Norn9: Var Commons had so many issues, I had to cover them separately!
While I’m playing a game or watching an anime, I usually jot down notes on my iPad to refer to later. They come out as scribbles usually. As a point of reference, Sailor Moon Crystal Season 3 was four pages, the combined notes for both the anime and manga of The Seven Deadly Sins was 11 pages (to cover the differences between the two), but Norn9 was a whopping 15 pages… and the majority were about the translation. Ouch. Let’s break it down.
Lots of Japanese terms are kept, mostly because of puns and misunderstandings. Some of these include Taisho, konpeito, butokai, shinobue, amidakuji, ochazuke, and hiyoko. Most of these are explained directly or can be figured out by context clues. Others are given a translation as part of its name, like “ohagi sweet rice balls”. Translators will always debate what to do in such situations, so I don’t consider this a fault, just a style choice. But I do wonder why other terms — most notably “miko” — were not kept. I guess it’s because it’s given the reading of guardian and not priestess. But the characters also go on a “matsuri party” but to a “cherry blossom viewing” instead of “hanami”. Weird.
Dancing Around Honorifics
Norn9 is set in Japan, and it feels very Japanese. Honorifics play a big part in the language, and Aksys tries to find ways to dance around all the -sans and -kuns. Unfortunately, between the voice-text disconnect and Aksys’ own inconsistencies, it doesn’t go so well.
Koharu is very polite and is quite concerned on being friendly and respectful. She wonders how to address the younger Sorata. In the prologue and first chapter, she settles on “Sorata-kun”. Well, the English adaptation goes with “Suzuhara”. So every time she says “Sorata-kun”, the text says “Suzuhara”… most of the time. He goes back to being “Sorata” later.
Most of the other guys are (supposed to be) addressed by Koharu as “Mr.”, and the -chans are ignored. Sometimes the dialogue switches back and forth between “Mr. Personal Name” for “Personal Name-kun” and “Family Name” (e.g. “Mr. Senri” and “Ichinose” for “Senri-kun”).
In another instance, Heishi wonders why he’s “Heishi-kun” to Koharu and Sakuya “Sakuya-san” despite both guys being the same age. The text changes this scene to Heishi comparing himself to Kakeru since he’s “Yuiga” instead of “Kakeru-kun” in English. Being called by your last name is more special than your first name with mister?
In addition, Itsuki’s nicknames are inconsistent, as Akito is called “Akkun” in Japanese but “Aki”, “Aku”, and even “Atsu” here. (Last one is clearly an oops.) Characters also use names in dialogue boxes that they didn’t (nor wouldn’t) use in the original Japanese (e.g. others besides Sakuya and the girls calling Mikoto by her given name). Other parts are done pretty well, like Itsuki’s “Ojou-san” being “Miss”.
Strange and Loose Translations
Lines are rewritten. A teacher’s “Settle down and listen.” is adapted as “Yo. Hellooo?” Is she talking into a microphone at a fast food drive through or controlling her class? They even turn a gasp from the soft-spoken, mumbling Senri and have it as a bolded “YEEEEEEK!!”
I just didn’t like how some lines were adapted. One conversation has Koharu talking about how every has been troubled by / suffered due to their power, but Aksys changes it to her bluntly saying she personally hates her power. Big difference.
A few phrases seemed out of place, but this happens often in adaptations. I just don’t hear “Zounds!” much anymore… And we all know how big Japan is on Christmas cards! Oh, that’s right, they’re supposed to be New Year’s cards.
A certain character insults others by calling them “wanko” in Japanese. That’s dog in Japanese, but he isn’t too rude in English: it’s often adapted as “guy”. This could be because Japanese text is often given a different reading to show the true meaning, but this would probably be an instance where “punching it up” wouldn’t really be punching it up.
“THz – This can’t be happening…!”
“clear bead” instead of “clear read”
“every laid eyes upon”
“continue the research that I was conduction”
“What is someone set up a trap during all your lazing about and we never found it!”
Some thoughts are presented as quotes, and other lines are missing or even have double quotation marks.
Some lines are just awkward:
Others I might as well read in Japanese:
“So you that it makes it only because you only show me your ill will?”
As one character so eloquently stated:
“We were never able to figure out those words meant by that.”
We are also treated to some absolutely incorrect translations, like reading 雷 as 雪. The kanji look similar, but their meanings make a big difference: a certain someone is actually afraid of kaminari, lightning instead of yuki, snow! They keep up this error for a whole sequence. That’s three times!
One character’s name is spelled with and without a “u” at the end of his personal name. Choose a romanization style and stick to it!
“Nanami, did you get some proper bed rest?” Sakuya asks. Well, one tiny problem: he’s talking to Mikoto; Nanami is currently sleeping! “Natsuhiko-san” is once incorrectly written as “Mikoto”, and an Itsuki line is attributed to Heishi.
In other cases, Aksys forgets to translate a line. We also find out “door is locked” really means the door is UNlocked. Senri’s name is also listed in Japanese name order on the selection screen.
Aksys loves commas. Why? As the game puts it:
“I, don’t know either.”
Or maybe it’s like an Oprah thing. “A comma for you! A comma for you! Everybody gets a comma!” Seriously, this game is comma central, and a bunch are grammatically incorrect.
Aksys only puts personal names in the name dialogue boxes. This makes it confusing when characters use family names, as I had trouble remembering everyone’s full names. (The original Japanese has full names.)
In Aksys’ favor, they did kindly added text boxes to translate the dialogue-only touch bonuses. This took some extra work, so that’s really nice of them to do that.
A few major instances of Japanese text are left onscreen but not translated. One is 猫可愛がり, doting on someone. There’s a pun though: this is read as “neko kawaigari”, which, if you know basic Japanese, will make sense with the scene.
There’s a few money-related comments like “penny for your thoughts” and “dime store romance novel”. No, I’m pretty sure yen wasn’t mentioned in the original Japanese.
I probably could have given more examples if I could read my own scribbles.
Norn9 was released after Code: Realize. While that game had mistakes, they were mostly found in the final route, making me suspect Aksys was running into deadlines and thus didn’t brush up the game’s ending route. Alas, quite a bit of Norn9 suffers. It’s not Engrish, but holy cow, you need quite a few red pens to edit this script.
I really wish Aksys would have just said, “Sorry, folks. We underestimated our workload. We’re delaying Norn9.” It’s always disappointing (and a bit embarrassing) to delay a release. However, not only would this have helped Norn9, but Code: Realize would likely have been polished up as well. That game had several errors as well. I know otome games are a niche market, but Norn9 does not come across as a professional work. (Heck, I’ve seen fan translations with better quality control.)
I hope Aksys has learned their lesson and will make sure all their upcoming visual novels have better quality control.