A Different Approach to the Translation of Ero-Scenes

This is Nishino Aki, my assistant for this article. She is not amused at what I am about to put her through.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about how I translate sex scenes (エロシーン, ero-scene) in visual novels. It is one of the least pleasurable aspects of my hobby, and I’m rather glad that I never had to deal with ero-scenes during my time as a fansubber. Ero-scenes are notoriously difficult to translate well; several inherent linguistic barriers prevent accurate and succinct translation. What I am proposing here may not be new, or radical, and by no means is it perfect, but I believe it to be a different take on the translation of the ero-scene. This system will not make the reading of an ero-scene enjoyable. An ero-scene is an inherently cheesy, silly thing to read, and nothing that I, or any other translator, can do would change that. Rather, this is simply a way for translators to cut their losses. I have always facetiously advocated that there is no such thing as an ero-scene translation that is good; there are simply those that do not suck. Leave the sucking to the heroine, I say.

(WARNING! This article is filled with boring linguistic technobabble. In addition, people might think you’re a freak if you read this at work, or at any other time, for that matter. There are no NSFW images in this article, I promise. Also, please note that this does not represent my general translation philosophy. It is an extrapolation thereof, and in no circumstances should be applied to non-ero scenes. It would be a terrible choice.)

Before we go any further, I will make two definitions:

1. ero-scene: Any sex scene. Oral, anal, vaginal, gay, straight, animals; doesn’t matter.

2. The ero-scene is voiced. This is absolutely crucial. Without voices, the entire system collapses and becomes invalid.

There is very little literature (indeed, very little discussion) within the community about the translation of ero-scenes. It may simply be that no one wishes to breach the subject. I certainly sympathize— the translation of ero-scenes is a nasty, time-consuming, brain-wracking experience. One can not help but feel slightly foolish when reading the script of any given ero-scene in a visual novel. When the translator looks, finally, at the translation he so painstakingly crafted, he can only cringe: it is inevitably riddled with awkward euphemisms and strange onomatopoeias. Current practices regarding eroge translation are both redundant and ineffective. This inefficiency stems from translators’ assumption that ero-scenes should be treated with the same sort of attention and detail that non-ero scenes warrant. We are justified in thinking so— after all, an ero-scene is text, just like everything else. Why should it deserve special attention, or be translated according to a different set of standards?

The ero-scene is fundamentally different from every other scene in a visual novel, mainly because it serves a different function. One can interpret the ero-scene as a reward for the player, a pat on the back of sorts. While it does advance the plot, and more often than not, have a few hilariously corny lines here and there, its main function is to reward and arouse. It is an excuse for the player to (finally, after a very long time) whip it out and joff. Given this mentality, I make the following assumptions:

1. Most people aren’t scrutinizing the text, especially not the dialogue, in ero-scenes.

2. They are, however, focused on the voice, and on the art.

Therefore, when translating an ero-scene, the translation should be as sparse and unobtrusive as possible. As you all may know, I am not a fan of verbosity to begin with, but I believe that minimalism is key to a good ero-scene translation. Let the player focus on the art, not on the text, which is mostly comprised of gasps, moans and panting. When there is dialogue, or a joke, or a corny line, translate it, but do not bring attention to it. I will expand on dialogue lines later in this article.

Fundamentally, Japanese and English depictions of sex diverge massively. Japanese offers a substantial competitive advantage over English when it comes to describing sex; descriptions in Japanese are onomatopoeic in nature. Consider this line from Baldr Sky -Dive 2-:

「亜季」:「はぁあああっ、あっ・・・はぁううぅうううんっ!」

If we directly transliterate this into romaji, we get:

Aki: Haaaa, aa… hauuuuun!

Needless to say, this translation is problematic for many different reasons. We note several salient features in the original Japanese that make it an acceptable depiction of sex, but not in English:

1. はぁ (haa), in Japanese, is a standard onomatopoeia for heavy breathing. The English equivalent would be something along the lines of pant or huff or puff. These, however, violate the minimalist principle I previously proposed, and, therefore, should not be used as an alternative.

