Blog Archive

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Great Things Have Come out in Japan, but what about us?:

On September 21, Utawarerumo 3's visual novel/strategy game will come out in Japan.  This is the 47th best anime of all time even without Utawarerumo 3's presence, so you can imagine how big a deal getting to see the ending of this epic series would be.

Likewise, on September 30th, Da Capo III With You will come out, the next expansion to Da Capo III, which currently in America hasn't even translated the original visual novel that came out years ago, and has a pitiful anime that only covers the prologue of said original visual novel.  Since the original novel came out in Japan, they've added an R release, an X release, a Platinum Partner release, and now this With You release.  None of them, none, are available in America.  Supposedly we'll be getting some version of Da Capo III soon, but as for all the sequels and expansion packs, good luck.

Japan has already released Dimension W's final ova episode alongside the entirety of the series in blu-ray.  America has no blu-ray version and no final ova episode.

Japan has already released the 1st Zeno-related ova for Akatuski no Yona.  We're talking about a new anime episode of the 9th best manga ever, and yet still America hasn't gotten to see it.

Both Wake Up, Girls! movies were never translated.  It's been years.

Kiwaguro no Brynhildr ended ages ago, but we've yet to see the ending.  The same is true of Squid Girl, Nichijou, Sakura Zensen, Junai Sensation, Kokoro Toshokan, Kitakubu and Major.

Ranma 1/2's ovas and movies came out in blu ray years ago in Japan, for us nothing.

PapaKiki, one of the best works of literature of all time, only ever had the first three volumes translated.  The author died, but managed to write the ending to this epic series just before then, with the epilogue novel released posthumously.  He poured so much of his heart and soul into this series, the only proof of his life left to the world, but we can't even be bothered to translate it.

Even super famous light novel series like Sword Art Online aren't being translated.  SAO volume 17 is still half un-translated at a time where volume 18 is already on the shelves.  Will we ever catch up, or are we destined to fall further and further behind forever?

Of all things even Naruto, which may be the most famous anime/manga of all time, does not have all of its light novels translated.  What does it freaking take to get noticed?

Little Busters Ecstasy is still lost to the void, years after translators said they would do it.  Kud Wafter suffered an even worse fate of neglect, despite everyone agreeing that Key visual novels are the best in the business.

I'm not talking about obscure and remote series that I believe should be given more attention that only have a few diehard fans.  I'm talking about series with millions of fans all around the world that have world historical legacies in their respective genres.  Even they can't find anyone willing to bring them out of Japan to the world at large.

We're falling so far behind on so many important fronts that it's hard to believe we'll ever get to see these gems.  By the time we finally have the manpower freed up to translate these things, we'll just find that there's even more important works that have come out since then that have an even higher priority to not neglect, and by the time they're translated, still more will have come out that takes priority, and so on. . .

It's little solace that we do have the opportunity to read Baccano and Unlimited Fafnir, which are near the bottom of the best.  The same for visual novels that really don't matter much, like Hoshizora no Memoria.  It's true that there's plenty of translated Japanese entertainment still out there to consume, but invariably it isn't the best or the brightest stuff they have to offer, which makes it all feel like a waste of time even if it is technically worthwhile.

Usually someone would start with the very best art has to offer, and only work their way down once they've exhausted the best of the best.  Instead we seem to be stuck reading mediocre stuff while we wait around helplessly and hopelessly for the actual best art to finally be taken notice of.  How much longer?  If the answer really is never that's just too sad to bear.  Perhaps machine translation will advance enough to do all these projects automatically and instantaneously, someday far in the future.  So long as there's still enough time left in my lifespan to then jump on all these neglected gems, overall I guess the damage was little.  But if the machine translation revolution doesn't occur in time, I'll go my whole life knowing that I could have enjoyed much more beautiful, much truer, and much more loving works than the ones I ultimately settled upon, which is a spiritual poverty I shudder to contemplate.

