Trails of Translation Ep. 1: Trails in the Sky FC Opening Scene

Hello everyone and welcome to a new series where I’ll be looking at differences between the original Japanese and the official English localization of certain scenes throughout the Trails series! In these posts I’m going to point out changes in the localization and try to analyze why they were made, while also occasionally breaking down the Japanese to show nuance and sentence structure. I’ve never played the Sky trilogy or Cold Steel 1 & 2 in Japanese, so I’m excited to dive into this series and see how the English versions differ. Hopefully it’ll be fun to read, and if you’re studying Japanese, you may learn a thing or two! Anyway, on to the post.

What better place to start than the very first scene of the very first game? Here is the opening scene of Trails in the Sky FC.

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Here are the first 10 lines of the scene, with the original Japanese in the yellow column on the left, Xseed’s official localization in the red column on the right, and my own semi-literal translation in the green column in the middle. I tried to make my translations representative of what the original Japanese is literally saying while also being decent English.

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The translation here is faithful, which is pretty representative of the whole scene (though there are some changes I’ll get into later).

The first line I want to look at is row 5 (which is the 4th line in the game, but I’ll be referring to lines by their number in my spreadsheet). There are a couple of differences here. The first point of interest is the way Estelle refers to Schera in Japanese — シェラねぇ (shera+nee). This nee is a suffix that is attached to the name of one’s older sister.

The presence of this suffix has the effect of immediately telling Japanese players that Schera is either Estelle’s actual older sister or someone she considers to be like an older sister, something English players will have to wait a bit longer to learn. Because English doesn’t have an equivalent for referring to your siblings in this manner, and it would’ve been awkward to force the word “sister” in there, that couldn’t really be helped. This is really a minor difference, but a great example of how limitations of the target language (the language you are translating into) can force translators into making decisions that change the amount of information conveyed to the player versus the original text.

There’s one more interesting difference in row 5, and that’s the addition of “some kinda training.” This is “kinda” a total insertion; all Estelle says in Japanese is training (修行 – shugyou), without any kind of indication of whether she knows what the training is or not. The reason they added this is likely to make her sound more childish. There are other ways the Japanese makes her sound childish, such as using hiragana and katakana (the two syllabaries in Japanese, very simple to learn) for certain words instead of Kanji (characters of Chinese origin, of which you need to know 2000+ to be fully literate in Japanese). Hiragana and katakana (collectively referred to as kana) are often used in place of Kanji in the dialogue of child characters to make their speech appear more childish and less sophisticated. Estelle still does use some Kanji, but there are a good amount of lines later on in this scene where she could have used Kanji but doesn’t. As there is only one alphabet in English, the translators have to find something else to make her speech sound appropriately childish. That’s probably where the “kinda” came from in row 5, as well as the “I’m sooooo bored” in row 6.

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Here’s the next batch of lines. In row 13 there is another insertion: “the bad monsters” for 魔獣 (majuu), which just means monsters. This is another example of the writers giving Estelle a childish flair.

In row 14 we have an example of Japanese onomatopoeia.  Onomatopoeia in Japanese is much more common and diverse in spoken language than its English counterpart. Onomatopoeia can be used not just to express sounds, but also emotions, states of being, and more. There’s hundreds of them (and they drive me crazy because I can never remember what they all mean). It is expressive language that is often used to spice up dialogue and add extra personality, so the English needs to be equally colorful. “Fit as a fiddle” works great for ピンピン, which jisho.org defines as “lively; energetic; full of life.”

In row 15 the word used for the word that Cassius uses to describe Joshua is not exactly “present”, but お土産 (omiyage), which is most commonly translated as souvenir. Omiyage is a massively important and kinda complex custom in Japan. Basically, when people go traveling they are expected to buy souvenirs (usually sweets) to bring home for their family, friends, and coworkers. That’s the reason Cassius uses the word omiyage here — because he’s just returned from a trip. Of course, he’s being very cheeky, as omiyage are not typically human beings. Omiyage can totally be translated as present, and is the right choice given we don’t have this custom in the west.

