Stay Away from the No Game No Life English Novel
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
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:
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.
—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:
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:
EXHIBIT C: BAD ENGRISH
The Engrish ranges from amusing…
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.
What, is he shooting her?
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.
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!