After a long delay, the English release of Innocent Grey’s wonderful yuri title Flowers -Le volume sur printemps- is now on sale! You can pick it up here on Steam. It’s a coming-of-age tale set in a girls’ boarding school, seasoned with a dash of mystery and a heavy sprinkling of gay awakening.
Obviously I am aware of the huge amount of controversy over the state the demo was originally released in, and I understand that fans are wary of picking up the game now despite JAST’s assurances that it would be fixed; and I don’t blame them. I would be, too, if I hadn’t been privy to what was going on behind the scenes, and only had a company’s word to go by. That’s why I wanted to write this post.
Below I would like to clarify a few things and answer some questions I’ve received over the last few days. This will be focused exclusively on my experiences with the localization of the game, and I won’t be commenting on the game itself (that’s for a later blog post!).
Firstly, what was my role on the project?
In short, I was brought in as a translation checker, which means that the original script wasn’t thrown out, and my work was based off of it. However, this doesn’t mean that I didn’t retranslate where it was necessary, and I had pretty much free rein to make alterations as I saw fit.
As it is, I was contracted for 95 hours of work, but I would say that in reality I worked closer to double that. That might not sound like a lot of hours, given that it’s what some people work in a week, but this was an additional project I took on on top of my usual workload because I had a genuine desire to see this game get the release it deserved, and also because it was a personal dream of mine to work on an Innocent Grey title.
So just how much was my work?
When I came to it, the script was VERY uneven in terms of quality, with some areas needing little adjustment while others needed quite a lot of work. There were some truly awful sections where the Japanese had been completely misinterpreted, and then there were other sections, including jokes and puns, that were actually really good. (Don’t ask me how this happened – I have absolutely no idea.) As such, it’s difficult to say how much of the finished product is “my work”.
As a translator, there was an editor following on behind me to catch errors and reword awkward sentences. I would have liked to retool a lot of the sentences myself as I was going through it, but I didn’t even have time to go back and reread my own work, let alone spend precious time agonizing over sentences that were, for all intents and purposes, “correct”. If I and the editor had had more time, I would have liked to pretty up the prose, do a bit of window dressing, if you will, to make it all read a bit smoother and more daintily.
What I can confidently say I did do was make sure to check every line against the original Japanese and correct errors wherever I found them. I hope that I’ve helped bump the quality up to the level this wonderful game deserves and done justice to fans’ expectations of me.
How did you handle the different speech patterns of the characters?
Some people have asked about how I conveyed the different nuances of speech in the English translation. This is a big issue for anyone translating dialogue from Japanese to English, as Japanese speech can be “flavoured” in many different ways through the use not only of different vocabulary, but also grammatical structure, conjugation, and so on. There are also clear differences between “masculine” and “feminine” speech, which is extremely difficult to convey in an essentially non-gendered language like English. In addition, the characters in Flowers are subtly depicted, rather than being exaggerated stereotypes who you can get away with writing in an over-the-top fashion, which adds another layer of difficulty. On the other hand, a lot of their personality is also about what they actually say, rather than just how they say it, which of course shows through in the English translation anyway.
In short, it’s hard for me to answer this question, as these are things that really need to be considered before going into a translation rather than halfway through, or coming in to work with a “finished” script as I did. I did make some changes to how the characters were presented in English, for example making sure that Suoh never says “Yeah”, always “Yes”, and tweaked other usages of contractions and slang for consistency. One big change we did make fairly late on in the process, and that I lobbied for, was the decision to reintroduce honorifics. Now, on the one hand, this is kind of “cheating” for a translator, as you’re leaving a part untranslated and nothing is supposed to be truly untranslatable for someone with the right skills. However, taking into consideration the audience for this game, as well as the relationship-based content, we figured it made more sense to keep them, and felt that fans would probably even welcome it.
Looking back at Spring and going forward into Summer
I can’t say anything concrete right now, but JAST is aware that I would dearly like to work on Summer if/when the project gets the go ahead. I would like to take everything I’ve learned from working on Spring and improve upon it for Summer, and particularly focus on using a more flowery style of prose to match the game’s aesthetic and the elegant tone of the Japanese prose.
Reflecting on the release of Spring, I know that there will be people who pick out certain lines that could admittedly be better, and I know that this will convince others not to purchase the game. That’s fine. You should never spend your money on something you don’t think is worth it. But to everyone else who does make the decision to buy and play the English version, I really hope you enjoy it. The art of translation is a nuanced one, and every good translator is constantly endeavouring to improve. That’s why I can’t say I did a perfect job on Flowers – nothing I do will ever be perfect and I am always open to constructive criticism. But I gave it my all, I’m positive that I made improvements to the original script I got handed, and I’m proud to have been a part of bringing this beautiful game to an English-speaking audience.
If you have any other comments or questions, feel free to leave them in the comments section below.