I have managed to tear myself away from my light novels again, so let’s get some more Yui done before I succumb again to the temptation of Kurumi.

Okay, I think I’ve figured out what was wrong with the images. If this comes out fine, I’ll go back and edit the other post.

Here we have a classic example of the power of rearranging lines. I believe I mentioned this principle in one of my early blog posts. Row 1602 here is the end of the scene. Now tell me, how would you feel to see a scene end on “As we ran, that’s what I thought” and a fade to black? Pretty underwhelmed, right? Here, just by switching some clauses around, I’ve suddenly made this transition a lot more impactful and memorable. In Japanese prose, that little bit of padding is fine; it gives the previous line some time to sink in. In English, it’s borderline unacceptable, hence why I changed it.

Here’s a common example of how this game uses onomatopoeia: it gives it its own segment, then explains it in narration in the next. Sometimes I rewrite the onomatopoeia segment into narration as well, compensating for it with something like alliteration if I can, but that tends to lower the density of semantic content between the two lines, so I’ll often keep it as-is. It happens often enough that I honestly think all this onomatopoeia might be an intentional device on the part of the writers, perhaps to add euphonic qualities to the text. In that case, to rewrite it would potentially fall into the category of treachery for its own sake, rather than treachery for readability’s sake. As such, I’ll tend to keep onomatopoeia that represent sounds – phonomimes – but rewrite any that represent concepts or feelings – ideomimes or psychomimes.

I do recognize that it sounds a little juvenile to have a bunch of phonomimes standing in for narration. In any other game, I might try harder to be a bit more creative about this. But that sort of childishness plays into the characterization of Hirotake I went into last time, so I’m sorely tempted to just give it a pass. If I have some sort of epiphany by the time I’m done editing, I might go back and change some of this stuff, but for now, it stays.

Like, look at this shit. What am I supposed to do here but rewrite it? This doesn’t represent a sound, so English doesn’t have an onomatopoeia for it.

Also, I’ve been sitting here listening to the BGM for this scene as I type this, and my god is it grandiose. Pretty funny, considering the context. But I’ll leave that as a surprise for when you play the game.

Nothing terribly profound here. I just wanted to pop off about how amazing row 1931 here is. Oh, but it’s almost refreshing how dirty she played. Shoulda read that sentence to myself over again when I first wrote it. It’s lunch time; excuse me while I go get a karaage bento at my town’s Lawson. Yes, we only have one, and no other convenience stores. We’re really out in the sticks.

I’m back, and I bring to you an “I’m too sexy for my shirt” moment. It can never be more clear that you’re reading a translation than when you see “shikata nai” rendered as “it can’t be helped” or something similar. You know, because that’s definitely a thing that English speakers actually say and isn’t just a product of poorly-translated Japanese. I swear, sometimes it’s like people go on autopilot the instant they see that phrase, not even stopping to consider more elegant ways to handle it.

Which is why I’m so proud of myself here. Look at that beautiful rendition in 2162! I could kiss and marry that rendition. This is the kind of shit where you can tell the difference between a translator who was awake and a translator who was on autopilot.

And here’s a pesky itadakimasu. Fortunately for me, this one happens during a CG, which means I can sub it out for narration, and nobody will be the wiser. This word is always a pain to translate, and in the medium of anime and visual novels, you frequently have no choice but to do something with it. In, say, a book, you can delete the line if it’s too much trouble. And here, the structure of the game gives me the freedom to rewrite it.

And here is an example of what super conservative readers might call “censorship” or “localization.” This is a symptom of the great debate in translation studies between domestication and foreignization. The former means to leave the reader where they are and bring the author as close to them as possible, and the latter is the opposite. Leaving names in Japanese name order or keeping honorifics would be an example of foreignization, while what I’ve done in this screenshot is an example of domestication. Here, I’ve domesticated “karintou” into its superordinate, “a cookie.” (This word also appeared once in Senmomo, where we rendered it as “biscuit.”)