2. Note that each Japanese character block has the small っ at the end. This is a Japanese description of being out of breath. The letter itself has no phonetic value, except to cut short whatever preceded it. It enhances the panting onomatopoeia, and allows the text to a better approximation of moaning. However, this feature does not exist in English, making it somewhat difficult for translators to carry over this connotation. The closest approximation we have in English is the exclamation mark, !, but we have our own set of connotations and assumptions regarding this punctuation symbol, and it is ultimately an inadequate substitute.

3. The repeated use of う in the last portion of the line is an attempt to “feminize” the moaning. From what I can tell, it is an exclusively female sound. In English, this is problematic because “u” can be pronounced more than one way, and also does not carry the connotations of cuteness that it does in Japanese.

So what do we do? If English alternatives are inferior or inadequate, do we simply stick with the Japanese transliteration? No. Rather, I am proposing that we delete it altogether. Forget the onomatopoeia. Readers will inevitably be listening to the voices, and there is no adequate textual representation of the sheer beauty and passion invoked by the work of a good voice actress. Instead of detracting from the experience by inserting intrusive, silly-sounding text, it is perhaps better that we rid ourselves of it altogether. This allows the player to focus more intensely on the art, the main focus of the scene, and the voice of the character. Text comprised mostly of panting, in my opinion, is a rather useless complement and contributes little to nothing.

This rule is especially important in oral sex scenes, where Japanese onomatopoeias become rather bizarre and translation or transliteration is even harder to justify. How are we to translate れろれろ (rerorero) into English? The transliteration is obviously ridiculous. The closest approximation, slurp slurp gulp gulp, faces the same problem as pant and huff above: it is too intrusive, and is too far away from the actual line being spoken (spoken? Can we even call a line like that “spoken?”).

We now move on to dialogue. The principles here are more or less the same as they are with regards to non-dialogue, purely onomatopoeic lines. Leave the dialogue, take the onomatopoeias out. Again, a very common example, taken from Baldr Sky:

「亜季」:「ふああっ、もう、ダメえええっ・・・ぁああ!」

Even those of you who do not speak Japanese can see the massive repetition of characters that symbolizes panting or moaning. The only (questionably) important part of this line is 「もう、ダメ!」, and this should be the focus of our translation:

Aki: “I can’t… no more…!!

Which is good, but still slightly problematic. This line makes it sound as if Aki doesn’t want it. But oh she does! Remember functional equivalence? From my experience, women do not say “I can’t take it anymore” when they are on the verge of orgasm. They say:

Aki: “Oh God… I’m gonna come…!”

Which I believe is highly controversial, as it keeps no part of the original Japanese line. It does, however, capture the essence of the scene, which is why I believe it to be more superior. Naturally, there will be those who say that I have no way of divining authorial intent, and therefore, I do not actually know what the essence of the scene is; however, I believe that, in this case, the intent is more or less able to be inferred. There will also be those who say that I set a bad precedent, and that this method of translation quickly becomes a slippery slope if we apply it elsewhere. My answer: don’t. As I have previously stated, I believe the ero-scene to be unique and fundamentally different from other text in a visual novel. We can debate that if we so wish, but that is a discussion for another time.

In an ero-scene, there are usually several key lines. Aki’s line above is indicative of one of them: the pre-orgasm line. There are usually one or two of these, and they all convey the same meaning. It is up to the translator’s discretion what English stock phrases (or not) to use in these cases. I personally frown upon repetition, but since sex is inherently a very repetitive act, I believe that, if done correctly, repetition may work to make the translation better. Think specifically about what we say when we have sex in English. Why shouldn’t we use those lines, instead of translating the original Japanese? What justifies our use of translation over equivalent transposition in this case only?

Finally, we have the third element of the ero-scene: description. This may be the hardest part of translating an ero-scene. Everything up to this point, we could take cues and hints from pornography and personal experience. We’re on our own now, and I do not know of a fail-safe way of making descriptions during ero-scenes not sound, well, retarded. I do have my own philosophy regarding this, though:

I drop all the corny, Twilight-esque metaphors. No allusions to swords, spears, bananas, cups, chalices and certainly not caves. A cave is cold and dark. Vaginas are not. (Hopefully they’re not.)

