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Why Seven Seas Altered Its Light Novels


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Blanchimont



Joined: 25 Feb 2012
Posts: 2565
Location: Finland
PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2021 1:07 pm Reply with quote
Dark Mac wrote:
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.

What!? The edits/deletions that were discovered and discussed were no improvement, perhaps the word you're thinking of is 'mangled'?

And your example of FF7 is a bit faulty, half a year after the game's Western version the game was re-released as 'International' version in Japan which had all the content included in the Western version, including Emerald and Ruby Weapon. Not that much of that has much relevance in the discussion at hand here, game localization differences are somewhat commonplace even today, but a very rare beast in book publishing...
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OrdepNM



Joined: 14 Nov 2018
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2021 1:49 pm Reply with quote
SHD wrote:

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...


You're missing the point. They didn't edit the novels because they thought Murakami's America readers didn't have the attention span to keep up, they did it because a more straight to the point narrative would review better with people who never heard of Murakami and not completely turn off people looking for some light reading. In short, their were casting the net wider and looking out for their bottom line.

And, as terrible a practice as that is, particularly with a classic like The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, I can at least understand the profit-based priorities at work. What's more baffling about the SS situation is that as Kim noted, the current western LN community is very insular, locked within the wider weeb/anime community, so there's not a ton of benefit in doing stuff like this besides some editor's delusions about one day getting Mushoku Tensei on the Young Adult bestseller list.
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ZiharkXVI



Joined: 29 Jan 2009
Posts: 226
PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2021 2:01 pm Reply with quote
TarsTarkas wrote:
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 censorship.in some instances.


Pretty much this. I think people generally need to chill when it comes to the localization complaints in most translated works. There is no one "most true" to the source material - there are shades of accuracy to differing translations given word choice, style, and context.

But censorship is (or should be) avoided because that's not translation. And though I'm not familiar with the Seven Seas issue firsthand, from what I'm gathering that's what happened. We can say don't criticize the translators, but I'll give fans this much - they are not wrong to be suspicious.
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Florete



Joined: 21 Jan 2018
Posts: 204
PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2021 2:08 pm Reply with quote
The article is great. Great explanations, great conclusion. Too bad there are still some children in the responses who aren't willing to accept an apology.

These changes were wrong, and as a purchaser of the physical volumes of I'm in Love with the Villainess, it affects me directly. It upsets me, but I'm not about to go and say I'll never purchase from Seven Seas again when 1) they've admitted their mistake, are issuing fixes, and stated they've changed such policies (and we have no reason to think that's a lie), and 2) it's not like this niche pastime is going to be fulfilled elsewhere, half or more of the series I follow are being published by Seven Seas. I trust fan translations less than official ones despite this, and the prose is almost universally better in the latter as well (yes, I've compared).

Seven Seas is still people, people make mistakes, and if you're not willing to forgive people's mistakes and move on, you're going to have a rough time in life.
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lys



Joined: 24 Jun 2004
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Location: mitten-state
PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2021 2:16 pm Reply with quote
Possibly an unpopular opinion, but while I'm a huge manga fan, I have the hardest time reading LNs because of the way they are written. There is so much redundancy and unnecessary phrasing and stuff that doesn't read well as English prose. It's not the fault of a particular translator, because just about every LN I try to read has the same kinds of issues, and I don't even necessarily consider it "bad" writing in Japanese, just a writing style that doesn't suit my expectations. So while the content-changes are understandably troubling, an insistence on a 1:1 sentence-for-sentence translation bothers me as well. I think the approach of smoothing things out for more natural-English sounding prose, if done respectfully with a desire to retain the intent and meaning of the original, can be a great approach. If absolute literalism is the way LNs are headed, I despair of ever finding one I can enjoy. I'll just have to hope the manga adaptations do the work justice.
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LastPage 3



Joined: 13 Jun 2010
Posts: 71
PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2021 2:19 pm Reply with quote
OrdepNM wrote:


You're missing the point. They didn't edit the novels because they thought Murakami's America readers didn't have the attention span to keep up, they did it because a more straight to the point narrative would review better with people who never heard of Murakami and not completely turn off people looking for some light reading. In short, their were casting the net wider and looking out for their bottom line.

