Learning Japanese with Music: Elisabeth the Musical

One of the best ways I’ve found to remember grammar is through music. Although I like Japanese rock and pop, the lyrics aren’t always sung clearly enough for me to understand on the first or second listen. One musical work I frequently use to remember grammar is the Takarazuka production(s) of Elisabeth. The lyrics are usually sung very clearly, there are a lot of slower songs, and the catchy songs will get stuck in your head very easily, thereby helping you remember the grammar points in the lyrics.

Today’s grammar:
1. “Now matter how ~” (どんなに~ても)
2. To be determined to (do)~ (~てみせる)

Video here, via NicoNico Douga. (You have to sign up to view it, but it’s free and worth it!)

Another version.

The prior video (which was removed from youtube) is from the most recent production (Moon Troupe, 2009, starring 凪七瑠海 Nagina Ruumi [Kacha] as Elisabeth and 瀬奈じゅん Sena Jun [Asa] as der Tod). There have been many other productions (see videos above), so poke around the Internet or borrow from a Zuka fan to find your favorite set of actors.

Elisabeth‘s main characters are the titular Elisabeth, the empress of Austro-Hungary; her husband Franz Joseph; and the personification of Death, der Tod, or トート. Death falls in love with Elisabeth when she shows up in the land of the dead after a near-fatal fall; the musical tackles the real Elisabeth’s obsession with death via this physical personification of der Tod, who appears as both character and metaphor in every critical phase of Elisabeth’s life.

On to the grammar!
“Watashi ga Odoru Toki” (「私が踊るとき」 “When I Dance”), one of the duets between Elisabeth and der Tod, contains some useful grammar points. In this song, Death is trying to convince Elisabeth to choose him (read: give up and die), and Elisabeth is trying to tell Death that SHE will choose her own path and wants to live.

Key Phrase
der Tod: どんなに強く拒んでみせても、いつかおれを求める
(Donna ni tsuyoku konbande misetemo, itsuka ore wo motomeru)

Natural English translation: “No matter how fiercely you resist me, one day you’ll seek me out.”*

A more literal version for the sake of getting how all the words work together: “No matter how strongly you are determined to refuse me, one day you’ll seek me out/wish for me.”

This phrase contains two key grammatical points: どんなに〜ても and みせる.

Grammar Point 1
どんなに〜ても means “No matter how (how much) ________, X.”

Ex. どんなに速く走っても、君は勝てない。 No matter how fast you run, you can’t win.**

Verb-ても means even though or even if. You use the te-form. For example, 走っても、間に合わない。(hashittemo, ma ni awanai.) Even if I run, I won’t make it on time.

When you add a question word to to a ても phrase, it changes the meaning. With どんなに (how or how much), the phrase becomes “no matter how _____” or “no matter how much _____,” depending on the rest of the sentence.

どんなに探しても、見つけません。 No matter how much I look, I can’t find it.

どんなに徹底的に探しても、見つけません。 No matter how thoroughly I look, I can’t find it.

Or, with どこ (where): どこに探しても、見つけません。 No matter where I look, I can’t find it.

Grammar Point 2
みせる means “to be determined to” and is used with the te-form of a verb. (N1 grammar) It contains the feeling of “I’ll show you!” or “Just you wait!”

Ex. 「チョコレートケーキを食べるの」「うん、でもこれが最後で、絶対に痩せてみせる」
“Are you going to eat a chocolate cake?” “Yeah, but I’m definitely going on a diet after this.” (Literally, “Yeah, but this’ll be the last (one/time); I’m definitely determined to slim down.”)

Target lyric
どんなに強く〜ても means “No matter how strongly ~”

拒んでみせる means “To be determined to refuse or reject”

Together, どんなに強く拒んでみせても means “No matter how strongly you are determined to refuse [me].”

The whole phrase, again.
(Donna ni tsuyoku konbande misetemo, itsuka ore wo motomeru)

“No matter how strongly you are determined to refuse me, one day you’ll seek me out.”

Happy listening, watching, and learning!

Leah Zoller is a first-year CIR in Anamizu and, when she dances, she’ll be the one to choose it all.

Full lyrics and translation
The original lyrics are property of Takarazuka Kagekidan. This is an unofficial translation, and neither I nor Ishikawa JET claims any rights on the original work. Please also keep in mind that this is a lyrical translation, not a word-for-word direct translation.

der Tod: How’s your flight?

エリザベート: 誰?
Elisabeth: Who’s there?

der Tod: You’re quite the seagull.

エリザベート: あなた
Elisabeth: You!

Even on the stormiest night, I’ll be beside you.

Elisabeth: I can fly on my own now
I’ll be free

der Tod: Only I can give you freedom

Elisabeth: (You….freedom….)
Finally I can walk my own path
Don’t get in my way!

der Tod: No matter how strongly you refuse me now
One day you’ll seek me out
Take my hand. You’ll dance with me
When I want and to the music I like

Elisabeth: If I dance, even if it’s when my life
comes to an end
一人舞う あなたの前で
I’ll dance in front of you—alone.
I can walk my own path

der Tod: You need me

Elisabeth: Alone

I’ve begun to love life…

トート: もうすぐにくみの人生を
der Tod: You’ll soon hate it

エリザベートとトート: 踊るなら選んだ相手と
Elisabeth and der Tod: If I dance, I’ll dance with the one that I choose
When I want to dance and to the music I like
If I dance, even if this world ends
I’ll dance only with the one I love

If I dance, I’ll be the one to choose it all

*This phrase contains two nuanced verbs, so capturing that nuance AND all the vocabulary is a little tricky. Basically, der Tod is saying that no matter how hard Elisabeth rejects him now, someday she will want to die and will then pursue der Tod.

**Non-lyric examples come from Jim Breen, http://www.alc.co.jp, TaeKim, and JGram.


4 thoughts on “Learning Japanese with Music: Elisabeth the Musical

  1. I saw this live! And I’m glad there is someone new posting on this who likes Takarazuka too 🙂 ❤

  2. Click on the link to The Lobster Dance in the blogroll sidebar for more Takarazuka! (Currently, just discussions of Casablanca and The Scarlet Pimpernel, but hopefully more soon…)

  3. Sorry about that! Takarazuka has a short shelf life on youtube thanks to the corporation cracking down, but I linked some videos on Nico Nico Douga that actually work.

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