The oft-used euphemism 俺のもの (my thing), used widely in Japanese, should not be translated into English directly; it evokes a sense of childishness that is absolutely inappropriate in a sex scene… unless, of course, you’re a sick freak who plays games with prepubescent couples getting it on. Why not use slangy, non-euphemistic terms for genitalia in English? It is somewhat less artificial that way, in my opinion.

Nouns aside, we have the issue of verbs. I believe that there are many verbs to describe sex, and each verb should play its part. Depending on the nature of the scene, we should aspire to use different verbs: for more intense, violent scenes, verbs like “pound, hammer, drill” come to mind. For softer, more gentle scenes, perhaps verbs like “insert, move, wiggle (in certain circumstances.)” Never should the word “rape” be in an ero scene, even if it is a rape scene. Show, don’t tell.

A word on profanity: English is a profane language. Sex is a profane act. I think that, to a certain degree, maybe there should be some profanity in our translation of sex scenes. I caution against the use of “fuck” in sex scenes— it’s a pretty special case, and deserves special attention. If one over-utilizes it, it becomes less effective. Same goes for other profanities.

Ultimately, my proposition is this: Get Creative. Ero-scenes are inherently ridiculous, and the text is even more so. There really is no way to produce an ero-scene that reads naturally, so I say have some fun with it. Think about it in new, creative ways. Try to capture the ecstasy, the joy, the exhilaration of sex, and focus less on a direct, straightforward translation of Japanese onomatopoeias and mangled metaphors. Perhaps we can turn one of visual novel translation’s greatest headaches to one of its greatest joys.

Thoughts?

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Postscript: I originally conceived of this article at 3 AM on a Saturday morning, bored with nothing to do. I understand that it is a long, technical article on something that few, even within the community, care about. Therefore, I am especially thankful for any comments I receive, and if this article starts a discussion, I would be most glad. I am especially thankful to Sorrow-Kun for putting up with all of my vulgar shenanigans.

Baldr Sky is an amazing game. Seriously, everyone get it.

In addition, I am still researching Gonzo. I believe that I have most of the pieces in order, but I am missing some crucial evidence. Please stay tuned.

This is a work in progress. I am still not satisfied with my treatment of nouns in description. This is another reason why there needs to be more discourse on this issue.

Final question: Does anyone here actually read ero-scenes, or the dialogue in ero-doujin, or read the text when watching ero-anime? Seriously? I might as well just paste Bible verses. Works just as well, I say.

18 Responses to “A Different Approach to the Translation of Ero-Scenes”

  1. I’m certainly no expert in Japanese, nor do I play visual novels or ero-games, but I think this is a really interesting look at translation.

    Context is something that absolutely has to be taken into account with translation. This is pretty clearly a situation where culture and language form something that cannot be replicated easily somewhere else. I ran into this sort of problem a few times while learning Spanish; some of the children’s books I checked out for translation purposes seemed to have unusually serious, straight language, whereas the English would probably have been a bit more loose and playful while still being simple and easy to understand for kids. (But maybe that is just my inexperience with Spanish there. :p) There were also specific instances where maybe a particular verb form is the “correct” choice but is more the kind of thing you’d read in a textbook rather than hear actual people say.

    So, yeah, with translation while you want to get as close to what is being said as possible, there is also harm in being way too literal and by the book. There’s more to be accounted for than just words in translation, after all.

  2. I’d disagree with a number of things you’ve said, especially the wholesale elimination of moans and gasps. It creates pretty significant problems when the words and the speech come nowhere close to matching in quantity. It also creates issues when their words are cut off or elongated because of the noises they’re making. That creates a problem with consistency between lines, and above all else, I believe maintaining a consistent style and presentation should be one of the highest priorities. An alternative way to look at it is to understand that by transliterating the sound effects as they are, people immediately recognize that they’re moans or such and are signalled to listen instead of read. This is actually occasionally important, because some games (like the one I’m working on) will interrupt sex scenes to make a big plot dump on tangentially related matters. I’ll admit that that’s far from the norm though.