There were many foreignizing strategies I could’ve taken. I could’ve just left it as “karintou,” but hardly any readers would understand that. I could’ve compensated for that by throwing in some narration in the next two lines, but that would draw far too much attention to what’s ultimately a throwaway line. In the end, I decided that the exact nature of Yui’s misunderstanding wasn’t important, so I prioritized readability.

That’s not to say my choice here is without its drawbacks. Since Yui’s a zashiki-warashi, it’s highly likely she knows what karintou is because it’s Japanese, and is unfamiliar with chocolate because it’s Western. That implication is lost in my translation. I’ve simply deemed the gains in readability from domestication to outweigh the minute loss in meaning.

As I think you can see in my work, I tend to employ both domestication and foreignization as I deem them necessary for my imagined “average reader” of my work. Notice how I kept “kitsune udon” above, even though most people likely won’t know what that is. I try to foreignize food names as much as I can get away with, since I want people to get curious and look them up. But since the meaning of “karintou” is actually important to understanding this exchange, I had to domesticate it so everything would make sense.

In a way, both domestication and foreignization are political acts on the part of the translator; one masks the source culture, and the other forces it upon the reader. When a translator takes domestication too far, people often complain about “censorship” and “localization.” At the same time, too much of a lean toward foreignization can come off as under-translated or weebish. This is why I try to strike a balance between the two, though I usually gravitate closer to domestication. In works where the Japaneseness of the setting is important, like Senmomo and Yui, I do my best to present that Japaneseness in a way readily comprehensible to the Western palate. You’ll notice in Senmomo, when we finally release it, that we didn’t Romanize key jargon like “bujin” or “jujutsu,” but opted to translate it. And here in Yui, people might not know what “kitsune udon” is, but they’re liable to know udon. Thus, they can infer that “kitsune udon” is a particular type of udon dish, even if they don’t know exactly what. No need to domesticate there. But with karintou here, they’re not gonna know that it’s a cookie made from fried dough and coated with brown sugar. It would be possible, as Lonesome actually suggested while I was typing this up, to just leave “karintou” in there and let the reader realize from Hirotake’s dialogue that Yui was off the mark, but I wanted people to actually feel that she had the wrong idea, so I domesticated it.

It’s rare that you see excess foreignization as a problem in VN translations; usually it’s excess domestication. But just know that people aren’t doing it in an attempt to erase Japanese culture, or anything. They’re doing it to increase readability. Translators just have a tendency to underestimate their readers’ cultural knowledge or, failing that, willingness to learn new cultural knowledge. I feel like something as benign as this karintou situation doesn’t deserve to ruffle any feathers. But then you get people domesticating yakisoba into lo mein for Dal Segno, at which point you’re kinda going overboard. Although if you’re reading Dal Segno, it’s not like you’re expecting an enjoyable read anyway. EY-OOOOOOOOO!

One example of heavy foreignization in VN translation is Muramasa. In some respects, it’s heavily domesticated; in others, it’s very much not. See, for example, the fact that it has so many romaji terms it needs pages and pages of translation notes in a separate PDF, even though it would’ve been perfectly within the translator’s rights to invent terminology of his own.

But yeah, uh, in conclusion, try not to be too vitriolic about this debate, okay? This is the kind of issue where people tend to think their position on the spectrum is, in Lonesome’s words, “uniquely privileged and self-evident,” so they get pretty up-in-arms when something doesn’t conform to it. Just chill out, okay, guys? Instead of calling people names, let’s use these issues as fuel to advance the state of translation discourse in this community.

Here’s another, albeit minor, example of domestication. This is deep into the chocolate shopping scene. I haven’t done anything special to explain Japan’s Valentine’s customs; I figure plenty of readers will already know about them, and the ones who don’t can easily infer them from what’s already in the text. (It helps that Yui is clueless, too.) This nameless senpai’s line in row 2557 can be tricky to translate if you try to tackle “honmei” head-on, so I ducked around it a bit and dealt directly with the sense of it. You could complain that we lose the distinction between honmei and giri here, but that distinction isn’t terribly important to this scene, and I’m quite proud of how naturally I managed to capture this senpai’s teasing in English. And, though it’s got nothing to do with domestication, her whining in 2561 and 2562.

