Trails of Translation Ep. 4: Weissmann the Faceless

For the first episode in (checks last post) eight months… we’re looking at one of the most memorable scenes in the Trails series, the Weissmann villain reveal at the end of Trails in the Sky FC. This translation contains more changes than the other scenes I’ve looked at, including one important line I see as a mistranslation. It’s still faithful though, with most of the differences in the English coming out of an effort to make sure Weissmann has a delightfully wicked voice.

Now, let’s dive into the differences. The yellow column on the left is the original Japanese, the red column on the right is Xseed’s official localization, and the green column in the middle is my own semi-literal translation.

Row 2 is a very minor change, but it’s already a pretty good example of how they rewrote a lot of Weissmann’s dialogue in this scene. Instead of “I am envious of young people” (or even more literally, “about young people, I’m jealous”), they have him say “My, but do I envy you your youth sometimes.” The wording of a lot of his lines don’t match the Japanese entirely, but the sentiment is usually the same, and their translations fit the haughty voice they gave him.

In row 9 もっと晴れやかな顔をしなくては (motto hareyaka na kao wo shinakute ha), meaning “you should be making a more cheerful face” became “I would have thought you’d generally be in better spirits.” 顔 (kao), meaning face, is a very common word in Japanese, and is used in all kinds of expressions. If you see a Japanese-to-English translation that uses the word “face” left and right, that probably means the translator was being lazy or not doing a good enough job of varying their translations into matching English phrases that are commonly used.

Row 11 is a complete change. In Japanese Weissmann references how poor he is (or more accurately, how poor his fake identity is), apologizing for his inability to get Joshua an expensive congratulatory present. In English he says “So long as, of course, I’m not being too forward in doing so,” which is similarly cheeky, but different.

Not much in the way of changes in this section, just more little stuff. In row 18 あなたは調査と称して (anata ha chousa to shoushite) means “pretending to investigate” or “in the name of investigating.” The second half of the sentence says in Japanese “you were always in the regions where events occurred,” which is truncated to “no matter where we’ve gone” in English.

Row 30 is another total change by the translators. In Japanese Weissmann boasts by saying that he is not surprised a creation of his was able to piece all of this together (a more literal translation of the Japanese would be “as expected of something I made”). He does not answer Joshua’s question directly like he does in English, but it is an admission of guilt all the same. You get nothing about Joshua being created by Weissmann, which means the translators elected to give less information in this line. This doesn’t really impact the scene though, as you still get that information later on.

In rows 37 and 38 Weissmann repeats the phrase このわたしを (kono watashi wo, lit. “this me + particle indicating direct object of an action”) at the end of each sentence, with the implied verb being the 思い出した (omoidashita) from row 36 meaning “to remember.” Here is the sentence structure broken down:

(noun-qualifying clause) + この + わたし+ (+ 思い出した)
(noun-qualifying clause) + kono + watashi + wo (+ omoidashita)
(noun-qualifying clause) + this + me + (particle) (+remembered)

This is totally pompous language, and Xseed gives his speech a matching flair in English. In row 37 they added a dramatic pause after “rebuilt it” and then put “RESTORED” in all caps to give his speech some extra villainous flavor. They matched the repetition of このわたしを (kono watashi wo) by having him repeat “it was I who” in rows 37 and 38.

In row 40 the Japanese uses a trick that is difficult/impossible to replicate in English. I couldn’t figure out how to type this in the spreadsheet, so I took a screenshot off of YouTube:

When Joshua says 蛇の使徒 (hebi no shito), meaning Snake Apostles, there is small Japanese text above it saying アンギス (angisu), meaning Anguis. This small text is called furigana, and it is often employed in Japanese media to give readings for difficult/uncommon kanji. In works geared toward kids who don’t know how to read a lot of kanji yet, it will be placed above all kanji words.

