Thursday, August 6, 2015

Comparative Translations of Digimon World

In late January of 1999, Bandai published the first Digimon World game, an open-world role-playing game that's maintained staying power with fans across the years. (Most recently seen in the upcoming Digimon World -next 0rder-, the opening trailer of which homages the original game and uses remixed sound taken from World's opening FMV.) For all its charm, the May 2000 English localization of Digimon World is one of the most notoriously weak in gaming, suffering from bad translation by inexperienced English speakers, punctuation and grammar errors across the board that make it difficult to interpret the game's storyline, and even game-destroying bugs not found in the Japanese Digimon World. I've always wanted to compare the Japanese and English Digimon World scripts directly; it's a delightful sandbox game that suffers from a poor translation job.

Consequently, I've had this on the backburner longer than I've been running my Let's Play of Cyber Sleuth. What follows is a complete comparison of the game's opening scenes between Japanese and English editions. The Japanese script is actually very readable even to less advanced students because it was originally written for children, so the known errors in the official translation of the game really do originate from the translation team not having many advanced English speakers on it. My translation of the Japanese script is mostly literal. When it comes to these types of special interest translations, I believe in empowering readers to understand a work on their own, rather than putting that power in the hands of the translator through a localization.

Japanese script
Jijimon: My name is Jijimon. This may be sudden, but won't you tell me a little about yourself? To begin with...do you have a Digital Monster?
>Yes
Uh-huh. Next question, then. Of day and night, which do you prefer?
>Day
I see, I see. Ohh, that's right, I forgot to ask your name!
Jijimon in Japanese uses washi to refer to himself, an old-fashioned pronoun associated with the elderly. In the Japanese script he acknowledges the abruptness of his questions, which in English come off as non sequitur.

English script
Jijimon: I'm Jijimon. Tell me about yourself. Do you have a Digivice?
>Yes
I see. Next question. Which do you like better, day or night?
>Day
Alright. What's your name?
The use of "Digivice" in English is a kind of Woolseyism necessary to get a specific point across. In Japanese the phrase "Digital Monster" isn't associated with Digimon as a franchise, because the series doesn't use it as a tagline; instead "Digital Monster" refers to the first generation of virtual pets. (What we might now call a "Pendulum," though the etymology of that is pretty fascinating.) The first wave of Digimon pets were simply called "Digimon" outside of Japan, and were also somewhat dated by the time Digimon World was translated in 2000. Instead the far more popular "Digivice" was substituted in as an alternate toy equivalent. In North America and Western Europe quest-based Digivices eclipsed the virtual pet in popularity, hence whoever was overseeing the English translation was likely given a directive to use the terminology that had a greater presence in consumer consciousness.

On a programming level, there are some obvious interface changes even in the first few lines of dialogue. The O button is the traditional confirm button in Japan while X is cancel, and in the United States this is reversed; indeed, even today Cyber Sleuth uses O as confirm and X as cancel, and the international edition of the game will likely preserve the same flip present here. (The text boxes in the English-language edition of the game aren't actually improperly centered as they may appear, this is just a display error that results from NTSC-U games having extra screen space programmed in to accommodate black borders in case the television resolution and the game resolution don't match up.) When naming your character and partner Digimon, the number of available character sets is reduced; the Japanese edition makes hiragana, katakana, and English characters available, while the English edition reduces this to just English, and removes the "Your name" header from the bottom of the interface.

Japanese script
Jijimon: Yer [Player Name]? Input the name of the Digimon you're raising.
>Bruno
Yea, that's a good name. This is the end of my questions. Well then, we'll meet up later!

English script
Jijimon: What's your Digimon's name?
>Bruno
Good Name. That's all the questions I have. See ya later!

One of the really miraculous things about Digimon World is that the localization team managed to redraw several parts of the prerendered cutscenes to make things legible for English readers. I'm not sure how exactly this is accomplished, but based on how the English text wavers in certain parts, it appears that the game is actually displaying a texture over the original Japanese scene when you watch the localized version. (In this case, the buttons are faithful; the protagonist is pressing "close [doors]" and the other button is "open.")

Japanese script
I'll be a little late.
I put pudding in the refrigerator.
Have it for an afternoon snack.
P.S. Wash your hands before eating your snack.

