Oni matrix

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Original with transparency.
Against white background for easier reading at full size.

The Oni matrix is a visual element that was used in artwork for Oni's promotional material. It appeared in Oni's 1999 trailer a few months after the release of The Matrix, a movie with a well-known Japanese influence, which made use of a thematic element consisting of green characters (mostly numbers and kana) scrolling down the screen (as seen in the last few seconds of the trailer). The Oni matrix likewise consists of numbers and symbols, though it only uses 0s and 1s for numbers and it uses all three of Japan's scripts: kanji, katakana and hiragana. It would be clear just from looking at it that Oni's matrix image was inspired by The Matrix, even if the actual file name of the promotional image didn't say "matrix" in it.

The Oni matrix is found in the trailer, the notepads, a mousepad, various box art, etc. Below are some translations of its text.

Dave's translation

In 1999, well before Oni came out, "Dave" on the original Oni Central Forum posted this breakdown of what he could decipher from the background of his Oni notepad. Either Dave was not familiar with Oni's tagline ("A dark future... an uncertain past... no one left to trust."), or he intentionally chose to give a naive translation of the phrases taken from the tagline when he encountered them, perhaps to point out the weaknesses in the Japanese used by Bungie.

I don't know if this has been covered before, but perhaps this is of interest.

I got out my Oni notepad tonight (the freebie from the Action Sack) and the faint Kanji (Japanese characters) caught my eye. Behind the image of Konoko there are faint vertical lines of Japanese text faintly visable. Faintly is the operating word here. There are several words seperated by ones and zeros in each line. After squinting at these line for a while, I managed to translate a couple of them. Now these lines repeat, both within the "sentence" and also across the page. So while there looks like there are about 20 lines or so, there are only six unique "sentences" that I can pick out.

They are:
shinrai ni atai suru hito inai (there is no one I can trust)

kiki (this is the Oni kanji repeated twice) ... kurai shorai (dark future)

kako no aru onna (a woman with a past)

furu kontakuto akushon (full contact action)

buramu (blam) korutana (cortana)

warui keikan (bad cop)

demos_kratos' translation

In 2011, demos_kratos responded to Dave's translation when I posted it on the wiki for the first time. He may have been more focused on the existing translation by Dave than on going over the original image character by character, but he did discover that there was more to the appearance of "Cortana" than just the name.

One thing I can say for sure - They don't know Japanese. Or at least they didn't when the promo was made.

First: While being literally correct it is way too complicated for such an easy phrase. I'd say shinyou dekiru hito ga nai.
Third: The translation is incorrect but I think Bungie meant exactly what translator said. kako no aru onna means "a certain woman of the past" when a woman with a past would be kako ga aru onna or kako wo motsu onna.
Fourth: If you look more closely you will see that there is a phrase korutana wa kuru yo which means Cortana is coming.

Fifth: It is correct, but the word "keikan" is rarely used in Japan. They use "keiji". I'm just pointing that out.

Iritscen's translation


In 2014, I finally decided to give this a more thorough look than I did in 2011, since no one else had broken down the image character by character and actually shown their work. My translation can be summed up as:

  1. Oni / a dark future
  2. the past of a certain woman
  3. no one worthy of trust
  4. full contact action
  5. good cop, bad cop
  6. Blam / Cortana
  7. Cortana is coming

Previous to this, no one seems to have noticed the "good cop" in "good cop, bad cop", nor paid attention to any of the binary sequences. Details below, for the dedicated.

Image analysis

There are 42 columns and about 28 rows in the image (that's seven-tastic!). It is not contiguous writing from column to column like the old Japanese style of writing vertically right to left; each column is unconnected to its neighbors. The sequence of columns repeats halfway through, and each column repeats a string twice from top to bottom. So only one-quarter of the image is unique. Here's a masked image that shows the unique portion of the image.

Japanese matrix translated.jpg

Additionally, out of the horizontal 21-column sequence, there are six duplicate columns. I have lettered the 15 unique columns with the letters A to O. Also, some of the 15 columns have duplicated sequences of characters. This leaves, by my count, seven unique phrases, when all is said and done. Notwithstanding that I don't actually know Japanese, I've painstakingly identified the characters, and under "Character transcription" below, I reproduce them as text (handy for anyone else's translation efforts), and then in "Detailed translation", I discuss each phrase's meaning as far as I can ascertain it.

