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Stay Away from the No Game No Life English Novel

Kamiya_NoGameNoLife_v1_Prose_TP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EDIT (18/7/2016): I have heard that Yen Press’s No Game No Life novels were heavily edited and re-released. I have also heard that subsequent volumes are much better received. I have not read these later editions myself, so this post is only a commentary on the first edition of the first light novel volume. Please bear that in mind as you read this post!


The biggest mistake of my life was putting actual money into the English No Game No Life novel, published by Yen Press.

Yen Press has a pretty good reputation as far as light novel publishing companies go. Their release schedule is consistent and the translation quality is a solid notch above the fan translations. I particularly recommend their Sword Art Online release, which was translated by Stephen Paul.

However, not every release is translated by the same person. Some translations are better than others. No Game No Life, translated by Daniel Komen, is one of the duds.

Allow me to show you what I mean through choice excerpts from the book.

EXHIBIT A: BAD PUNCTUATION AND GRAMMAR

no game no life prose

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don’t envy the soul who has to translate No Game No Life. Kamiya Yuu has a very idiosyncratic writing style. But what are those sentences even supposed to convey? How did an editor permit this wholesale slaughter of the English language?

To compare, here is the fan translation from Nano Desu:

—Knock, knock.

Sora was woken up by that soft knocking, perhaps due to his nerves becoming oversensitive after the stress of arriving in an unknown land.

While silencing his body’s protests that it hadn’t slept enough at all, his brain suddenly became completely alert.

“……*mumble*.”

—But it seemed that wasn’t the case with the younger sister.

While still grasping her brother’s left arm, she was still sound asleep and had drool dripping from her mouth.

Sora felt both relieved and envious of her peaceful, dreaming face.

You know you’re doing it wrong when a fan translation is more comprehensible than your official translation.

EXHIBIT B: BAD MEMES

This part is understandable because the characters are supposed to be otaku. But the incorporation of internet slang here feels forced:

leet

 

 

 

In Japanese, the line reads: ぬ、馬鹿言うな。イカサマはどんだけ凄いかじゃなく、どう使うかだ。A more accurate translation would be: “What matters isn’t how impressive the trick is, it’s pulling it off.” イカサマ is a common Japanese word, not a meme. (And besides, isn’t ‘leet’ way old school?)

On the upside, I do admit this line made me laugh:

pron

 

 

EXHIBIT C: BAD ENGRISH

The Engrish ranges from amusing…

my little imouto

 

 

 

…to wtf…

sou desu

 

 

 

In the original novel, Sora says English words (マイリトルシスター and いえーすいぐざくとりー) with a Japanese accent in a quirky attempt to sound sophisticated. A more comparable effect would have been achieved by using French words, not friggen Japanese words. If Sora is supposed to be Japanese in the first place, then peppering his speech with Japanese words in the English translation doesn’t exactly make him sound like he’s talking like a foreigner.

There aren’t even any footnotes explaining what those Japanese words are supposed to mean, so good luck pitching this novel to a non-weaboo…

EXHIBIT D: MISC.

bang

 

 

 

 

What, is he shooting her?

monotone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eh? Eh?! Eeeeehhhhhh?!

EXHIBIT E: ???

At one point in the first chapter, No Game No Life eloquently describes the act of groping a woman’s breasts.

bwwwooooing

 

 

 

 

 

Aaaaaand this was the point where I stopped reading.


As a light novel fan and a translator, I refuse to spend money on bad translations. I’m a bit torn on this because I want to see the English LN industry grow, but I want good standards most of all. I hope Yen Press avoids falling to the level of paying cheap commissions for mass-produced translations, just for the sake of riding on the success of a few popular titles.

By the way, I haven’t checked out the other April LN releases yet. My confidence as a consumer has been shaken somewhat by this whole debacle. I just hope they’re not as miserable as the No Game No Life translation.

Well, anyway, that’s enough negativity for one post. I don’t enjoy lampooning things I have no affection for. Next post should be more cheerful and upbeat, I hope!

 

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Posted on May 3, 2015, in Reviews and Impressions, Translations and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 88 Comments.

