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Why Seven Seas Altered Its Light Novels


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SaneSavantElla



Joined: 25 Jan 2013
Posts: 122
PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2021 7:10 pm Reply with quote
LN localization "scandals" will always remind me of the Tokyopop translation of the 1st volume of Kino's Journey. While they did make changes similar to the ones done by Seven Seas (albeit not amounting to dozens of pages), the biggest modification they made is to alter the structure of the novel itself, reordering chapters to make them chronological.

I don't think it was ever officially confirmed, but one long held belief by the KnT fan community is that not only the fans, but Keiichi Sigsawa himself so disliked what Tokyopop did with the 1st volume, that plans for distribution of already translated volumes were axed (listings for 2nd and 3rd volumes, complete with cover art, are floating around amazon at some point, but never saw the light of day), and future translations of the light novel held off indefinitely. To this day, none of the 20+ so other volumes received official localization due to the dead license held by Tokyopop.

That said, it was not without irony that the official manga adaptation does the exact same thing as Tokyopop, using the backstory as the very 1st chapter. Looking back at it, I would have preferred altered volumes than not having any of the novels localized and the non-JP speaking fans relying on whatever fan translation scraps they could find on the internet. Still hoping that someday, someone picks up the series.
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Suxinn



Joined: 23 Jan 2009
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2021 8:13 pm Reply with quote
Quote:
The publisher entered the light novel market in earnest in around 2017, when contemporaries like Yen Press and J-Novel Club were also ramping up their output.

Wait, wait, wait a sec! Are we just going to ignore Seven Seas output before they went temporarily under doing the manga bubble burst/Borders collapse?? Does no one remember the original English LN releases of Boogiepop were all the way back in 2006 or even Ballad of the Shinigami back in 2008?

Like, I'm sure there are different people working at Seven Seas now, but my point is that Seven Seas has been translating LNs for a long, long time, even excluding their hiatus. Has their editing guidelines changed over the years, or have they always made such sweeping edits and just no one caught them? Surprising, if so, because plenty of people caught Tokyopop's egregious mistranslations back then, whether in their LNs or their manga, and I remember some early Yen Press mistranslations were pointed out as well.
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Kabu



Joined: 21 Mar 2021
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PostPosted: Mon Apr 26, 2021 9:24 pm Reply with quote
Great article, but it's a shame that doesn't mention other series affected, like 'Roll Over and Die' and 'Bloom Into You'.

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 Seven Seas did with Classroom of the Elite is beyond ridiculous.

[EDIT: Removed a little condescension. -TK]
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Redbeard 101
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 27, 2021 1:02 pm Reply with quote
lys wrote:
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.


You're not the only one to feel that way. I can't read most modern LN's for the very same reason. If a series has a set of LN's and Manga volumes I almost always just opt for the Manga volumes instead. The story simply tends to flow much better in those volumes overall then in the LN's.

I don't mind altering things for a more smooth translation and reading experience. Many things do not translate well from one language to another. I think they key with localizations is INTENT. At the end of the day these are companies and many people seem to forget the fact that a company has to make money. Otherwise there won't be that company for long. If they feel some alterations to smooth out the material for a different audience and culture will work better and help ensure more volumes are sold I don't mind that. As long as they keep the intent of the author in mind. As long as they are not changing the fundamental story and ideas the author is trying to tell. Once they start to actually change the story, as opposed to the aforementioned "smoothing" out of it, then I have an issue. That applies for manga as well as the LN's. Though I tend to see the manga volumes as the more polished forms, story/translation wise, of the original LN's.
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TarsTarkas



Joined: 20 Dec 2007
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 27, 2021 1:28 pm Reply with quote
Electric Wooloo wrote:
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.


Hand-wringing super villians, no; but poor business decision, yes.

Yes, you can buy the company apology and excuse. For me though, it seems that 'cleanup step' decided to clean up material that our current cultural American society would find problematic. Quite convenient.

Never blamed the translators. Problem is, if indeed, Seven Seas has some rogue editers who don't have any proper oversight, that is going to be a problem for the Japanese. In one case, the author didn't even know this was happening.

Considering this wasn't a one off, but a problem across the board of titles and volumes, I believe this to be a business decision, not an oversight.
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luisedgarf



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PostPosted: Tue Apr 27, 2021 2:18 pm Reply with quote
Electric Wooloo wrote:

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.


There's also the fact many Americans had a very condescendent attitude toward the Japanese, taking the historical context into account, as many of them consider them as gullible or idiots, in stark contrast when dealing with other western people, due to the fact many Japanese doesn't know English to figure out when they were duped by the American peers behind their backs.
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Electric Wooloo



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PostPosted: Tue Apr 27, 2021 7:38 pm Reply with quote
TarsTarkas wrote:
Electric Wooloo wrote:
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.


