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Inside VN Translation: JOAT-Translations

Written by Zakamutt

Ryechu: This is the game that booze and painkillers made.

I’ve always been interested in what makes stuff tick – it was one of the main reasons I went for a Science program in (the Swedish version of) high school. Ever since I saw Aaeru’s old interviews with the fan translation scene (the blog is long since nuked by the copyright monster, so a web archive is the only way you’ll see it), I’ve been wanting to do something similar myself – and I guess now is as good a time as any.

I’ve always tried to give female-oriented VNs at least some coverage on the blog; while all signs I’ve seen point to men being a significant majority of the visual novel fandom, there’s no reason we can’t change that. Not to mention that these days, MangaGamer’s licensing of OZMAFIA!! and No, Thank You!!! and Sekai Project’s Pyrite Heart and Hatoful Boyfriend releases are set to make otomege and BL ever more relevant.

For my first post in the series, I’ve chosen the translation group heading the Sukisho! First Limit project. After hearing a bit about the novel, I’m actually somewhat interested in reading it even though it’s a Boy’s Love VN with erotic content – which is not quite in my comfort zone. Full disclosure: I sent these questions by PM, so it’s not really an interview in the strictest sense.


Introduce yourselves – who are you, and what are your roles?

Ryechu – Hi all, I’m Ryechu, one of the co-leaders for the Jack of All Trades Translation Group, known to many as JOAT-Translations.  I work on the project as a quality checker, and for other projects we work on, as a timer or an editor.

Kureten – Hi I’m Kureten (aka Kurenai Tenka), the other co-lead for JOAT. I do the final line edits for the game and have somehow garnered the title of ‘Editing Goddess’. I also do all of the editing for the audio dramas, and maintain most of our social media (website, tumblr, etc).

Tell us a bit about Sukisho in general.

– Well, most people know Sukisho from the 2005 anime, which was about 10 episodes of crack followed by three episodes of utter grimness. The game is pretty much the same in that capacity, outwardly quite cute and fluffy but really very, very dark.

– We have a disclaimer page if you look around on the website that is a really good representation of what this game is really about.  It’s very different from what a lot of people make it out to be.

– Yeah, it’s still got quite a bit of cute fluffy parts, but it will take several sharp turns into horrible. It’s a good balance.

Can you tell us anything about the project members that aren’t answering this personally (if there are any)?

R – We’re a really small group, actually.  binaryfail is our hacker, and he is working on a large number of projects.  He’s very good at what he does, and well as very quick to finish requests for us.

K – And then for translators we have Ringo-chan (who’s translated about 80% of the game for us), and Fuu who’s done most of the latter scripts. Also we have Hypnos translating the audio dramas, with a little help from Ringo-chan. We’re always looking for more translators though, as it’s a huge project.

What made you personally decide to join (start?) the Sukisho project?

R – I was involved with the project from the very beginning. A fan of the series contacted me (I was working on a different project at the time that ended up being dropped) and said he was looking for editors for the Sukisho! series. I had watched the anime a while back, and so I said of course I was interested.

K – I joined a bit later on, I basically messaged Ryechu and volunteered to help… I started off just beta-reading but have ended up being co-lead for the group. I’ve always been a big fan of the anime’s story and have tried to get as much information as possible on the games, so it’s kind of a case of ‘if you want something done, do it yourself’.

Speaking of the anime, is it any good, and would watching it ruin/spoil the VN?

K – Personally I really like the anime, it’s one of my favourites. For me it provided a good entry-point for the franchise as a whole, without it I may never have heard of the games. Obviously there’s a lot of things missing/different in the anime, but I think they did a good job of condensing 4 games into 13 (pg-13) episodes, while still maintaining a lot of what made the games great (even if they had some blatant budget cuts during the last few episodes).

There definitely are huge spoilers for the game in it though; things that are big reveals at the end of the first game are introduced almost immediately in the anime, which is why we’ve tried to keep our promotional materials spoiler free for everyone, including those that haven’t seen the anime.

For those that have seen the anime, there’s still a hell of a lot of reveals still to be had, and I think some of the differences between the two are quite surprising as well. People may find that some of the characters aren’t quite as they remembered them, for instance. The games are a lot more in-depth.

Tell us a bit about the history of the project – when did you start it, and what were some key events along the way?

R – The first game took a lot longer than we expected, but what we learned from it will be invaluable for the future games. At first we had our Excel spreadsheets on Google Docs split by sentence, and it was difficult to figure out what belonged to what window. At one point we were copying all of the scripts to Word Docs and doing them that way, and manually reinserting every line.  That was hell. We fixed that, and then it was relatively smooth sailing from there. Ringo’s job had prevented her from doing a lot of work on the game for quite a while, and eventually Fuuie, who is a friend of mine, stepped in and translated the rest.

K – Luckily for the me the sentence-by-sentence issue was resolved by the time I joined. The only particularly ‘key events’ that spring to mind are the patch releases, really. Everything we do is geared up to the point when we can release another route, although most recently we were celebrating the first game being fully translated… now it just needs editing and we’ll have completed it!

Some translation projects lose a lot of members along the way (I think the Starry Sky ~After Spring~ project had about eight translators.) You say your team hasn’t changed for well over a year; how did you manage to keep it together for so long?

R – At the beginning of the project, we actually had picked up a number of different people. Meat, Ryiou, 8Floor, Erileigh, Umiko, and others I’m sure I’m forgetting (soz).  Many of these guys just disappeared without much of anything. However, the key players that we had to have remained with the project because we all had a common interest – Sukisho!
We’re pretty active on IRC, and we’re all good friends, and that makes it really easy to stick around and work on this.