  1. It’s kinda ironic how an official translation looks more like a fan translation and vice versa.

    • To be honest, I think the fan translation would also require rigorous editing before I would deem it publishable on a professional level, but it’s definitely more accurate than the official translation. It wouldn’t take a complete overhaul to get it up to par.

  2. “Leet cheats” rhymes, so maybe that’s what they did that? Lol.

    I hope the Hataraku Maou-sama is good…

  3. Was it actually the left or right arm she was holding in the original Japanese?

  4. Yen Press should just hunt down the Fan translator, and hire him, anyway.

  5. Yep, the “eeeeeeh” thing kind of gives me bad memories of Glasslip since Touko actually yelled that.

    But yes, that translation is pretty bad and I thought that some Japanese roleplaying games have pretty bad localizations. I guess I was mistaken.

  6. After analysing the evidence, I find YenPress guilty for publishing a LN with a poor translation. My eyes almost bleed. I think the worst error is using random japanese romanised words in middle of translation, it’s disappointing that fan translations are better than official ones. Something like that happened with the Hidan no Aria LN series that eManga published, but they only needed a better revising.

    At least you bought the digital version, I think it would have been more disappointing finding those aberrations in the physical copy of the LN, Hope they make a better translation in the next volume.

    • I hope they make a better translation in the next volume too, but I won’t be buying it lol.

      eManga is one of the worst localisation companies. I hear they pay their translators dirt. They’ve licensed Henneko and I bet my translation will probably be better than theirs… :/

      • Yeah, I heard NGNL was a really good LN, it’s a shame for the true fans of the series, guess when I read it I’ll read a fan translation, at least of the first volume.

        I hate eManga, specially because they license LN and Mangas and after some time they leave them in the oblivion. I have to confess that I did bought the Hidan no Aria first two volumes from eManga, but It really pisses me off they forgot about the series… … But I would continue buying the HnA further volumes :v

  7. >The biggest mistake of my life was putting actual money into the English No Game No Life novel, published by Yen Press.

    No. The biggest mistake of your life was submitting to the slave driver that is nano.

    I can’t believe YP sells stuff without multiple forms of QC. That strikes me as bad management.

  8. This is quite bleh… YP is still the best official LN translation company out there, so if they put out subpar work it really is depressing.

    • This is probably the result of licensing too many titles and not having enough staff/time to supervise the projects properly. YP absolutely puts effort into their big name titles. But I would expect better consistency from professionals.

  9. TBH i think they should just hire you instead. ~

  10. I see a reference to whemleh.

  11. Won’t contest you on the quality of the translation when I haven’t read it (and never really intended to), but, how should I put it… I think you might have a standard that’s slightly higher than NGNL necessarily requires? I guess what I mean is, from my impression of the franchise, it’s meant to be a pretty silly series and the translator may have (in his mind at least, fittingly) took a more lighthearted stylistic approach for the story’s prose. Having characters use “leet” slang and jokingly throw in a couple Japanese words doesn’t seem all that bizarre to me, considering the wild premise and game-themed setting. (Or at least, not a complete deal-breaker…)

    This is also a story that I’m rather sure is meant to be targeted to a very… “in the know” audience for anime/manga/etc culture. Considering all the fan service and whatnot for this particular series, it doesn’t seem so strange that the translator went this particular route? Attempting to appeal to a more general audience for NGNL seems like it would be a rather uphill battle.

    I guess I also feel like I’ve just read worse than all this in a lot of other translations (both official and otherwise), so maybe I’m just easier to please at this point. =P I’d imagine all your experience with translation as well as the fact you had read another take on this specific volume could have influenced your reading of this? Not going to say your impressions here are wrong though, as I agree that more effort can be made to polish these novels for professional release (especially in regard to the way punctuation/typesetting is handled in this and other specific Yen Press works).

    • Heh, I think I was extra hard on the NGNL translation because I really enjoyed the Japanese prose. It’s very unusual but interesting to read, and it comes across as much too crude here. Even if the publishers weren’t expecting much sales-wise and I agree that the story doesn’t take itself too seriously, I think it’s a gross disrespect to the author.

