The Rice Digital Friday Letters Page, February 18, 2022 – Listen very carefully

The Rice Digital Friday Letters Page

Good afternoon everyone! We’ve reached the conclusion of another week, and it is time, as always, to wind down with a trawl through the mailbag. Don’t forget that you can always send us a message via the form at the bottom of the page or on the dedicated Letters Page, and we’ll get back to you the following Friday! You can also reply to the Rice Digital Weekly Digest when it lands in your inbox and, unless you specifically state otherwise, we’ll assume that anything you send us is for publication and public response! Easy stuff, right?

After this I’m looking forward to a weekend filled with Shadowbringers, Full Metal Daemon Muramasa and probably some retro gaming, too. But first, those letters! Let’s get into it.

Original art by Agekichi. Source here

I shall say this only once

Dear Rice,

Your article on ‘being assholes to translators‘ is one-sided — people who paid and supported the localisers (not translators) have a right to complain when they insert their own political views to ‘own the weebs’, and will only drive more people to pirate Japanese media instead of supporting official releases.

kentcymru26


Oh, Kent — may I call you Kent? I’m going to anyway. Firstly, thank you for your contribution to the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page. Secondly, Kent, Kent, Kent. Take a good long look at yourself. And then, as the saying goes, listen very carefully, because I will say this only once. Don’t worry, though, I’ll put in pictures so you don’t get overwhelmed by all the difficult words.

Yours is, thankfully, the only letter like this we have received on this subject. To the immense credit of the rest of Rice Digital’s readership, a lot of people are quite happy to quietly agree with what we wrote. Because you know what? People are sick of pissing and moaning over shit like this every time something is announced for English release — including us. We love seeing cool games brought west, but these days it feels like a significant number of otherwise exciting announcements are blighted by people whining about translators (yes, translators) attempting to “own the weebs”.

Before we get into this in detail let’s address one thing immediately: yes, the article is indeed one-sided, because the “other side” to “stop being assholes to translators” is “being an asshole to translators is good, actually”.

Let’s break this down. There are a few main examples that people inevitably fall back on when attempting to argue that translators are trying to “insert their own political views” to “own the weebs”. So let’s take a look at them one at a time.

Letters page: Esty

Number 1: Esty Airhardt/Erhard/however you want to spell it in the Atelier Arland series being localised as “Esty Dee” — which sounds like “STD”, or “sexually transmitted disease”.

This happened in 2010. 2010! That was twelve years ago. More than a decade. I feel like saying “get over it” is a little redundant at this point — particularly as her surname rarely comes up in the game script (she’s known by pretty much everyone she meets as simply “Esty”) and the subsequent introduction of her sister Filly just plays down the original ill-advised attempt at a joke. “Filly Dee” is just a cute name.

No-one knows why someone thought Esty Dee was a good idea — perhaps it was an attempt to imply that her frequently drunken behaviour displayed in the series meant that she was also promiscuous, despite her apparent bitterness over not having a husband by the time she hit 40 in Atelier Meruru.

But it was not a good idea. That’s a given, and you’ll find that most people — angry weeb and translator alike — agree on this. But that’s just what she’s called in English now. It was a childish joke by a translator, and there was nothing more sinister about it than that.

On top of that, there have been twelve mainline Atelier games since this happened — twelve! — and no-one has had a problem with any of them in English since, nor has Esty been in them. So I think we can probably put that one well and truly behind us.

Letters page: Prison School

Number 2: Prison School mentioned the GamerGate controversy in its dub.

This was also stupid, and even Funimation agreed it was stupid — which is why the line was subsequently removed for the home video release. It was a stupid decision not just because it was a rare example of a translator actually trying to get a rise out of people — 2015 was the height of the “culture war” online — but because the “time-sensitive” nature of this addition immediately dated Prison School’s translation.

If someone watched Prison School in 20 years’ time — it could happen — that reference would probably mean nothing to them. I mean, this was already seven years ago, and everyone involved has already clearly admitted that it was a mistake. Put it behind you and move on.

Letters page: Maidragon

Number 3: Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid mentioned “patriarchal demands” in its dub. Not its subs. Leaving aside the fact that most of the angry weebs online prefer subs anyway — as do I, because I just tend to think that Japanese voice acting’s distinctive energy fits a lot better with anime than the western approach — and thus likely wouldn’t have come across the dub anyway unless someone shoved it in their face… this line is obviously a pisstake.

