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Why Seven Seas Altered Its Light Novels

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Joined: 06 Jun 2018
Posts: 171
PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2021 8:11 am Reply with quote
There is nothing wrong with trying to regionalize expressions, the problem is when whole sentences or situations are smoothed out or omitted. In this case, a question about censorship already fits.
In the old days, people fought for many decades to have the right to say what they think or write stories free from government supervision and decades after they succeeded, today it is not the government that concerned them, but the opinion of other people who do not like an expression in a work of fiction.
It is necessary to find a balance on this. I was taught as a child to separate fiction from reality. That just because I found something funny in a movie or anime doesn't mean that I could imitate it in real life. Maybe I was lucky to have been taught that.
But nowadays a separation between the two is discouraged and instead both should be treated in the same way. Which I personally find ridiculous.
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Joined: 26 Apr 2021
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2021 9:26 am Reply with quote
They are revising Mushoku Tensei Vols 1-9.
You can find it on the detail pages of those volumes on Seven Seas site.
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Joined: 16 May 2015
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Location: End of the World
PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2021 9:33 am Reply with quote
Yliv wrote:
They are revising Mushoku Tensei Vols 1-9.
You can find it on the detail pages of those volumes on Seven Seas site.

I believe Kim said in it a "They said they're doing it, but haven't gotten to it yet" way.
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Joined: 26 Apr 2021
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2021 9:38 am Reply with quote
Not sure which part you're talking about but I'm referring to the paragraph above the image of the Mushoku Tensei Vol 8 cover. It doesn't read like that to me.
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Joined: 14 Sep 2009
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2021 9:42 am Reply with quote
Well, guess I'm never buying another Sevens Seas product again...
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Casval Rem Deikun

Joined: 24 Feb 2021
Posts: 94
PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2021 9:47 am Reply with quote
Great article, Kim. Thanks for extending the fans voices with these issues. The translators should be given more respect and control with the work they translate. Without them we are only left with the original work which not everyone can read.
I'm still incredibly upset with what Seven Seas with this butchering of their novels. I'm glad they are reprinting the novels with cuts to them though. The Mushoku Tensei novels are a huge shame due to how many had small cuts to them. Tensei volumes 1-8 had changes, 9 was fine they just added it to the reprint rollout for some reason.
I hope this whole fiasco lit the fire under Seven Seas to never do this again.
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Joined: 16 Feb 2010
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2021 10:12 am Reply with quote
It's probably worth noting that it's very easy to look up who is responsible for editing which novel for Seven Seas and while the publisher prides themselves in hiring "experienced and celebrated authors" for the job, I'm not sure their definition of those words is the same as everyone else.

In particular, the person responsible for editing Classroom of the Elite is Jessica Cluess, the author of the Kingdom on Fire YA novels. Not only is she barely experienced, but she is the very opposite of celebrated. In fact, her agent and publisher very publicly dropped her after she went on an unhinged racist tirade on Twitter just last December.

I mean, maybe I'm wrong about it, but I would think that if you want a good editor, you can do better than a racist Twitter spammer.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2021 10:34 am Reply with quote
Most light novels with a fan translation have a vocal fanbase that swears by the fan translation over the official one. For example, fans of The Irregular at Magic High School were aghast that the Yen Press translation doesn't keep "Onii-sama" (Miyuki's adoring way of referring to her older brother Tatsuya). Similarly, Overlord fans have a laundry list of complaints regarding terminology translation choices that differ from the fan translation.

And then there was the recent case of half the Re:Zero community dunking on Yen Press because they translated a chapter title as "Pick Me" rather than the fan translation-favored "Choose Me". For a hot minute everyone became a linguistic expert on the finer nuances between choosing and picking something but gladly it seems people learned to live with it.

If those readers enjoyed the prose, and the plot wasn't noticeably different from what was advertised, then you could say that Seven Seas succeeded in what it was trying to accomplish.