      Anyway, thanks for sharing your perspective!

      • Stylistic license is an aspect of translation that can be a sticky subject for those in the know, it seems. I’ll probably only get a decent understanding once I have a better grasp on the Japanese language myself. There’s a lot of choices that have to be made for every page, and it does sound like it would be easy to take things too far in any number of directions.

      • Respect or disrespect to the author is not a concern once something is commercialized. The decision becomes a business one, which is all about projected sales/profits vs the costs of a good, mediocre, or bad translation.

        A well-known aspect of project management is the function c = f(p, t, s); cost is a function of performance (quality), time, and scope (objectives). Well the time is their posted release deadline, the scope is translating the novel, and if the project is given little budget (cost), guess what ends up suffering?

  12. tirthasumeragi

    wait….I ALREADY ORDERED THIS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    (TheCatWalk here….nyan..)

  13. same quality or more worse quality with fan translation

  14. Frog kun do you know if certain magical index and devil is a part timer is accurate translation?

    • I haven’t read Devil is a Part Timer yet. A Certain Magical Index is a bit rough, particularly at the beginning, but it’s a reasonable translation. I never read Index in Japanese, so I can’t comment on the accuracy, though.

  15. Sad to see that baka-tsuki and nano-desu have taken down the NGNL projects. It should be Yen Press’s work right? For such a bad translation too, now Im not happy.

  16. Thanks for the warning Frog-kun, I think I’ll learn japanese instead. Did you also read Danmachi? If you did, is Yen Press’s translation accurate enough? I really enjoyed the anime so I’d like to read the LN but I’m afraid to make a mistake.

  17. I found the quality of “Is it Wrong to Pick up Girls in a Dungeon” to be euqally adbhorent. I think we’re seeing new standard of quality from YP.

  18. Heh, was looking for the said official translation today. I’d started reading the Nano version about a week before the official one had been announced and have just remembered I could give it a try. Seems like I won’t put much more effort into it. I’m sad both as a reader and as a (fan) editor. These are the moments I pick up the Japanese textbook lying in the corner.

    As much as that “professional” translator did, um, err, I think the person who failed to do their job was the editor. Who on earth would approve of this for publishing? (The thought that, at this point, the only thing separating me from the “professionals” is the fact I’m not getting paid makes it feel even weirder.)

    • Yeah, you’re right. This translation reeks of lack of editing. I can only guess that the translator and editor(s) were working on a tight schedule. That doesn’t excuse the sloppy work, though.

      From what I understand about YP, professional editors are required to know Japanese and should have publishing experience before applying, so the lazy display here is even more baffling.

  19. Why don’t you just translate it yourself and post on somewhere like Reddit Froggy? While I do know that Yen Press has a licence on publication of the english version it simply does not do the franchise justice. I recently started reading your translated version of Oregairu, and I must say , you did quite a fantastic job. So far the flow of the story is amazing! Nothing is butchered or half assed, everything just comes together. If anybody is anyone could do this franchise justice by giving it a proper translation, it would be you.

    • That’s nice of you to say! Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to translate so many light novels, especially for a series that has already been licensed. I’m comfortable with the knowledge that there are many great LNs out there that haven’t been translated at all.

  20. I’ve had the (not so) pleasure of meeting this Mr. Komen.

    It doesn’t surprise me that his translation isn’t up to standards, I was very surprised when this was the official translator for Yen Press’s No Game No Life.

    Komen doesn’t have a strong grasp of the Japanese language from the interactions I’ve had with him (not to mention lacking some common social skills but that’s unrelated).

    He’s self taught, which isn’t too rare nowadays amongst translators I assume. Some of his understanding of the culture is also a little offbeat, which may be the social skills contributing here (and also why we get these almost cringeworthy half japanese half english translations).

    I seriously hope Yen Press finds some more quality translators, or is this the norm for many of the professional ones amongst publisher companies?

  21. if they license the Overlord LN and make it shit im going to burn the world

  22. “Yen Press has a pretty good reputation as far as light novel publishing companies go. Their release schedule is consistent and the translation quality is a solid notch above the fan translations.”
    This is quite *LITERALLY* the exact opposite of everything I have ever heard about Yen Press.

