Oct 13th, 2017
- Both of these questions deal with pretty much the same issue, so I’ll be answering them both together. Also, Ouma’s localization in particular is something I’ve been wanting to discuss ever since I got to about midway through Chapter 4 in particular, so now that I’m finally finished playing the localization in general, I’m glad to have a chance to talk about it specifically. I’ll be saving my thoughts on the rest of the localization for other posts, but for this one in particular, I really do want to talk about what happened to Ouma’s characterization in particular.
- First and foremost, I want to say: these are my personal thoughts on the matter. I’m not here to bash on other people’s translation work, moreso with the amount of effort and detail that’s required for translation. Some of the errors that occurred throughout the course of the localization were not, in fact, due to any one translator but were instead the natural result of what happens when you have four translators working on different characters—that is to say, a simple lack of context and communication. Several lines were drastically mistranslated simply because the translators didn’t know what the character immediately beforehand had said, and this caused some confusion in the process.
- However, it is a fact that much of Ouma’s characterization, particularly in Chapter 5, suffered as a result of this localization and the translation choices that were taken. In fact, some of the most important, plot-relevant scenes concerning Ouma were translated in a way that I believe makes it much more difficult for people who have only played the localization (and therefore had no access to the original lines) to understand his motivations, his thought process, or his character in general.
- This entire post is going to be very, very long, namely because I tried to go in-depth and double-check all the original Japanese text before writing. I’ve bolded some of the points I felt were most pivotal to what the localization messed up. Huge spoilers for the whole game are under the read more, so be careful if you’re trying to stay spoiler-free!
- Ever since the localization released, I have seen a considerable amount of Ouma hate (both in his character tags and the general ndrv3 tag), most of which I expected. After all, it was pretty much the same back when the original game was released and misinformation was everywhere. I figured that while some people will certainly dislike Ouma the whole way through, others would come to revise their opinions on him after the reveals about his character late into Chapter 5 and 6, and didn’t think much of it other than that as I continued to play the localization for myself.
- However, after finishing the last two chapters, I was… rather shocked to see certain aspects of his character were mistranslated and/or nearly left out of the game entirely. I’m sad to say that I feel like, to some degree, there’s been arguably even more backlash and confusion regarding Ouma’s character nowadays than there has been ever since the original version of the game first released in January. Back then, misinformation was abound, and while nobody knew what was true and what wasn’t without playing the game for themselves, most people took all information with a grain of salt. Since the localization is the “canon” adaptation of the game, however, that actually makes it much harder to clear up misunderstandings or to explain that yes, sometimes even professional translators can and do make translation errors.
- To start with, I want to say that there are things I like and dislike about Ouma’s translation in the localization, as there are with the localization as a whole. I feel some aspects of his speeches and behavior were covered quite well—his FTEs in particular were very well translated, as were some of his more memorable speeches. In fact, one of my favorite speeches in the entire game, the one in the Chapter 4 trial where he talks about the painful, singular truth vs. gentle lies and the endless possibilities they offer, was translated spectacularly from start to finish.
- However, there were some definite things about his overall translation that didn’t really sit well with me, even early on. Much of it has to do with tone, I think—although this is, of course, entirely subjective and depends just as much on the translator’s preferences as it does on the player’s.
- Ouma is undoubtedly bratty, childish, and has a tendency to tease and play pranks on others. But it’s also just as true that he has nearly as many very serious, straight-faced moments with lines delivered in a perfectly calm, rational fashion. This localization made it… very hard to differentiate between those two moments, in my opinion, just as it made it hard to differentiate between “mysterious brat with a childish streak that’s actually hard to hate” and “mysterious brat who is actually just downright grating and annoying.”
- To give a more specific example, a lot of the dialogue and slang that was added to Ouma’s dialogue (both in optional segments and in the overall plot) is funny maybe once or twice, but it fell rather flat to me the more it went on. “Hewwo”-speak, meme references from the last 2-6 months that are kind of funny but will quickly be outdated by next year, and other similar translation choices made it really hard to focus on what Ouma was actually saying, especially when many of these memes were thrown in all over the place even in lines where he said nothing of the sort.
