Welcome back to Trails of Translation, a series where I analyze the official localizations for the Legend of Heroes: Trails series and maybe teach some Japanese while I’m at it. In this episode we’re looking at the introduction to one of my favorite characters in the series, Kevin Graham. I want to showcase how Xseed went about crafting Kevin’s voice in English and went beyond literal translations to represent him faithfully. Let’s get to it!
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.
Much of Estelle’s dialogue was spruced up for added emotion, as you can see in Row 4. The “He said… He SAID that…” is an embellishment of the って (tte), which is short for と言った (to itta), meaning “said.” It would have been easy to write “he said he wishes he’d never met me,” and leave it at that, but they put in extra effort to make sure the sorrow and the shock behind her words was felt by the player.
In row 6 we have Kevin’s first line, in which he says アカン、アカンな, (akan, akan na) immediately letting you know that he speaks Kansai dialect. Kansai dialect, or Kansai-ben, is one of the most prevalent dialects in Japan, and is spoken in the namesake Kansai region, which encompasses major cities such as Osaka, Kyoto, and Kobe. Pronunciation and vocabulary can be quite different from the standard Tokyo dialect, and it carries stereotypes of more casual and rambunctious personalities, which many believe to have originated from the region’s history of trade. It is famously used by many comedians in Japan, and it is often used in anime for fun and boisterous characters. The choice of dialect immediately gives you a hint of what kind of personality Kevin will have.
When a character speaks with a dialect in the original text the translator has to make a choice: do I give the character an accent, or try to represent their personality in other ways? Is having an accent important to their character? Oftentimes characters who speak Kansai dialect are given a United States Southern, but that comes with its own collection of stereotypes that may not apply to what Falcom is trying to convey with the way Kevin speaks. Also, if you give Kevin a Southern accent, do you then give everyone in the series who speaks Kansai dialect a southern accent? It opens up a whole host of other decisions that you have to deal with. What Xseed elected to do was give him a slight Southern accent (EDIT: turns out the localization staff at Xseed said they gave Kevin a slight Boston accent. Whoops!), but mostly convey his personality through writing, as I’ll point out throughout this article.
Side note: Becky, a prominent NPC in the Cold Steel arc, speaks with a Kansai dialect just like Kevin, and they chose to give her a Glaswegian accent. Giving her an accent was the right call because everyone in the region she is from in Erebonia speaks with a Kansai dialect, which is an important part of what makes that region distinct.
Back to アカン (akkan): this word is the Kansai dialect variant of the very common word 駄目 (dame), essentially meaning “no good.” Once again, the choice of word here immediately clues you into his dialect, which does not happen in the English because the English Kevin does not have a strong accent. His “Nooo, no, no!” still character though, and paired with his spiky green hair and earring, and the fact that he’s shouting this at a random girl he’s never met before, you can tell he’s going to have an interesting personality.
Rows 8-11 already showcase the color Xseed is giving Kevin’s dialogue. In the first two lines all he really says in Japanese is “the sky is clear” and “the wind feels good on your cheeks”; in English they added a “c’mon now!” and in row 9 turn the wind comment into “Feel the gentle kiss of the wind on your cheek!”, colorful language that is perfect for the total flirt he is being. It’s corny as hell, like it’s supposed to be.
In row 11 Kevin uses ホンマ (honma), which is the Kansai dialect equivalent of 本当 (hontou), meaning “true” or “really.” Xseed rendered this as “y’know” to convey the casual flare to his speech.
One more very interesting thing to note: in Japanese, “Insensitive Jerk” is 軽そうな青年 (karusouna seinen). This literally means something like “lighthearted/easygoing young man,” but if the translation had left it at that, all the nuance of what that phrase means would have been lost. 軽い (karui, the unmodified version of karusouna) can be used to describe a man who is a flirt and a womanizer but can’t be counted on for a deep, long-lasting relationship. Estelle thinks of him as an “insensitive jerk” in English likely because she can see he is trying to hit on her, or at least being over friendly with her, when she is clearly not in the mood. 軽そうな青年 is meant as an insult, so I think “insensitive jerk” is an interesting an effective choice.
A clear change was made in row 13. In Japanese Kevin says あ、ちゃうで？けっして怪しいモンとちゃうよ (a, chau dekesshite ayashii mon to chau yo), meaning “I’m definitely not some suspicious/dangerous/shady person.” ちゃう (chau) is the Kansai-ben variant of 違う (chigau), meaning different/wrong, and モン (mon) is a contracted version of 者 (mono), meaning person. This is, again, pretty casual language, and to convey that the translator translated the first ちゃう as the casual “waidasec.” The second half of the translation, “Well, okay, maybe I came ACROSS as–“, is an insertion not present in the Japanese. They probably felt they could add that because it’s clear Kevin knows he doesn’t act or look very priestly, and it makes the dialogue box more humorous.
“You seemed a little broken up over something” in row 14 is a great translation for なんか元気ないみたい (nanka genki nai mitai). 元気 is a very common word that means “energetic/full of spirit/doing well,” and 元気がない (genki ga nai), literally “has no genki,” is used to mean that a person looks down. 素敵トーク (suteki tooku), which means something like “charming/wonderful talk,” became “OVERPOWERING charm” in the translation, with all-caps used for added voice. Neither of these are obvious translations, and you can see from the comparison between the semi-literal translation and Xseed’s translation that a ton of work went into this one dialogue box to give it proper flow and charm.
