Howdy hey, peeps. As I declared earlier this week, here I am to show you a bit of what goes on behind the scenes when we translators do our job. Let’s jump right into it!
EDIT: The screenshots are a decent size now. Problem solved!
We’ve already got a lot going on in this picture. First, lemme get the technical explanation out of the way. This game was created in Livemaker, and the tool I used to extract the script… wasn’t the best. A cell could contain anywhere from one segment (a unit of text equal to the entire contents of the box on screen at any given time) to twenty. Operation Bellflower’s hacker, Pangolin, had some better luck, but even then, it came out a bit wonky. See, Livemaker apparently doesn’t distinguish between segment breaks and regular line breaks, so if a single segment has a line break in it (as is the case in an overwhelmingly huge number of VNs; seriously, it’s a surprise Senmomo doesn’t do this), it’ll be split across two different cells. Obviously it would look really weird to have a random line break in the middle of a segment in English, but we discovered that if you just leave the second cell blank, it displays right. So that’s what’s going on with rows 103 and 104.
Row 99 is an example of the dreaded mimetics, those words in Japanese whose pronunciation and meaning are closely intertwined. This game has a lot of ’em, and they’ve given me no small amount of grief. I got lucky in this instance because of how row 100 played out, making this one simple to write around, but you’ll see me really struggle with other instances later in the game.
And finally, I direct you to, well, row 103 again. Of note is the use of “seito daihyou shikkoubu” in this game, rather than the usual “seitokai.” Accordingly, I wanted to go for a more unusual translation than “student council,” so I decided to use a term that, personally, I’ve always felt closer to. It’s always been “Student Government Association” in all the schools I’ve attended. Though I’ve been assured that “student councils” are absolutely a thing too.
Oh, and it explains later why he calls her “kaichou” even though her actual title is “shikkoubu buchou.”
Meet the titular Yui. You know Date A Live? Well, Yui talks like Tohka from that. I do my best to reflect her odd speech patterns in the English translation.
Anyway, let’s take a look at rows 175 and 176. A more direct translator might have rendered them as, say, “This is my first time coming to this room, but I must say, everything here is quite fascinating.” And they wouldn’t be wrong, per se. That is closer to the original Japanese. But in English, we don’t really preface things like that. The implication here is “I was unsure what to think of this unfamiliar environment, but it seems nice.” Though that implication is very watered down–the contents of row 175 are practically filler text to avoid being too direct by jumping straight into row 176. This is exceedingly common in Japanese. All in all, in order to best reflect the sense of this segment, I needed to keep the compliment, but not make it too much of a thing. I think I struck that balance quite nicely with what I have here.
Now let’s examine rows 183 to 185. You’ll notice I got a tad bit creative here, and the non-translators among you might be surprised to see that. But this is par for the course with this practice. While “tsumetai kotoba” is a viable collocation in Japanese, “cold words” isn’t in English unless it’s a poor translation from Japanese. In the first place, it’s not the words we’d be talking about in English, but the situation itself. So something needed to change.
I couldn’t be too drastic, though. The comparison with the snow outside, I felt, was important, as it helps set the scene and convey the game’s atmosphere. And, well, when you’re comparing something with snow, you’re chiefly going to be thinking about temperature. So I had to use “cold” somehow.
I quickly landed upon what you see here. Then I just shuffled some words around a bit–like moving “correcting my posture” to 185, which was otherwise relatively lacking in semantic content–and bam. All in a day’s work for a translator. Or rather, a second’s. This sort of lateral thinking is so commonplace that it needs to be second nature for a translator in order for anything to get done in a reasonable amount of time. This is what goes into everything. Oh, sure, I could’ve just said, “O-Oh, right. At the words colder than the snow outside, I correct my posture. I’m in the middle of getting glared at by the prez.” But that reads like very stilted English without any sense of rhythm or connection between the segments. This sort of impressionistic and staccato writing is commonplace in Japanese otaku media like VNs and LNs, but it has a much bigger impact in English, an impact that is usually unwanted. So oftentimes, in order to remain faithful to the sense of the source text, we have to depart from the letter of it.
