Shanghainese Does Saint Seiya

Remember that Indian music video subtitled with hilarious similar-sounding English lyrics? Well, here’s something along the same lines, only with Japanese and Shanghainese.

The video is the theme song for a Japanese anime series called Saint Seiya (圣斗士星矢 in Chinese — apparently it’s well-known among the Chinese). This case is a little different, because the song was actually re-recorded with (ridiculous) Shanghainese lyrics. (In a karaoke parlor, from the sound of it.) And there are subtitles for us Shanghainese-impaired! The kind subtitler put the Shanghainese “transliteration hanzi” on the top line, and the Mandarin translation on the bottom line.

Here’s a quick and dirty translation of the lyrics:

> No hot water for washing my feet

> Today I’ll go to bed without washing them

> The water for washing my face is still heating up

> Going to bed without washing my feet – so dirty

> No hot water for washing my feet

> Mom says the bills are too high

> She says wash your face first, then use that water to soak your feet

> Water for your feet and water for your face

> They’re both heated with the gas burner

> Why don’t salaries go up? The cost of water, electricity, and gas have

> Oh my God

> Heat it, heat it*

> If you don’t heat it, the price’ll be higher next year

> Heat it, heat it

> Wash you feet, then go for the spa, oh yeah

> Heat it, heat it

> Heat it from now til the end of the month

> Heat it, heat it

> Why not heat it?

> My mom is paying the bill

Lots of great cultural context here:

– Water in Shanghai has traditionally been heated with gas heaters (although electric ones are also common now)
– Traditional Shanghainese good old-fashioned thrifty living
– Washing one’s face and feet traditionally has been a common substitute for taking a shower

Here’s the original Japanese theme song.

The Shanghainese version of the video was recommended to me by a local friend who said the Shanghainese lyrics sounded like the Japanese. I don’t really hear the resemblance, but it’s good wacky fun nonetheless.

*Any resemblance to Beat It is unintended.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. Fun stuff. Thanks John.

  2. Ok, question: Since I am not familiar with anime cartoons, or any cartoons these days for that matter let alone Asian ones, are song lyrics usually this weird and unrelated to what it looks like the cartoon is about? Just want kids like to listen to these days, or is there actually any relation to the show?

  3. Rich,

    The Shanghainese lyrics are a complete redubbing of the original Japanese lyrics. I didn’t pay the original Japanese lyrics much attention, though… it’s just action cartoon stuff.

    Anyway, the contrast is where the humor comes in!

    Get it?

  4. That made my day. Thanks. ^_^

  5. Why not just get in the spa in the first place?

    I chuckled a few times but more because I always find the washing before bed bit strange to me. It makes sense just strange to me. And the sheer horror of not washing before bed is chuckle-worthy. 🙂

  6. Hi Rich,

    The original Japanese lyrics are very related to the content of the anime, and the Shanhinese version is a funny (and poor) transliteration of the original, and that is why its content has nothing to do with the anime, although it’s very intriguing from the standpoint of Chinese life and culture, as John pointed out above.

    FYI, Japanese people are very particular about anime theme songs. They are composed and sung by prominent musicians, and they often hit the charts high. In a sense, it could be said that the success of an anime highly depends on its theme song. I can sing almost all the theme songs of anime I watched when I was young.

    This is one of classic anime songs, “Kimba the White Lion” (1966)

  7. LOL! I’d never seen the “Benny Lava” video before. I don’t hear the resemblance between the Shanghainese and the Japanese, though.

  8. Erm, anyone else notice the English “transliteration” of this song when playing the Indian song?:

    The Shanghainese version is much cleaner, despite the dirty feet theme.

  9. After reading your blog I have this strong desire to jump and Splash around in puddles of water. Oh, but won’t my feet get dirty? Oh, the dilema.

    Take care
    Greg Pasden

    Halloween is coming soon

  10. “Washing one’s face and feet traditionally has been a common substitute for taking a shower”

    …That’s only two thirds of a full Chinese three-point wash 🙂 But I guess there are some things that shouldn’t be mentioned in a cartoon, even a redubbed one!

  11. haha, this is awesome. I grew up watching saint seiya, great manga!

  12. Wow, Saint Seiya – days we were so young!

    I didn’t hear much resemblance either. The first lines sound alike; other than that, only a few words do, such as Mama and Seiya/Shaoya (heat it).

    Have a nice holiday!

  13. From Tokyo, Japan, I just thought I’d report that the videos have an error message on them: “This clip has been blocked in your region.”

    Has anyone seen that before? Does Youku only work in China? Or do the Japanese now have a great firewall?

  14. Todd,

    Hehe, thanks for clearing that up. 🙂

  15. Bryan,

    Wow, really? I was able to watch Youku videos at decent speed while I was in the States over the summer. Some video providers do limit viewing by IP, though, like Hulu and Google Video.

    It might be that Japan is blocked from Youku as a proactive measure to eliminate IP hassles. (Remember what happened with Japanese TV on YouTube?) There are an awful lot of Japanese videos on Youku.

  16. Hilarious!!

  17. John,

    I suspect you are right about the IP stuff. I still can’t view the videos. I really wouldn’t be surprised if Japan had a great firewall to protect “anime” IP. Funny how Tokyo might protect their country’s IP yet they have no beef with the bit torrents of Western films and Korean TV dramas flowing over NTT’s fiber-optic (“hikari”) networks. 🙂


  18. this is absolutely absurd and hilarious. apparently what they did was take the transliteration of the japanese lyrics and use the sounds to come up with something remotely coherent in the shanghai dialect. the result is what you get up there. too much fun for 5 minutes.

  19. […] the tradition of St. Seiya and Benny Lava, here’s a great Japanese music video subtitled in hilarious, (mostly) […]

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