And, as terrible a practice as that is, particularly with a classic like The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, I can at least understand the profit-based priorities at work. What's more baffling about the SS situation is that as Kim noted, the current western LN community is very insular, locked within the wider weeb/anime community, so there's not a ton of benefit in doing stuff like this besides some editor's delusions about one day getting Mushoku Tensei on the Young Adult bestseller list.


Upthread, Ashabel identified the editor of CotE and I highly doubt she's really involved in the anime/manga community, much less the light novel community.

I wouldn't be surprised if she edited what she got like it was a first draft. I wouldn't even be shocked if SS just sent her a document and she wasn't even aware it was a translated work she was editing.
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OtherSideofSky



Joined: 19 May 2016
Posts: 247
PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2021 2:19 pm Reply with quote
Blanchimont wrote:
game localization differences are somewhat commonplace even today, but a very rare beast in book publishing...

That really depends on what books you're looking at. If you pick up an English edition of a Natsuno Kirino novel (or anything else a major publisher expects to sell to the mass market), I guarantee you'll be getting significant differences from the Japanese edition (although how much you feel they affect the meaning may vary). If you pick up one of Michael Emmerich's translations of Yasushi Inoue, or something else in that vein, you'll be getting something much closer to the source and generally with a deeper understanding of the material.

This Seven Seas issue looks like an absolute failure of editorial policy. In a lot of cases, it's difficult to see why text was removed, and the overall effect is nowhere near as competent as those early Murakami translations.

It's nice that the existence of fan translations gives readers some basis for comparison in these cases (I doubt many people who read the Japanese editions bother to pick up the English ones; I know I don't). On the other hand, the level of blind devotion a lot of people have to fan translations is troubling, because most of them are riddled with errors. (Not that official translations don't have issues with that, but there's usually some level of quality control.) I've had plenty of arguments with people who turned out to be going off a fan "translation" on some wiki that got everything completely backwards.
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TarsTarkas



Joined: 20 Dec 2007
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Location: Virginia, United States
PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2021 3:22 pm Reply with quote
Florete wrote:
The article is great. Great explanations, great conclusion. Too bad there are still some children in the responses who aren't willing to accept an apology.

Seven Seas is still people, people make mistakes, and if you're not willing to forgive people's mistakes and move on, you're going to have a rough time in life.

I am not as hidebound as some, but you have to get a real apology. They did not give an apology for "Editing for Content", nor did they give a apology for failing to disclose the fact that the product you were buying was "Edited for Content". This for the most part was not about localization, but censorship and fraud.

This is not some new thing, they knew what they were doing. They thought that since these were light novels (written word) they could get away with making fools out of their customers. And they were right for awhile, till it came back to bite them.
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Horsefellow



Joined: 01 Jan 2020
Posts: 261
PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2021 3:28 pm Reply with quote
SHD wrote:
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?


Some people genuinely think Japanese media being censored to remove some of the more unsavory elements is an improvement. Some translators even take it upon themselves to be the corrector of Japan's "backwards views".

It's why I generally don't support any American distributors these days. It's not worth the hassle to see if a specific release is censored or not when every single company is guilty of doing this.
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Blanchimont



Joined: 25 Feb 2012
Posts: 2565
Location: Finland
PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2021 4:12 pm Reply with quote
Quote:
The truth of the matter is that the bulk of what Seven Seas was changing was “invisible” to the audience. Most people would only read a translated novel because they can't read the original language, after all. Even a reader who is deeply familiar with light novels and Japanese culture will not notice if the translated text has been extensively edited for brevity and flow unless they read it alongside the original text or an alternate translation.

True. The one major disadvantage light novels(and you could say books in general) have, is that in the entire world of otakudom it's one of the least visual entries.
When the sister entry of manga has stuff like this happen, it's almost immediately noticed in fandom at large, like what happened not too long ago with Yen Press' Eclair series which omitted Itou Hachi chapters in its volumes. There I have to give a point to Seven Seas as their Syrup series retains the chapters by that author(though admittedly, these ones are not near as controversial as those in Eclair...).
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Electric Wooloo



Joined: 19 Aug 2020
Posts: 112
PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2021 4:23 pm Reply with quote
TarsTarkas wrote:
Florete wrote:
The article is great. Great explanations, great conclusion. Too bad there are still some children in the responses who aren't willing to accept an apology.

