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Regarding: Localization, May/19

Hey, everyone! DzyDzyDino here! It's been a while since I've done a blog post!

A little bit about me:

I’ve been with Mangastream essentially since the beginning? I currently translate Black Clover, Dr. Stone, Seven Deadly Sins, Boruto, Dragon Ball Super, and Hiatu-err Hunter X Hunter.

In the past, I did plenty of other series too~ Toriko, Fairy Tail, Bleach, Naruto, One Piece, Hitman Reborn, History's Strongest Disciple Kenichi, and who knows what else.

I used to blog regarding this, but when it comes to translation, there's always those that will argue for literal vs liberal translation. That’s what I wanted to talk about with this first post, as it’s a topic that I have to think about and make conscious decisions regarding for every single line of every single series I translate.

Some people feel as though translations should be straight up word-for-word, bubble-for-bubble, whereas others feel like translation should be more interpretative and context-sensitive.

That latter tends to fall into what we call localization.

The idea is that someone with no knowledge of the source culture/language should be able to still enjoy the material and still understand the feeling and characters in the same way that they were originally intended.

There's so many facets to this and I can't possibly cover them all in one post, but I'll go over some situations.

Puns and wordplay is always a pain to localize, versus just word-for-wording it. An example that jumps to mind is from the Kill La Kill anime.

The main character, Matoi Ryuuko's "signature finishing move" is 繊維喪失 pronounced "Sen'i Soushitsu". It literally translates to Fiber (繊維) Loss/Lost (喪失), which would be a pretty clunky translation, but that's exactly what the studio decided to run with.

Clunkiness aside, it has a missed meaning as well. "Sen'i Soushitsu" is a synonym for a real term and is written 戦意喪失 which means Morale/Fighting Spirit (戦意) Loss (喪失).

It means to break someone's morale or to lose the will to fight. So the idea is that she removes the enhanced "fiber" from their clothing and simultaneously makes them lose the will to fight.

In the anime she says "Sen'i Soushitsu" out loud and slashes her opponent, dropping them to their knees.

You think, "Okay, she slashed them and made them lose their will to fight."

Then the kanji for the move flashes huge on the screen, "Ahh, making them lose their power source fiber... cute pun."

Given some time and creativity, I'm sure someone could have come up with a cute play on words in English that also carried some kind of double meaning.

There's a lot of similar incidents in manga where they'll have an alternate reading for a kanji written to give it a different implied meaning, though I'll save that topic for another post. :3

Common Japanese sayings are another localization decision. Some people like to have them included and like to hear or read characters say things like:

"Just wash your neck and wait!" or "You're 10 years too early!"

If you've read a lot of manga, this is probably normal enough that you probably don't think anything of it. But if it's the first time you're reading them, you at least pause for a second.

The meaning is still clear enough, but they sound off - not a normal thing to say.

In fact if anything, they're saying cliche and incredible normal expressions, but someone reading that for the first time wouldn't pick up on that.

Is the right call to leave them as is, or to "localize" them a bit?

"You're 10 years too early to..." vs "You've got a long way to go before..." essentially mean the same thing but the latter sounds normal in English.

There's tons of other ways to localize it depending on context, how condescending it's supposed to be, the character's tone, etc.

Properly localizing also requires a lot more work as well, as you need to have some working knowledge of the subject matter being dealt with.

A while ago, I translated a one-shot that had to do with mobile gacha games.

The term 基本無料 doesn't make a lot of sense being literally translated. Literally it would be Fundamental/Basic Free. In the gaming world, it would be f2p or Free-to-Play.

There's also a term in the world of mobile gacha games known as リセマラ (risemara), which is short for Reset Marathon.

Most of these games offer a free "roll" after you complete the tutorial, and a reset marathon is to just keep reinstalling and taking that free roll over and over until you get something good to start with.

We don't use the term reset marathon in English though. For all the mobile game communities I've been a part of, it's simply known as "rerolling".

That would be an instance of localizing based on context as well. Just because the character said the word "Reset Marathon" it's not like they've made up some quirky term that nobody else uses. They're using the standard understood term for that concept, so to "localize" it appropriately, you'd translate it to the standard understood term as well.

I've been translating for around 15 years now. Back when I first started, I was a lot more concerned about making sure the phrasing matched how it was in the original, and making sure word choice matched too - even if it ended up in something that read awkwardly in English and didn't carry the same meaning.

Nowadays, it's a lot more important to me that it reads smoothly in English and that the meaning and tone are consistent with the original. It's a lot more work to localize but I think the result is a lot more meaningful, and something I'm much (and hopefully you're much) happier with.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, but I'd love to share more of what goes on behind the scenes and what decisions get made during the translation process with you!

If this is at all interesting to you, let me know and I'll keep updating!


Speaking of gaming (shameless plug) --

I also have a Twitch Channel that I stream all kinds of games on, and often do live translation of Japanese games as well!

I'm currently playing through the HD Remaster of Yakuza 3 (龍が如く3) in Japanese (as it's not out in English yet) and live translating as I play. Incidentally, the title of the game is originally Like a Dragon, or As a Dragon. The English language version translates it simply to - Yakuza.

If you're interested in the game series (It's a Yakuza-oriented GTAish game with a great plot that takes place in Japan), interested in translation, or just wanna stop by, you can find my stream at:


I stream nearly every night except Mondays and Thursdays, starting around 8PM PST streaming some mobile games, and then usually get to whatever other game I’m streaming by around 10PM PST. I hope to see you there, and hope to blog more regularly!