News

Togainu no Chi

Togainu no Chi
Translator

Aaeru

Foreword I am delighted to present this very in-depth look into the world of Boy’s Love (BL) media, particularly in relation to the visual novel medium. For the unacquainted, this will be a fascinating read and for existing BL fans, it will re-ignite your interest to new levels. Please check it out!

Interesting Tidbits
“…
the characters’ emotions are tangled and convoluted and often defy description. Sometimes sex intersects with attachment or affection; sometimes it’s a sick power play; sometimes it’s a desperate attempt to feel some kind of human connection. The lack of easy answers and easy romance is fascinating. And, of course, I’m a big fan of the dystopian setting and all the fighting.”

Togainu no Chi Contact Details

http://yaoiforever.rikkaidai.net/forums/index.php?board=3.0

The Interview

Togainu no Chi Translator

How did you make your start translating visual novels? Why Chaos;Head?
I had gobs and gobs of free time back then (despite supposedly working a full-time job, haha). I played Chaos;Head almost as soon as it came out and absolutely loved it, so when I got word that people were interested in doing a translation project, I really wanted to be involved. It’s been a couple of years since then, and I don’t recall exactly how I first came in contact with the other staff members… it may have been through the gemot encubed forum, but I honestly don’t remember. All I did was translate like a maniac and email the scripts to one or two other people. Everything that went on after that step in the process was a mystery to me; I remember being awestruck when the actual patch came out!

I finished the initial translation for Chaos;Head in a little over a month. Togainu no Chi has taken me two years and counting–I’m almost afraid to keep track. Free time and other real life factors have obviously played a large role in creating this discrepancy, but the biggest difference might be that Togainu no Chi is simply a lot harder for me to translate.

Now, I don’t mean that it’s more difficult to understand–if anything, parts of Chaos;Head contained much more obscure language and technical concepts, not to mention tons of slang. With the exception of a few brief portions, however, Chaos;Head is mostly told via first-person narration. Togainu no Chi, on the other hand, is entirely in third-person. When translating Chaos;Head, I found it extremely easy and natural to slip into Takumi’s voice as the narrator–there were times when the translation just flew out of me. It also has much more extensive dialogue than Togainu (whose characters tend to be taciturn at best)… and dialogue is, for similar reasons, easier to translate than big blocks of narration.

Because Togainu lacks that distinctive first-person voice and is instead related by a more neutral narrator, and because it has a relatively low proportion of dialogue, it feels like I have to linger more over each line to make it sound right in English. Togainu’s narrative “voice” is generally literary rather than vernacular (which is not to say that it’s better-written than Chaos;Head–it’s just very different). Perhaps this leads to more complex, less intuitive sentence structures–or perhaps the style of Togainu’s scenario writer is inherently harder to render in English. I don’t know.

Not that I’m trying to make excuses for my slowness with Togainu, haha–most of that is my fault, for having too much on my plate. Anyway, Chaos;Head was a great first game to translate… I learned so much from the experience, and I had a ton of fun doing it. And as much as I love Togainu, it’s been a bit more of a struggle. But I’ll get to the end eventually!


Has it ever occured to you to consider translating the next 5pb game after Chaos;Head, called Steins;Gate?
One of the major downsides of working as a fan translator while going to school, having a job, etc., is that it leaves you much less time to enjoy the type of material that inspired you to start translating in the first place. The last game I played was Soukou Akki Muramasa (which leapfrogged over the Ayakashibito-Bullet Butlers-Chrono Belt trio of games to become my all-time favorite!). I’m currently playing Maji de Watashi ni Koi Shinasai on and off, but I haven’t even gotten around to the Muramasa anthology disc yet. I’m afraid it’ll be a long time before I get my hands on Steins;Gate, although I’ve heard great things about it. I’m sure someone else will be able to translate Steins;Gate long before I’m in a position to consider doing so myself.

I see the Togainu no Chi anime coming up next month and it is looking great.
What is one aspect of Togainu no Chi that you enjoy the most? Is it a particular character or the story, etc?