    I’d also disagree a bit with your assertation that sex is inherantly a profane act. Vulgar may perhaps be a better word, but there should be a very different tone with different kinds of sex, and using different styles of language is the best way to accomplish that. Loving sex should have an entirely different tone than a drunken one night stand or similar.

    Japanese onomatopoeias and their metaphors for things are rather problematic and should be wholesale discarded most of the time, I definitely agree. I’ve also noticed a certain obsession with the clitoral hood in the game I’m working on, which I find vaguely unsettling, but that’s more a factor of this particular game.

  3. I take it that the fundamental issue in this article is on translation.

    Regardless of the context for translation, I don’t think that translation should be done Grammar Nazi-style. Intepreting it in such a way loses the beauty of the original language, and though verbatim translation means that details aren’t lost, it loses the softer aspects (i.e. nuances) of the originally intended messages or meaning. English and Japanese obviously have their own aspects, and translation issues between the two are inevitable.

    @Aroduc

    “An alternative way to look at it is to understand that by transliterating the sound effects as they are, people immediately recognize that they’re moans or such and are signalled to listen instead of read.”

    I don’t agree to this, although I understand what you mean. You intepret the transliterated sound effects as cues to tell the viewers of what is to be expected; I’d say that this is obtrusive to the viewers’ attention. Why should there be cues when viewers would actually understand the premises of what they’re watching and therefore, can safely predict what’s coming, anyway? Details are details, but not all details are meant to be made known to the viewers, because not all details are desirable. Therefore, I don’t see how this is important at all, honestly. I don’t understand why “some games will interrupt sex scenes to make a big plot dump on tangentially related matters”; frankly, I have no idea what the staff are thinking.

    Erm, don’t “profane” and “vulgar” mean the same thing? We’re speaking in the context of ero-scenes (I assume that loving sex isn’t included in our discussion). I mean, if a loving sex scene is perceived by the viewers as something gratuitous, wouldn’t that eventually sum up to profane?

    I think it’s only natural that the material is not mute. Which viewer in the right mind would watch or enjo a silent ero-scene, anyway?

    @Akira

    “pound, hammer, drill”? Talk about creative? Are you taking carpentry lessons lately?

    :V

  4. I can’t say I’ve ever given much thought to sex scene translations for the simple reason that they’re not really cerebral moments. They’re visceral moments (in all but a handful of cases). I’m reminded of Iknight’s take of the manner when he wrote about the Fate/Stay Night VN. He took one notable line in particular and showed it to be pretty silly. Then again, within probability, it might have been just as silly in the original. What do you do… do you preserve the silliness or do you try to make it more respectable?

    Speaking as someone who can only access VNs through a translation, as far as I’m concerned, if it’s voiced, I want to read what the seiyuu are saying. I have no idea what the best way to go about doing that is though. Is there a train of thought that sex scenes in VNs should be translated the same way as scenes in hentai? Or are there too many differences between the two mediums?

  5. Interesting thoughts. I’ve been asked to translate a short doujin game (not story heavy, more of a nukige; of the “sick freak” sort, by the way), and the sex is definitely the problematic part.

    Still, I can’t help but feel that the idea of skipping onomatopoeias and such is a bit of a cop-out. But more importantly, it seems to me that gaijin consumers of eroge don’t approach them in a similar fashion as they do regular Western porn (which is overwhelmingly vulgar indeed, whereas eroge sex is often cute and corny). If they wanted to hear profanities and variations on “take it harder bitch—oooh yeah, omg”, they wouldn’t be looking at this medium in the first place. So I’d rather err on the side of faithfulness rather than reproduce cultural cliches that the viewers specifically sought to avoid.

    And yeah, I read the text in sex scenes (though more or less carefully depending on, erm, arousal level?).

  6. Being a member of the Akira School of Thought due to a severe case of Stockholm Syndrom, I definitely agree with the points being made here. I have read my fair share of ero-ge and ero-manga, as well as sat through numerous hentai. Onomatopoeias are distractions in my view in the latter and former, which are both usually accompanied by voice overs.