In row 18, まあぶっちゃけナンパしとるんやけどね (maa bucchake nanpa shitoru n yakedo ne) became ‘this is usually what we call, ah, putting the moves on,” which is effectively playful. My semi-literal translation above misses the nuance that the pieces around “I am hitting on you” contains; he can see that his flirtation isn’t having the desired effect, and is kind of making fun of himself. For Japanese learners: しとる (shitoru) is the Kansai-ben version of している (shite iru).
Estelle’s “can you just” as in “can you just leave me alone” in row 23 is an insert not present in the Japanese.
In row 25 the name for Kevin’s dialogue box in English becomes “Insensitive Jerk?” with a question mark. It remains 軽そうな青年 in Japanese, so this is entirely an Xseed move. The dialogue is yet another very creative Kevin translation. Kevin once again uses the word ナンパ (nanpa) when he says he will drop the flirting, but this time Xseed went with “time to knock it off with the come-ons.” In the second half of the sentence Japanese Kevin says 本業に切り替えた方がいいかな (hongyou ni kirikaeta hou ga ii kana), meaning “I guess I should switch to my principle profession,” which Xseed renders as “put on the work face.” I’m almost jealous of how good “work face” is fits 本業 here. These are both translations you won’t find in a Japanese-to-English dictionary.
I like when idioms translate across languages exactly like in row 26. Row 32 translates even more easily, where ビンゴ (bingo) is left as bingo. It’s not always a good idea to translate English loan words exactly from Japanese back into English because they won’t always mean the same thing in Japanese, but this one works.
Row 33 is an interesting translation because of it spells out what is left unsaid in the Japanese. Xseed’s translation is so much longer than the literal translation because a lot of the nuance of the original is tied in the short little phrase これでも (kore demo, literally “this + but”). What Kevin is saying here is “yeah, I may look and act like this, but I really am a priest.” Xseed’s Kevin says “Looks and uh, moves aside, I really AM a priest of the Septium Church.” It’s more comedic, and a good example of how sometimes you may need a longer translation just to convey a much shorter segment of Japanese. The “Lemme introduce myself properly” at the beginning is an Xseed insertion.
In row 36 the なんでぇ (nandee), meaning “why,” was extended into “Aww, why d’you have to doubt me still?” That flows more naturally from Estelle’s question about whether or not he was joking. めっちゃ真面目な神父さん (meccha majime), meaning “very serious priest” became “serious, devoted priest.” めっちゃ (meccha) is a Kansai-ben word meaning “very” that has been adopted into common use across the country (it’s very casual, though.)
3度の祈り (san do no inori) in row 37 seems to be a term associated with Christianity in Japanese; a Google search wields 31,200 results, most of which have Jesus and others performing the 3度の祈り daily. I’ll admit it’s been a while since I’ve been to Sunday school, and I don’t know what the exact equivalent of this would be in English. Xseed went with “Trinary Prayers,” which only yields four results on Google (five once this article is published, ha!) three of them being directly related to this game. Clearly the translator decided to invent a term here. You can also see that the translator pushed the final part of the line into the next dialogue box, which is all ellipses in the Japanese.
Row 40 is a nice translation. 説得力がゼロ (settokuryoku ga zero) is a relatively common phrase in Japanese meaning that someone has “no persuasiveness” (literally: persuasive power is zero). The translation goes with the punchy “Yeah, that really helps your case, there,” which is classic Estelle spice. A more literal translation could have been “real persuasive, there.”
There are yet more creative Kevin translations in rows 42-45. The “Victory is mine!” in row 42 is an insertion, but one that fits his character and the situation. Xseed’s translation gives the line some added comedy. In row 43 Kevin’s “cute girls must smile” or “it’s wrong for cute girls not to smile” becomes the nicer “cute girls deserve to smile.” In row 45 we get a third unique translation for ナンパ (nanpa) in “pick-up lines,” and 空の女神に誓うわ (sora no megami ni chikau wa, “I swear on the sky goddess”) became the sillier “Aidios smite me dead otherwise!”
Side note #2: Aidios is almost always referred to in the Japanese as 空の女神 (sora no megami), which means “sky goddess,” or just 女神 (megami), meaning “goddess.” Aidios (エイドス, eidosu in Japanese) is actually said relatively rarely, and when it is said it is placed as furigana (which is a language technique Japanese employs to give readings for Kanji that I explained in Trails of Translation episode 4) above 空の女神. From what I’ve seen, Xseed’s translations almost always translate “goddess” into “Aidios,” which I find interesting. They decided it’s more natural for characters to say Aidios’s name rather than “the goddess” all the time. I have very little experience with NISA’s Kiseki translations, but I would imagine they do the same thing.
The English translation adds quite a lot from row 52 on. In rows 52 and 53 in Japanese Estelle starts to cry without actually saying any words. In English, the translator had her start to say “It’s my fault” before she breaks down. I personally find this more effective than five dialogue boxes of straight crying without any words, and what she says makes sense with where her head space is at. Fleshing out repetitive dialogue boxes like this is something Xseed does quite a lot in their Trails translations.
Kevin’s dialogue is fleshed about a bit too. あー (aa, meaning “Ah”) in row 55 became “Great Goddess.” You can see above how rows 56 and 57 were spruced up for added warmth and character while retaining the original meanings. Kevin’s “My shoulder is yours” and “I’m here” are not in the Japanese, but they fit wonderfully.
And that’s the scope of this analysis! It’s always fun for me to analyze the Sky translations because it’s the one arc in the series I haven’t experienced in Japanese in any way. From what I saw here, Xseed did a really great job crafting Kevin’s English voice to give him his casual, happy-go-lucky flair (in this scene at least), while avoiding common pitfalls of translating dialects. Thank god he doesn’t sound like a hillbilly.
Feel free to comment on this post if you have a suggestion for what I should look at next!