English script
I'll be home late tonight.
There's pudding in the refrigerator, have it for a snack.
P.S. Don't forget to wash your hands before eating.
While it may be tempting to assume that pudding is a sudden injection of British English, the original Japanese does in fact specify a pudding. Note however, that pudding in Japanese usually refers to flan. The "snack" used here also has a time connotation; oyatsu is taken around 3 PM, and sometimes equated with afternoon tea. So this note also helps set the time that the scene is taking place in.

Some locations in the English script have been renamed. The "Village of Beginnings" is called "File City" in English.

Japanese script
Jijimon: Hm...Has he awoken? It seems we were successful!
Poyomon: A human...It's just like Ji-chan said.
Protagonist: Uhhh...
Jijimon: Shh, he's waking up!
Protagonist: What...? Where...is this?
Jijimon: Welcome, to Digimon World!
Protagonist: Where? Uwaaaa!!! Ehh? What? What? W-w-what the heck are you!?
Jijimon: Digimon.
Protagonist: Digimon!?
Jijimon: Hm? Don't you already know about Digimon...?
Protagonist: Nn? Ahaha, I get it, so this is a dream? That's it, that's it.
Tokomon: It's not a dream! It's the real thing!
Protagonist: Ohh. You're Tokomon. I see, definitely a Digimon. What a realistic dream~
Jijimon: A-hem. Listen, [Protagonist]. This is not a dream. Well, it's not real either but...
Protagonist: What are you saying? How do you know my name? And just who are you?
Jijimon: I am Jijimon.
Protagonist: Ehh, so there are Digimon like that?
Jijimon: Hoho, there are more Digimon than just the ones you know of. Anyhow, this is Digimon World.
Protagonist: Digimon...World...
Jijimon: This world is not a dream nor reality, but the world of Digimon.
Protagonist: Hm, somehow, something like what you're saying...This is too real to be a dream...
Jijimon: Look behind you. This will be plain as day.
Protagonist: Huh? Ehh? Could it be...The [Digimon Name] that I was raising? That's right...! I fell inside the keychain...
Jijimon: That's right. You understand?
Protagonist: I get it, but...why am I...here?
Jijimon: Hm...So that you understand, come into our house. We'll continue this discussion there.
Poyomon refers to Jijimon as ji-chan "gramps," but could also be taken as an affectionate nickname for Jijimon here. When the protagonist says "So there are Digimon like that?" he's invoking Jijimon's name, as jiji can refer to an old man. Literally Jijimon says "Just the Digimon you know aren't everything," but this is a construct of Japanese's different grammar. The keychain the protagonist refers to is the same Digital Monster toy referenced in the opening scene.

English script
Jijimon: He arrived! It worked!
Poyomon: A human. Just like you said, Jiji.
Jijimon: Shhhh, he's getting up.
Protagonist: Huh? Where am I?
Jijimon: Welcome to Digimon World!
Protagonist: What? Yikes!
Tokomon: What's the matter?
Protagonist: Who are you guys?
Jijimon: These are Digimon.
Protagonist: Digi...What?
Jijimon: Huh? I thought you knew about Digimon.
Protagonist: I got it, this is a dream.
Tokomon: It's not a dream.
Protagonist: Hey wait, you're Tokomon. This is a realistic dream.
Jijimon: [Protagonist], this isn't a dream, it's not real either.
Protagonist: What are you talking about? Who are you?
Jijimon: I am Jijimon.
Protagonist: I don't know of any Digimon by that name.
Jijimon: There are more Digimon than you know of. This is Digimon World.
Protagonist: Digimon World?!
Jijimon: This is not a dream nor is it real. It's our world.
Protagonist: Gee...It looks too real to be a dream.
Jijimon: Look behind you, you'll see what I mean.
Protagonist: What? Is this [Digimon Name]? I remember now! I got sucked into that Digimon key chain.
Jijimon: That's right.
Protagonist: Why am I here?
Jijimon: Come to my house, I'll explain.
The English script has Poyomon call Jijimon "Jiji" rather than "gramps," interpreting Ji-chan to be a nickname.

