“Still, it is really the appreciation of the fans regarding the series that definitely keep us moving, along with our passion for this franchise: beyond the usual gratitude, it is actually how the fanbase is weaving constantly their theories, discussing about elements but also expressing their likes and dislikes about the series that make me think ‘sweet, we are doing great’.” – Klashikari
<Aaeru> Can you briefly describe how you stumbled onto Umineko and how you managed to start up the project and even find such a well-rounded team for it.
Klashikari: Briefly will be a bit hard, but I will try. The anime series of Higurashi no Naku Koro ni was the origin of this: after the successful yet flawed adaptation (which can be easily imagined if you were to consider “adaptations” like Tsukihime), I got interested in the original material thanks to KJ1980 back on AnimeSuki, and quickly ended up in the “Hinamizawa club” forums, hosted by ayyo. He and cpl_crud (from We are in Denial fansubgroup) were working on the Minagoroshi / Matsuribayashi patch with other people, but due to usual issues (lack of free time etc), the project was stalled, ultimately dropped because of the second season. Meanwhile, the news of a new “When they Cry” series kicked in, and people were making a huge buzz, a mix of hype and worries. Then, we got someone who had a lot of free time and begun to translate “Legend of the golden witch” all alone during his free time, Theacefrehley.
Thanks to this, I got enthralled by the said series, and I was wondering: “hey, how about using this translation and make a patch?”. That was back around January 2008.
This idea was shared by sterling whom I was discussing with here and there in both forums, and we both founded the project, asking some help from the Baka-tsuki group. On February 2008, we had our wiki page. Of course, theacefrehley granted us permission to use his translations, and we were actually trying to polish it first. However, things weren’t that easy and the wiki page was barely touched by any external help. However, we were contacted by chendo (from Mirror Moon), then Mion (from the Sonozaki Futagotachi). As far as it went, we were basically trying to create a makeshift patch with theace’s scripts and editing as much as we could.
If you were to witness how the group was faring back during this period, you would never actually expect us to be in this current shape! Even I wouldn’t even bet a single buck on “that nameless group” considering how we couldn’t really put the project on the move.
By the end of February 2008, we finally got someone helping us for the translation and editing, Tobiast88. Toby was the type of guy who would never let anything through unless it was perfect, so he completely turned things upside down and started from scratch. Things were going great first, but unfortunately, tobiast was extremely busy with university, and thus wasn’t able to go that far. Thus, we could only make a teaser, the first patch covering the prologue, chapter 1 and 2 back on April 2008. And things just turned completely south as tobiast wasn’t giving any life sign for weeks. Meanwhile, it was time to give a name for this project.
Then, we got our savior, literally. As we were still recruiting, chronotrig showed up on August 2008, with a very large input: more than half of the first Episode. And fortunately, Tobiast was lurking around and pretty much approved this translation despite it didn’t receive any editing at all.
From there, we managed to get a blazing speed with Chrono, who succeeded in pulling us the second half of the first Episode by the time we were releasing the first patch, and Episode 2 was done on October 2008.
As you can see, it was nothing short of a miracle that Witch Hunt was born. I daresay that it was your everyday “random translation group of the month” which could die within few weeks due to its very hectic state. People were following our project closely and soon enough, we got some help and our ranks were growing to a satisfying level. Thus, you can conclude that we had a lot of luck, which sounds sort of akin to some irregularity Bernkastel could have done.
<Shikiller> “You guys use multiple translators, how do you make it work out so well?”
chronotrig: While we have had multiple translators at times, we usually try to go for depth rather than straight up speed. In a series like Umineko, a single badly translated line, or even a good line that just happens to contradict some unstated fact, can break the game. So, whenever we can, we always try to include at least one editor who would be capable of both translating and editing the whole game by him or herself if needed. This double coverage has helped us out immensely in the past.
Klashikari: …and due to this method, it allows us to actually double check systematically. While we are working on chrono’s translation 90% of the time, all of the translators are naturally checking and editing. That allows us this peculiar consistency (as keeping one single translation style as the “frame”), while we have a constant and thorough check thoroughly.
<Shikiller> Do you contact Ryukishi07 frequently, and if so, what do you discuss?
chronotrig: We do receive emails from Ryuukishi himself a couple times a year, but most of our interaction with 07th Expansion has been with other members of the team. The Witch Hunt really felt the loss of BT. We consider ourselves extremely fortunate to have had someone there to answer our questions, even when the workload for the original game must have been immense. For the later part of 2009 and the first half of 2010, 07th had to race against the clock to complete their games and integrate new team members, and we didn’t hear much from them during this period. However, we’re now in contact with them once again.