    While it is more and more that I watch anything out of Japan sans-subtitles for language practice, I definitely turn subtitles off if they become more of a distraction and an aide. If I’m watching an ero-scene (or reading one), I find streams of “Haaaaaaaa! Ohhhhhaaaa! Aaaaaaaaaa!” to be distracting and unnecessary. These are heard and the meaning is understood. Western pornography containing subtitles never translates the moans or gasps because they are audible, and it is understood that sounds of ecstasy are pretty universal in all areas of the world.

    For me, translation is about translating meaning and not words. Words have no equivalents between cultures and languages. Words have meaning, which have similar parallel meanings in other languages and cultures. As long as the meaning of a scene remains in tact, I feel it is well translated. Meaning is specific and this equates to the ability to faithfully translate without extensive personal license. However, if meaning is specific in the original language but off in the transplant language, I feel its perfectly justifiable to alter the latter to match the original’s meaning more. If you run into someone demanding there “あそこ” be serviced, you’d be pretty confused to read “lick my down there”. (Its a very basic example, I’ve never had sex in Japanese).

  7. This can be applied to all translation activities, not just ero-scenes. Far too often to I see fansubbers struggle with translation, leading to a lot of silly results. Sometimes they’re clever (GG’s translation of Nyankoi to “Mewluv”) and sometimes they’re just flat out retarded (Chihiro’s use of “GAR” in one episode of To-Love-RU). English dubbing has had this problem for decades, especially translating accents into “appropriate” western equivalents that end up coming off as more clumsy than anything else. And forget translating Japanese jokes and puns, it just doesn’t work.

    Context, I think, should dictate everything. If you’re translation a gentle scene of intimacy between two lovers (especially younger or inexperienced ones), getting vulgar and profane is probably too jarring. It just speaks to the innocence of the situation, which is a huge and important point. In quite a few ero-scenes, especially those dealing with an older or more mature male character on a younger or more innocent female character (rape or no rape), there are deliberate attempts to corrupt the innocence with vulgarity. You see the difference? The context of these scenes would then require that in case #1, childishness mght be appropriate whereas in cast #2, childishness would be appropriate to a point.

    I think it’s a bad exmaple to look at the porn industry of the US for example. Porn here is retarded. There is no attempt to create or express anything meaningful. Stories are often hackneyed and trite, if they exist at all, and the acting is the least important aspect of the actors or actresses. If the chick is hot and can take a couple of penises in her vagina, then she’s a porn star, and that’s all we can expect. Even worse, some of these “amateur” vids feature the most eye rolling dialogue from some would-be producer holding a camera. So, yeah, steer clear of western example. Even the Skinemax and Showtime soft core shows are whacked.

    As for your points, I absolutely agree on the idea of not translating moans, gasps, and panting. If you’re an adult male and can’t figure out what that is without trnaslation, you’ve got to be retarded. Besides, if you’re even otaku enough to watch / play an ero-game, you’ve probably picked up enough on Japanese language and culture to know what “haaaaaaa~” is. Don’t be stupid and go back to jerking it. When the chick says something you didn’t get, THEN read the fucking translation.

  8. I agree with TIF. Context dictates everything. Context do not change. Architects don’t choose context, they choose concept. Likewise, translators look at context and choose their approach, based on their own interpretation. As someone who’s currently doing paid translations as a side (not Japanese ergoe mind you), I generally agree with your approach, including deleting the whole moanings and pantings. But I do disagree with how you translated ““I can’t no more!” into “i’m gonna cum!”. To me that line alone don’t determine whether it makes her sound like she’s wanting or not. If the seiyuu is good, her sexual desire should be expressed through vocal performance (tone/pitch/how our voice sounds like communicates more than the literal meaning in real world anyway). Now, assuming that the girl IS experiencing pleasure and WANTS it, there’s big difference between ‘i can’t…no more’ and ‘oh god…i’m gonna cum!’. When a girl says ‘dont do it’ in west, that’s it, that’s a no no, you don’t cross a line, but it’s very asian thing for a girl to say ‘no~ don’t do it~’ in a flirting way while really wanting a guy to keep taking her clothes off. This is just a generalisation that does not apply to everyone, but is still a big cultural difference. In this case, I’d say you took too much liberty with the translation.

