On July 12th, 2020, I was invited to represent JAST BLUE at FujoCon, an online boys' love convention held entirely within Discord and Twitch! Fans sent in their anonymous questions, and I did my best to sound like I knew what I was talking about!
Moderator Welcome to the QA with Molly Lee from Jast Blue! I’ll be curating the questions and fielding them over to Molly here! I have a couple questions already so let’s get started! 1. To what extent does the translator have license over localization decisions (e.g. in official English releases, a reference to Go being changed to chess in Finder, or the name of the drug in Togainu no Chi being changed from Line to Rein) -- is it translator choice, or company policy? In either instance, how do you decide what is best? I tend to think localizations are patronizing at worst or take me out of it at best, but I could be an outlier. Do you think the tendency to lean hard on localizations as opposed to explanatory translators notes is to try and reach new audiences as opposed to pre-existing fans, who will probably buy the English release anyway? Molly Lee | JAST BLUE HELLO THERE! My name is Molly Lee, and I am a professional translator for JAST BLUE. Thank you for the extremely hard-hitting question! I put a lot of thought into answering this one, and as a result it's too long for a single Discord message, so I'll need to split it up! Please bear with me ^^ First, regarding Togainu no Chi's Line to Rein, this is actually the official translation per the animated series. "Rein" means "pure" in German.
As for how to determine the extent of localization: in my experience, this is often decided by the localization team themselves. That said, there have been a few instances in which certain official localizations were so widely disliked that the games in question had to be re-translated, so sometimes companies do step in.
There's a joke going around Twitter that goes, "A translator, a fansubber, and a localizer walk into a bar, an izakaya, and a McDonald's." For simplicity's sake, I'll borrow this as my benchmark of relative "levels" of localization.
In my experience, something like 85% of a translated text is at the first level: faithful to the Japanese meaning, but using English words, phrases, idioms, etc. in a natural way.
When it comes to the second level, I'm more willing to use Japanese terms (like "randsell backpack" for example) if the story is set in Japan, and/or if the term has its own English Wikipedia page, which suggests to me that a reasonable percentage of people would know the term offhand. Sure, I could translate randsell as just "backpack" and honestly, no one would bat an eye. But when it comes to overtly Japanese stories, I like to leave some specialized terms intact to add flavor to the text or as a Fun Bonus For Weebs. Same goes for honorifics - I personally like to leave them in if I can get away with it, but sometimes the company I'm working with vetoes that decision.
I would say the third (most extreme) one is reserved mainly for jokes and/or situations in which highly specific cultural knowledge is required. Referring back to the Twitter joke, obviously "McDonald's" isn't a great 1:1 translation of an izakaya, since the two offer vastly different experiences to their clientele. But if a character's making a one-off joke about a low-quality restaurant, "You smell like you work at a McDonald's" is going to be more readily understood by a Western audience than "You smell like you work at an izakaya."
When it comes down to it, a professionally localized work needs to cater to the lowest common denominator. Not because translators' notes aren't fascinating, but because the product being marketed is supposed to be an enjoyable piece of media, rather than an analytical essay that has to be paused and scrutinized to be understood. If you're knowledgeable enough to be able to see past a localized joke for what it originally was, that's pretty damn impressive! But that localization is there for people who are below your skill level - that's probably why it can feel so patronizing, I think.
Think of it like the accessibility argument regarding subs versus dubs: some people need their media presented a certain way in order to be able to understand the same content as you, and there's no harm in that. But if it continues to bug you, there's no shame in polishing your Japanese until you can leave English translations behind altogether. Trust me, I've been there!