I mean, look at Lucoa. She’s a big-titted dragon woman who is perpetually doing inappropriate things with an underage boy, and she has absolutely no shame whatsoever — nor any real respect for human societal norms. Thus her mentioning “patriarchal standards” is by no means an attempt to “insert political views to own the weebs”, it’s just a stupid throwaway line in a show that is full of stupid throwaway lines. Was it poorly judged? Perhaps, but I think the context makes its intent pretty clear.

Also, again, this happened in 2017, half a decade ago.

Number 4: one guy one time bragged about how he liked localising things because he thought he could “fix” the Japanese original! Yes. Yes, he did. Unsurprisingly, he doesn’t work for the employer he worked at when he said this any more, and he doesn’t shout about things on Twitter any more. Next!

Number 5: I don’t like how Nintendo localised Fire Emblem! Well, on this one it’s just tough shit, really. Nintendo has always completely rewritten its games for overseas release, and the prominent examples that came out from Fire Emblem Fates are no exception to this rule. They weren’t the first example and they won’t be the last.

There was no political motivation in this, no attempts to “own the weebs” — it was simply Nintendo doing what it’s always done. Did you care that the dialogue in the western release of Mario Odyssey didn’t match the Japanese script? Almost certainly not. So it shouldn’t really matter here, either. Learn Japanese and play the Japanese version if it bothers you that much — it’s not as if the Japanese version doesn’t exist any more.

Letters page: Noraneko

Number 6: Sony is censoring Japanese games! Yes they are. They are being right dicks about it, too, because they seem oddly reluctant to actually put any concrete guidelines in place so developers can ensure up front that they don’t fall foul of these notoriously amorphous restrictions.

However — and here’s the important bit that you need to pay attention to — the fact that Sony is being a dick about certain types of content is absolutely nothing to do with the translators who bring you work in English. Seriously, absolutely nothing. There’s no grand conspiracy at work, there’s no collusion between translators and Sony going “hahaha, we’re going to deprive those losers of titties and watch them cry into their wanking socks!” — it’s purely on Sony.

And it sucks, but there’s a very simple way to get around that issue — buy those games on other platforms such as Switch or PC. Developers and publishers like Inti Creates and PQube know not to even bother trying to release titles like Gal*Gun on PlayStation platforms — or Xbox, for that matter, but you don’t see anyone getting mad about that, do you? Curious… — and thus it’s becoming abundantly clear which platforms you should be supporting if there are certain types of content you want.

Number 7: Steam is censoring Japanese games! See Number 6.

Letters page: Cyanotype Daydream

Finally, with regard to Cyanotype Daydream specifically, which is what all this nonsense was all about this time around — again, this was the original Japanese author and developer’s decision, nothing to do with translators. It just so happened that the decision for the developer as a whole — not just this visual novel — to go all-ages happened to coincide with the English release. The author himself has noted that, in retrospect, this was a mistake that should have been communicated more clearly beforehand.

You seem to believe that there’s a real “us and them” mentality going on between “weebs” and “translators”, when in fact it is pretty clear that the vast majority of translators working in the industry today are there precisely because they love the same media as you and I do.

Many of them will quite happily tell you all about how they could be making far more money doing medical or legal translations — but they do games, anime and manga because they simply love doing it. And people have better things to do than get into a challenging, underpaid and underappreciated job just to make some crusty-pantsed losers mad online.

Sometimes those translators are subject to platform restrictions, in which case edits have to be made to release on that platform. Sometimes those translators are subject to local laws on what content is and is not permissible, in which case, again, edits have to be made for the work to be legal. Sometimes those translators even make mistakes — and those can be fixed, as we’ve seen with JAST recently correcting a notable typo about the geographical origin of a famous folk hero mentioned in Full Metal Daemon Muramasa.

Letters Page: Muramasa

Not one of them out there — not one of them doing a good job, anyway; bad actors tend to be rooted out fairly quickly, as we’ve seen in the case of both Number 2 and Number 4 above — is trying to “own the weebs”, because they simply want more people to be able to access and enjoy these pieces of creative work that they love so much.

Basically, get over yourself, stop pissing and moaning and enjoy the releases that people have worked hard to bring to English-speaking audiences.

And if you still really don’t like the work they’ve done, there’s a very simple solution. No, it’s not piracy. You don’t have a “right” to these releases, so you don’t get to just take them for free if there’s something you don’t like about them.

The solution is this: add up all the time you’ve spent ranting and raving and irritating people on Twitter complaining about things that aren’t actually happening, and consider how many Japanese classes you could have taken in that time.

