A recent interview with Yūsuke Watanabe, the scriptwriter for the upcoming Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods film, was published in the May 2013 issue of GetNavi magazine released on 23 March 2013. The magazine features a 12-page insert booklet highlighting the upcoming film, which includes interviews with Masako Nozawa, Yūsuke Watanabe, and the band FLOW.
In particular, Watanabe confirms in his interview the name puns behind the franchise’s two new characters, “Birusu” and “Uisu”, and discusses both his and Akira Toriyama’s involvement in their creation:
In this movie, there are new concepts such as Super Saiyan God.
When I participated in the meetings, there was already talk of, “we’d like to come out with a being surpassing Super Saiyan 3. It would be a Super Saiyan God”. Also, the name of the enemy ‘Birus, God of Destruction’ is something I came up with. I tweaked the word “virus” to give him the name “Birus”, and then it was officially set. That’s probably the thing that moved me most this time. (laughs) Incidentally, Toriyama-sensei is the one who named Uis.
As Watanabe explains, “Birusu” (ビルス) is based on the German pronunciation of the word “virus” (ビールス; bīrusu). The name was created by simply removing the elongated vowel sound at the beginning of the katakana approximation of the word. Conversely, an alternative approximation for the word “virus” in Japanese is ウイルス (uirusu), which is based on the original Latin pronunciation; in Latin there is no distinction in pronunciation between the letters “u” and “v”. This is the basis for Toriyama’s naming of “Uisu” (ウイス), where a single katakana character has been removed. Therefore, we at Kanzenshuu have decided to go with Birus and Uis for these character’s names from here on out. This decision is based on maintaining the appropriate pronunciations of the pun’s respective language of origin. We also feel it would be somewhat artless to simply write “Virus” instead of “Birus”, as the name is written differently than its name pun origin, or “Vis” instead of “Uis” due to the drastic difference in pronunciation in English. All-in-all, it is nice to finally have solid confirmation, although we are sad to retire the possibility of using “Beers” and “Whis”.
Nevertheless, be sure to check back soon for more translations from this and other recent Battle of Gods interviews!
Can I still call him “Billy?”
I can call you “Betty”; Betty, when you call me, you can call me “Al” (and also call Birus “Billy”).
Hm, you say there is no distinction in pronunciation between the letters “u” and “v” in Latin, and I also remember Kei saying that the Latin “v” is pronounced like an English “w” on the forum…
So, say I wanted to write a fanfic sequel where it’s eventually revealed that Mr. Super-Powerful-Assistant was in fact a Makaioshin (I know this has no supporting evidence, but it’s something I wanted long before Mike brought it up). Wis/Whis are valid romanizations of ウイス/uisu, but do they also still produce the intended sound for his name given the now confirmed source?
I don’t really mind if the spelling doesn’t exactly reflect the pun from the source language, so long as it works out with pronouncing his name right. I kinda wanted to give my Makaioshin an alcohol theme, and it would be great if I could double up the pun for his name…
You decide to call them Birus and Uis, but there is already official source for Bills and Beers as those two names appeared on Japanese products.
@Kaboom: What did Mister Data tell Doctor Pulaski? “One is the name, the other is not”? 😆
@ JeffJarrett: You decide to call him Goku, but there is already an official source for “Gokou”. 😉
Besides, the name pun’s decided. Why would you call him “Bills” or “Beers” when that has nothing to do with “Virus”?
So Birus and Uis? That’s not too difficult of a switch considering I just have to drop the “u’s” I’d formerly had attached to the end of their names. I will miss Beers though…
I think it’s really interesting that they kept these names even when the name-puns seemed as though they related more to the earlier version of the script with its “evil-spreading” than the one they eventually went with.
I’m going to have to make myself stop saying ‘Bils’ then, and finally get settled on ‘Uis’. It’s gonna be tough on both, because I’m so used to Bils and was really liking Beers…and I never did get a settled name for Uis.
Now I just wonder how the eventual dub will treat the names. ‘Birus’ is easy enough to say, but ‘Uis’ may be a little more problematic…I could see it reverting back to ‘Whis’ there.
In the article is states “an alternative approximation for the word “virus” in Japanese is ウイルス (uirusu), which is based on the original Latin pronunciation; in Latin there is no distinction in pronunciation between the letters “u” and “v”” but in actuality Classical and Vulgar Latin make the distinction between pronounced V and U. V as u was actually an orthographic phenomena where the letter V was ascribed the position for two phonemes, V and U, depending on location of its appearance. In essence this came about in early forms of Latin because they didn’t have the distinct letters to write the difference, although they did have the distinction between sounds. The same can be observed where both the sounds for J and I were both written with the letter I, as can bee seen writing Julius, it is written as IVLIVS, but pronounced Julius, not ivlivs.
I think it is likely that it an old way of transcribing the sound into Japanese, as only recently has it been possible to transcribe the V sound in Japanese kana usage – ヴ this is done by adding “dakuten” to the U syllable followed by a small vowel character to write sounds such as va, vi, vu, etc, A quick check for virus in a dictionary threw these up:
ウイルス – UIRUSU (common usage)
ウィルス – WIRUSU (common usage)
ビールス – BIIRUSU
バイラス – BAIRASU
ヴィールス – VIIRUSU
ヴァイラス – VAIRUSU
As the Japanese language generally doesn’t naturally have the “V sound”, when loan words are imported it was always written with syllables from the B-series to represent the V sound. I can’t find any sources right now off hand, but I am sure my Japanese teacher once told me that it was sometimes possible to see V romanised with U, although as I say I can’t source that right now, perhaps SaiyaJedi or Herms may know more if this is true or not?? Interestingly Vienna is also transcribed as ウィーン, And though Vienna is written in German as Wien it is pronounced as “Vin” (wikipedia gves the IPA as [viːn]) and the Japanese wikipedia gives;
標準独: Wien（ヴィーン）、 巴:Wean（ヴェアン）
Indicating the German pronunciation as Viin, and Austro-Bavarian as Vean.
I plucked this from the dictionary;
ウインナワルツ UINNAWARUTSU noun: Viennese waltz —From English ‘Vienna waltz’.
indicating U as a romanisation for V, as this word is sourced from English it is a safe bet to say Viennese Waltz is pronounced with a V at the beginning.
The prominent German sociologist Max Weber has the newer: マックス・ヴェーバー and the older マックス・ウェーバー.
A few other words I could find from Russian origin;
ウォストーク WOSUTOOKU noun: Vostok —From Russian.
noun: vodka —From Russian
and one more from Latin origin;
noun: vagina —From Latin.
I would just like to finish by saying that I really like the Kanzenshuu decisions for Birus and Uis, they are logical and fit well. 🙂
Well, it’s true that before and between vowels was pronounced as /w/ in classical Latin, but pronouncing it as /v/ was a later phenomenon (and its use in ecclesiastical Latin is an influence of the vulgar tongue that evolved into modern Italian). It is also true that the kana spelling ウイルス (the more common of the two) is based on the Latin pronunciation, while the kana spelling ビールス (used chiefly within the medical field) is based on the German.
Also, thank you. 🙂
I still prefer “Bilus” since I think it sounds better for a god, especially one that’s Egyptian-esc.
Dammit…I was really hopping for beers and whiskey.