Moderator What a wonderful answer to a deep question! I have another hard hitter though;
2. What kind of relationships do official releases have to fan translations? I imagine antagonistic, but especially if we're talking BL games, it's hard for me to not think of the fujos toiling away at English patches back in the aughts as legends who did amazing work. Do you ever imagine a situation in which a company might buy something like a patch or fan translation in exchange for taking down the infringing content? Molly Lee | JAST BLUE It certainly isn't unheard of for localization companies to purchase fan translations and/or hire on fan translators! Even our own release of Togainu no Chi was re-edited from the original fanTL. While I can't deny that existing fanmade translations may discourage some publishers from formally pursuing a license, I would argue that fan translations serve as free advertising and often single-handedly establish a Western fanbase for those IPs. It would be disrespectful to ignore the groundwork laid by those hardworking fans. Moderator Let’s take a softer question now: 3. I've seen in Discord you were playing Lamento. Are you working for the next release or playing for fun? thank you! Molly Lee | JAST BLUE Nothing work-related, I'm afraid! In the spirit of FujoCon, I wanted to get psyched up to talk about BL with all of you, and then... I remembered I stalled Lamento partway through Bardo's route...... Plus sometimes I like to leave the game open just to listen to the soundtrack, which hella slaps. I do hope we'll have more exciting Lamento news to share next year. Moderator We all enjoy a good game and good music makes it better! We have some questions on whether we will be getting some “fluffier” games from Jast Blue?
Molly Lee | JAST BLUE Good question! I know fluffy BL is out there, but it really seems like the more hardcore content is what steals the spotlight, huh? We're all ears if you have recommendations for specific titles you'd like us to look into. No promises, of course ^^ Moderator Could we ask about your personal favorites- such as what is your favorite BL VN?
Molly Lee | JAST BLUE I admit, I'm still a newcomer to the genre, and a lot of what I know was taught to me by my more knowledgeable fujoshi senpai! Honestly, my first BL game still sticks with me to this day, and that's sweet pool. I'm truly blessed that I was asked to work on the game, because Zenya is my SON. And I loved Youji so much that when I rediscovered his voice actor in Lamento, that character instantly became my other son. I have a lot of sons. Moderator Great answer! Now- about English audio! Have there ever been considerations of a licensed VN title getting English-dubbed audio? Why or why not? What would be the hurdles of doing so? Molly Lee | JAST BLUE WELL... there IS precedent for visual novel dubbing, technically speaking... Some otome fans in the audience may remember a certain controversial release of TAISHO x ALICE Episode 1, which was completely redubbed to, uh, hilarious effect. I think the aftermath of that debacle has shown that the fans really, really, really would rather you just give us the Japanese voices, please!!! I don't think any other company is in a hurry to repeat those mistakes. Not without an increased demand, haha. Moderator LOL. Well moving on from past mistakes, we have so many questions from our audience about slow damage! I’m going to try to make one big question about it. Molly Lee | JAST BLUE Oh, exciting. I'll post my gif that I made.
Moderator For Slow Damage, the game is set to be released on December of this year. Will it eventually be translated after Lamento and DMMD or are you planning on translating it before the other two? Additionally, Will the English version of Slow Damage be released the same time as the Japanese version? If not, when should we expect the English release of Slow Damage? That part ties into the first question really
Molly Lee | JAST BLUE Nitroplus CHiRAL knows that fans are DYING for a simulrelease, or something close to it, if possible. As a result, they have specifically asked us to prioritize Slow Damage above all else. This is the reason you haven't heard much news about the other titles just yet.
We're still ironing out the exact schedule, but rest assured that Slow Damage will be the next release you see from us. (If anyone was wondering WTF is going on with Lamento's translation status - this is the bottleneck at the moment.) Moderator Ooh that leads into our next questions actually!
Are there any plans in the works to translate Dramatical Murder Reconnect? Because I would dearly love to finally be able to play it for myself and I'm sure a lot of other people feel the same. Also, what is the next N+C game that is coming out? There's been a lot of debate in my discord servers about whether it will be DMMD or Lamento next. Sounds like Slow Damage is beating out DMMD and Lamento tho Molly Lee | JAST BLUE DMMD Reconnect has been highly requested by many! It's certainly not off the table. I think we'll get a clearer answer out of CHiRAL once we see how sales fare for the next couple of releases.
Mind you, I'm not the one who sets the release schedule, but it's my understanding that fan favorite DMMD will get its chance in the limelight ahead of Lamento. N-Not that I'm jealous or anything!! Obviously they're saving the best for last, right?! Moderator I’ve had several questions asking how our fans can be more like you! Specifically- how to become a translator like you! What was your journey to becoming a BL translator like, and what was the most important factor that helped you become one?