Then delete your Twitter account and go take those Japanese classes until you can confidently play the Japanese releases in quiet contentment. And then leave everyone else — especially the people working their arses off for relatively pitiful pay and a severe lack of appreciation — the fuck alone and let them enjoy their English versions in peace.

Have a lovely weekend!

Long-form love

Dear Rice,

Been interested to see the long-form, multi-part deep dives on Gal Gohan and Muramasa. Any plans to do this for other stuff?

Megan


Hi Megan, and thanks for your letter. Blessed relief after that last one, let me tell you. The simple answer is yes, we’d love to do more stuff like this. It’s something a bit different from what everyone else does, and it means that we can take our time over exploring lengthy projects, covering them in a lot more detail.

It’s all very well trying to get an opinion about something across in a thousand words — but when you’re talking about ten volumes of manga (as in Gal Gohan’s case) or hours upon hours upon hours of a multi-route visual novel (as in Muramasa’s case) it seems… prudent to go into things in a bit more detail.

Letters page: Atelier Sophie 2

Next thing I’ve got pencilled in to look at in this way is Atelier Sophie 2. I’ve actually been playing through all the Atelier games from Iris onwards as something of a personal project for a couple of years, but the holiday period last year kind of stalled my progress a bit — I was partway through Lydie & Suelle but haven’t found time to get back to it yet.

Besides Atelier Sophie 2 simply being worthy of coverage, it’ll also kickstart my own efforts to get back into the series and finally finish it off… or at least get up to date with it!

Besides that, I’ve also got a fair few manga series on my shelf that I’d like to give the Gal Gohan treatment. Komi Can’t Communicate seems ripe for this, for one, and there are plenty of others, too. If there’s anything in particular you’d be interested in seeing us cover in detail, do please let us know — after all the reason I’m covering Muramasa is because someone wrote in to the Letters Page and specifically asked us to!

Scrambled eggs

Dear Rice

Thanks for reminding everyone about 428: Shibuya Scramble! That was a wild ride. Do you know of any other games like it?

Canaan


428: Shibuya Scramble most certainly is a wild ride, and as such there’s nothing else quite like it out there. There are games which have elements in common with it though — some of which are a few years old now, so you may well have played them already.

One of the more obvious(?) ones is Virtue’s Last Reward from the Zero Escape series. While it’s got significant adventure game elements and escape room sequences alongside its visual novel storytelling, its emphasis on zipping back and forth across a flowchart in order to completely fill out the story has quite a bit in common with 428: Shibuya Scramble. It obviously lacks the “live action” aspect of 428: Shibuya Scramble, but if you enjoyed the structural side of things you’ll get a kick out of Virtue’s Last Reward if you haven’t played it already. I recommend playing it in context as part of the whole Zero Escape trilogy though.

Letters page: Root Letter Last Answer

If you like the live action presentation, meanwhile, Root Letter: Last Answer is a solid choice — with the added bonus that you can switch back and forth between the anime-style art and the live action visuals as you see fit. Again, this game features a bit more of an adventure game feel than 428: Shibuya Scramble’s unusual take on the visual novel format, but it has multiple routes that you’ll have to figure out how to get on in various ways. Or just read a guide.

As luck would have it, Root Letter: Last Answer is part of a great value visual novel bundle that our pals at Funstock are selling right now — you can nab it, its follow-up Root Film (also excellent, but a lot more linear) and otome classic BUSTAFELLOWS for a very reasonable £69.99. Click here if you fancy a bit of that action.

Also, if you’re open to things getting a bit… dark, then Full Metal Daemon Muramasa has some interesting structural stuff going on, as we talked about in this part of our overall multi-part in-depth look at the work as a whole. It’s perhaps a bit more straightforward in structure than 428: Shibuya Scramble is, but it more than makes up for that with the sheer ambitiousness of its narrative and its incredible writing.

Hope one of those tickles your fancy! I’d love to see more Sound Novels from Chunsoft, as 428: Shibuya Scramble was a great time. Or perhaps even a translation of an earlier one such as Machi, the spiritual predecessor to 428: Shibuya Scramble. I guess we’ll have to wait and see if that ever happens, though!


And there we are, done for another day and another week! I’m off to go and feed my cat (she’s been clawing my leg at regular intervals while I was compiling this column) then play some video games, and I recommend you do something very similar. Obviously don’t feed your cat if you don’t have one — although I’m sure if you have a friend with a cat they won’t complain if you feed their cat for them.

Anyway, have a lovely weekend, stop being assholes to translators, and enjoy video games, manga, anime and visual novels! We’ll be back with you once again next week. Love you!

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