Digital Artifact: Lost in Translation

The digital artifact is a compilation of various differences in Japanese media ranging from anime and manga to video games, presented in video form. What a lot of people don’t realize is that when something from Japan is brought over to the west, there are quite a few things can change. These things can be really minor like slight translation differences that can be overlooked, to episodes being outright cut from the English release. It’s because of those major changes that I decided to start this project and raise awareness of such changes. Going into this project, I found out that a lot of these changes were never specifically noted down, especially for a large series such as Yugioh. On top of looking into differences between both the English and Japanese versions, researching the type of marketing the Japanese and English versions was another thing I researched. Marketing can influence what audience is drawn to a product. Through researching this specific it’s clear that marketing in both East and West are different even if they’re both advertising to the same audience.

yugioh dub

The kind of answer you get when looking into regional differences of Yugioh.


The original concept for the project was almost the same as the current one now. However the main difference was that it was focusing on video games instead of other mediums like manga or anime. This aspect of the project was changed due to feedback from the original pitch earlier on in the semester. It was brought to my attention that while having a niche was nice, Hollywood adaptations of Japanese media were on the rise with things such as Death Note and Ghost in the Shell. Keeping this in mind, it came to my attention that adding these extra mediums would make the project more relevant to the current day.

While presenting the project again to the class, someone asked if I was looking into how the Japanese products were being marketed. Originally that wasn’t a part of the plan but after thinking about it for a while, it would add an extra dimension to the project. Looking into various differences within a show or game is fine, however there are external factors outside of the product which can change how the final product is released. While small, an example of this is the Pokemon logo in Japan versus the west.


Japanese Pokemon logos vs English Pokemon logos

It doesn’t have a huge effect on how the game itself works but it affects the presentation. The Japanese logo for Pokemon is very stylized, the colorful aesthetic going over the entire logo. However, in contrast to the Japanese logo, the English logo stays consistent. The only differences being the subtitles.

As for why I chose the initial concept of showing various regional differences in Japanese media, that’s because of my own experience. Despite growing up in Australia and growing up speaking English, I gained an interest in Japanese media. A lot of people my age who have an interest in pop culture are familiar with various Japanese media such as Beyblade or Godzilla. Despite this, I wanted to go further and watch/play things the second they came out in Japan so it gave me a head start. Because of this, I was able to experience the show or game a whole year before any of my friends did. However, as soon as there was an official English release, it came to my attention that some of the things I experienced did not align with what my friends experienced. This wasn’t the case for everything we watched or played but it occurred often enough for me to think it was strange. Thinking back on this experience is what led me to the initial project concept.


Looking back on the project as a whole and after seeing the reaction to my presentations in class, the project itself is for a small niche of people. While it is a passion project and something I’ve wanted to do for a while, not everyone cares about the original material. As long as there’s something officially in English, that’s as far as they’ll go. However, there are multiple articles on localization within the gaming industry. This is more apparent in recent times as Japanese video games are being localized much more in comparison to a few years ago.

The quality of localization is even being questioned even by fans with stories about the English localization of Ys VIII is being brought into question. Another example of a bad localization in recent years is the Fire Emblem Fates game. Fire Emblem Fates was subject to heavy changes in regards to not only game features but script as well. This cause quite a bit of controversy. It’s becoming such an issue, even Japanese media outlets such as Automaton are reporting about the quality of English localizations. 『イースVIII』の“無機質”なローカライズに不満を抱く海外ファルコムファン、日本語のメールを作成し改善を求める。”Falcom fans displeased with the robotic localization of Ys VIII send Japanese emails to Falcom asking for improvement” – Automaton (2017)


An example of a change in the Japanese script in Fire Emblem Fates

In an age where Asian media in general has an audience that succeeds the millions mark, translation is very important. Because of the current situation surrounding not only Japanese video games but Hollywood adaptations of  Japanese media, this project has a social utility. That is, to bring forth various differences between both the English and Japanese versions. It’s because of these changes that both versions can be a completely different experience from one another. It is often said that translation is very complicated but this is especially difficult in video games because as stated in an academic journal “It is a multilayered process that requires localization staff to have many of the same skills as the original developers of the game, thus making programming expertise and linguistic and cultural knowledge alike necessary.” (Marco, 2007)

It can help raise interest in the original Japanese version of a show or game. It can encourage people to at least look into what the Japanese version was like. Of course there would most likely be a language barrier, but in some cases such as Pokemon cards, aesthetic differences alone would make looking into the Japanese version worth it.


The Moo Moo Milk card: Japanese vs English


As for how I was going to do this, the original idea was to research online. The idea was to look into different series and see if that information was easily accessible online. Sadly that was not the case and a lot of information regarding differences weren’t that specific, as noted earlier on. Because of this, there was a change in plans. Because I already had a firm grasp of Japanese, at least enough to read and notice even slight changes, I went through the materials myself. Though, this was much easier said than done.

Even though I’m able to process of going through an entire game or anime series alone was very time-consuming, let alone going through it twice in both English AND Japanese. To pack that on top of researching on how something was marketed both in English-speaking countries and Japan, it was quite difficult. Originally I had a deadline to set for myself which was one video a week for smaller, quicker videos. Sadly, while I was able to process and create videos in that time, the videos themselves felt quite light, too light in terms of substance.

Creating multiple 5 minute videos on one series didn’t feel right. So with this in mind, I tried creating longer, more substantial videos. The trade off was that they would take much longer to create and do research for. But, they would have the substance that I originally envisioned for the video series. The series I covered for the project were: Yugioh, NieR and E.X. Troopers. E.X. Troopers is a special case in that there was no official English for this product. The video on E.X. Troopers focuses on why it didn’t come out of Japan. I figured it would’ve made a nice contrast into the other videos where it has something to be compared to.

Overall Trajectory:

Even though the project I’m submitting is meant to be something almost if not complete, there is a lot to tweak and change. The biggest change for going into the future is what I cover in the video series. It will still be about Japanese media but going forward, instead of covering different series specifically, it’ll be about current events surrounding a series. This feedback came from both my audience on Twitter and classmates. This will keep the project relevant and hopefully bring in a bigger audience. It’s also good that this was brought to my attention because, while there aren’t many people who note down specific differences in a game or show, current events would be much more engaging. Funimation’s dub of Dragon Maid, Hajimete no Gal and Prison School would be a good example of something I could cover in the future.


The funimation dub of Dragon Maid cause an uproar in the anime community.