Seven Seas is still people, people make mistakes, and if you're not willing to forgive people's mistakes and move on, you're going to have a rough time in life.

I am not as hidebound as some, but you have to get a real apology. They did not give an apology for "Editing for Content", nor did they give a apology for failing to disclose the fact that the product you were buying was "Edited for Content". This for the most part was not about localization, but censorship and fraud.

This is not some new thing, they knew what they were doing. They thought that since these were light novels (written word) they could get away with making fools out of their customers. And they were right for awhile, till it came back to bite them.


This makes Seven Seas sound like a bunch of hand-wringing super villians trying to censor light novels for the English audience. From my understanding it was an editorial failure in the "cleanup step" between raw translations and print. This isn't some order from on high to censor every LN they publish, this is a few editors cutting content they don't agree with for their own reasons (be that ignorance, personal beliefs, a lack of communication, or an attempt to "improve" the work).

It's very possible, nay probable, most of the people involved Didn't know that censorship was happening. Translators have said they submitted faithful translations and didn't know, proofreaders would be checking for English language mistakes and may not have even read Japanese, and higher ups don't read through every book in both languages to trawl for errors.
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Daerian



Joined: 04 Dec 2011
Posts: 106
PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2021 4:35 pm Reply with quote
It makes me remember about "edited" translation of Bram Stoker "Dracula" into my native language... which kinda shortened entire book to 200 pages by cutting such unimportant parts like entire character of van Helsing. By which, for clarity, I mean van Helsing doesn't show in this translation at all.
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Tuor_of_Gondolin



Joined: 20 Apr 2009
Posts: 3481
Location: Bellevue, WA
PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2021 6:09 pm Reply with quote
First, let me say that I greatly respect anyone, professional or not, that goes to the effort of translating a text, especially from Japanese to English, as they are very different from one another. I realize that nearly all of them are just doing their job of translating, and not acting as some sort of moral guardian. My ire at what Seven Seas has done has nothing at all to do with them.

Also, I don't think most of the people who work at Seven Seas are bad people or were even aware of what was happening regarding these instances of censorship. However, their company made the product, and that product was censored, and that censorship was undeclared. The company made the product and the company is responsible for what it made.

Ultimately, it doesn't really matter who inside the company made the decision to censor these works; what matters is that it happened, multiple times in multiple works. These were NOT "mistakes". These were intentional decisions by someone at the company. If I get a math problem wrong, that is a mistake. If I make the wrong turn while driving, that's a mistake. If they accidentally cut content or mistranslated the text, *that* would be a mistake. But cutting "offensive" material because you don't think others should view it is not a mistake. Yes, if it happened once or twice, *maybe* it was a mistake, but when it happens more often, and always with certain types of text, then it ceases to be a mistake and becomes intentional.

As for the "I'll never buy from them again" stance... well, it depends on what Seven Seas does about all of this. Re-releasing the Jobless Reincarnation LNs is a good start. But they'll have to do more to get me to buy from them in the future. If they can avoid a repeat of this for a while, I expect I'll eventually start trusting them again. Probably.

Finally, regarding changing sentence structure, word choice, and the like to make things flow more smoothly in English: That's a tightrope, I'm sure, but I'm willing to put up with a lot in that regard because I know that they're trying to maintain the author's intent while not burdening the reader. I consider that just part of reading translated works: It's not going to be perfect, and if that's what I want, I should learn Japanese. However, I don't think the topic we're really talking about here involves this aspect of translation.
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VioletCherry



Joined: 24 Mar 2021
Posts: 6
PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2021 6:46 pm Reply with quote
Great article! Really informative. I hope all these companies try their best to be as faithful as they can to the original material.

I also respect the work these translators put in too, it can't be easy.
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Punch Drunk Marc



Joined: 04 Oct 2013
Posts: 1640
PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2021 7:00 pm Reply with quote
Well...guess that means I'll have to skip reading the volumes of MT that I already have.
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