A practical example of why getting mad about localisation on Twitter is quite likely to leave you looking like a right pillock

Don’t join Twitter. It’s a reactionary cesspit that completely lacks any sort of nuance in discussion, is prone to people wilfully misunderstanding things — and, as we’ll see today, has a particular issue with people flying off the handle about things they have absolutely no clue about. Like, say, localisation.

Well, I mean, you can join Twitter if you want — after all, without Twitter, you wouldn’t have been able to see the ridiculous situation that unfolded over the course of the last few days, leaving the especially toxic end of “anti-localisation” Twitter frothing at the mouth and looking like complete idiots. But then I guess you have to question whether witnessing such a grand outpouring of complete twattishness is a worthwhile use of your time — or if you’d rather do something productive, like literally anything else.

Anyway, let’s dive in to this dumb shit and have a good old giggle, shall we?

The situation kicked off on April 30 when a particular Twitter user posted the following tweet. We’ll redact their ID in an almost certainly vain attempt to reduce subsequent harassment, but a certain amount of discussion of their profile is necessary to clarify this situation.

Our hero’s bio states that they do not wish to interact with under-18s, and that they are involved with anime, manga, light novels, games and translation as a digital distribution and UX designer and developer. They do not specifically note that they are a Japanese to English translator, nor that they are working on any specific projects — though admittedly the presence of “translation” in their bio doubtless makes it easy to assume that they are, in fact, working as a translator.

This is why context is important, though. As the saying goes, assuming makes an ass out of you and Ming, and indeed this was very much the case in this situation, with people flying off the handle without even making the slightest attempt to establish how, why and where our hero had translated the ever-versatile “yabai” to “monkaS”. MonkaS, if you’re unfamiliar, is a Pepe the Frog emote commonly used on Twitch to reflect moments of high tension, usually during video games.

Without any attempts to understand the context in which this translation was provided, the anti-localisation brigade flew off the handle, claiming that our hero was “worse at their job than Google Translate”, that they were “inserting rubbish memes into their localisation work”, that “localisers shouldn’t even be a thing in the first place” and that they “made a point where we should all pirate and use fansubs instead of buying from your kind”.

Trouble is, it’s not our hero’s job to localise things professionally, but let’s come back to that in a moment.

Localisation: yabai vs monkaS
pretty やばい, bro

Things got a little more yabai in the quote tweets, ranging from our hero simply being described as a “moron” to someone who “spat in the food they served” to people who want to enjoy translated material in English. There were calls to “bully some translators”, that “these circus clowns should be put out of work so our media doesn’t get destroyed by literal middle school drop-outs” and, of course, some references to violence.

“I will skin you alive and bathe you in alcohol,” read one monkaS-inducing tweet. “I will commit a mass shooting at Funimation HQ,” read another, despite Funimation never having been mentioned at any point in the “discussion”. “Normalise sending pipe bombs to people,” added another. “I translated ‘good job, localiser’ to ‘自殺'” said yet another, with the literal reading of “自殺” (jisatsu) meaning “suicide”.

Many critics of our hero replied with the Google Translate meaning of “yabai” as “terrible” and claiming that “yabai” is “not a meme”. Unfortunately, both approaches are wrong, because “yabai” in Japanese is such a versatile slang term that it 1) absolutely is a meme (listen to how many VTubers bellow it on a regular basis, whether they’re English or Japanese) and 2) can mean pretty much whatever you want it to mean.

“Yabai” is often compared to the English words “wicked” or “sick”, which can have a variety of both positive and negative connotations that are entirely contextual. Context which, I will remind you yet again, we are still completely missing in that original tweet — and which we still didn’t have all of even once our hero explained that their translation involved “a livestream chat”. Was it a livestream chat as depicted in a light novel? A visual novel? An anime? Was it a transcript of a livestream chat that had previously happened? Or was it…

Aha. So there’s your context. The use of “monkaS” was absolutely in a context where it already makes sense, and the translation was posted as a joke to an English-speaking VTuber who had knowledge of Japanese popular culture — including the use of “yabai” as slang.

In other words, said “localisation” was not, in fact, appearing in any sort of media that people could pirate, nor was it inserting a meme into a situation that did not call for one, nor was it changing the critical meaning of a scene in any way.

Instead, it was a bunch of keyboard warriors losing their shit over something utterly unimportant because they have nothing better to do than sit on Twitter all day and harass people they’ve arbitrarily decided are “the enemy”, despite the fact that literally all the media they enjoy — when they bother to actually enjoy it rather than sitting in their piss-stained underpants staring at Twitter and creating an increasingly fetid stench in their bedroom, that is — has come through the localisation process in one form or another.

Last time I wrote about this sort of thing, it made a number of people mad. To that, I say “good”. The only people ruining the experience of English-speaking fans of Japanese popular media right now are you jackasses, jumping on every half-assed non-controversy and parroting your favourite YouTuber’s exaggerated talking points in an attempt to get Internet cred among your equally insufferable “comrades”.

You make it actively difficult to be excited about things because as soon as something cool is announced, you’re all over it like a rash, whinging about a localisation that hasn’t happened, and inevitably also bitching about “censorship”.

Stop wasting your fucking time and life on Twitter and go actually enjoy some media for once. I think the whole situation described above just highlights how stupid and pointless this endless war on localisers really is. If it bothers you that much, go learn Japanese. Offline. Quietly.

In the meantime, I’m off to go enjoy some Japanese games that these people with what increasingly appears to be the most thankless job in the industry have slaved over so that I can experience them in my native language. And then I’m going to make a specific effort to tell them what a good job they did.

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Pete Davison
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