    • I actually won’t be that harsh on Yen Press since I’m buying the translated SAO franchise both normal & progressive. And since I read the fan trans in baka-tsuki I say that their quality in SAO series is quite accurate and doesn’t stray that much from fan translations.

      If anything the problem is the bloody dudes who are responsible for the NGNL. They should axe the entire division and recruit competent personnel.

  23. Yen Press is shit. i hate their translations. If Del-ray bothered to have a light novel section I would be more impressed. Do you know why? Del-ray has been in the novel business for over 40 years. Their manga section closed down to concentrate on their novels. If they got a light novel section I’d be happy. But I’m already disappointed. Yen Press damn you!

  24. Has this kind of complaint be made to Yen Press?

  25. [Comment removed on request]

  26. some other random people to

    Thank you random people from the internet ,for post opinion, for random article to not to buy x product.

    • some other random people to

      for me it’s better rather than no translate at all.

      sincerely other random people from the internet, who just passing by.

  27. My god, i that have read the fan translation, when i see this, i think, kamiya-sensei will ask the fan translator to make the translations, because the yen-press translation it’s very bad

  28. hey at least they did not change the storyline to make it more ‘progressively’ acceptable as they do in some games.

    but i agree that is a terrible translation.

  29. ….HAHAHAHAHHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHAHAHAH

    HAAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAAHHAAH

    HAAAAAAAAHAAAAAAAAAAHAAAAAAAAAAA

    This is sad.

    • Honestly i’ve read a number of Yen Press’s translations and on a whole, i would say a lot of fan translations actually make more sense than theirs do, especially from Baka-Tsuki.

      I mean really, how does “Kamijou-chan” (Baka-Tsuki) become “Kami” (Yen Press) in the first vol of Index? it’ll be like calling a guy named Jacob, Ja instead of say Jake. Made me regret buying the volume altogether :/

      I would like to support the English LN community but not if its by Yen Press if u ask me.

      • TL;DR: the honorifics are a quirk of Japanese language, and they don’t belong to the name, so, from this point of view, they should be translated into an equivalent literary device in target language, so people not versed in Japanese would understand it.

        I don’t have any experience with Yen Press besides other people’s stories, but the example you provide feels kinda faulty. You see, the “-chan” honorific is not part of the name, but the language. “chan” is generally used for children, and while I’m not sure how much it is actually used among teenagers and adults, it basically makes the name a sorta euphemism and/or diminutive(*). In that light, to have a true English translation, the translator theoretically should translate it to some form of English that makes sense as a diminutive. If he doesn’t, people who don’t speak Japanese would have no clue what’s going on.

        (*) I’ve studied only a little Japanese, so if that doesn’t make sense, sorry, and feel free to correct me. But I believe that, generally, that’s how it works, even if it’s kinda oversimplified.

        Lastly, I’ve never truly understood why so many anime related translations of Japanese (be it manga, LNs, VNs…) keep the honorifics. I mean, I don’t mind, but when I was getting into anime and stuff, I remember having trouble understanding what the things even meant. I guess sometimes it’s just that hard to translate…? But it can’t be impossible because there has to be “classical” Japanese literature that does so. Anyway, it’d be interesting to hear some opinions on and/or experience with that.

  30. Thank you, after reading this review I am definitely buying that translation. It is wonderfully done!!! Bwooooiiing!!!

  31. Hey Frog-kun, you can’t criticize a light novel that you don’t read in full.
    Good day

  32. Hey, thanks for this, I mean it. I was going to go read the LN but seeing how bad what you’ve shown is, I’m not even gonna bother. Thanks for the heads up.

    P.S. No one respond to this. I will not be checking back at this post.

  33. That last example sounds stupid, but I’ve read light novels in japanese that actually read like that. You say you stopped reading there, but what did the original work look like?

  34. i laughed so hard at the breasts SFX

  35. I don’t know about their light novels, but I’ve been buying manga that Yen Press has localized for a few years now and I can’t really understand all the hate. That being said, I’m pretty interested in picking up the No Game No Life novels. I read that Yen Press actually reprinted a fixed version of the translation. Does anyone know anything about that? Is it better than the one discussed in this article?