Why not learn Japanese and solve the issue once and for all?  Only because Japanese is one of the hardest if not the hardest possible language to learn how to read.  Even Japanese themselves never know enough kanji to read their own literature, so how can a westerner possibly be expected to do so?  The language is so arcane and so complex that it's clear to me that I'll never be able to read it.  I only have a painfully thin grasp on spoken Japanese, and I tend to forget as many words as I recall per day, putting me on an endless treadmill of only broken expertise.  If I can't even remember the spoken words well enough, after being exposed to them for decades, it's obvious my brain just isn't tight and sharp enough to tackle the written words.  If this were any other language it would be trivially easy, but we're talking kanji here, of which there are hundreds of thousands to memorize.  Asking people to just learn Japanese themselves is too much to ask of 99.99999% of the population.  Basically all translation has to come not from Americans learning Japanese, but Japanese learning English, since English is an infinitely easier language to learn how to read and write than Japanese.  We can only depend on those born reading and writing Japanese to ever master it sufficiently to be able to translate it to other languages, and if they're not in the mood to share than the rest of us are just sunk.

You would think that with every last Japanese person being taught English in school, including how to read and write the language, there would be an enormous pool of talented translators ready and willing to convert all the Japanese entertainment into English upon release.  Why does this not happen?  They're already all bilingual over there, so why on Earth should English fans try to become bilingual over here?  It's obvious which way the water runs downhill.

If they would even go so far as to release all of their works in romanji instead of kanji, English fans could translate it the rest of the way with ease.  The fact that they don't use this infinitely superior writing system just seems to be out of spite.  Surely even Japanese people find romanji easier to read than kanji, so why haven't they switched over already?  But Japanese translators can't even be bothered to translate from kanji to romanji, they won't even meet us halfway, despite how incredibly easy it would be for them.

The insularity of Japan is maddening.  They sit on a treasure heap of the world's best games, literature and tv shows, and like a dragon just curl up contentedly keeping it out of the hands of all the world's dwarves, elves and men who'd like to share in it.  Even Goethe, who was capable of writing classic works of his own like Faust, took a large amount of his life and time simply translating Shakespeare into German.  He felt like it was more important to spread the world's greatest gems about to more new people than even his own career as an author.  How many Japanese can write works as good as Faust?  If they can't, why are they less likely to translate their works into English, which could give billions of people access to the finest art on Earth, far better than Shakespeare's plays, than Goethe was?

If I were a Japanese otaku who had been taught English in school, and thus never would have had to work a single unnecessary second to reach a point where I could translate things into English, I would have translated all of my favorite light novels into English and thus the wider world long ago.  I would have seen it as my duty and an honor and a privilege to spread the gospel to distant shores.  The insularity of the Japanese, who are content to let their classics rot in the basements of a single isle, while they go and watch translated Disney movies and Star Wars films without a second thought, is mind boggling.

Sadly, I believe the majority of Japanese literature and visual novel translators aren't even native Japanese, despite that being the million to one easier path of translation.  They're heroic Americans and Canadians and Brits and even English-as-second-language Europeans who climbed Mt. Everest and learned Japanese all alone, outside any school system, all 100,000 kanji combinations.  They're all doing their best working incredibly hard at millions of projects on their own volunteer time, but they're few, far too few, to even cover the most basic of basics, the most popular works around.  What do you expect?  The number of people dedicated and talented enough to learn Japanese from scratch, who didn't grow up learning such a difficult language, is already near zero to begin with.

When I complain about the lack of translations, I'm not knocking on some poor soul from Finland learning English and Japanese and then laboriously translating from his third language to his second for our benefits.  That person is an insanely heroic figure, a freaking Goethe.  I'm talking about all those lazy Japanese who were born learning one language and raised learning the second, who would only have to take a few hours of their time each to completely translate their entire corpus of modern art.  I've never heard of a country who didn't want their culture to influence anyone else on Earth.  We're desperate to get America's voice out to the world and spend millions doing so via all sorts of government programs.  Japan, however, even has export restrictions and won't even sell the untranslated Japanese products to people willing to buy them!

::shakes head::  I don't see this situation improving any time soon.  All we can do is wait for machine translation and pray Google can do what lazy Japanese refuse.  But it shouldn't have come to this.  There's no reason why Naruto, Little Busters and Sword Art Online, beloved by tens of millions of people worldwide, should have any trouble being translated at all.

No comments: