounced with a low pitch. A non-Japanese speaker can likely barely tell the difference in pitch in Japanese words, but correct pitch accent is important as it distinguishes words. Mistaking the pitch accent of a word can mean saying “bridge” instead of “chopsticks,” so native Japanese speakers are quick to respond to an unexpected pitch accent being uttered. 

So, what was controversial about Tyler’s pronunciation? In pronouncing “Malboro,” Tyler used the odakagata (“high tail”) pitch accent pattern, in which the first mora is of a low pitch, and then the pitch is high until the final and accented mora. This apparently made even Square Enix Community and Service Department member Murouchi Toshio (coincidentally known in the fandom by the nickname Malboro) speak out on the pronunciation. 

Tweet translation: I’m in my “rethinking the pronunciation of Malboro” arc 

Murouchi even has Malboro as his FFXIV official forum avatar and is known to introduce himself as “Malboro Muoruchi” at various events. But, the pronunciation this “Malboro representative” has always used for the monster’s name is the atamadakagata  (“high head”) pitch accent pattern, where the first mora is high-pitched and the following are low-pitched, opposite of what is heard in the demo. Murouchi’s confused tweet triggered a whole discussion on the pronunciation of Malboro, with a split occurring between those who find the new pronunciation super weird and those who thought it was normal.

Yoshida Naoki, the producer and director of FFXIV and producer of FFXVI, also pronounces Malboro with the “high head” accent during events and streams, so it’s possible that some fans find the new pronunciation so jarring because they’re accustomed to Yoshida and Murouchi’s pronunciation. 

There is likely no correct answer as to how Malboro is supposed to be pronounced, and the non-Japanese fandom especially might consider the whole discussion finicky. Perhaps remembering how jarring Nigella Lawson pronouncing microwave as “microwahwey” was can help in sympathizing with the Japanese players. 

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Written by. Amber V based on the original Japanese article (original article’s publication date: 2023-06-13 19:39 JST)


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