Yo weebs, it’s me Matt. I’m the nerd who translated like 5% of Angel Beats 1st Beat (The Noda, Hinata, Fujimaki, and Ooyama map meetings, plus the Hisako mini-arc to be specific), as well as aaaaallll of Miazora Fine Days. So what that means is I have little authority on this subject, but I’m going to talk about it anyway because I love it. Also, who cares. I exist free of the shackles of this reality.
Anyway, I think a lot of skepticism about “liberal” translations comes from misunderstanding what that “liberal” means and overall distrust with translators. People associate “localization” with “meddling,” and that’s just not how things work, so I wanted to give my unwarranted opinion on this dead horse.
With that in mind, maybe I should start with what I think translation actually is. Well first, let’s define what it’s not: Word mapping. Many people, including myself in the past, believe translation to be like solving an equation where you plug in the variables to get the solution. It’s not. It’s more akin to copying a painting with a different selection of colors. Sometimes you can get clever and mix things into just the right color you need, many times you can’t and you have to approximate as best you can. Above all, though, your goal is to create a beautiful work. You wouldn’t just toss red where brown is now, would you? Dang, no green to mix? Well throw a bit of yellow in there and go with orange. Hell, maybe even a new color altogether. Whatever you need to do to make it look pretty while respecting the original.
Now what you’re left with is not an inferior work, but an adapted version that perhaps others with a different perception of colors might now be able to appreciate. Sure, there are colors you may be missing if you’re unable to perceive the original, but that is why you prioritize making it beautiful in and of itself. Otherwise, you’re robbing that someone of an experience, a story, they otherwise could have enjoyed.
Okay, stupid allegories aside, what all this means is translation is not mathematical. Translating every single “yoroshiku” as “please treat me kindly,” frankly, isn’t gonna cut it. That sounds odd in English, doesn’t it? Well “yoroshiku” does not sound odd to native Japanese speakers, so well what you’ve done now is altered the work. Not literally, but subtextually. What this needs is a dash of creativity and, say it with me now, C O N T E X T. The same goes for just about any stock phrase in Japanese. Basically, you really just shouldn’t assume ANY word in Japanese maps to any one English word.
Now if you really wanna get fancy, start reading between the lines. Seriously understand the text, try and find the themes or messages it’s trying to say, find the symbolism, the metaphor, the words you see repeated often, and remember this as you write. This is how, I believe, a great translation comes about.
Let me reiterate once more with feeling, I’m a novice in the biz here, so I’m willing to bet my understanding of translation is going to change, but this is what I’m striving towards in my improvement. KEY is a developer that loves their literary devices and I want to bring you guys the best that Summer Pockets has to offer, so I’ll be damned if I won’t do my best to bring it all in its entirety. There’s so much to dig into and experience. I’m hyped for you guys to read Reflection Blue and I’m very proud of the work I’ve done so far, so look forward to it.
Maybe I’ll get into more specific topics in later posts, but those are my general thoughts on the kinda work I do, so for now that’s all from me.