Hand-wringing super villians, no; but poor business decision, yes.

Yes, you can buy the company apology and excuse. For me though, it seems that 'cleanup step' decided to clean up material that our current cultural American society would find problematic. Quite convenient.

Never blamed the translators. Problem is, if indeed, Seven Seas has some rogue editers who don't have any proper oversight, that is going to be a problem for the Japanese. In one case, the author didn't even know this was happening.

Considering this wasn't a one off, but a problem across the board of titles and volumes, I believe this to be a business decision, not an oversight.


I will buy their apology, and I'll keep buying their products. Especially since I only read their manga and, apart from the occasional typo, have never seen an egregious translation. And considering I often double check suspicious manga translations with the jp version I already own and a kanji dictionary I feel confident in saying that.

I'll stick with the old adage of don't assume malice before incompetence or some such.
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Twage



Joined: 29 Jul 2003
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PostPosted: Tue Apr 27, 2021 11:44 pm Reply with quote
Suxinn wrote:
Quote:
The publisher entered the light novel market in earnest in around 2017, when contemporaries like Yen Press and J-Novel Club were also ramping up their output.

Wait, wait, wait a sec! Are we just going to ignore Seven Seas output before they went temporarily under doing the manga bubble burst/Borders collapse?? Does no one remember the original English LN releases of Boogiepop were all the way back in 2006 or even Ballad of the Shinigami back in 2008?


My eyebrows went up at this, too. I translated a light novel for Seven Seas in 2006. (Granted, that one was never published…)
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Fluwm



Joined: 28 Jul 2009
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 28, 2021 2:01 am Reply with quote
Okay, so I've some experience w/ professional translation in a different field, but I think I can (briefly) weigh in on some of these issues.

I can personally attest that it is very common "in the industry" for translators (and editors) to effectively rewrite the material they're working with. Even with Germanic languages, it's very common for translators to adjust syntax and vocabulary. Is this ethical? No. Is it standard practice? Yes. Is it a necessary evil? Well, kinda.

Some of it is intentional--to produce more "readable" translations. You'll see this often advertised as a selling point for new translations of classical literature. Some of it is accidental--complex syntax can often be easier to parse when broken apart, and translators may sometimes forget to put everything back together again. Or they may think, "this is better," and leave it that way. It's easy to dismiss these heavy-handed alterations as arrogant, but at the same time understand that translators will spend a LOT of time working with a text, and will naturally be inclined to assert some "ownership" over it. That we can inject our own authorial voice into the text we're working with is something, I think, we can easily do without noticing--and so we must constantly be vigilant to ensure that we do NOT. That this injection can be *justified* by "improving readability" is where things start to get super-problematic. And keep in mind that some editors will ALSO adjust the text with an eye toward "readability," often with little to no communication with the translator.

I was fortunate enough to work at a small publisher, primarily with short documents (short stories, essays, articles, etc.) so I could (and sometimes did) look over edited texts prior to publication and point out any issues. One thing I noticed? Even the most well-meaning editors will make substantial alterations to the syntax when it violates perceived hard rules, like run-on sentences. Vocabulary is also a big aspect of translation--picking the right words to substitute can be difficult, as there are so many different connotative and Denotation meanings to be aware of, in both languages/cultures/time-periods. Editors love to make their own substitutions, to, as force of habit, as anyone whose seen a page littered with "WC" for "word choice" can testify.

Again, it's very easy--especially under deadline--to think, "it's better this way," and make a change--even if doing so substantially affects the meaning of the text.

And in most cases? The translator emails the translated text off and never hears from anyone about it again.

If you've ever run any text through Google Translate, you've likely produced word salad. If you've ever run that outputted translation through another machine-translation, you've almost-certainly produced an utterly unintelligible jumble of nonsense. The game of translation-telephone occurs in professional translation, too, to varying extents depending on how careful those involved are to maintain faithfulness w/ the original text. You can easily wind up with three, four, five (or even more) people all making their own adjustments to suit their own personal tastes. My work would AT LEAST be looked at (and potentially modified) by one editor and two copy-editors (so 4 people in total, though sometimes we'd pull double-duty copy-editing near deadlines). Often I'd try to get another translator to quickly go over my work to spot any issues, which ups the total to 5.

And the longer the text, the easier it is for those issues to go unnoticed.

As for removing text from a translation... also pretty common practice (though much less so now, I think, than it used to be). Also done in the name of "readability." Though typically these are published as "abridged translations" and the few cases where abridged translations are not clearly marked tend to earn at least some small outrage from the audience.