The last line I want to point out in this section is row 25. As far as I understand, よっと (yotto) is a word that doesn’t really have any meaning; it’s just a noise you make when you’re making some exertion. Cassius says it as he reaches to move the blanket to uncover Joshua’s face. I think it would be kind of similar to saying “alright” here in English. Xseed used this line to instead have Cassius say: “Now why don’t you come have a look?” Giving extra meaning to filler lines like this is something I think Xseed does quite a lot.

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The first line of interest here is row 32, one of my favorite lines in the game: “Why is my present a BOY?!” This isn’t exactly what she says in Japanese, though the intent is more or less the same. In Japanese she starts with なんなの (nan na no), which is what + question marker の, and can be thought of as something like  “what is this” or “what is the meaning of this”, asking for explanation. This is followed by この子 (kono ko), which is “this kid”, or “this boy” from this context, I suppose. So literally she is saying “What is this kid?!” with the nuance of “you’d better explain yourself.”

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Row 35 is a little different in Japanese. グッタリ (guttari) is another onomatopoeic word meaning to be limp or listless from being tired or sick. In the translation this was changed to “dead”. A more faithful translation could’ve been something like  “he doesn’t look so good”. She did just ask in the previous line if he is alive, though, so I’m okay with “dead”, and it totally fits the voice that they gave Estelle in this scene.

In Row 39 Estelle literally says the English word “roger” written in Japanese as らじゃー (rajaa). English is found all over the place in Japanese. English and other foreign loan words are typically written in katakana (so ラジャー instead of らじゃー), but hiragana was used here… for reasons I don’t understand. They just… felt like using hiragana, I guess. In English this was changed from “roger!” to “okay!” Just because it’s English doesn’t mean it’s the right English.

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Let’s break down row 46, because I really like this translation:

それはともかく……そろそろ話してもらおーか?

sore + ha + tomokaku + … + sorosoro + hanashite + moraouka?

that + (topic particle) + aside + … + soon + talk + receive the favor of

That aside… am I about to receive the favor of you talking?

そろそろ (sorosoro) is a word that means something is going to happen momentarily, or before long. For example, you can say そろそろ帰る (sorosoro kaeru) to mean you are about to go home. 話してもらう (hanashite morau) means to receive the favor of being spoken to, which she says because Japanese verbs are often expressed with the concept of giving and receiving, and she wants Cassius to do her “the favor” of talking about where the boy came from. もらう (morau) is put into volitional form, which means she’s being pushy about it, and not actually polite. A more literal translation could’ve been “So when are you going to talk about it?” What they went with, “Come clean and fess up”, is much funnier.

In row 47 we can see that once again Xseed has inserted dialogue into a line that doesn’t actually have any words in Japanese, but rather the sound of surprise, ギくッ (gikku), that Cassius makes after Estelle’s question.

In row 51 Estelle is made to bungle the word “illegitimate”, despite not mispronouncing the word for “illegitimate child” in Japanese, 隠し子 (kakushigo, literally “hidden child”). Illegitimate is harder to pronounce than its Japanese counterpart, so the translators had her say “illi-jit-mate child”, which is line with the childish voice they gave her.

Row 55 looks quite different in English but is actually pretty faithful to the intent. In Japanese Cassius calls Schera a 耳年増 (mimidoshima), which according to jisho.org means a young girl with a lot of superficial knowledge about sex (and devious things). There’s no clean equivalent for this in English, but “nonsense” actually works really well. The “going to get me into trouble one of these days” is an insertion, likely to make up for the character and nuance lost by not having an equivalent word for 耳年増. Just “For heaven’s sake, that girl and her nonsense” alone wouldn’t have had quite the same impact.

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Not much to talk about here. In row 57 Cassius is technically using たりする (tari suru) to say he doesn’t know Joshua’s name yet, among other unspecified things (such as where he is from, etc.). In English it just became “And I don’t even know his name.”

In row 68 家 (ie) meaning “home” becomes “humble home”, and they added “you’ll be safe here”, which was probably pulled from 安心 (anshin), meaning to “relax” and have “peace of mind”.

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成り行き (nariyuki) in row 75 can be translated as “course of events” or “the way things progressed”, so “things just worked out that way” makes sense.