I enjoy Togainu no Chi for the same reason that I enjoy Nitro+ games in general. It’s not flawless by any means, but it’s daring. The biggest draw for me personally is that it’s not about love or romance. The game’s worldview is too bleak and melancholy to leave room for anything resembling a regular love story. Although there are sex scenes in the original PC version (the PS2 port and the upcoming PSP port are ero-free), the characters’ emotions are tangled and convoluted and often defy description. Sometimes sex intersects with attachment or affection; sometimes it’s a sick power play; sometimes it’s a desperate attempt to feel some kind of human connection. The lack of easy answers and easy romance is fascinating. And, of course, I’m a big fan of the dystopian setting and all the fighting.

My favorite character has no conventionally happy endings–and indeed, he doesn’t deserve them! His route is bittersweet and frustrating, but the grim endings are ultimately very satisfying. You don’t come away from his route feeling happy or uplifted, yet you do get a sense that this was the right conclusion–that a more positive or romantic ending would have been a betrayal of his character. Other characters have somewhat more cheerful endings, but it’s still a subdued kind of happiness at best. I like how the game remains consistent and true to itself in that respect.

I probably shouldn’t say this, but I have to admit that there is one character who I am less than fond of, to put it mildly… and his was the first route I had to translate. I set my own feelings aside and did the best job I could, of course, but it was awfully hard to maintain my momentum and enthusiasm. I shouldn’t complain, though–from the start, I wanted to translate the entire game myself, even the parts of it that bother me. This might be somewhat selfish of me. I can only hope that people feel the results are worthwhile. Since Togainu is such a well-known, seminal title in the world of BL games, I really, really want to get things right and show it in the best possible light. I’m a BL/yuri fan (when I’m not working on Togainu, I translate yuri manga for Dynasty Scans), but I play straight eroge too, because what I value above all else is a good story and interesting characters. I think Togainu is capable of having the same kind of crossover appeal.

Speaking of which, I’m excited and nervous about the anime! It’s pretty much guaranteed that the anime will have little to no concrete BL content, which hopefully means that it’ll be able to showcase other aspects of the game’s appeal (like its gritty violence and intriguing character development).

Have you played any of the other Nitro+CHiRAL games? Are you affiliated at all with the Sweet Pool translation project?
I have no affiliation whatsoever with the Sweet Pool project, but I wish them all the best. I’ve played all the Nitro+CHiRAL games so far, with the exception of their recent cell phone visual novel. I’m super-excited about their next project, which was announced earlier this summer, and I can’t wait to find out more about it! Togainu no Chi, Lamento, and Sweet Pool are very different in some respects (e.g. setting) and very similar in others. All three of them share that quality I mentioned earlier–they explore emotions that are equivalent to romantic love in terms of sheer intensity, but there’s so much other stuff going on that it would be hard to conceive of any of them as a love story.

Sweet Pool was explicitly marketed as being about something more fundamental than love or romance. Of the three main CHiRAL games, it just might be my favorite. It’s so unconventional in terms of everything from how the player makes decisions to its lack of full routes for most characters. I love Lamento and Togainu, but I think there are parts of both games where you can see the writer bending or compromising a bit in order to meet fans halfway. Love it or hate it, there’s absolutely no sort of compromise in Sweet Pool–it’s more gory and depressing, and at times even downright repulsive. Rather than pander to fans, it actively chases some of them away! I guess the writer’s success with her previous two games earned her this opportunity to really venture out of the mainstream. As far as I’m concerned, Sweet Pool is brilliant.

I have never read a Boy’s Love-themed manga or game. What kind of subject matters do BL media generally cover? (e.g. violence, friendship/betrayal, etc)
Are the relationships in BL usually very intense (and physical)? Or is this my misconception?