This, however, is a special kind of furigana because it does not match the real reading of the characters, which is へびのしと (hebi no shito). Angisu is a custom pronunciation. When Joshua reads this he doesn’t say hebi no shito, he says angisu. By doing this the Japanese writers can use the word “Anguis” while also using kanji to convey the meaning of the term, Snake Apostle. They do this with a number of other names throughout the Trails series, including the following examples (kanji and real reading on the left, furigana denoting the custom pronunciation on the right):

身食らう蛇 (mi kurau hebi, “self-eating snake”) = ウロボロス (uroborosu, Ouroboros)

執行者 (shikkousha, translated as “enforcer”) = レギオン (region, Legion)

鉄血の子供たち (tekketsu no kodomo tachi, “children of blood and iron”) = アイアンブリード (aian buriido, Ironblood)

The Japanese tends to go back and forth between using the kanji pronunciation and the custom pronunciation. From what I remember, the Crossbell games usually read 身食らう蛇 as the custom pronunciation uroborosu, whereas the Cold Steel games usually read it as the kanji reading mi kurau hebi. The translators handled this very well by having Joshua say “The seven Snake Apostles… The Anguis.” That way we get both the term “Anguis” and what it means.

Row 49 was split into two sentences. “I was kind enough to” may look like an insertion, but it was likely added to compensate for 消さないであげた (kesanai de ageta), with the ageta being a grammatical expression meaning to do something for someone else. Row 50 was expanded to add “…you were thinking of him!” to give more context on why Weissmann believes Lieutenant Lorence would be pleased, and it fits Weissmann’s voice nicely.

Row 54 is the biggest change here, but it’s a minor one. This is all faithful while adding a little flavor to Weissmann’s text.

I was initially going to call out row 64 as a problematic translation, because Weissmann’s “little society” is not in any way an accurate way to describe Ouroboros, and all Joshua says here in Japanese is 結社 (kessha), which is the word for “Society.” Then I remembered Joshua doesn’t have his memories back yet. He probably doesn’t fully realize what the “Society” that Weissmann is referring to is, so this is actually a nice translation that conveys Joshua’s current level of knowledge.

Row 67 is a total rewrite, with only the idea of getting “back into fighting form” remaining. There is no reference to him looking “glum” in the Japanese, and all mention of instincts and rehab are removed. The basic message is still there, however.

In row 69 恐い顔 (kowai kao), meaning “scary/angry face” became “withering looks.” I like this one a lot.

In row 75, 計画に協力してくれた礼として (keikaku ni kyouryoku shitekureta rei toshite), meaning “as thanks for cooperating with our plan”, became “as thanks for the integral role you so perfectly played.” This extra spice twists the knife of the revelation that Joshua was unwittingly serving as a spy even further.

In row 81 the word 顔 (kao), meaning “face”, shows up yet again. “A more happy-seeming face” became “a bit more cheer.” “At hearing such news” is not present in the Japanese.

The translators added some emotion to row 84 by having Joshua swear. 馬鹿な事 (baka na koto), meaning “stupid/idiotic thing” became “bullshit.”

“The society abandoned you” in row 88 is the first real mistranslation I’ve found doing this series. You could argue that it’s fine, and it certainly didn’t impact my enjoyment of the scene or understanding of the plot, but I think it’s a misrepresentation of what he actually says. Saying “abandoned” makes it sound like the Society actually left Joshua to die, which we know from this scene to not be true. Here is the Japanese line broken down:

《結社》+ に+ 見捨てられた + 子供 + として + 同情 + を + 引き、+ 見事 + 保護 + されてくれた。

(kesha) + ni + misuterareta + kodomo + toshite + doujou + wo + hiki, + migoto + hogo + saretekureta.

Society + (particle indicating initiator of action) + abandoned + child + as (in the role of) + sympathy/pity + (particle indicating direct object of action) + drew on + splendidly + custody + taken in (for us)

English Translation: We had you draw on sympathy as an abandoned child of the Society, and you were splendidly taken into custody for us.