I do have to be careful I don’t make Hirotake sound too eloquent, though. A big theme of this game is maturity–specifically, how Hirotake and Yui grow over the course of the game. In many respects, Hirotake is still naive at heart, so if I make his narration too sophisticated, he’ll sound a lot more grown-up than he should, and when the game emphasizes his childishness, I don’t want readers going, “What? But he uses such fancy language.” This is also why I use a lot of short and simple sentences in his narration, as opposed to the long compound-complex sentences I usually write in, and most of the figurative language I have him use is either cliched or almost cliched (see “hot water”).
Oh, one last thing. You’ll notice I got rid of a stutter in the narration. This is for the same reason I just outlined above. First-person narration in otaku media aims to sound just like dialogue, and dialogue in otaku media goes for verisimilitude to an exaggerated extent, denoting false starts with stutters and brief pauses with ellipses, commas, kuten, small tsus, and what have you. English doesn’t do this. Punctuation rules are very rigid in English, so you can’t play with commas and periods, we don’t have anything equivalent to the small tsu, and ellipses need to be handled with care. Plus… we just don’t stutter much. If I kept every single dang stutter in the game, the characters would all sound like blubbering, brain-dead, mouth-breathing idiots. While actual Japanese people don’t stutter either, it’s at least more believable because of how many syllables their language has. So for the sake of readability and the integrity of the characters, I only keep stutters when I feel it’s significant to do so.
I do keep every single ellipsis in Reika’s dialogue, though. She’s the quiet but cool character, and I really wanna play up that archetype.
You can see me doing more of those little adjustments here, like how I keep Hirotake’s narration conversational and insert filler words into lines that were otherwise nothing but punctuation, though I do let Reika keep lines of just ellipses. And oh shoot, in light of future developments, maybe I ought to change 207 to “this is my home.”
Okay, I’m back. Anyway, in 212, I didn’t go for the straight “don’t look at me” because that sounded like he thought Reika was accusing him of something, which she obviously isn’t. She’s just looking for whatever help she can get comprehending this situation. Besides, the fact that she’s looking at him is implied by what I have here anyway.
And then 213 and 214 explain what a zashiki-warashi is, but even if the source text didn’t, I would’ve stuck my own explanation in there anyway. While zashiki-warashi are a part of Japanese folklore, they’re going to be completely foreign to basically any other audience, so English speakers would need that sort of guidance. Of course, I’m sure there’s plenty of English speakers who’re familiar enough with Japan that they do know what zashiki-warashi are, but I obviously can’t count on them being the entirety or even majority of my translation’s readership.
Here’s an example of a mimetic I couldn’t write around. The text box shakes for that segment, so I had no choice but to use a sound effect there; if I’d written it as regular narration, then that special effect wouldn’t make sense.
Where did “horny teenage delusions” come from, you ask? Well, while “your eyes were playing tricks on you” is a more or less acceptable thing to say in English, telling someone their eyes were “fushiana” in Japanese is quite rude, as Hirotake calls out, so I had to step things up a notch. Then Hirotake’s surprise in 272 becomes him reacting to how ridiculous Kozue’s suggestion is, rather than the way in which she said it, but that’s such a minuscule change that it’s not worth worrying about. I suppose I could write “horny teenage delusions” into that line too, but I kinda like the way it starts mild and steps up into rudeness. Also debating whether or not to kill that music note… Since, you know, they’re not a thing in English, nor do I feel a pressing need to make them a thing in English. You know Lonesome tries to put the dang things into Senmomo where they weren’t before? Every time he does, I have to break out the spray bottle. No! Bad Lonesome!
Do I need to go into every little thing like this? I feel like you get the point by now, right? All this screenshotting is tanking my efficiency, so I’ll just get back to work and pop back in when I’ve got something really interesting to share.
Go home, Kazoo. You’re drunk.
Okay, so what the heck am I doing here? Well, when’s the last time you audibly whimpered in an uncomfortable situation? Never, right? There you go.
Incidentally, I can get away with this because the only thing differentiating Hirotake’s dialogue from regular narration is the presence or absence of kagi kakko. That’s also why I’m retaining them in this game. It also allows me to be a little flexible in patches of narration broken up by Hirotake’s spoken lines. If I think a line of dialogue would flow better if placed earlier or later than it originally occurs, I can make that change. I recall having done that a couple times, so I’ll screenshot it when I get there.