I don't think we can put the hurdle rate on what level of editing is acceptable on wether the readers had a good time. That's kinda like saying that as long as the patrons at my restaurant answer that "the food is good" when I go over to ask if theyre enjoying their meal, I can keep cutting corners and skimping on ingredients. Ultimately not everyone is a literary or culinary critic and just want to have a good time - and part of that involves a degree of trust that you're not tampering with the product they're consuming any more than you need to. As soon as some more discerning customers note what I've been up to, no one is gonna answer that "the food is good", it's going to be distrust all the way to bankruptcy.

I find that's particularly true for light novel readers. Most readers aren't overly judgmental of flat prose because it's generally agreed that while the genre gave birth to lots of interesting stories, its not exactly fertile ground for Nobel prize candidates, which leads to fans valuing the content (the narrative) over how eloquently its delivered. When faced with visibly poor writing on a light novel you usually wonder if that's just how the writer writes, if the translator just isn't very good or, in the case of people who dwel on the more niche releases that you actively wonder if there's even 100 people worldwide buying each volume, you overlook all that because ultimately you're just glad someone is allowing you to keep up with the story. That's a mindset that lends itself to allowing alot of cracks to go overlooked. I didn't read Classroom of the Elite (tough it was on my short list for next titles to pick up, but after reading this article I'm not sure I still want to - there goes that distrust I mentioned) but as someone who thought Re:Zero Volume 1 was "perfectly fine" until someone actually showed me where it wasn't and I saw the translator note how they themselves weren't happy with the end result, I can definitely understand the sentiment.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2021 10:51 am Reply with quote
I'm fluent bilingual and experienced in translation. You'd be very surprised not only by how much is changed consciously, but also how many mistakes are made in the process. This could be anything from a misinterpretation of a phrase or word, to a failure to understand the broader context of a sentence, to even a complete blindside in meaning that causes the translater/editor to add sentences that were never there in the first place to give a paragraph some substance. This happens with BOTH official and fan translations, which means the problem is usually less a matter of which is better than a matter of simple human error.

As someone who reads whatever language light novels are available to me (whether I'm in the US or Japan), I can usually approximate the Japanese text and speech from the English translation. Sometimes having watched the anime helps, too, especially with speech patterns. I don't do it consciously, but I do notice that I do it. So while reading, something will stand out: maybe a sentence with weird grammar in English, or maybe one that doesn't sound right when I try to approximate the Japanese in my head, or maybe I'm familiar with the anime and the subtle way something is said sets off some cognitive dissonance in my head. I often research the Japanese text to quell my curiousity and, sure enough, I'll notice either a mistake or a change. And as a translator with a linguistic understanding of both languages, I can usually tell what went wrong or why a change was made. Some things sound ambiguous when translated to English, causing the editor to misinterpret the translation they've read. Others are clear mistranslations of words or phrases.

But ultimately, it's just impossible to know when you're missing out on something unless you're bilingual to some extent. I throw in sticky notes with reminders when I find translation errors or changes. I once let someone borrow a light novel series I read and left my notes in, so my friend is now paranoid every time she tries to read anything translated. Lol

I once thought of starting a blog about translation errors I've found in various media. It's genuinely fun to point out when a simple mistranslation causes unwarranted waves in the fandom, like what happened with Heatran speculation in Pokemon XY (the games) that I realized quickly was over a single NPC line mistranslation.
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Joined: 20 Dec 2007
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2021 11:26 am Reply with quote
I wouldn't blame the translators anyway, unless Seven Seas throws them under the bus. Usually, such things will be the editorial department or higher up the food chain.

