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What part of the story of Kingdom Hearts that has been lost in translation?



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Guernsey

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I read this document on the translation of King Hearts and let me say that this is an eye opener. It seems as though that the localization team messed up a few things causing confusion where they shouldn't be, I know it is not entirely bad and isn't all their fault but a lot of the nuance in Kingdom hearts has been lost in translation. I know Kingdom Hearts isn;t that nuanced but what other elements of the series has been lost in translation?
 

AmaryllisMoth

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I skimmed through the paper you linked and it seems like most of the nuances discussed are related mostly to the use of various pronouns and of politeness levels. Unfortunately this isn't really an issue isolated to kingdom hearts, it is a very common issue to tackle for anything involving translating from Japanese because the language itself is very nuanced with respect levels. Whole sentences including verbs, pronouns, conjugations for said verbs etc will change depending on who you are talking to and how they rank in some unstated but known hierarchy between people. I know I am not alone in finding that this was one of the most frustrating things to get a handle on while learning the language.
That being said, whether or not a character abides by those unstated hierarchies, or what respect they give to different characters (or even how they refer to themselves) is something that really can add characterization to personalities, I agree. However, I don't think that not putting a lot of effort into accurately translating these issues necessarily is "messing up". Simply because, well, English doesn't really do those things. I've seen some really wonky translation where they tried to include different levels of formality and you end up with some really stiff character who sounds like he is trying to quote Shakespeare.
I think the best solution is to look at the level of formality they use in Japanese and try to reflect that in their general vocabulary choice and inflection (so mostly relying on the voice actors for the later). I noticed that the document quoted from Birth by Sleep frequently, so I'll just mention my thoughts on that game just to be consistent.
I'm not going to say that the localization was the best ever, but I don't think there was a significant amount really lost in my opinion (having played through both) in terms of the characterization that can be gleaned from pronoun and honorific use. Vanitas is rude and snarky in both iterations, MX speaks like someone from another time, lending to the threat of his experience, Ven speaks a tad informally in Japanese, which is somewhat reflected in english with the use of casual conjugations like wanna, gonna, etc.
It is a very very interesting topic, and again, I'm not the most perfect translator ever (still studying) and I do think there are some things that are very difficult to reflect well across both versions, but I do think the localization team in general does a pretty decent job (some KH games are better than others, though).
I don't have a ton of time atm to go through and point out all the bigger things I think weren't localized properly, but one thing that really stands out to me personally is actually the way characters show physical affection in the series. This is something that is a bit harder to translate because its just what is shown on screen-- but essentially, from my experience Japanese people don't really hug or touch each other very often. (Not trying to stereotype. Just my personal experience-- as an aside, when I was working at a Japanese HS one of my students was a very huggy person and was constantly being told off for doing so as it was inappropriate and other people were teasing her about it, but that's a story for another day...)
Anyway, my point being, when people hug each other it is fairly meaningful. Moreso than in America since hugging is much more common. In KH2, you can see that when Tron hugs Sora and he is considerably taken aback by it, saying it isn't something he is very used to. So, when Sora and Kairi finally meet each other again in TWTNW and they hug...it's kind of a big deal. I think a lot of people saw that scene and were like "aw...but he didn't cry like with Riku so it clearly doesn't mean as much". But that is a bit of a cultural difference, I think.
Like I said, there are a few other things I've noticed but again, I do think that the localization is pretty good considering some of the really bad ones out there.
 

alexis.anagram

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I thought this article was pretty good. It can be hard and even counter intuitive to talk about the nuances in a language from "outside" of that language, since oftentimes those nuances are rooted in how it is naturally spoken and how it has organically evolved over time through shifts in culture and society which might only be observable to a native speaker. I think this essay does a good job of touching on some of the ways KH has been structurally informed by its language of origin with specific and clear examples. While some of this is lost in translation, I do think it's important to note that, in the first place, many of these linguistic structures are simply untranslatable because there's no equivalent mechanic in English. At the same time, English does have a lot more flexibility in terms of how to organize a sentence for purposes of inflection than is typically heard in Japanese: a good translation/localization team with a grasp of how to parse out the right sound rather than the direct meaning of a passage in Japanese can convey the same information in as little time, it just takes experience and a skilled ear.