In Japanese Weissmann says that they set him up as an abandoned child, not that they actually abandoned him. That’s a pretty key difference. Once again this doesn’t break the scene, but this is arguably a mistranslation.

You can also see that the Japanese doesn’t reference Cassius directly like the English does, but that is likely only due to the habit of Japanese to leave certain things to context. You can assume he is talking about Cassius when he refers to drawing on sympathy.

“And you’d tell them EVERYTHING” in row 89 does not exist in the Japanese. Row 90 was expanded to add “We were particularly interested in your reports on…” I think both of these are positive changes that really convey how much Weissmann is enjoying himself here. I like how they have him say certain words in caps for emphasis; row 92 does the same thing.

Row 93 is changed completely, but it’s a really fun and effective line, and I support it. 暗示 (anji) means “hint” or “suggestion”, so Weissmann is essentially saying that he was exerting control over Joshua’s mind. “You were… not yourself, at the time” doesn’t convey the exact same information, but it does get the point across.

Row 99 went from 君の情報は本当に役に立ってくれた (kimi no jouhou ha hontou ni yaku ni tattekureta), meaning “your information was very helpful”, to “The intel you’ve been unknowingly feeding us has been most useful indeed!” It’s a small change, but this is another great example of the care they put into Weissmann’s dialogue, going beyond the literal translation to capture his character and give him a voice.

In row 108 Japanese Weissmann is making a suggestion to Joshua, saying that he could just continue living happily with his family by feigning ignorance. The English instead says that he has been living in feigned ignorance all this time. That doesn’t really make sense, as there was nothing feigned about Joshua’s ignorance, though I guess it could just be Weissmann wording it in a cruel way that makes it sound like Joshua has been intentionally lying to his family all this time.

I’m not going to break down all of this, because it’s a lot and this article is getting way too long, but this section showcases yet more more examples how the translators did a good job of being faithful to Weissmann’s dialogue while rewriting it to fit his voice and read better in English.

In row 111 酷話 (koku na hanashi), which literally means “cruel talk”, was translated as “that might weigh heavily on a fellow.” They could have easily just said “that would be cruel/harsh” or “that wouldn’t be easy”, but what they went with has a lot more character.

I like the “you are no such thing” in row 115 in the place of 普通の人とは違う (futsuu no hito to chigau), meaning “different from an ordinary person.”

“You surely must have noticed” in row 116 does not exist in the Japanese. It’s a good insertion because it improves the flow of the next few lines in English, and it connects nicely with the previous line. This is where Weissmann is thoroughly breaking Joshua, and this insertion makes him sound effectively haughty.

One interesting thing to note here is that in row 124, the Japanese does not actually use the word for Grandmaster, which is 盟主 (meishu). Instead Weissmann says 大いなる主 (ooinaru aruji), which is simply two words, “great” and “master/lord”, being put together. Weissmann does not use the Grandmaster’s title. The translators may have already known about the Grandmaster despite the character not being mentioned in this game, and decided to use the title here. This means that the word “Grandmaster” appears one game earlier in English than it does in Japanese.

The last change is in row 130, where Joshua’s final 僕は (boku ha) is expanded to “What do I do…?” The translators probably felt the simple repetition of “I” would read awkwardly or lack appropriate impact. You can also see that the impressive chain of ellipses in the Japanese got contracted down to just three dots, which is standard practice in Japanese-to-English translations. English readers just can’t handle that many dots, I suppose.

Conclusion

I hope this scene and this article effectively demonstrate how Xseed delivered faithful translations that went above and beyond to bring the characters to life in English. They made quite a lot of alterations to Weissmann’s dialogue, but nearly all of it is true to the original intent, and what they did add is rarely out of place. While I disagree with a couple choices here as I pointed out, I think they did a superb job of giving this scene the emotional gut punch it requires.

Feel free to tell me what you think in the comments! I’m also open to requests for what scene I look at next. I’ll likely choose something a little shorter next time…

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