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Lost in Translation - It be like that sometimes.

It is Wednesday, my dudes.

DzyDzyDino here again!

I had originally wanted to continue last week's topic of referring to oneself and others, and how that affects dialog, but this week’s chapter of Dr. Stone was… oof. So let's talk about that and related topics instead! Wheee!

This week's chapter revolved around deciphering a message written in pictures, which meant it was going to be Japanese-word-specific.

So, unless I wanted to make up my own story and dialog for 4-5 pages (which might end up having repercussions down the road if any future chapter references this), the only way to translate this was with gratuitous translator notes and just leaving it as is.

They have to figure out different possibilities for what each picture could be and then how them together into a message, which involves taking the first or first few “characters”/syllables of each word.

Semi-spoiler ahead (If you follow Dr. Stone, read this week's chapter first before reading this!)

The first picture was of plastic, and in Japanese, that’s “purasuchikku” -- easy enough. I thought there was some hope. They’re taking the “Pura” from Japanese, so we could take the “Pla” from English.

Second was a blood splat. “Chi” in Japanese. They even give an explanation about the blood and tie it into the deduction, so I couldn’t just substitute another word for blood.

Next was a guy with a long spear, and they discuss all the possibilities in Japanese too, which means I’d have to omit that all if I wanted to fake an English version of this. The word ends up as “long”, or “nagai”.

Then an engine that was used as a furnace for “warm” or “attakai.”

The final deduction ends at “Pura Chi Naga Atta” or “Purachina ga atta" which means "Platinum found.", or "We Found Platinum.", "The Platnium is Here", anything along those lines. I thought I could get away with maybe having it just be "Platinum", but there was no way I was going to warp the rest of the pictures into that without writing an entire narrative about how those images meant these words.

The plastic can stay "plastic", the blood splat could be a splattered "tick"?, and the guy holding the spear was standing still so long he went... "numb"?... and then the engine...  instead of warm, "hot"? so "PlaTiNum, Ho!"

I mean, yeah... but no. Especially cause they described a lot of why these images were exactly what they were.

This wasn’t the topic I intended for today, but it was so immediate I thought I’d write about it.

There are times when things are specifically Japanese language based, usually word game stuff (for some reason, series love to have a shiritori word game part -- the No Game No Life one was great!) which can be really difficult or impossible to do unless you take a lot of liberties.

Wordplay is always a handful, especially if a character misunderstands something because of a Japanese homonym that doesn’t exist in English. Even if a word just sounds similar in Japanese, you’re left looking for something similar. 

Sometimes you get really lucky with wordplay, as there are a lot of English loanwords in Japanese (like the aforementioned "Plastic").

I’m going through the Yakuza game series right now (I’m on the HD Remaster of 5), and there’s a character, Saejima Taiga (冴島 大河) and the motif for the tattoo on his back is a tiger. Taiga, Tiger. Don’t really have to do anything there. Meanwhile, the main character Kazuma Kiryu (一馬 桐生) has a Dragon on his back, and that doesn’t translate so well. Although he doesn’t have 竜 or 龍 (Dragon) as the reading for the “ryuu” in his name, the homonym is there.

Another game series that had a never-ending legion of wordplay names was the Phoenix Wright aka Ace Attorney aka 逆転裁判 series. The translation team for that game decided to go hard on localizing it and make all the places, names,  jokes and references English ones. They made their stylistic choice and put in a lot of hard work to make it come together, and in my opinion, they did a great job. The dialog has the same vibe as the original even if the lines are different.

As an example, there’s a character in the first game by the name of Konaka Masaru, and the writing for his name is 小中大 which is small, medium, large. They localized him to Redd White (in charge of a company called Bluecorp -- incidentally, the company he’s in charge of in the Japanese game is called Konakaruchaa, a spoonerism of Konaka and Culture)

Jokes, especially pop culture references, are another one that can be difficult to translate. You can leave them intact in which case it’s not funny, or you can localize it to something equivalent in English. There’s definitely no right or wrong to that decision and it’s on a per-situation basis, in my opinion.

If someone says “Man, he slammed that guy like Antonio Inoki!” -- is it better to swap in something like The Rock or Hulk Hogan or another wrestler? It’s not that people might not know who he is, it’s wanting the reference to have the same impact and scale as the original. If you follow wrestling or Japanese wrestling, sure, you might know who Inoki is, but your average reader would miss what was meant to be just a quick, light little joke. 

Obviously if it’s a wrestling or fighting manga, and they’re talking about specific fighters for a reason, then you shouldn’t change it straight up (in my opinion, of course.) -- probably not the greatest example, but hopefully you get the idea.

Number play, or Goro-awase, is another one that really just doesn’t translate. It’s writing out words and messages using numbers. A super easy one would be “39” (san kyuu - thank you). These pop up a lot in manga and games, sometimes as cheeky little references and easter eggs - be it a character’s ID number, or maybe someone’s stats in an RPG, phone number in a dating sim… they pop up relatively often.

At the little omake section of Danganronpa V3, the prices of things at the student store were all goro-awase in some form or another. I can’t remember all of them completely, but I think one that had to do with Monokuma ended with “4696” 4=shi 6=ro 9=ku 6=ro, for white/black (or innocent/guilty).

In Yakuza 0 you have a pager and regular get messages via goro-awase. The first one you get is 724106 which translates to 7 = na, 2 = ni, 4 = shi, 10 = ten, 6 = の (no), or “nani shiten no?” - w’sup? Whatcha doin? What’re you up to?

As you'd expect, these don't get translated often, and especially not directly. These cute little asides and Easter Eggs remain lost to most Western audiences, unfortunately. Even if a translator means to translate them all, not every last Japanese reader will catch them, so there's always the chance the translator misses one too.

Anyways, got steered off-topic this week. Got a busy day today, so I'll leave it at that for now! We’ll get back to what I wanted to talk about next week! Thanks as always for reading our scans!

You can catch my twitch channel as usual at


Streaming Puzzle & Dragons daily, along with live translating through the Yakuza 5 HD Remaster. If you’d like to chat manga/anime/Japanese/whatever, feel free to stop by!

PS: I also had a rant about Netflix I was going to post, but really didn’t want to just slap it on the front page. I’m posting it as a sticky in the comment section to this. If you want to read it or comment, you can just click on the title of the post as usual! -- trying to post but the comment section is acting up for me. I'll post it later, or maybe next week I suppose. Just ranting about badly done subtitles on Netflix/CR, and some examples. Nothing too exciting.

See you all next week!