    Another thing I want to mention is that, while it’s important to have your own philosophy and know how you want to translate, if you’re translating for a client then you need to know how to balance properly between the literal meaning/contextualised expression. But of course, this post is about eroge, so never mind.

  9. Though I haven’t had to translate any ero-scenes yet, as a translator I can relate to the plight of having to deal with the extensive range of onomatopoeias in Japanese. I agree with you that if the game is voiced and there are lines where it’s just moaning, then transcription of that could be safely dropped. To answer your question, I do read the text in H-scenes and it does put me off sometimes.

    I’m only just starting as a translator, but part of my translation philosophy is to try to consider “How would the author have written this were he writing it in English? (assuming he was a native English speaker)” I haven’t read too many sex scenes in English works, but those that I have encountered definitely don’t have long strings of panting sound effects. If sounds were in there at all, they would probably be written out as a description rather than a transcription. Translating sound effects by replacing them with a description would be…taking quite a bit of liberty, but like all translation I think it depends on the context.

    With regards to metaphors, I know there are purists like Sorrow-kun who want to know what the VAs are saying, but… I find it difficult to prioritize preservation of Japanese sentence structure and literary devices when it comes at the cost of something that sounds good. I agree with Kurier that as long as the meaning is preserved, then it should be fine. The only issue I have is that as I haven’t read any Japanese literature outside VNs, I don’t know if this is a common thing for Japanese writers to do or if this is just VNs being wacky. If it’s just VNs, then I guess that would sort of convince me to leave them in, since it would presumably be equally strange for the Japanese audience. I find it hard to believe that so many works would use such deviant language, though.

    Anyway, that’s just my two cents. Thanks for bringing up this topic. It’s an interesting subject that merits discussion.

  10. Since pingbacks clearly aren’t working properly (I’m sure it’s something on my end), I might as well just post the link to my thoughts on the issue. The basic point I was getting at, anyway, was to look back at why the games are presented the way they are in the first place, which I think actually has more to do with “legacy” than it has to do with some sort of conscious decision that “this is how ero-scenes should be done”.

    If you think of these games as novels first, where the multimedia is there to enhance the experience, then it’s important that someone who turns off all the voices still gets the full experience in terms of what’s going on. But at the same time, if this were an actual novel, it’s not as if you’d have pages and pages of dialog sound effects. It’s just there because the text box contains a transcript of the dialog, and the audio files are matched to appear whenever the dialog appears (so that the scripters can keep things straight). If you were really willing to re-invent the wheel and re-imagine things, you might break the relationship between the audio clips and the text box and have the two complement each other.

    Anyway… late due to technology fail, but what else is new. Thanks for the interesting topic. :)

  11. First, a general comment: A lot of you are critiquing my assertion of sex as profane. I point back to my last statement: Get Creative. I once partially replaced a sex scene with Leviticus 15. (Ironic, because Lev 15 deals with the “spilling of one’s seed” in rather minute detail.)

    I am not, of course, suggesting that you should all go off and commit blasphemy. What I am saying is that there is much more freedom to do stupid shit in ero-scenes than there is in regular dialogue, which is why I wrote the disclaimer at the beginning of the article: “IT WOULD BE A TERRIBLE CHOICE.”

    It is because, not in spite of, this greater latitude of freedom afforded to us in the translation of ero-scenes that I am proposing this method in the first place. Naturally, context is king, which is why I suggested the occasional, not persistent, use of profanity. The reason why I dropped the moans and metaphors is simple: they’re cockblocks. Like Kurier and others here have said, I really don’t want to read lines upon lines of cave metaphors when I’m sitting here trying to jerk it. Seriously. Buzzkill.

    And now, comment responses!

    @Shinmaru: Indeed, there is often a very subtle nuance between what is correct, and what is appropriate. There is great harm in being literal, which is why I tend to lie on the liberal side of the spectrum. See my previous article, “My Paradigm”, for more information on that, if you’re interested.

