77: Local Hero

Local Hero

Local Hero

Since I know Japanese, I can often see how well anime is localised compared to the original script. Generally, translations are actually well done, although there are, of course, exceptions to this(really, donut?). I can do this with games that provide the original Japanese voices, which is something I always enjoy.

One thing that caught me off-guard was Alterier Iris 2, when I was playing with the Japanese voices and English text. My memory might be a bit off, but there was one line which in the Japanese I heard "Now that we're alone…", but in the text, it was translated as "Since that insolent b**** is gone…". I mean, sure the meaning is kinda similar, but…

Localization is always something that core fans have had a love/hate relationship with, particularly when it comes to anime. Personally, I think that localization has gotten a lot better in the past 5 years than ever before, and with games as magnificently localized as Final Fantasy XII, it just goes to show how far localization has come in terms of quality control and balance.

However, its still saddening to see bad translation when it evident. Lets take the Korean war film, Tae Guk Gi, as an example. I understand Korean, and speak it as well, and watched it when it came out in select theaters in the US. There were times during the film where there was much dialogue that was being watered down in the subtitles. I was hearing the actors saying things that, though not crucial to the plot, was part of a scene of the film that would be nice to read for the sake of knowing what they're talking so much about. Not only that, but there were times in the film where I would be reading the subtitles and start to think to myself about how I could have done a much better job at the translation, without making it alienating the audience, or taking too many liberties, all the while holding true to the film's dialogue. Having had experiences like this, I sometimes have to ask myself if whatever it is that I'm reading or watching could have been better.

Its understandable when there are liberties that are taken to make something more understandable to an audience, but its another thing when it could have been better. Games like Final Fantasy XII, Metal Gear Solid 3, and Kingdom Hearts II make me smile (although I don't think they could've done anything to help or change "Kuwabara") when it comes to awesome localization, but some games just don't shine as brightly as others, and its hard to distinguish what it was that made it murkier. Is it the gameplay? The voice acting? The script? The game itself? In the end, its mostly the overall package that decides the quality of the game, but its the localization that's key to that extra shine.

It was an interesting read, particularly to learn that the voice for Phoenix was done by one of the localizers... I think that the balancing act for localizing in this medium will continue to strive for getting better and better as the industry grows. I just hope that it doesn't reach some sort of slump that settles for Fox Box/Kids/4Kids/etc quality of localization that keeps purists away from dubbed anime.

...by the way, though its a well known fact that the Japanese version of Phoenix Wright has both the english and the japanese versions, why is it that it takes so long for a Phoenix Wright title to get overseas if its already finished? What's taking so long? I mean, will the American version have this feature? What's the deal?

As for good localizations, there's two that stands out for me. This isn't exactly pure translation effort, but a combination of the translated words and the voice actors that brings them to life. First is Xenosaga. When I first heard chaos' voice from the Japanese trailers, I knew that kind of voice is going to be a big challenge for voice actors to do. It sounds like a child's voice, but at the same time sounded very mature. It also sounded soft and friendly, and it seemed like a vital part of his personality. I loved how the English voice actor managed to keep that perfectly intact. The rest of cast was also excellent, and I'd say that Allen's voice was even better than the original.

The other was Helba from the .hack series of Playstation games. The rest of the voices seemed forgettable to me(sorry), but Helba's personality really flowed from her script and words well.

Now, next isn't about a "good" localization. It's a "great" localization. Never in my wildest dreams did I think a localization will go this far, but it happened. One might call it a perfect localization, while others might not call it a localization at all. Either way, it deserves a mention. What am I talking about? Elite Beat Agents, of course.

I'm just curious if games are typically localized for different cultures that speak the same language. For example, do games for the North American English speaking audience get different dialog and interface text than English speaking Australians?

...I think Elite Beat Agents was a total remake/port-thing more than localization. You can't really call that much effort just "localization"...

As a big fan of anime I can say that its really hard to decided which method I prefer. I like learning Japanese words though the fansub/footnote method, but its also important to capture the feel of the game/show/movie. If you have a word in the native language that is commonly known, like the issues brought up with "donut" in Pokemon, I think we have to stop and wonder if the word "donut" creates a better understanding than using the actual Japanese word and explaining it with notes. A donut is a calorie-filled, tasty junk food. It is common in the United states with a common understanding. We maybe very well be talking about the cultural equivilent of a donut. Explaining what the original word means might be more accurate to the source on a textual level, but it may very well not strike the audience properly on an emotional level.

One thing I really don't like, however, is when I watch a show or movie and I change the language settings and someting funny happens. Depending on your settings you may get subtitles on the bottom of the screen with nothing spoken to go along with it. I feel like changing the depth of explicit story-telling is damaging. Adding or removing entire chunks of text doesn't sit well with me.

Echolocating:
I'm just curious if games are typically localized for different cultures that speak the same language. For example, do games for the North American English speaking audience get different dialog and interface text than English speaking Australians?

I'm not sure if it's ever been done for games but the CGI animated kids' show, Backyardigans, was dubbed over for its UK release. Some words were changed around (diapers -> nappies) and the characters got British accents. I'm pretty sure that this doesn't happen that often because it's a large amount of effort for relatively little payoff.

Ayavaron:

Echolocating:
I'm just curious if games are typically localized for different cultures that speak the same language. For example, do games for the North American English speaking audience get different dialog and interface text than English speaking Australians?

I'm not sure if it's ever been done for games but the CGI animated kids' show, Backyardigans, was dubbed over for its UK release. Some words were changed around (diapers -> nappies) and the characters got British accents. I'm pretty sure that this doesn't happen that often because it's a large amount of effort for relatively little payoff.

Thanks for the reply. I actually just bought a Backyardigans DVD for my two-year-old. It's a pretty good show. ;-)

The reason I asked the question was because I was always under the assumption that localization had nothing to do about translation... and everything to do about ensuring what has been translated has the intended meaning for the target culture. Localization is the next step required after translation, but it's not translation.

 

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