- More than anything, the overall feeling and delivery of many of his lines—including lines where it’s very clear he’s being serious, rather than annoying or bratty—suffered as a result of trying to make him sound “funny” most of the time. This happened a few times during the Chapter 3 trial in particular, with Momota calling him “pure” (translated as “naïve” in the localization, which works even if it doesn’t quite capture the same feeling), and again when responding to Kiibo saying he could understand how Himiko felt when grieving over Tenko and Angie’s deaths.
- In both cases, the general feeling of Ouma’s dialogue was changed drastically. I noticed there were changes in the punctuation (lines which were delivered very calmly and quietly in the original Japanese were instead punctuated with “!?,” which I suspect also drastically changed the delivery of these lines in the dub, though I haven’t listened for myself yet), as well as changes with the entire phrasing.
- In the original, Ouma responds to Momota calling him “pure”/”naïve”/”innocent”/what-have-you with a very quiet line, almost as though talking to himself, which translates to roughly as follows: “It’s the first time that anyone’s ever called a liar like me ‘pure.’” The emphasis in the original is very clearly on the fact that, while certainly playing the part of an antagonistic force, Ouma himself disagrees with Momota’s blind belief and faith in others and refuses to let go of his own paranoia. But at the same time, he’s definitely somewhat surprised that someone would call someone like himself such a harmless-sounding word. Once again, it all ties back in with Ouma’s projected image as a force of chaos, and the reality that he’s much more childlike and hard to hate just under the surface.
- By contrast, his line in the localization was instead changed to this: “No one’s ever called me naïve before. And from Kaito? Seriously?” Not only does this drop the entire “liar” theme of Ouma’s character and dialogue in general, but the feeling is completely different from the original. The sudden finger-pointing at Momota isn’t anywhere in the original line at all, and overall, it makes it feel much more like Ouma is throwing a very childish temper tantrum over being “name-called.” If I hadn’t known what he said in the original line, I wouldn’t have thought it was a scene of any importance to his character.
- The same goes with his line to Kiibo. In the original, Ouma actually stops joking around entirely after hearing Kiibo’s claim, and asks point-blank, very blank-faced: “Saying that you can understand how she feels… So can a robot like you truly understand human emotion?” The localization line, however, was this: “So you can understand how she feels. I see… Wait! Robots can understand human feelings!?”
- This is what I mean about the localization changing the punctuation and overall tone—while it might seem like the general meaning is the same, these two lines carry a very different feeling to them, and the latter makes it seem like Ouma is definitely teasing/bullying Kiibo as usual when it’s actually one of his most serious and soft-spoken lines in the entire trial up to that point. Again, it’s generally hard to get a feeling of when Ouma is being serious at any point in the localization, or when he’s saying anything important, as pretty much all of his lines, even the very serious ones, have had their tone and feeling tweaked quite a bit.
- And now, as for Chapters 5 and 6… well, the CG error in the Chapter 5 trial was already disappointing enough (namely as it made one of the most fun and enjoyable chapters look as though it had a very dumb, gaping plot hole that didn’t exist in the original), but I can vouch that the translation of Ouma’s final speech to Momota was butchered right at the most important part in the Chapter 5 post-trial. I translated the entire post-trial to English myself quite a few months ago, so I was very excited to see how NISA would handle it—only to find myself extremely disappointed when I got there.
- When Momota asks him why he lied and said he enjoyed the killing game, Ouma gives him a full explanation of his motives that we, the players, are encouraged to pick apart and decide for ourselves whether he was lying or not. In my opinion, the most glaring disservice done to Ouma’s character in the localization is the fact that they completely ruined this explanation, not only in the Chapter 5 post-trial but in Chapter 6 as well, making his entire character an incomprehensible, jumbled mess.
