Togainu no Chi
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!
“…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
How did you make your start translating visual novels? Why Chaos;Head?
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?
I see the Togainu no Chi anime coming up next month and it is looking great.
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?
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)
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.
Finally, are you the sole-translator for this project and do you need additional helpers?
Thank you for your time in writing this up so beautifully. Much appreciated.