Back to dungeoncrawling we go! This episode, we begin Fran's character arc into becoming the one and only Goblin Slayer. Delay courtesy of uni kicking everybody's asses. We'll do our best to catch up, to prevent further delay, we make no promises, yadda yadda, you get the drill by now. Shit sucks.
Interesting of note this episode is the use of RPG-lingo. The original text doesn't necessarily use lingo the same way we do here, or have the same words we use for certain things, so whether to use them or not is always a fun predicament. For example, during the one-sided murder of both Their Excellencies, Fran gets all pouty about how Teach stole her "job", or her "fight". We opted (admittedly pretty last-minute) for "kills". A "killstealer" is a pretty well-known term in English among gamers, and... is basically what Teach does here. The reason we actually went through with it is that it's not some super meta word, either. "Kill" + "steal" is a very simple compound to make, even for non-gamers, so we believe it's fine for Fran to use that word here. Just goes to show that in translations, there's always a lot of things to consider, and while it may sometimes lead to arguable treachery, less literal translations and ones that lead more into the realm of domestication can and often will lead to more fun scripts that add additional meaning for readers of the translation (more on this later). 'Tis a balancing act, especially since we sometimes have to remove similar JP lingo because there's no perfect equivalent in English and trying to forcibly keep it in the line or as an on-screen note harms or distracts from the overall viewing experience.
On the topic of treachery, at some point while we're working on the BDs, I'd like to see if we can come up with more interesting localised names for the monsters. Ideas welcome, but know that as much as I wanted to keep it, "Count Demoncula" for the big baddy this episode was shot down already. Turns out it's really hard to come up with good names for enemies and items, and if you do come with any, the dialogue may get in the way.
Similarly, skill names are also rough, though we already established that in the previous posts. This episode had a couple more fun ones, though! The one that stood out the most to me was
心話 (Sentai/Seven Seas: "Mind Reader"; Kaleido: "Mind Speak"). This skill is a pain in the ass for multiple reasons. For one, it is not really the skill to "read minds". It's more like the ability to speak your thoughts into someone else's mind, like a one-way telepathy. Incidentally and totally not relevant, but Telepathy is apparently the advanced form of this skill. Funny that.
Another fun example is the "Dark" magic in this show. There's two forms,
闇魔術. Both are basically synonyms for "darkness" in Japanese. So, how do you render these in English? "Dark" is an obvious one for the first skill, but what about the second one? "Shadow"? "Dusk"? Maybe even big-brain it and go "Moon" or "Space"? Well, the latter is out for the simple reason that these forms of magic already exist in this work (damn you, author). "Shadow" seems like a simple solution, so you'll probably be surprised to hear we actually went with "Dusk". The reason is simple: the context surrounding the introduction and exploration of the skill. During the fight this episode, Teach's mind is cooking up an explanation for how this demon can move around constantly. The answer is of course, shadows. But imagine if during that inner monologue, he kept saying "Mhm, he has no skill that allows him to pop up out of nowhere. Dark Magic, Shadow Magic, he's coming from below us... Eureka! He's coming from our shadows!". While written like this it may sound sensical, when shown on screen, it comes across as if Teacher is extremely dumb, which is not the case with the original text. Hence, we swallowed the bitter pill and ran with Dusk Magic, leaving Shadow Magic for a potential other skill should it be applicable in the future.
This is an illustrative microcosm of the issue you face when translating a magic system that goes wide rather than deep. In trying to come up with a wide variety of different skills in his world, the author has added a lot of redundant skills, spells, and explanations that don't always translate very well to other languages (or even in the original Japanese...). As a result, sometimes concessions must be made. Sometimes, you have to go with something that sounds worse overall, but sounds even worse in a couple key scenes. And sometimes, you have to go the route of the next paragraph...
Finally, we get to the idea of "additive translation", as I call it (what even is the proper term for it?). I mentioned this before on Discord and in other posts, but it's not really out there for a translation to be additive to the overall experience of the work. Be it by adding additional context or information not strictly present in the original language (like I did by adding flavour text to the Return Feather), punching up dialogue to have stronger characterisation not uncommon in written text but maybe a bit harder to convey in spoken lines or are harder to do well in the source language (like happens often with Japanese works, I've noticed), etc. In this case, punching up is the big topic of the episode. The greater demon this episode has... extremely generic lines. Much like the bandits from episode 2, the lines are really generic, but in a "generic Japanese" way. Of course, this means to do a "good translation", you have to render them in a "generic English" way in the TL. But by doing that, you also run into a major issue. Obviously, you want the viewers in your target audience to enjoy the work, but orientalism often "heightens" the experience for a lot of those viewers. Even generic Japanese sounds a lot more exciting to them in English, even if it's much worse to an editor like I am. So the question becomes, do you try to forcibly keep the Japanesy flavour (and feed into orientalism)? Render it as generic English instead? Or do you do your job as an editor and improve it by punching it up (however much you can with what you're given, anyway)? If anyone tells you there's only one answer to this question, they're full of shit. But whichever side you lean to most, it is ultimately a balancing act and makes for interesting discussion both among fans and among translators.
Thoughts like these often go through my head while editing more "boring" lines, so it's always fun to imagine and actually hear how viewers react to these ideas at a higher level than just "hurdur do your job, just write what's in Japanese but in English" like you always see monolingual mouthbreathers argue whenever there's translation discourse.
As per usual, there's a lot of fun challenges with this work, but it's also very tiring. Not tiring enough to want to drop it, but tiring in the sense of "we tried our best, and damn am I sweating now". Thanks for being patient with our erratic release schedule. We hope it's been worth the wait, and that these posts help shine a light on our translation philosophies, challenges you may not have truly realised as just a viewer, and other issues inherent to translation. And hopefully uni stops kicking all our asses soon. Wouldn't that be nice?