    @Aroduc: I do also believe that one should strive to maintain a consistent style, and this may be a rather bad response to your point, but the original author clearly does not keep a consistent style either. Many a time I have played gorgeously written games, only to find that the text reverts to a 4th grade level once ero-scenes hit. Once again, I have said that the ero-scene functions differently from the rest of the text, and therefore, should be treated differently.

    You shouldn’t take my comment about sex being profane too literally. I absolutely agree that different sex scenes warrant different translation. Also, clitoral hoods are the best. :V

    @AC:

    I fap to silent ero-scenes all the time. Also, “pound, hammer, drill” are all fairly common verbs used to describe pelvic thrusting in the States.

    @SK:

    The silliness depends on what is going on. If this is a rom-com, and there’s something lulzy going on, then yeah, the sillyness should be kept. I agree with lknight: the language in ero-scenes is inherently clumsy. There’s almost no reason for us to transfer that clumsiness. There’s a difference between clumsy and silly, and clumsiness should, in this case only, be eliminated.

    If you look at the translation of hentai, it perfectly expresses what I am attempting to outline here. Most good hentai translations I’ve seen have eliminated sound effects and only keep crucial dialogue. This process is complicated in eroge by the existence of narration. The voiced stuff (i.e., dialogue, not narration) can be translated like hentai; that’s what I’m advocating.

    @mt-i:

    There’s a fine line. Loving sex is still sex, in my opinion. NO ONE says kiddy shit in sex. Not even in eroge. They may say it in a nice manner, or in a way that can be perceived as cute, but make no mistake, it is inherently mature in nature. I skip onomatopoeias because it detracts from the experience. See: cockblock, above.

    @Kurier:

    You spelled “their” wrong. Typical.

    >_>;;; just kidding. Thanks for agreeing with me. You’re definitely right about the distraction factor. Not too sure about your theory on word and meaning, though I do agree that it is meaning that we should translate, not words.

    @TIF:

    You know, I think it’s a good example to look at the US Porn industry as a benchmark. The two have remarkable parallels in dialogue, although one is much more vulgar than the other, a virtue of English being a much more vulgar language.

    @gaguri:

    Indeed, context does dictate everything. Like I conceded in the article, the translation of that line as “I’m gonna come” is highly controversial. However, I chose that translation specifically because of the context. You should hear the audio clip. I swear to god she was actually coming when she recorded that. It’s also not a cutesy “Oh no~” thing, either. And yes, I do agree that the opinion of the client is important, but at the same time, since I work mostly for myself, I dictate the style, and the client comes to me if he or she enjoys it.

    @Sensei-Hanzo:

    It’s just VNs being wacky. Reading an ero-scene in Japanese is an extremely jarring experience. Sometimes, I ask myself, “Wow, did this author really write this? It reads so differently from the rest of the work.”

    @Relentlessflame:

    I think a VN is a novel in spirit, but also takes cues from manga. In manga, all sound effects are faithfully rendered. In a VN, half of them are rendered, the other half are described. In a novel, they are all (or mostly) described. Once again, if you look at my article, I say that the eroge must be voiced for this system to work. Without voices, the system falls flat on its face and becomes useless.

  12. @Akira

    oh ok, in that case I see no problem. In my experience no translator can do the best translation without first actually understanding the project involved, and it sounds like your choice seems more appropriate to me now.

  13. @Akira:
    I certainly recognize that the game must be voiced for your proposed system to work, but I am wondering if some might consider the ability to “un-voice” the game an important feature of all these games. If that is true (I don’t know how many might feel that way), then it becomes important for the text box to accurately convey all the meaning, whether it does or doesn’t include all the sound effects.

    I suppose I can sort of buy the argument that the way sound effects are handled sort of has some manga-esque qualities, but I’m not sure if this was actually a “cue taken from manga” (i.e. it was by design), or just a side-effect of legacy, the production process, and the scripting relationship between the text and the sound file. If you’re going to throw the whole one-to-one relationship between the voicing and the on-screen text, then you might as well consider it in an even broader sense as well.

  14. I was going to write a reaction to this earlier… but then Starcraft 2 Beta came out and I’ve been living on live streams since.