Molly Lee | JAST BLUE When I first got started translating visual novels, I made it very clear to anyone who would listen that I wanted to work on content aimed at a female audience, plz!! and thus I started out in the otome genre. But when JAST was looking to start a BL imprint, they naturally needed to find some translators to work on the games, and I must have come to mind since I'm so obnoxiously vocal about otome and BL. So really, I owe it all to the connections I made with other localizers and the "label" I established for myself as someone who values that content above all else. I encourage other aspiring translators to consider marketing yourself in a similar highly specific fashion. And networking with other people in your field!! Don't forget the networking. Moderator Oooh, you got people all excited about DMMR and I’m getting lots of questions on dates for release for US fans but it sounds like we may have to wait on that lol! Do you think the DMMD release will include the entire original VN and the later material namely re:connect and the additional routes?
Molly Lee | JAST BLUE I didn't work on DRAMAtical Murder myself, so I'm not intimately familiar with the content of the English script, and please take this with a grain of salt, BUT, it's my understanding that the version that was translated is the vanilla version... so far. This could potentially change per CHiRAL's request. Moderator Sounds like fans need to make some....noiz....
Back to translating questions- any specific tips for becoming a good JP-EN translator- for BL or otherwise? How to get started officially with a good company? Molly Lee | JAST BLUE If you want to translate BL specifically, then some good tailored advice I have is:
1. Learn how to navigate narration that contains two different "he"s, i.e. make sure your sentences don't end up looking like "He touched his arm, and he pulled away and looked at him" where it's unclear WHOMST is doing WHATST. It can be a mess sometimes lol.
2. Get really really comfortable with translating [an emoji that represents lewd content]
Honestly, most of the time when I do work with a company it's because someone I know has introduced me to them, so I'm not the best at giving advice for cold-messaging certain publishers or anything like that. Although if you tailor your experience or skills to specifically that niche, that may work in your favor; for example, Seven Seas hired me because of my experience with LNs, and has only asked me to work on light novels. (Shout out to their first ever BL light novel, "Yes, No, or Maybe?"!) I hope that helps at all.
Moderator Great tips for our fans looking to break into the field! I think we have time for one more question if any of our attendees want to quick shoot one over to me!
Molly Lee | JAST BLUE Or I'll start asking YOU GUYS some questions, see how YOU like it. ANY YANDERE FANS IN HERE [The audience reacts with excitement] Hell yeah
that's an emoji of my own face doing the yan face, you're welcome.
[The audience reacts with confusion]
Moderator Are you a fan yourself then?
Molly Lee | JAST BLUE I love yanderes!!! I hope there's one in Slow Damage. That said, the protagonist Towa seems like he might be into some kinky stuff. Has anyone else read that little free prequel manga they put out?
[The audience reacts with intrigue]
The Professor (Erin) Oooh good current question- How has the pandemic/working from home changed how you work, if it has at all?
Molly Lee | JAST BLUE For me, COVID-19 hasn't really affected my work situation at all, since I was already fortunate enough to be working from home by default. If anything, it's mainly impacted... well... anime con appearances! I'm glad I get to relive the magic of being among friends and fellow fans through the awesome hard work of the staff behind FujoCon. Thanks again for having me! The Professor (Erin) I know I said one more but I’m going to directly copy paste this very excited question: Omfg if she has time to answer because I KNEW THE TNC PATCH WAS THE JAST RELEASE BUT I THOUGHT I WAS TINFOIL HATTING -- were those original fan translators paid if they used the patch to make the jast release? I appreciate the energy in this question Molly Lee | JAST BLUE Yes, they were! They cooperated fully with our release and were put in the credits for their contribution as well. Thank you for asking! Moderator Wonderful! Thank you so much Molly, it was great having you! Molly Lee | JAST BLUE Likewise, thank you so much for fielding these great questions! Feel free to follow me on Twitter @verdelishJP where I scream about localization all the time!!