Personally, I've never worked with any abridged translations, nor have I had any experience with censorship. But also I've never translated anything that involved sexual assault of a child. I definitely do not envy anyone working on something like Mushoku Tensei, that fetishizes that behavior. I'd like to think that I'd be unwilling to censor or omit any text, on ethical grounds, and simply refuse the project... but if I needed the job? I dunno.

I'm just really glad I've never had to deal with content like that.

EDIT: Oh! Forgot about something else: the original authors. Authors are very frequently blindsided by poor-quality/controversial translations. It super sucks! Often they're not involved in the process at all--communication is publisher-to-publisher. They'd have to (be bilingual, and) buy the translated copy the selves to see the difference, and in many cases their work isn't being translated into just one language, but several, so that's not really feasible. That said, with some translations I was able to contact the original authors for clarification, and in almost every case (sometimes I never heard back, or heard back too late) they were happy to help to ensure a more faithful translation.

I'd also like to point out that, ideally, translation is handled by translators who are very fluent in both languages. I'd assume that only such people would be hired in the first place by a company specializing in LNs? But more generally, that's not always ideal. I primarily translated German-to-English, but a handful of times also had to work on Japanese-to-English, which is not something I should ever have been doing in an ideal world, because my Japanese is awful. But needs must. In those (few) cases I was fortunate enough to be able to work with another translator so that we covered each other's weaknesses (she was very fluent in Japanese, but not in English) and we had time to make sure we were really "doing it right." I would absolutely be horrified to have to work on one of those projects alone.

....

Anyway, if any of this massive wall-of-text interested any of y'all, then cool, glad I didn't waste all of our time writing it up on my phone with these stubby fingers (sorry about any typos, btw). I would strongly advise you, regardless of your personal language skills, to visit your local library and look for any bilingual editions of classical literature. These are more common than you might think! Something like Dante's Inferno, or Don Quixote, or possibly some other book starting with a D. These typically print the original text on the back of each page, and the translation on the front. So when you open the book, you can compare the translated text on the left to the original text on the right. Even if you don't speak the original language, you should still be able to compare the syntax--the rhythm--to the translation. I'd recommend going for poetry, as there the difference will be more pronounced. I think you'll be surprised to see how much the cadence of the translated copy differs from the original text.

(That's actually precisely the thing that got me interested in translation in the first place--a bilingual edition of Dante's Inferno w/ such evident lyricism in the original Italian being conspicuously absent in the translated English lines.)
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MagicPolly



Joined: 26 Nov 2020
Posts: 426
PostPosted: Wed Apr 28, 2021 4:38 am Reply with quote
Is there any word on SS reissuing Villainess? I'm wondering because my friend picked up volume 1 the other day and I'm not sure if I should tell her to return it or not if they're gonna reissue it. The only reissuing news I've heard has been Musoku volumes 1-9
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RenUsagi37



Joined: 28 Apr 2021
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 28, 2021 3:22 pm Reply with quote
I think that a good quote is in order regarding the "refiners" and their work: "Hypocrite! Remove the log from your own eye first! Then you will see clearly to remove the speck of wood from your brother's".
One problem with censorship is that even if there are things that can cause harm to people either directly or indirectly, by deciding that there are certain people who know what is best for everyone and that they have this right to force everybody to think along with how they think by force and without choice, a very dangerous situation easily comes.
I don't like a lot of otaku fetishization and the cliches that are disliked by people from Japanese non-otaku to J-media consumers and even otaku inside and outside of Japan and while I do not like those problematic things, it was difficult even to type the word "problematic" without feeling like the people who use it the most often and in such a way that they drive people off.
When I read the article and read that part about how YA writers are a bit part of the process, I was immediately scared and shocked, although the article did bring up the good point on why it is intrinsically a good idea. The reason why it isn't a good idea isn't intrinsic like how people who write for a young adult audience for a living would know how to make text readable for young adults, but intrinsic in the sense of how having people who have either entered an industry that is heavily saturated with ideological politics which divides and dehumanizes people with clique-type socialization and networking precisely because they want to be a part of what was just described, or because they wanted to write for young adults and had be complicit with indoctrination and social aggression with a chance of internalization that prejudice, judgement, meanness, and self-righteousness.
Since the editor was someone who seems to be what is typically called a "Karen", I do believe that she was the one behind the editing decision, and due how the process works as well as how people who are narcistic operate (I am not going to pass judgement on whether she is clinically one, as I mean it in the more benign sense), I am guessing that she thought that she knew what was best and wanted to make sure that what she wanted to happen would happen.
Again, it feels weird to be this outraged and feel judgmental on a person who changed a piece of text from a man groping a girl in her sleep to a man pulling a sleeping girl's shirt down so she didn't catch a cold, and I am worried when I write or think about these issues of being a self-righteous hypocrite complaining about how I see others as self-righteous and vain. I think that I should remember the quote I put in the beginning and remember to apply it to myself. As well as to speak only with what will build up other people.
What do you guys think?
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Zalis116
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 28, 2021 7:37 pm Reply with quote
LastPage 3 wrote:
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.