    Anyways, I do agree that translating sound effects, even when they are explicitly written out in the games, should be omitted since there really is no suitable English equivalent, and given that there is an audio track to compliment the scene, it would be redundant.

    I suppose there is a real issue if there is no audio at all in which case a translator would probably be forced into translating the text since they provide crucial context that I believe is necessary. In this case, I actually think that a direct translation as to how the moans sound would be best since their English equivalents are rather dry.

  15. this is hilarious.

  16. First and foremost, I do think this is a topic oft ignored in the grand scheme of translating and discussion among translators. As someone who was translated and worked with such material (ranging from manga to anime to VN to even novels), it seems to me that the complexity of tackling the problems arising in certain non-traditional mediums needs to be more fully addressed.

    In particular, on the point of translating ero-scenes in VNs, I think relentlessflame’s comments hit the mark. The most important understanding a translator could have is the relationship between writer/artist, medium, and the reader. The case we have here involves a medium that borders both minimalistic scene descriptions (as seen from writing styles belonging to writers of most light novels) and art, capable of bothing showing action through very rough animation, but also static pictures as well. On top of all of this, you add in the sounds and voices.

    If we take a look at the evolution of non-voiced eroge to voiced eroge, it’s also arguable that the VN should is primarily an example of writing and art, with voice acting added onto the mix only later. In light of this view, I completely agree that one should localize the onomatopoeia that are more readily used in Japanese into the longer, more descriptive phrasing used in English. Dialogue, also, of course, should be translated, and left to the translator’s discretion as to the choice of wording.

    However, I think that if we had to consider the voices as being absolutely integral to the VN, we would have to consider ill-fitting situations between the localized English and its spoken companion. Here is where I stand: my opinion is that the onomatopoeia can be removed on occasion, depending on the length of the text given. However, onomatopoeia in certain situations where the amount of usage is to an acceptable amount (this would have to rely on the translator’s style and judgment), should be retained. Of course, your post doesn’t necessarily exclude this (note: Ah! I’m going to come!”), but I do think a word of caution here is necessary.

    In contrast, I do feel there is one point that should be kept minimalistic in translation, and that part is the actual dialogue. Here, I side with Sorrow-kun on the fact that I want to both see and hear as close of a translation as possible, even if it means that your audience will not necessarily understand the context in which the more literal translation is used.

    Let me provide an example: もうダメ (mou dame) in my opinion, should be kept at “I can’t-“, no matter how much the translator can guess at the intent of the author through the voice actress’s voice. The reason for this is that I see no need in particular for changing the script, even if in English we rarely use such phrasing in both real and fake (pornographic) sex. The reason for this is that the original Japanese voice is still retained in the translated version, and the reader must learn for himself how the cultural differences cause the dialogue to different between languages.

    Also, on this point, this is where I disagree with your point about English being inherently vulgar. What’s at work here is American (and perhaps, generally Western) notions of how to express oneself differing extremely widely from the Japanese version. In America, and perhaps other parts of the English speaking world, more “vulgar” terms are used because they are 1.) culturally acceptable, 2.) more direct, in the way that many people are simply more direct with their way of saying things in the West compared to Japan, and 3.) the meanings of these words don’t carry the same weight. Because we’re allowed to be more vulgar in the west in this situations, that seeps into our language.

    Now, this problem means that, unless the voicings themselves are rendered in English, we should seek the maintain the same sense of atmosphere, not mere meaning, located in the script. As people have said before, context does matter, and this is where I think knowledge of the cultural, not just linguistic, differences is truly at play.

    And, just as a final point, while I think that context matters, simply saying “context is important” doesn’t solve anything. Akira has kindly stuck his neck out there in order to present a system by which to work with translations, and I think merely arguing that all translations require context is a weaker point that fails to fully demonstrate the power of the system proposed here. While I certainly don’t agree with everything, I would like to thank Akira for providing an excellent post.

  17. this is hilarious.

    No cmon man this is srs

    I do find it somewhat funny that this is the most commented on blog post on the front page, tho.

  18. Wow, where did that come from?

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