A recent article by Rice Digital based on Laplacian‘s decision on releasing only all-ages titles sparked a debate online about the localization of Japanese media, including manga, anime, and novels, and their reception by western audiences.
According to the article, “On a seemingly daily basis, people who localize Japanese media — be it manga, anime or video games — are harassed by a small but very loud minority of individuals online, and, to be quite frank, it concerns me for the future of our favorite hobbies.”
The article in question refers to the recent case of the visual novel Cyanotype Daydream, which was released in an all-ages version in English via Steam instead of its original adult visual novel format in Japan, as a literal translation would suggest.
The article claimed that Western visual novel community harassed the translators who localized the game without fully getting a grasp of the author’s wishes. They believed that the localizers were the ones behind its “censorship”.
“… I think we’re fast approaching a point where talented localizers simply won’t want to engage with the broader community… and, in the worst-case scenario, Japanese creators won’t want to localize their work at all. Why would they, when their hard work on bringing something as linguistically complex as a visual novel to the west in collaboration with localizers is met not with appreciation, but with unjustified scorn based on, as Wasabi says, ‘surface-level characterization’ and a ‘lack of understanding of [a work’s] true appeal’,” says Rice Digital.
However, apart from the common knowledge that the content translators are not always in power when it comes to translating the works, there are instances where fans pointed out localizations reflected a translator’s “political tendencies” such as feminism, social inclusion, and advocacy for people of color.
“Look, translating is not easy. I GET IT. But fans want translations that keep the spirit of the original work, because it was the original work that they liked in the first place! Localizers that insert opinions/memes only harm the game and COULD affect the authors’ intent.”
Originally, the audience was concerned about the game’s new rating and the changes made to a character’s outfit and age. Taking that into account, Cyanotype Daydream writer Ono Wasabi wrote an explicitly long blog explaining the Steam release.
“What I want to stress,” Wasabi says, “is that although certain depictions have been cut, the essence of the story remains the same. Furthermore, the amount of additional new content far exceeds what was cut. I, Ono Wasabi, am solely responsible for the plot and the writing of Cyanotype Daydream. From the outset, I designed the story with the possibility of an all-ages version in mind, and as such I wrote it in a way that any cuts made to align with this new rating would not affect the overall narrative experience.”
Localization is the process of adapting a work’s translation to a specific country or region, taking into account the target audience’s cultural differences, and not just the language.
A successfully localized service or product is one that appears to have been developed within the local culture.
The Latin Spanish dub of Komi-san wa, Komyushou Desu ( Komi Can’t Communicate) is a recent example of a very localized dubbing, adapting Japanese jokes to Latin American culture, to a greater extent from Mexico.