Japanese script
Jijimon: Now then, let's continue. I am the one who called you here. This was for the sake of saving us.
Protagonist: Save you??? What from? What's wrong here?
Jijimon: The place we are at now, the "Village of Beginnings," lies at the center of the isle we call File Island.
Protagonist: Village? Here? But it's really small, and broken up.
Jijimon: Hoho....Well, originally it was a village. A long time ago, all kinds of Digimon lived here. However...It's uncertain when, but the Digimon began to lose their minds...Everyone became scattered outside of the village.
Protagonist: What do you mean by that?
Jijimon: I don't know the cause...The Digimon...became unable to use words and speak. There are still a few that can talk...Those who used to live in the city lost their memories.
Protagonist: I see, I see, that's what you mean by losing their minds.
Jijimon: Yea. It's dangerous as things are. According to tradition, the crisis of the Village of Beginnings is a crisis for all Digimon.
Protagonist: But still, there's nothing I could do. I'm no one special, right?
Jijimon: You're a specialist at raising Digimon, aren't you?
Protagonist: Ehh? ...Ohhh. Yeah, a real specialist! Hehe.
Jijimon: Didn't you notice? You're speaking with the words of Digimon.
Protagonist: Eehh, I'm not speaking normal Japanese?
Jijimon: I am hearing the words of Digimon exactly as we say them.
Tokomon: Yeah, yeah!
Jijimon: Which is to say, your love for Digimon in the real world appears to become power in this world.
Protagonist: Eh, eeehhh. You're embarrassing me.
Jijimon: This is the reason we chose you. You alone can bring the Digimon of File Island together here!
Protagonist: Oh. Ohh. Ohhh! I-I see, I get it! I understand it all now! Ahaha! Just leave it to me!
Tokomon: Yay, he'll do it, he'll do it!
Jijimon: Yes, yes, thank you. It may be selfish of us all, but we're also depending on you.
Protagonist: Hehehe. What should I do first?
Jijimon: From hereon out you and [Digimon Name] are partners, so you two should tour File Island. Then, I'd like you to find the cause for the unusual phenomenon, persuade the Digimon, and send them to this town.
Protagonist: Okay, got it. Let's go, [Digimon Name]!
Jijimon: W-wait, I still have more...
The term used for "mind" here is 心 kokoro, which can also refer to the heart, soul, or spirit of something. The official English script uses "heart." Jijimon says that the protagonist's love for Digimon becomes 実力 jitsuryoku "competency/ability" but can also be read to mean "true strength" and "force."


English script
Jijimon: I invited you here to save us.
Protagonist: Save you from what?
Jijimon: We are in File City, it's the center of File Island.
Protagonist: A city? Here?
Jijimon: Well, it was a city. There used to be all kinds of Digimon who lived here. Digimon started to lose heart and moved out of the city.
Protagonist: What do you mean?
Jijimon: I'm not sure what caused it. Digimon started losing their speaking skills. Some of them still talk, but they all forgot that they lived here.
Protagonist: That's what you meant by losing heart.
Jijimon: It's dangerous if we do nothing.
Protagonist: But why me?
Jijimon: You are good at raising Digimon, right?
Protagonist: I'm good at it, alright!
Jijimon: Don't you realize that you're speaking Digimon?
Protagonist: Huh? No way. I'm speaking plain old English.
Jijimon: To us, it sounds like Digimon.
Tokomon: That's right!
Jijimon: In this world, your love for Digimon will give you strength.
Protagonist: Thanks.
Jijimon: That's why I chose you. You can rally all the Digimon on the island!
Protagonist: What? Hmm? You can count on me!
Tokomon: Alright!
Jijimon: Thank you, you're our only hope.
Protagonist: Where do I start? 
Jijimon: Take [Digimon Name] and explore the island. Find the cause of this danger and get Digimon to come back.
Protagonist: Let's go Bruno!
Jijimon: Wait, I haven't finished yet.
Note that in this script, Jijimon's explanation is truncated and he doesn't mention a tradition/legend, nor crisis. Obviously the mention of Japanese becomes English, the mention of the protagonist's love for Digimon in reality becoming his ability here is changed to just "give you strength."

That's all for now. I may come back to this at some point for a run at translating other parts of the game. The opening scene isn't as bad as some of the later sections of the game, but suffice to say the Digimon World localization earned its reputation for being less than stellar. The game was developed right as the industry was making a leap towards higher quality translation work, but arrived just early enough to become infamous for its Engrish.

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