Ah, see? Here I go. Makes more sense in English to have the tag immediately after the dialogue it refers to, so that’s what I did here. Thanks for not having a mini-portrait, Hirotake.
Now heeeeeere’s some bullshit! This took me forever to come up with. It’s another unpleasant example of the style and substance being inextricably intertwined. And oh crap, gotta fix 1261…
I’m still not happy with 1265 and 1266, by the way. In Japanese, he refers to dakuten, the little lines that turn unvoiced consonants into voiced consonants. The two are treated as equivalent when ordering words, such as in dictionaries, so it’s not completely out of the question that Tarou’s little cheating here might be viable. But the rules of crossword puzzles aren’t so lax.
The correct answer, which Hirotake provides in row 1289, is “mononoke.” I thought that poignant, given the subject matter of the game, so I at least wanted that to be reflected in the translation. I chose “spirit,” since it would be easy to come up with words starting with “sp,” and wrote the rest of this little section around that. (The Japanese equivalent to the “tale” resulting from “spirit” is thus “ketsudan;” in a way, I nailed that part too.) In the end, none of Reika and Tarou’s guesses are even remotely close to the original Japanese.
Can we take a moment to appreciate how stupidly hard this was, though? I needed three words that started with the same two letters. Two of them needed to help make another word with their final letters, but the third couldn’t do the same. But oh wait–it could if you cheat a little.
Now I wanna see someone write the clue that could plausibly lead to “sprain,” “spring,” and “spirit.”
Quick side note about why it ain’t easy to edit your own work. As Lonesome says, the true battle with this game is making the narration flow well and sound natural, not using hundred-dollar words, like we sometimes do in Senmomo. These are the kinds of things I think about on my first run through translating a work, so it’s rare that I’ll look at something of my own and go, “Ah, that sounds weird. Better change it to sound more natural.”
That (??) of his, by the way, comes from chess notation, which uses exclamation points to denote particularly clever moves and question marks to denote particularly baffling ones. He likes to use these to critique his own work in Senmomo. Personally, I seem to recall doing that on occasion in Yui with the phrases “im too sexy for my shirt” and “i want to commit die.”
When he first read my translation of Yui, Lonesome cited row 1158 here as his favorite line. This might come as a surprise to you. As a fellow–well, not translator, but editor who keeps the original Japanese in mind as he works–you’d think he’d get hype for the really fancy, important lines that are gonna be the most memorable, right?
Well, no. Those lines are easy. With all the ingredients they give you, making a tasty dinner is pretty straightforward. But these short, trivial lines? You hardly have anything to go on, so you have to bring your own sauce to the table. It’s the inconsequential lines, the throwaway lines, the ones nobody would ever notice, where a translator can truly show off their chops. And they’re usually short for a reason, so you can’t go writing an essay.
Here, “boobage” gives a bit of a silly air to the line, and it helps Hirotake come off as innocent. If I’d just left it as “boobs,” he might seem like a bit of a lecherous protagonist, and he’s not. See how he uses the polite “mune” instead of the crass “oppai” here. He’s also a boku guy, not an ore guy. In the world of otaku media, that means he’s a cute little goodboi who wouldn’t harm a fly. (In the real world, boku is a lot more pervasive. Most of the men in my office use it.) Thus, I wanted the prevailing reaction to this line to be, “Aw, look at him blushing! He’s so cute!” That effect would’ve been diluted with just “boobs.” In conclusion, this is why we should all take “boobage” seriously as a translation choice when discussing women’s breasts. Thank you for coming to my TED Talk.
My favorite line in this translation is even shorter. I’ll make sure to show you when I get to it. Just, uh, it probably ain’t happening in a post anytime soon. If I remember correctly, it’s buried somewhere in the Reika route.
And with that, I am going to call it a day because it’s almost time for dinner and I have a bit of a cold. I got about 1500 rows in out of, like, 11000, so that’s what, six posts? Maybe fewer if I go longer on some of the later ones? I’ll see you guys next time.