Row 77 is an interesting translation. あなたは自分が何をしてるのか literally means “do you understand what you’re doing…?”, but the English makes it “do you have any idea what you’re getting yourself involved in…?” As a result this line reveals a little more information in English than it does in the original Japanese, and the translators couldn’t have made this decision without knowing where the story is going. It’s possible that a Japanese person would read that line and get the same implication, I don’t know. But the English spells it out.

In row 80 you can see the English is significantly longer than the Japanese. In Japanese Estelle uses the verb ひびく (hibiku), which is defined as “to resound; to reverberate; to have an effect”. The kanji for the word is 響, which means echo. She is using ケガにひびく (kega ni hibiku) in combination with the previous line to say that shouting will have an effect on the injury. In the translation what exactly will have an effect on the injury is spelled out, and the line is made into nicer English.

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Row 92 is interesting for a couple of reasons. In Japanese Joshua says 君の行動の方がよけいに怪我に響くんじゃ (kimi no koudou no hou ga yokei ni kega ni hibiku n ja). 君の行動 means “your actions/behavior”, and の方が is a comparative phrase that is used here to say that Estelle jumping on the bed is going to have more of an effect on the injury more than Joshua’s yelling will. The じゃ at the end is short for じゃない (janai), which normally means “not”, but can be used casually for emphasis/to ask for agreement. Kind of like saying “you jumping on me will have more of an effect, won’t it?!” In the official translation 君の行動 (your actions) is spelled out as “you jumping on me” and 怪我に響く (have an effect on the injury) is made into “isn’t going to make me heal any faster”.

The other thing I want to point out in this line is the use of kanji in the phrase 怪我に響く (kega ni hibiku), once again meaning “to have an effect on the injury”. This is the same phrase that Estelle uses in row 80, but when used in her line it was written as ケガにひびく (kega ni hibiku), without any kanji. This is a good example of what I was talking about earlier when I said that some of Estelle’s dialogue omits kanji in order to make her appear more childish. Joshua uses the kanji because, despite being the same age, he is supposed to come across as more sophisticated.

Estelle’s “I don’t hear yelling again, do I?” in row 93 is entirely different in Japanese, though the basic idea remains the same. The Japanese is なんか言った? (nanka itta) which literally means “did you say something?” She is pretending that she didn’t hear him, and by repeating the phrase in row 95 she is clearly letting him know she doesn’t care what he has to say on this point and is not listening. I like the translation a lot, and it works great in row 95 when they place a pause after “Do I hear” and then put “yelling” alone in all caps rather than the entire sentence. That’s an ingenious solution that makes the line appropriately funny, and looks a heck of a lot better than what I put in my semi-literal translation column!

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And here’s the end of the scene. In row 102 “You know, that thing people call you?” is an insertion. It doesn’t come from nowhere, however. At the beginning of the sentence Estelle repeats the word 名前 (namae), meaning name, along with the emphasis marker よ (yo), which is typically attached to new information or just something you want to emphasize to the person you’re speaking to. It’s kind of like saying “your name, man, your name.” (Not that 11-year-old Estelle would use the word “man” here, but I’m just using it to show emphasis). The translators expanded this idea to make it funnier, then moved the second half of the sentence, “I told you mine already” into row 103, which is how that line ended up so much longer in English.

A similar thing happened in row 106 and row 107. The translators expanded まあ、道理だな (maa, douri da na), which can be thought of as “well, seems logical”, into “It seems like the logical thing to do if you ask me”, and then moved the second half of row 106 into row 107. The second half of 106 actually replaces the original 107, which is left out of the English entirely. The translators decided the original 107, where Cassius asks Joshua for his name, was inessential, and that they’d rather expand the two halves of 106.

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In conclusion, this is a very faithful translation, with some small changes made for voice and others made out of necessity because of the differences between Japanese and English. This was fun to write, and I hope it was an interesting read. One thing I want this series to do is shed light on the issues translators face on a regular basis, and why some changes have to be made. The most faithful translation is not always the most literal one. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to criticize changes I disagree with, however. But I’m guessing I’ll be almost entirely positive toward Xseed’s translations.

I’m not sure what scene I’m going to look at next — I might just do the next scene in this game, or I might jump to somewhere else in the series entirely. I’d be willing to consider requests as well. Until next time!

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