FuturestepKazoo here popping in for a second.

I did get to the Valentine’s Day scene over the course of my work today, but I’m not screenshotting any of it. It’s some of the best work I’ve ever done, so I want to save it for the release.

Goddammit, Hirotake.

A few hundred of the intervening lines between these two screenshots come from different parts of the game, so I didn’t skip forward too much here. You’ll notice a little massaging of the text in 3242 and 3243 in accordance with stuff I talked about in the first Yui post, but that’s not what I want to call attention to here.

I’m trying to keep these posts spoiler-free, and this is something interesting I think I can talk about without crossing into spoiler territory. As I alluded to in my first post, and as you can see here, Yui frequently uses “koko” symbolically, specifically when discussing places she belongs. My solution at first was just to use “home,” but that still sounded weird in a few cases, so I decided to go a step further and italicize it whenever it happens. It’s like how House of Leaves (great book; you should read it) always renders the word “house” in blue and “minotaur” in red, or how Viz’s translation of Tegami Bachi always renders “heart” in bold. Heavy-handed? Yeah, but so is the double kagi kakko the Japanese uses, so it all works out.

Don’t mind me, just popping off about another clever translation of “shikata nai.” But while I’m here, can I just mention how weirdly common this “What do you mean?/Exactly what I said, idiot” exchange is in otaku media? It’s uncanny. It’s like authors want to make their protagonists sound momentarily stupid so the other character (usually a villain or someone of otherwise shady moral character) can repeat what they just said two seconds ago for effect. It’s almost as bad as “demo… iya, dakara koso,” which I usually trim down or omit entirely because while it serves as convenient padding in the rather garrulous writing style of Japanese otaku media, it’s a needless phaticism that never adds anything useful to an English script, but I digress. Point is, protagonists in these works really need to work on their listening comprehension.

Oh! Oh oh oh! This is one of the passages that made me want to do these posts in the first place. It’s still not my favorite line in the script, but it’s high up there.

In a blog post I never got around to publishing, I ranted about “kushou” (and its variant, “nigawarai”), and how a direct translation of it is a blatant indicator that you’re not reading an original English text. It commonly gets translated as a combination of “wry/forced/chagrined/bitter” and “smile/laugh/grin,” used whenever the smile on someone’s face isn’t the most pure, innocent, and childish of expressions. The fact that I’m 3500 lines into this script and only seeing it for the first time here is nothing short of incredible.

Seriously, this word gets used everywhere in Japanese, and a million times out of ten, it’s translated directly. But in English, how often would we say something like this? Would we not sooner describe the feeling inspiring the expression, rather than the expression itself? I certainly think so, and that’s why I think my “bemused consternation” here makes for a much more pleasant read than something like “He smiles bitterly and looks away.”

“Wry smiles” are still okay in moderation, I suppose, but I think going past them to their cause makes for much more idiomatic English. Good job, PastepKazoo.

See? Here they go again. Since it’s pretty close to the other one I just mentioned, I evidently shook things up a bit. Good ol’ PastepKazoo. He always has my back.

And here’s the poster child of why “koko” is such a slippery word in this game. I’m still not married to this italicized “home” solution; I’ll have to see what it looks like in-game. But yeah, see that note in row 6503? I left that during my first pass. Proof of how much it frustrated me back then.

Also, I didn’t just blow through 3000 lines without telling you. The common route ended around row 4100, after which it went back to about 2800 for a hundred-ish lines at the beginning of the Yui route, and then it skipped past a solid 2000 lines of Reika’s route to resume the Yui route just a couple hundred rows ago. The script is gonna jump around a lot like this from now on, so don’t take row numbers as any indicator of how far I’ve gotten. I did keep quiet about the relatively lengthy Valentine’s Day scene, but as I stated above, that’s because I was spitting straight fire there, and I wanna leave that as a surprise for when we actually release the game. There’s also the simple fact that the farther in I get, the harder it is to screenshot stuff without spoiling things. There’s a particularly big problem that crops up later in the game – perhaps the biggest – that I can’t talk to you about at all because it’s an incredibly massive spoiler. And to make matters worse, I still don’t have a solution for it.