Of course, we mostly discuss technical details of the game, such as how the character names should be spelled and details regarding the text-filled image files. They’ve also helped clarify a few tricky spots, such as one particular line that exists in the original game as English but is only shown to the reader in its translated Japanese form. We sent them a sample translation and they told us there were no problems (we later found out that wording that line in a slightly different way would have ruined a fairly massive secret later on). When the anime came out, that line was shown in its original English, which happened to be almost word-for-word identical to the version we sent 07th Expansion. Coincidence? Probably.
<Sheeta> ‘how do you deal with editing the red text?’
Klashikari: All editors are working closely with Chrono. As you may know, these lines are pretty critical, since it can make or break a part of the mystery. Because of this, we were to make sure about what the sentence was implying, and what it -does not-. Japanese grammar was our worst enemy here, in stark contrast with the non red section: since you can imply subject and whatnot in Japanese, there is no way for us to “interpret” something without giving it a lot of thought, especially if you consider how shrewd a red line can be. In other words, there is always a lot of brainstorming when we are dealing with that.
chronotrig: It’s often impossible to translate text literally from Japanese to English without wiping out certain meanings or adding new ones. So, we always need to make a few assumptions about what the red actually means, no matter how the context is interpreted. Without knowing the true answer, it’s really impossible to be absolutely sure we’ve gotten it right. So, all of our members check the red text several times over, and we’ve often sent our rough translations of those sections to a few key people outside the group, just to make sure that they don’t unfairly interfere with some theory we haven’t heard of.
<Sheeta> ‘do you plan to work on anything else after Umineko ends?’
Klashikari: It depends of the rest of the team, considering Umineko no Naku Koro ni was quite an adventure, so working on something else righ away may lead to a burnout.
That said, as my personal opinion, I would love to work on Rewrite.
chronotrig: I can’t speak for the other members of the group, but I think it will be hard to find another series that has hooked me as much as Umineko. It takes a lot of energy to work on a VN, especially when your bank accounts are slightly in the red for doing it. If 07th Expansion decides to create another doujin series, however, I’d say there’s a fairly good chance that I’ll try and be a part of that.
<Aaeru> Lastly, is there anything else you would like to say to the fans and are you hiring additional staff right now?
Klashikari: I hope everyone is enjoying Umineko no Naku Koro ni, having the possibility to relish on Ryukishi’s work as much as the Japanese fans do.
It has been almost 3 years that WH has been created, and as the founder, it is sort of difficult to fully realize how we could go that far: a bit like how a parant notice their child’s growth after 5 years (far fetched analogy I will give you that, but that’s the idea).
Still, it is really the appreciation of the fans regarding the series that definitely keep us moving, along with our passion for this franchise: beyond the usual gratitude, it is actually how the fanbase is weaving constantly their theories, discussing about elements but also expressing their likes and dislikes about the series that make me think “sweet, we are doing great”.
As for recruitment, we are always welcoming people among us, so long they are prepared for a hell of a rollercoaster ride!
chronotrig: We are looking for editors with thorough Japanese knowledge at the moment. We’re very happy with the team we have, but many of them are busy with school or work. A couple more good editors would speed things up.
Of course, we have to thank the fans for sticking with us for so long. Yes, there have been plenty of rough times, but we’re still moving forward. Public opinion is often a self-fulfilling prophesy: the more people like something, the more likable it is. I think this is just one of the main differences between the popularity of VNs in Japan and overseas. It’s thanks to fans of Umineko and VNs in general that this genre has seen the recent boom that it has, and the fan support is what brought us most of the current members of our group.
In a genre that’s still fairly small, showing your support–and even more importantly, voting with your wallet–can have a very large effect. Don’t think that you don’t matter because you’re just a single casual fan. It may sound corny, but that’s the one thing my experience as a translator has shown me. It doesn’t take much to tip the balance.
This is it. I hope we were precise without dragging too much. If you have any other questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.
To round out the night, we released the launch post for @CherryKissGames newest title with the telling name "Manwhore Merchant: Breeding in Bulk". As you can already expect, we stuck @Vuparian into Miel Prison again to get out a review for you, soon.