I appreciate this question, and I wish I could answer it coherently–but to be honest, it’s a bit like asking, “What kind of subject matter does heterosexual media generally cover?” or “What kind of subject matter does yuri media generally cover?” While I could certainly attempt to point out overall trends, I wouldn’t want to draw your attention to generalizations. Above all else, I’d like people to be aware of the sheer variety out there.

Here’s a comparison that may or may not prove helpful…. Think about how many non-fans say things like, “But don’t all anime characters have enormous eyes? They all look the same to me!” When you’re looking in from the outside, certain patterns emerge so powerfully that you lose sight of niche material and struggle to make finer distinctions. Once you become an anime or game or manga fan, though, you realize that there is an indescribably vast array of “anime-style” art out there. It’s impossible to sum it up cohesively and still do justice to everything.

So I’m going to set aside the topic of BL media in general, because it’s just such a huge area. That said, the world of BL games is considerably smaller. Here’s a quick primer. The BL game industry went through a major boom-and-bust cycle during the past few years. Out of the surviving companies, there are three that dominate all the rest: Nitro+CHiRAL, Spray (representative game: Kichiku Megane), and a doujin circle called Tennenouji (representative game: Lucky Dog). CHiRAL consistently releases serious, violent, fairly grim games, but the other two have released everything from a typical school moe story to a satirical sex romp to a stylish mafia saga. The character archetypes frequently found in BL games are essentially the same as those found in eroge (i.e. tsundere, yandere, childhood friend, older/younger sibling figure, the mysterious/silent type, and so on). I would even go so far as to say that BL games might have more parallels with straight eroge than with other BL media. And like eroge fans, BL game fans do expect sex scenes, but CHiRAL games don’t have that many; Togainu, for instance, averages one or two per route.

Intense relationships, physical or otherwise, appeal to some people and not to others. Personally, I seek the same kind of emotional intensity and romantic ambiguity between characters in regular eroge as I do in BL games.


I am a big proponent for more fan translations of Otome/BL games.
This is one thing I always ask:
“Why do you think there are so few Otome or BL games being fan translated? What can we do to get more girls interested.”

It’s a matter of scale, that’s all. Even with the recent boom in otome games, there are still far fewer otome/BL games out there than regular eroge. I can only think of maybe four or five other BL games that I personally like enough to be interested in translating myself, even if I had all the free time in the world. If I applied the same litmus test to eroge, the list would go on much longer. So there’s a smaller pool of games, and there’s also a smaller fanbase–which means a smaller pool of potential translators. By the same token, though, there’s a much smaller pool of games whose quality is so great that they practically cry out for translation.

Finally, are you the sole-translator for this project and do you need additional helpers?
Yes, I’m the only translator. I’d prefer to keep it that way for the sake of stylistic consistency and so forth. I know there are fans who have been waiting a very long time to see Togainu fully translated. I’m deeply grateful for their patience, and I hope that my work will live up to their expectations.

Thank you for your time in writing this up so beautifully. Much appreciated.
For fans of BL or non-fans alike, please check out the Togainu no Chi anime scheduled to air in October 2010.

About the author

Tay

I'm the Fuwanovel community admin and a big fan of Visual Novels. The easiest way to get a hold of me is via a PM on the Fuwanovel Forums, by twitter (@ArchmageTay), or by email.

1 Comment

  • I appreciate your advocacy for otome and BL games, aaeru.

    And I have to say the following response from the translator was beautiful:

    “Here’s a comparison that may or may not prove helpful…. Think about how many non-fans say things like, ‘But don’t all anime characters have enormous eyes? They all look the same to me!’ When you’re looking in from the outside, certain patterns emerge so powerfully that you lose sight of niche material and struggle to make finer distinctions. Once you become an anime or game or manga fan, though, you realize that there is an indescribably vast array of ‘anime-style’ art out there. It’s impossible to sum it up cohesively and still do justice to everything.”

    Indeed, if more people would think like this instead of generalizing, the stigma for BL and even otome would be not as prominent. Isn’t it odd to find such stigma within a niche market that itself is often stigmatized?

Leave a Comment