- The explanation Ouma gives in his flashback with Momota is, quite literally, that he hates the killing game because of how many lives it took. He reveals that it was all a lie he had to tell himself in order to survive, but the crux of why he hated it so much was that he was horrified by the sheer loss of life. He specifically says, “人にやらされるゲームなんて…楽しい訳あるかよ…” The verb “やらされる” (also written “殺らされる”) means “to kill,” “to do someone in,” etc. So what he says, quite literally, is this: “As if there’s any fun… in a game that kills people like this…” A more natural-sounding translation would be something like, “As if a game that takes people’s lives like this… could ever be fun.”
- The localized line, however, drops the ball entirely. It was translated as follows: “H-How could a game… that you’re forced to play… be fun…?” This completely changes… well, everything about Ouma’s last words, his motivation, and his entire character. Rather than hating and detesting the game because of the number of lives it took, and because he himself is morally opposed to murder, it makes it sound as though he would be absolutely fine with the killing game (and with killing in general) if only the participation wasn’t forced.
- This… puts Ouma’s character into a considerably more negative light than the original version of the game, but the worst part of this mistranslation is that it continues into the next chapter and causes further misunderstandings. In Chapter 6, Saihara and Maki discover Ouma’s motive video in his room—which was something else I translated before the game’s release.
- One of the first and most important points about Ouma’s motive video, mentioned almost right off the bat, is that Ouma and DICE strictly forbade murder. It was one of their two most important mottos as a group, the other being to commit “fun, laughable pranks.” His video is explicit about the fact that he and DICE as a whole didn’t condone murder. And yet, incredibly enough, this line was removed entirely from his motive video in the localization.
- The original Japanese is a little lengthy here, but I will post it just for the sake of clarification: “「人を殺さない」かつ「笑える犯罪」をモットーに、愉快犯的な犯行を繰り返す”DICE"には…王馬くんと共に活動する10人の優秀な手下達がいました。”
- There really is not anything more straightforward and explicit than “人を殺さない” (hito wo korosanai), literally, “don’t kill people.” I wish I could understand where on earth NISA was coming from when the decision was made to cut this out of his motive video, but honestly, it baffles me. Again, all it does is cast his character in a much more negative light while confusing crucial facts about his character that weren’t ambiguous at all in the original.
- For comparison, the localization wrote his motive video as follows: “[Ouma] caused mayhem the world over as the leader of the secret organization DICE. And by ‘mayhem,’ I mean petty nonviolent crimes and harmless pranks… Anyway, he had ten loyal goons working for him.” Before anyone tries to state that “petty nonviolent crimes” is an equivalent substitute, it’s really not. Nowhere in the entire localization for his motive video does it mention that murder was expressly forbidden, nor that it was the group’s most important motto.
- This error actually ruins the entire point of using Ouma’s motive video as a truth bullet during the Chapter 6 trial, when Tsumugi tries to keep claiming that he was a member of the Remnants of Despair. Saihara specifically cites the video as evidence that DICE couldn’t have been related to the Remnants of Despair, because their organization “forbade murder”—but this translation doesn’t match up with the translation of Ouma’s motive video itself, or even with the truth bullet summary, neither of which mention that “no killing” was the most important motto of the entire group.
- The correlation goes from “Ouma and DICE couldn’t be Remnants of Despair because their organization expressly forbade murder” to “Ouma and DICE probably aren’t Remnants, maybe, because they like doing nonviolent crimes and pranks, I guess.” It’s much, much harder to make the argument that Ouma and DICE couldn’t be controlling a killing game when the “no killing” rule is quite literally removed from the translation, only to be brought up by Saihara as though it had already been mentioned before (and I’m guessing that was likely due to miscommunication and lack of context between different translators, just like I talked about).
- There’s really no other way to view this than as a glaring mistranslation, or else a deliberate, skewed decision taken to make Ouma seem… well, vastly different as a character in the localization than he was in the original. There’s also no longer any link between his motive video and his final words to Momota in Chapter 5.
- Before, there was a very clear link between Ouma saying that he hated the killing game because of the lives it took, and the fact that his motive video then went on to mention that he and his organization specifically forbade killing people. But now there’s no correlation at all between Ouma saying that he hates the killing game “because he was forced to participate” and his organization which does “petty nonviolent crimes.”