I feel like KH hasn't been too bad at this, on the whole. Putting aside some questionable vocal performances, the scripting for the English edition has been, as far as I can tell, generally about as messy as the original Japanese: whether or not there are perceivable differences in content delivery may be, literally, a question of semantics. Xion may not be able to use "atashi" in English to denote her unique self-concept, but that's all premised throughout Days in the context of her interactions with others and how she investigates her existential design. The fluctuation in Terra's relationship with the Masters in BBS is deliberately plotted so that it's unmistakable in either language: I think, in that case, the conversion between pronouns is more of a function of the plot insofar as it wouldn't make any sense in Japanese for him to use another pronoun in those instances (much like Aqua really has to use the informal/derogatory form of "you" in some scenes for it to play right dramatically). Mostly, I think English-language listeners ultimately arrive at the same conclusions as Japanese-language users, it may just be more gradual or it might take some extra attention to syntax on the part of the translator.

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Anyway, my point being, when people hug each other it is fairly meaningful. Moreso than in America since hugging is much more common. In KH2, you can see that when Tron hugs Sora and he is considerably taken aback by it, saying it isn't something he is very used to. So, when Sora and Kairi finally meet each other again in TWTNW and they hug...it's kind of a big deal. I think a lot of people saw that scene and were like "aw...but he didn't cry like with Riku so it clearly doesn't mean as much". But that is a bit of a cultural difference, I think.
I agree that this is a really interesting moment which is perhaps lost on Western fans as a gesture of import, and a good example of how a cultural variation can change the way a scene reads to an audience. As with the examples I mentioned above, I think there's a follow up to this gesture which helps clarify its intent: Kairi whispers in Japanese, "夢じゃない” ("It's not a dream") and in English, "This is real." That helps us understand that the moment is about substantiating their reunion experience through a permanent closure of the distance between them: in other words, Kairi is physically "grounding" Sora to that time and place, to ascertain and affirm his authentic presence (in KH2, everyone is displaced in both location and identity) through an appropriately striking expression of both affection and conviction. We see this measure of intimacy replicated in a similar vein in DDD, when Sora turns it around and uses it on Riku with a similar invocation: "You're safe, Riku!" The way Sora emphasizes this statement through repetition tells us it isn't just about Riku returning successfully from the Realm of Sleep, but speaks to how he has at last accomplished the more vital mission of restoring his place of belonging within the Realm of Light, and this overt physicality is then used to underscore these kinds of final pronouncements.
 
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Rob

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> I’ve talked about it before but the “password? OH, LIKE A CODE” is just a clunky translation because in JP they say “password” straight up in English, and so Mickey’s like “wtf is this English word you’re saying at me, I only speak Japanese” and then after a moment is like “WAIT DO YOU MEAN [JAPANESE WORD FOR PASSWORD]”
LMAO That had me screaming.

Anyway, I haven't fully experienced KH in Japanese, but I did know about the changes in lines, especially the unnecessary ones (You looking at me like I drowned your goldfish) when they could have just been translated straight. I'm fine with the honorifics being dropped since hearing English voices saying "sama, san, chan, etc." is so funny and weird, especially in dubbed anime.

Also, there's this:


> Also uh, well, I’ll just shove this screenshot at you. Axel shouts this @ Xion also

Further proof regarding Nomura stating that the story of KH is not for children? lol Yes, I know it says Fuzakeru na.

How I'd love it if KH had Japanese audio. I want to hear Aqua say kisama. I gave up after 2.8 having its English trailers in Japanese (which they are still doing with KH3) then the game was only in English. A shame, especially when Nomura said he wanted overseas fans to experience KH with Japanese audio during the KH2 days.
 
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