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The Zero Hand and Transmutation

Recently, I asked a Japanese native speaker to investigate something for me. It is about the description of Netero's The Zero Hand provided by the narrator. Multiple translations of the manga and subs of the anime say Netero "turned his aura into light". Taken out of context, this could be either literal, implying Transmutation was used, or metaphorical. Viz seems to have opted for the latter version, since they translated it along the lines of "fired his aura as a flare".

For this reason, I enlisted someone else's help to see what the original text said (it's chapter 297, by the way). He said:

The original word for "turn" is "変える". This word contains the same kanji as "変化 (pronounced as henka)" (to transmute) of "変化系 (henkakei)" (Transmuter), basically having the same meaning as "henka", but covers a bit wider range and a softer ring to it, so that's why I translated it as "turn". But considering the context, I should've done it as "transmute" '

The verb the narrator used is thus the same that is used to describe the abilities of Transmuters. Below is a list of instances in which such abilities have described, and this verb recurs a few times:

  • (chapter.55) "変える" is used in the description of Bungee Gum as "He modifies his aura, making it both elastic and sticky"
  • (chapter.60) "変える" is used in the chart of Nen category as "changes the quality of aura" and in Wing's explanation "Hisoka changes his aura into a rubber-like substance" and "changing the taste of the water shows you're a transmuter"
  • (chapter 78) nothing of the sort is used in the explanation of Machi's ability
  • (chapter 80) "変化" is used in "He turns his aura into a sticky rubber-like substance"
  • (chapter 146) "変化" is used in Bisky's monologue as "turning aura into electricity at his age"
  • (chapter 240) "変える" is used in the explanation of use of electricity as "He changed his aura into electricity to maximize reaction time"
  • (chapter 281) nothing of the sort is used in the explanation of Kanmuru.

From the list above (Viz), we know that they translated "変える" mostly as change and "変化" as turn. But they omitted Netero's "変え(る)" in chapter 297, they may have thought the part wasn't important enough to put into words there.

However, from this list we can also see that there is another verb. Furthermore:


the word "変える" covers a various types of meanings than "to transmute", the types including "to change a form, color, quality, quantity, or a content of what you say, etc." For example, Wing used the word "変える" when describing Enhancers' traits as "Enhances change the volume of the water." (chapter.60). So even if you find the word "変える" in a sentence explaining some phenomenon, you can't say for sure that the sentence containing the word alone indicates the traits of Transumuters.

So we're stuck with the ambiguity, as far as the manga is concerned. As for the anime, it is quite clear it took the description literally: you can see light, and not aura, being charged in the mouth of Hyakushiki Kannon, and, after the attack, the crater is heated.

I think it makes sense: first, it would be in line with Netero's "enlightenment" theme; second, it would explain why Meruem developed a Hatsu ability based on light, whereas all his other abilities have been copied from someone else. Compatibility with Transmutation is unproblematic in Netero's case, he's a top Nen user and consistently uses types other than his own in his most powerful abilities, plus Transmutation is right next to Enhancement.

My two cents is that we should specify the anime took the description literally, whereas the ambiguity remains in the manga. I'd also add "Transmutation" to the list of Nen types used, and edit the paragraph on Netero's Nen abilities to imply he may also use Transmutation. What are your ideas?

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