Character transcription

鬼0100暗い将来1001鬼 01過去のある女0101鬼 信頼に値する人いない0101 11ㇷルコンタクトァクシヨン カ0101101001100
oni 0100 kurai i sho-rai 1001 oni 01 ka-ko no a-ru onna 0101 oni shin-rai ni atai-su-ru hito i-na-i 0101 11 fu-ru ko-n-ta-ku-to a-ku-shi-yo-n ka 0101101001100
00暗い将来1001鬼過去の 良い警官010110悪い警官 01010カ01010セ01 011ブラム011コルタナ1 ㇷルコンタクトァクシヨン01
00 kurai i sho-rai 1001 oni ka-ko no i-i kei-kan 010110 waru-i kei-kan 01010 ka 01010 se 01 011 bu-ra-mu 011 ko-ru-ta-na 1 fu-ru ko-n-ta-ku-to a-ku-shi-yo-n 01
10001鬼0100暗い将来 コルタナは来るよ100101 い将来1001鬼過去のある女 0ヌ0101サ0101レ01 10ㇷルコンタクトァクシヨン
10001 oni 0100 kurai i sho-rai ko-ru-ta-na wa kuru ru yo 100101 i sho-rai 1001 oni ka-ko no a-ru onna 0 nu 0101 sa 0101 re 01 10 fu-ru ko-n-ta-ku-to a-ku-shi-yo-n

Detailed translation

Now here is a translation, partly based off the efforts of those who came before me. Each column is reduced to a single instance of its repeating character sequence.

oni 4 kurai i shorai 9
oni 4 dark future
The first character in the first column is the kanji for "oni". It shows up seemingly at random as part of other columns' sequences, but here it stands on its own. After that we have the first component of Oni's marketing tagline, "A dark future...".
1? kako no aru onna 5 oni
the past of a certain woman 5 oni
This phrase is a bit odd, because it's clearly supposed to be the second part of the tagline, "an uncertain past...", but it's not. I've chosen to render it as literally as I can since it's clear that even a liberal translation cannot arrive at "uncertain past". It's strange that "uncertain" became "certain", and somehow the character for "woman" got in there too. In any case, the "certain woman" with an "uncertain past" was the Early Story Konoko, who did not recall her past and eventually found out that Griffin had wiped her memory.
shinrai ni atai suru hito inai 5
no one worthy of trust 5
As demos_kratos noted, the Japanese seems very stilted here. A literal translation would be "trust with worthy someone not", or when rendered more nicely, "No one worthy of trust". This is obviously intended as the end of Oni's tagline, "No one left to trust".
3? furu kontakuto akushiyon
3? full contact action
This is an amusing but accurate transliteration into katakana of one of Oni's USPs.
ka 2892
"ka 2892" is obviously nonsensical. 2892 is not a number connected to Oni; 2032 is, but that would be 11111110000 in binary, which is not at all similar. It could very well be that the katakana "ka" and the binary are just random filler.
0? kurai i shorai 9 oni ka-ko no
0? a dark future 9 ghosts of the past
While the first phrase is reused from A, the second part is intriguing. Is it just a misplaced "oni" kanji next to a broken part of the phrase "kako no aru onna" from B? Is this a lucky accident like Konoko's name, or was this an intentional formulation? Note that I have used "ghost", the original misunderstanding on Bungie's part as to the meaning of "oni", since the matrix appeared fairly early on in Oni's development.
ii keikan 22 warui keikan
good cop 22 bad cop
The first part of this phrase has been missed until now. "Warui keikan" is definitely "a bad cop", but it actually was intended to be read as part of the American expression "good cop, bad cop", which is found in the game's early story.
10 ka 10 se
I have omitted the "01" after the "se" because I think it's simply another "01010" that's cut off. "10 ka 10 se" is probably gibberish filler like E probably is, but I took a couple different approaches to trying to translate it. One might be able to piece together a word from all the free-floating syllables in the matrix, as found in E, H, and N -- ka, se, nu, sa, re -- but I can't come up with anything. One might as well try to piece together all the binary numbers; there are too many possible combinations.
3 buramu 3 korutana 1?
Blam / Cortana
Besides being a trademark Bungie phrase (also see the sidebox on Blame! for the same kana), "Blam!" was the code name for Halo, which is the game with the AI companion Cortana. I suppose this was a case of a little marketing cross-pollination.
furu kontakuto akushiyon 1?
full contact action 1?
Though paired with a different (and likely clipped) number this time, seemingly 1 instead of 3, this is a duplicate of D.
17 oni 4 kurai i shorai
17 oni 4 dark future
Though paired with different (probably random) numbers this time, 17 and 4 instead of 4 and 9, this is a duplicate of A.
korutana wa kuru ru yo 37
Cortana is coming! 37
As already caught by demos_kratos, this is a fuller reference to Cortana than the one in I. There seems to be a superfluous "ru" in there, but maybe I just don't understand enough about Japanese syntax. I don't see a significance in the 37, but this binary sequence is unusually long. Just padding?
i sho-rai 9 oni kako no aru onna
future 9 oni past of a certain woman
At first this seems to be a random mishmash of the phrases from A and B to serve as filler, but, like F, there seems to be a potential meaning to the phrase "oni kako no aru onna", which could be translated loosely as "the ghosts in the past of a certain woman" if Bungie still understood "oni" to mean ghost at that time. Possibly just a coincidence.
0? nu 5 sa 5 re 1?
This seems to be more kana-plus-numbers gibberish like in E and H.
furu kontakuto akushiyon
full contact action
Though paired with a different (probably random) number this time, 2 instead of 1 or 3, this is a duplicate of D and J. They should have translated more of the game's USPs!