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I've been going through a Japanese script of the popular anime "Fairy Tail" and trying to make sense of the translations in the English subtitles to become familiar with the language.

I came across a part (3:40 into the first episode), where a shopkeeper, trying to sell one of the main characters something, says:

女の子に人気なのは このカラーズの魔法かな.

This is translated in the English subtitles as:

This colour magic is probably the most popular one among girls!

I understand most of this, but I don't understand why he ends it with かな, since from what I've been told this means "I wonder" in most circumstances (unless it's used with a negative verb, in which case it seems that it could mean a few other things) but he's obviously not trying to sound uncertain as to whether what he's saying is true or not, so I don't understand why he would say it this way.

Also, I'm not sure why they added the "probably the most" in the English translation. Is there something that I missed in the Japanese that implies that it's "most" popular as opposed to just popular? thanks for any help.

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    I suspect it might be synonymous to adding "or something like that" in English. Anime and manga are all about fun, and comedy is part of that. It does add a sense of uncertainty, which contributes to comedy value. Or something like that. – user1306322 Dec 1 '14 at 22:50
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    Another question that talks about the presence or absence of "most": japanese.stackexchange.com/questions/19234/… – snailboat Dec 8 '14 at 4:12
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かな can state any degree of probability, from nearly zero to all but certain. Another important feature is that かな conveys intent of communication, thus it could imply request or desire so much as English "I wonder". This word is usually only used in non-polite sentences (in most cases, the polite counterpart is でしょうか).

Down to your particular case, the shopkeeper's かな could have two ways of interpretation, as far as I can see in the clip (yes I did go watch it).

  • expressing lack of objective evidence: "It must be (though I haven't tallied it up, etc.)"
  • expressing subjective assertion: "If you ask me", "I bet", etc.

When it comes to "the most", I don't see any necessity here to use superlative, but nor that it's wrong. Maybe the translator wanted it to sound a bit more sales talk-ish, or whatever.

  • Wouldn't "ですかね” be a polite counterpart? – Locksleyu Mar 10 '16 at 17:57
  • @Locksleyu It's close, but the かね combination usually sounds a bit too familiar, so I wouldn't use it in "polite" polite speech. – broccoli forest Mar 11 '16 at 8:06
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I haven't seen the show, so I'm uncertain of the context, but かな refers to "probably" in the translation. Ending a sentence with かな is a very casual way of expressing uncertainty. For example:

あの人はアメリカ人かな

I wonder if that person is an American.

It's subtle, but "probably" might be a slightly too "certain" translation in this case (but again, context matters so I'm not too sure.) Another translation could be "I wonder if this color magic is the most popular one among girls."

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Ka (か)

  • generally used as a question mark, it can change a statement into a question without any grammatical change.

Na (な)

  • used as a casual way of saying Ne [ね]. Both words are a way of seeking confirmation.

Ne [ね]

  • used mainly by girls, it'd translate as "right?" or "yaknow?" at the end of a statement.

    "This color magic is the best, yaknow?"

Na [な]

  • used mainly by boys. I'd translate it as "I think" or "I'm sure"

    Im sure all girls love this color magic


Without Ka [か] the sentence reads as

女の子に人気なのは このカラーズの魔法かな
This Color magic is the most popular one among girls!

Without Na [な] it reads as

女の子に人気なのは このカラーズの魔法かな
Is this Color magic the most popular one among girls?

Together かな means something along the line of "I bet" or "Probably". Because it both represents the convincing Na [な], while retaining the questioning tone of Ka [か].

Particles like these can be confusing to English speakers at first, so just listen to more conversations that use these particles together, it'll teach you how to casually use and interpret them.

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