This really seems like the best non-nefarious explanation for the changes. "The protagonist's pulling down a sleeping girl's panties? Major yikes, better smooth that out. What was this author thinking? A character's musing about the origins and meaning of Christmas? Most (Western) readers know about that already, it doesn't need to be there."


Last edited by Zalis116 on Wed Apr 28, 2021 10:33 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Cloudywind



Joined: 14 Jan 2018
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 28, 2021 9:37 pm Reply with quote
Finding out that English YA fiction authors were contracted to do the editing on these novels really set alarm bells ringing considering the kind of insane self-cannibalizing toxicity, obsession with call-out culture, enthusiasm for ideological purity-based teardowns and harassment (often maliciously using things out of context or with poor comprehension), and just plain nastiness that permeates the entire English YA fiction scene. Just a few brief examples from Google:

https://ew.com/books/2019/11/20/a-timeline-of-2019s-5-biggest-ya-controversies/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.newyorker.com/books/under-review/in-ya-where-is-the-line-between-criticism-and-cancel-culture/amp

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/jun/15/torn-apart-the-vicious-war-over-young-adult-books

https://reason.com/archives/2019/02/28/he-was-part-of-a-twitter-mob-that-attack

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/31/books/amelie-wen-zhao-blood-heir-ya-author-pulls-debut-accusations-racism.html

https://www.vulture.com/2017/08/the-toxic-drama-of-ya-twitter.html

Even as pointed out earlier in this very thread, o̶n̶e̶ ̶o̶f̶ Seven Seas's editors̶ for COTE was herself embroiled in a Y̶A̶ controversy involving Twitter drama and harrassment (I pass no judgment on whether she deserved it as I do not know all the details of the case.)

tl;dr This is not really a community you want anywhere near the driving seat of LNs with "sensitive" content in them such as Roll Over And Die or Mushoku Tensei.


Last edited by Cloudywind on Thu Apr 29, 2021 11:36 am; edited 3 times in total
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Yaafm



Joined: 11 Mar 2017
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PostPosted: Wed Apr 28, 2021 9:47 pm Reply with quote
Wow this is great. I love reading "I'm in Love with the Villainess" manga, had no idea it was a light novel. Thanks!
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OtherSideofSky



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PostPosted: Wed Apr 28, 2021 10:37 pm Reply with quote
I see a few people writing to defend the practice of making minor adjustments to text to make them more readable in English. I have to ask: Is anyone actually arguing against that? I'm sure you could find some crazies who wouldn't know Dryden from Venuti arguing for "literalism," but none of the edits that drew enough ire to merit news stories, corporate apologies, and this article fall into this category of minor adjustments.

Every single English LN publisher does things like rephrase statements, move sentence and paragraph breaks (especially the latter; many LN authors love to put a paragraph break after nearly every sentence), turn onomatopoeia or punctuation-only dialogue into statements, etc. It's unavoidable when translating between languages as grammatically different as Japanese and English and no one is ever going to stop doing it. If your problem is that LN prose is still too clunky, then your problem is probably that most LNs simply do not have good prose, and no translation is capable of fixing that.

On the other end of the spectrum:
RenUsagi37 wrote:
snip

I think this whole train of thought misses the mark in this case. The removal or alteration of controversial passages attracts the most notice, but the vast majority of the passages missing from these novels seem utterly unremarkable. Look at the example linked at the end of the article. Those don't look like cuts for objectionable content; those look like cuts for style. Having recently read all of the Mushoku Tensei LNs in Japanese for work, the protagonist overthinking every single decision he makes or thing that happens to him in his internal monologue is possibly its most prominent stylistic feature. It looks like the Seven Seas translation is attempting to shift the focus from introspection to action. The same seems to be true of a lot of the cuts to Classroom of the Elite. The result is passages with very different pacing from the source text, and in some cases flatter characterization and missing information.

As others have already pointed out, this pattern looks like editors treating the translations they get as drafts rather than as versions of already published texts without access to the source text or oversight from anyone else who does. This also agrees with everything I've ever heard about Seven Seas' editorial policies for LNs. From that perspective, I think the edits for content that are getting the lion's share of attention are more likely to have come from demographic and marketing concerns than from personal beliefs.
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