Okay, this is really belated, but you’ll notice how sometimes I’ll stretch a single sentence across multiple segments, as seen here. I do this sparingly and for effect. To rewrite this part would likely introduce a lot of bloat that would be to this scene’s detriment. Granted, it’s usually because that’s what the Japanese did too, but a “sentence” is much more poorly defined in Japanese than in English, so you can get away with a lot. Makes it a real pain for me, though. Actually, there was another one that was even worse, that I forgot to screenshot earlier. Hang on, where was it…

This shit! Right here! Look at that. That’s three, count ’em, three segments! For one sentence! What the fuck was I supposed to do here? The only thing I could do was pull shit out of my ass. And I think I’m gonna have to change it, too. Since it’s the end of a scene, row 2628 auto-advances after less than a second on screen, so I might want to make it shorter.

This is a rare instance of a scene told from Reika’s perspective, by the way. There’s Yui ones, too.

Okay, yeah, I went back and changed it. Ironically, it’s now a single sentence spread across those three rows. God bless this game.

Nothing too fancy here. Just an example of what I can get away with when there’s no voice acting. Japanese has a lot of connective tissue between sentences to really spell out every single logical connection. And while it’s certainly possible to do the same in English, it’s far from necessary, and when done to excess, it can come off as pedantic and patronizing. This, in addition to the fact that keeping it would dull the impact of these lines, is why I did away with the “nanoni” in 6811.

But if this game were voice acted, that would likely give some readers pause, as they’d be able to hear Yui trail off there and find it strange that the text doesn’t do the same. Hooray for no-budget doujin games!

Witness! The power! Of rearranging LIIIIIIIIIIINES! Those first two rows would sound so hilariously dumb if approached more directly!

And in case you couldn’t guess, the first H scene is coming up soon. I am not looking forward to this, but I’d feel bad leaving it for FuturestepKazoo to deal with first thing in the morning…

Goddammit, PastepKazoo, you fucking asshole. I have my work cut out for me.

Yeah, uh, remember how in that post about H scenes a long time ago, I said I was the King of Virgins? That didn’t stop being a thing that was true, or anything. I am woefully inexperienced in the pleasures of the flesh. I’m gonna pray that that’s true for most of you, too, so you won’t notice how awful my H scene narration is. I mean, it’s leveled up considerably since Senmomo, but, well, Lonesome’s taking a sledgehammer to my Senmomo H scenes, and you won’t find a trace of my horrible prose there by the time we actually release the patch.

Heck, maybe I’ll get him to edit just the H scenes in this game.

AAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHA! I’m sorry, this is too perfect. I have to keep it. Not that there’s anything wrong with it that says I should change it – it’s pretty accurate to the Japanese – but it just tickles my funny bone in a way I can’t quite articulate.

Actually, I am going to change “flan” to “marshmallows.” “Pudding” doesn’t work as a translation for “purin” here (since boobs have absolutely nothing in common with pudding), and “flan” is an oddly specific word choice.

You see? You see? This is the kind of nonsense I’m talking about. This is the kind of cringey stuff my team makes fun of me for. I’ve gotta change this.

Wait, why am I showing you people this? I could just, like-

Eyyyy, everybody! I’m back! I have trudged through hell and returned. What’s that? The 183 lines between this screenshot and the last one? I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Okay, look. I know this is a very distinctly Japanese analogy. But I just love the imagery here, and even if you’ve never heard this before, it’s easy to picture and realize what it means. It’s like the kitsune udon thing from earlier – it adds a bit of flavor. I kept this in Senmomo, too; it’s just too funny to me.

So. Uh, I honestly wasn’t expecting to finish Yui’s route in today’s session, but here we are. Funny how that works. Like, Jesus, I know I was sick the first time, but damn, I covered a lot of ground today. I’ll, uh, see you next week when I work on Reika’s route, I guess?

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