- The reveals concerning Ouma in the original version of the game are extremely important, considering that they help cast every single thing he’s ever said in a completely different light once you go back and replay the game. Knowing that he hates death and murder is central to understanding most of his character. It explains not only his decision to expose Maki’s talent to the group, but also casts many of his lines about how he’s “always thinking of everyone” and how he’s “acting for everyone’s sake” in a much more truthful light than they appeared at first glance. This is crucial to enjoying his character, in my opinion; as a “liar character,” the most surprising twist of all is to learn that he was telling the truth a lot more often than anyone thought.
- In the localization, however, it’s difficult to know what to make of him even after all the reveals in later chapters—namely because these reveals were so badly translated and handled that they didn’t clear up much of anything about his character. Whereas in the original Japanese text, his motive video and final speech in Chapter 5 very clearly establish that he hated death and killing on a very personal level, the localization makes it seem as though he simply hated being forced into the killing game, not the idea of the game itself.
- The fact that he and his entire group had a “no killing” motto is not brought up or emphasized in the least, other than Saihara’s single line in the Chapter 6 trial. This means that something which should have been very clearly established about his character is now only there if you squint in the localization—and even then, it doesn’t make any sense why he and DICE would forbid killing if he really just hated “forced participation” into any game in general, so the entire reveal seems to come out of left field. In other words, it’s a very, very different portrayal of his character than what occurs in the original version of the game.
- I could have dismissed the tone shifts and general mood whiplash of his translation in other parts of the game if only these very important aspects of his character had been included and translated accurately, at least. But the fact that they were either omitted entirely as a matter of choice or else directly mistranslated makes it much, much harder for me to like the direction the localization took his character.
- In general, it feels like the localization wanted Ouma to be a much harsher, crueler, and overall less sympathetic character than he was in the original version of the game. I personally believe that while it’s possible to understand him, his actions shouldn’t be excused—the original narrative already makes it quite clear that while his actions can be explained, they’re certainly not supposed to be excused or hand-waved away. He acts like a huge, god-awful asshole on more than one occasion, and regardless of whether it was for the sake of trying to stop the killing game or not, he absolutely deserves to be put in his place for the stunts he pulled in Chapter 4.
- However, skewing facts and downright omitting evidence is contrary to what a translation should do. Unlike other translation differences, being a localization has nothing to do with it. Fan translations and localizations alike should strive to avoid altering the facts to suit how a character is portrayed. When there are several facts indicating that a character is not nearly as horrible, sadistic, or selfish as they’ve made themselves out to be, I don’t think it’s right to simply leave those things out entirely.
- The fact of the matter is, Ouma is shown pretty explicitly to have been deeply, personally opposed to murder and killing—while one could argue that it’s only implied (heavily) to be the truth in Chapter 5, Chapter 6 outright confirms it. There is really no way to argue against it. And the localization completely robbed his character of those things and provided people with a very different version of events than what actually happened. Things which should’ve been spelled out are now only there if you read in between the lines, and Ouma’s overall characterization suffered pretty badly for it.
- People are free to like or dislike Ouma. I can certainly understand if they do dislike him. He’s a morally grey character, who does morally ambiguous things; he’s definitely meant to be a polarizing character. But I feel it’s unfair to provide people with only half the facts, or even complete misinformation, as this can alter and influence people’s opinions heavily.
- I have more to say on the localization as a whole, but I’ll leave that for a different post, where I can talk more about all the characters in general, as well as what I actually liked about it. I’m sorry for how long this got, but I hope people might read to the end and spread this around.
- I want people to support the localization as much as possible—games getting localized and brought to the west are rare enough as it is, so it’s a huge success that ndrv3 got a localization like this! But I feel it’s also important to keep in mind that there are definite errors in the localization too, and that the differences between the localization and the original game can often affect one’s perception of it.
- Anyway, thank you both for stopping by. I hope I was able to sum it all up, and thank you for reading.
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