  36. I’ve just started reading NGNL, but I just found out that the fan translation was actually directly translated from the chinese one. So, I compared it, turns out many sentences were translated wrongly and didn’t make sense. But after reading the Yen Press version, it made more sense, and at least the translation are in line with the official chinese translation too. So, in my opinion, it’s worth buying Yen Press’ version.

  37. I’ll agree it’s definitely poor quality for what a novel should be, although on the other hand I don’t really like reading and because of all the translation errors I find it more amusing to read and keeps my brain wondering wtf is going on trying to imagine it instead of just being simple to me and just having the straight image already there when I read it.

    It’s probably due to me not liking to read why I enjoy reading this though

  38. LOL! I was fine with all of the other “EXHIBIT” reasons until it came to Exhibit E. Still gonna read it though, because the anime was epic.

  39. Translation for NGNL (the fan translation one) was pretty horrible for vol 3 above since it seems that the translator doesn’t even have a good grasp of english. Vol 6 translation that was done in reddit was pretty horrible and I’d rather read it in Japanese even though it’ll take some time for me to look up for some kanji that I don’t know… but damn, the original YP translation for NGNL 1 was even worse than that. They actually can create something that’s more incoherent than V6 translation with much more translation errors on the side.

    I just read V5 YP version since I found myself confused when reading V5 translation before a couple years back and I’m glad that it seems better than the fan-tl one… though the abundant amount of memes and shits are really unneeded though.

  40. I wanna ask something. I wanna translate it into my language since ITS never pusblished in my country.
    Will I break any rules if I sell my translation? I wanna be paid for my hardwork…

    • Unless you have permission from the original rights holder, then yes you would be breaking the law

      • Why? Because I put price on it?
        Then how about if I translate it and put in my website? Or I print out my translation and give it to my brother cus he cant understand English language very well?

        • I got carried away with this comment :D Here it goes.

          Be that right or wrong, translations are viewed as modified versions of the original. As such, selling a translation of a LN is, from a legal standpoint, the same as reselling the original, which is clearly bad if you don’t have a permission from the publisher (be that a company or an individual).

          You may, of course, translate a LN for your own pleasure. When it comes to sharing that translation, though, it gets tricky yet again. Broadly speaking (and please do NOT take this as a legal advice, I’m not an expert by any means), if an official translation isn’t available in a region, and unless the publisher hasn’t stated otherwise, you may get away with sharing that translation, but only for free because once you earn money through that, it breaks the copyright law. Note that stuff like ads on a website where you posted the translation still may classify as earning money through the translation.

          But it still does not mean you’re safe. Not profiting from the translation is something that usually only tips the odds of winning a squabble towards you. If you don’t have the publisher’s permission, you risk bad things happening regardless. And if a publisher makes a statement, or contacts you directly, you should always do as they ask.

          While I believe the above applies to most of the modern world, individual countries may treat copyright differently. Some may be harsher, some more benevolent. It also depends on the publisher and the media in which you’re publishing the translation…

          The bottom line is if you want to just translate the LN, be that for language practice or for fun, it shouldn’t be a problem. Also, nobody’s gonna care if you let your brother read it or not, and it should be fine as long as you keep it on a small scale (say book reading club – but handing your unauthorized translation to other people may be risky because you don’t know what they’re gonna do with it, like sharing it without your knowledge). But if you would like to share it more widely you should definitely research your country’s laws regarding copyright first.

          Again, please do not take this as a serious legal advice.

  41. sigh, im glad that i read this article. Thanks frog-kun. u save my money

  42. – the fan translation reads boringly.
    – the memes made it better. (besides, “Leet” or “1337” is an internet reference. so you didn’t get it…)
    – you cannot assert that westerners know french, spanish or german or whatever but you can assert that weebs know a japanese word or two. (what do you mean “good luck pitching this novel to a non-weaboo”? are you a “baka”?)
    – did you watch the anime? this was an attempt to immitate these special scenes.
    – are you for real? you do know what you bought, right? weirdo.

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