I understand localization, and I don't see a need for honorifics, unless you are going to miss something by not having them. But, if they are going to edit for content, their light novels and manga, have to say on the front cover "Edited for Content", otherwise it is fraud. And, yes, the line between localization and censorship is a squishy one. But in Seven Seas case, it was clearly some instances.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2021 11:32 am Reply with quote
For what it's worth, the Jobless Reincarnation vol 1 through 7 reissues have already popped up digitally. 6 and 7 came out around the beginning of the month. I'm still waiting for 8 to come out cause I don't feel like reading censored content. It's a real shame too, since I'm super hooked on it. I'm pretty much checking daily to see if the update had been rolled out.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2021 12:13 pm Reply with quote
Ringking wrote:
Well, guess I'm never buying another Sevens Seas product again...

I fortunately never picked up any of the series they are releasing, but I feel the same way. Novel and manga translations require trust, and SS has destroyed that.

I think the reason trust is so important here goes back to why this took so long to be noticed. It isn't really easy to catch this kind of crap. Changes made to subs get noticed much more easily because people hear the original line while they see the sub. (Granted not everyone watching an English sub can understand the spoken words, but a lot of the time you can't even turn the subs off even if you can understand them.) I'm much more lenient to changes made to subs because I can hear the original line, and I don't *need* to rely on trust.
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Joined: 09 Mar 2005
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Location: Middle America
PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2021 12:17 pm Reply with quote
I gave Seven Seas a chance again after a decade of boycotting their products.

This wasn't a simple oops, this was a conscious decision on their part to devalue the property because "They know better."

This issue has made me reconsider. I am NEVER buying anything from this company again--the trust has been completely severed.
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Dark Mac

Joined: 17 May 2008
Posts: 101
PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2021 12:29 pm Reply with quote
It's crazy how many LN fans are upset over a localization company improving the product they're getting. I wonder if these are the same types that would get upset about stuff like Emerald and Ruby Weapon being added for the American version of Final Fantasy VII, or any number of other upgrades Western localizations of games have gotten over time because they're not exactly the same as the original.
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2021 12:48 pm Reply with quote
Nevertheless, novels do sometimes undergo content changes in translation if publishers think they'll sell more copies that way. Famously, this was the case with Haruki Murakami's novels when they were first being published for U.S. audiences, as David Karashima's Who We're Reading When We're Reading Murakami documents. Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World lost around 100 pages in translation, while The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle lost around 25,000 words, to name just a few examples.

The reasoning behind the cuts, Murakami's collaborators explained, is that they “refined” the original work by cutting repetition and non-sequiturs, so that the books could more easily hold the attention of American readers. It wasn't simply a case of changing some wording choices and sentence structures to sound more natural in the target language, but condensing and rewriting the text altogether as if it were a book originally submitted to the editor in English.


OK, so. I agree that translating a novel (for example) is pretty much rewriting it in another language. I understand that. One of the reasons why, for example, the English version of the LoGH novels suck so much, at least as far as I read them, is that the translator didn't even attempt to make the text flow well in English, he pretty much just put the words and sentences after one another and called it a day. One of the reasons why the translation of Ubume no natsu/Summer of the ubume is so good that the translator just went in and transcreated the Japanese novel into English, adjusting the sentence flow, etc. Localization involves adaptation, to different language structures, different cultures, and so on and so forth. I understand that and I'm doing it myself (as someone who works in translation and localization and is a translator on the side).

But who do these people think they are to think that their job involves "refining" the original work of art, as if it was a rough draft that needs to be polished? Who are they to make decisions about what to cut out and how, never mind the silly reason why - because they assume American readers have an attention span too short to deal with the novels as they are? (If I was an American reader of Murakami I'd feel insulted, frankly... This is like in old American anime dubs when they kept inserting dialogue wherever there was silence in the original, or added random one-liners from characters off-screen, etc. apparently because they assumed that the audience wouldn't bear to sit through 15 seconds of silence. Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust is an amazing example of this.)

And then people think this is natural and OK?

Well... this was my huge culture shock moment of the day, I suppose. (And before someone goes "the same thing happens in your country" - no, it doesn't.)

Last edited by SHD on Mon Apr 26, 2021 1:11 pm; edited 1 time in total
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