K – Yeah, we talk most days.

More personal question – translating a VN is usually a long haul. How do you keep yourselves motivated?

K – It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s very much a ‘labour of love’. It’d have to be to get so far I think! I probably spend more time trying to motivate other people than I do myself, I’m already pretty motivated by my love of the series.

R – This is the game that booze and painkillers made.

K – Caffeine for me! And allegedly sugar for Ringo-chan.

Tell us a bit about the characters. If you have any, who is best boy / husbando material? Best couple and best route?

K – Haha, I hate the ‘husbando’ thing… well to be honest, the most datable would probably be Matsuri, and he’s not even an option! The rest of them are such high maintenance and/or dangerous! My favourite character is Sunao though, and I’m Team Obvious/Team Sora/Sunao all the way. Naturally the best route is the true ending, it has all of the reveals (and So/Sun)!

R – There are actually a LOT of characters in the game, but until you’ve played the first game there’s actually a lot of spoilers if I explain a number of the different characters.  My favorite non-protagonist character is probably Ichikawa, the kid in the Science Club that Sora runs into if he goes to the third floor of the special classroom building. He has that puppy-doglike mentality, and there’s a lot of stuff he ends up being involved in if you pick the right options.
Favorite overall character though has to be Sora.  He’s a bonehead, but he’s also very loyal and caring.  It’s a pretty appealing combination.

K – Whereas I’ve gone for the angsty tragic one who’s always punching Sora in the face. True love, or something like that. I like most of the characters, there are some I like much more in the games than I did in the anime… like Hiromu has a totally different personality in the game. Not enough to be my favourite, but it made his scenes more enjoyable to edit than I expected.

You’re translating an 18+ VN. What do you think about the H-Scenes?

K – Those are literally nobody’s favourite to do. Our translators hate them, and me and Ryechu hate them too. They take forever and there’s only so many euphemisms out there that don’t sound terrible (well, basically all of them sound terrible). I don’t have any kind of background in writing porn so editing these has been uh, a new experience for me.
But a lot of the sex scenes have important plot points in them, or say a lot about the characters involved- those scenes are more interesting to do/read.

R – I remember doing the first pass edits of the H-Scenes Fuuie did. I tried to count every different euphemism for “manhood.” I lost count about halfway through. I’m pretty sure we exhausted every option we could for variety’s sake.

K – I think we’ve used basically all of them without getting into the ridiculous ones (and we’ve used some of those too).

R – “Little Hiromu.” (laughs)

K – ‘Nectar’. Nectar’s still in there I believe, but I obliterated ‘little Hiromu’…

I hear you’re looking to translate the second vn in the four-part series, as well as the audio dramas for the first. Tell us a bit about that.

K – We’re planning to translate all four of the main games plus the mini-stories on the fandisk, yes. We also intend to do all of the audio dramas (which is a lot easier now that we have a dedicated translator for that!) We’ve already got all of the scripts for the second game extracted, so we’ll be starting on that when this one is done. There’s a lot of stuff in the later games that I’m really looking forward to getting to.

R – We also plan on doing the Light Novels at some point, but that’s a project we’ll start after those two are completely done. We would love to have equal-minded translators join us to make that goal a reality, but we will continue to work until we’re either dead or finished, whichever happens to come first.

K – We’ll probably finish and then drop dead.

What do you think about recent(ish) acquisitions of OZMAFIA!! and No, Thank You!!! by MangaGamer?

R – I actually can’t wait for OZMAFIA!! to come out. The art style is adorable, and honestly you can’t go wrong with a kemonomimi as the heroine. Plus, I love Wizard of Oz, and frankly anything that can pay homage to that is good in my book.

No, Thank You! on the other hand, is also one I’m looking forward to, only because there isn’t a lot of yaoi in the English market. However, I’m concerned that it will end up being too rushed and not polished like fan-translated works tend to be. I will probably send them an e-mail with every grammatical error I find, just like I have with other releases they’ve had.

K – I haven’t had time to play any other VN since I started this project, haha! But they both do sound interesting, so maybe at some point I’ll have chance to give them a go. Echoing what Ryechu said, it’s always particularly good to see more BL games being licensed.

From what I’ve seen while following No, Thank You!!!‘s translator on Twitter, I don’t think there will be any problems. – Zaka

Is there anything else you would like to tell us?

R – Thank you for taking the time to speak with us, and I hope everybody is looking forward to our release, which will be before Halloween. We’re in the process of editing and quality checking the last chunk of scripts, and at that point it’s a little bit of internal testing, and then you’ll have a full copy of the game!

K –  Right now I’m going through all of the earlier scripts and fully re-editing them as I have done the later ones, so hopefully the final version of the game should read fantastically from beginning to end. As Ryechu said, I hope that people enjoy the game, and thank you for all the support we’ve received so far!

R – Other than that, be sure to visit our website: http://joat.moonfruit.com, and our tumblr: http://joat-translations.tumblr.com/ for all of our latest updates.  If you want to contact us about working on the project, send me an e-mail at JOAT-TL(at)outlook.com.

About the author

Zakamutt

Writer of irreverent VNTS commentaries, editor-in-chief of the Fuwazette, Swedish, ambivalent toward meatballs. Brave Fuwanovel Skype Group memeber, technically a reviewer, FuwaFM podcast regular, chronic everything staller. I am all these things and more, but mostly I'm really lazy.

Loves yuri, reading, chocolate, and quality sugar-free colas. Hates gameplay VNs and long walks on the beach.

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