Trails of Translation Ep. 3: Choke on a Pom (FC and CS1)

Unlike the last two episodes where I looked at an entire scene, this time I’m going to be focusing mainly on two lines, one from Trails in the Sky FC and the other from Trails of Cold Steel 1. The first line is one of my least favorite localization decisions in the entire series, and the second is one of my favorite lines in CS1. As always, the yellow column on the left is the original Japanese, the red column on the right is Xseed’s official localization, and my own semi-literal translation is in the green column in the middle.

FC – We’re Going to be Sued!!

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Ep3-1

Rows 5 and 6 make me physically upset. That’s an exaggeration, but this is probably my least favorite thing Xseed ever did in their Trails localizations. For context, this conversation is found as optional NPC dialogue during the queen’s birthday celebrations.

As Joshua explains here, in Zemuria there is a prize called the Fuelitzer Prize given to those who have achieved excellence in journalism and the arts. Falcom very obviously derived the name from the real-life Pulitzer Prize. In the localization the translators decided to break the fourth wall by having Estelle say “Don’t you mean the Pu–”, and then having Joshua silence her by saying “Shhh! You want to get sued?” There is no such fourth wall breaking in the original Japanese script, so this is a complete insertion by the translators. This is a summary of how the Japanese goes:

Row 5: Estelle repeats the name Fuelitzer as a question because she doesn’t know what it is. This is written in hiragana, as opposed to the usual katakana used for most names in Kiseki, to emphasize that Estelle has never heard of this and probably doesn’t even realize it’s a name. The English translation could’ve been left at “The what, now?” and the meaning would’ve been the same.

Row 6: Joshua explains what the Fuelitzer prize is, devoid of any fourth wall breaking.

I realize this is just the translators having fun with some optional NPC dialogue at the very end of the game. But for a series that takes its lore so seriously, doesn’t this exchange make you wonder about the implications of Joshua’s comment? Who is he afraid of getting sued by? Is this Pulitzer Prize they’re referencing our Pulitzer Prize? Is the world of Zemuria a computer simulation, and Joshua has been aware of it the whole time? Is he trying to protect Falcom and/or Xseed? It’s very awkward, very out of place, and the best you can do is ignore that he ever said it. This might not bother others as much as it does me… but this line is immersion breaking and immediately made me wonder what the original Japanese said.

**minor spoilers through Chapter 4 of Cold Steel 1 below**

CS1 – Choke on a Pom!

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Ep3-2

Next, to balance my negativity toward the last scene, I want to look at one of my favorite lines from Cold Steel 1, where Machias says that Jusis can “choke on a pom.” That is a thing that Machias actually said. Like the reference to the Pulitzer Prize, this is a total insertion by the translators, but I actually like this one because it stays faithful to the original intent, and adds some great flavor text in the process.

For those who are unaware, a pom is a common enemy in the Trails series. They’re small, beanbag-shaped enemies that are a minor mascot of sorts for the series. Unsurprisingly, the Japanese makes no references to poms or choking on said poms in the line in question.

Let’s look at the Japanese. The basic meaning of this sentence is the same — Machias is saying he will never “accept” or admit that Jusis is not so bad of a person even though he is a noble (for context, this is in chapter 4 after Machias reveals his backstory and admits that he’s come to see that social rank has nothing to do with how good or bad of a person someone is). In Japanese he says:

あの尊大で傲慢なヤツを断じて認められるものかっ!

ano + sondai + de + gouman + na + yatsu + wo + danjite + mitomerareru + monoka!

That + arrogant + and + self-centered + guy + wo (particle marking direct object of an action) + ever + able to accept + as if!

As if I’ll ever be able to accept that arrogant and self-centered guy!

ヤツ (yatsu) literally translated means “person” or “guy” or “thing”, but is a very casual/familiar way to refer to someone, and is often used in a derogatory or critical sense. So translating it as “fool” makes sense. ものか (monoka) is an expression used to emphasize one’s determination not do something, and is kind of like saying “as if”. Machias is saying that there is no way he will ever accept Jusis as a good person.

The line is mostly rewritten to work in the joke, but it still gets the exact same point across as the Japanese, and is much punchier and funnier. Edward Bosco, Machias’ voice actor, who does a fantastic job as Machias, delivers a great read for this line as well. This line got a laugh out of me.

Before I wrap this post up, I want to look at row 7, because this line contains a phrase that is tricky to translate: 余裕がない (yoyuu ga nai). In this line Machias says that Jusis is always insulting him by saying he’s a ガリ勉 (gariben, someone who studies too much) and by saying 余裕がない.

余裕がない literally means “no extra room”, which obviously isn’t going to work literally in English. What Jusis is basically saying is that Machias spends way too much time studying/working/whatever it is that Machias does, and he comes off as overwhelmed and desperate as a result. He is working too hard and looks stressed out all the time. What the translators went with, “telling me I need to get out more,” is actually a really nice solution, because it gets the same point across: that he needs to relax and stop stressing himself out so much. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Jusis is telling Machias to “get a life.”

Conclusion

This week I looked at two examples of liberties taken in the translations of Trails games. I dislike the first one because it’s awkward and literally breaks the rules of the world, and I like the second one because it’s funny and it respects the original meaning and intent of the line. These kinds of risks are what can elevate a good translation to a great one, but it is very tricky to alter the meaning of a line in a way that will not upset fans.

What do you all think? Do you agree with my opinion on both lines? Or do you like the first one, and hate the second? Leave a comment and let me know!

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