The MangaGamer controversy

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#1 by altonan
2020-05-06 at 03:35
I wanna start this off by saying this isn’t a thread about discussing whether MangaGamer is wrong or right. With that said however, I’ve never seen such a niche localisation company go through so much controversy in so short a time. For a quick recap it began with people being unhappy about certain translation choices in Watashi ga Suki nara "Suki" tte Itte! (the most infamous case being onii-chan being translated as dude). Then (ironically) the translator in question (Arunaru) would post his manifesto on all the things which he felt were wrong with MangaGamer as a company (chief amongst them being MangaGamer allegedly underpaying and exploiting translators) after quitting. Then there were the Discord leaks (which in my opinion was more of an embarrassment and a sign of incompetence than anything resembling maliciousness). And now people have become so unhappy with translation choices in Fata Morgana that MangaGamer has had to put out a public statement.

So the question is what lead to this point?

Did MangaGamer get too big for their britches after forming partnerships with big companies like minori, Circus and Alicesoft that they started hiring anyone and letting translation quality slide to the point where it’s now reached critical mass?

Or were MangaGamer translations never that professional but niche nature of visual novels meant that not enough people noticed or cared for it to become an issue but the proliferation of visual novels on Steam in recent years opened the flood gates to a larger audience which lead to increased criticism?

Did Arunaru’s rant set a precedent of it’s ok to bash MangaGamer and now once that bell has been rung it can’t be unrung? And people are now just unafraid to air their grievances with MangaGamer? Or am I seeing an escalating pattern where there none exists?

Was there a change in management which lead to an increase in agenda pushing in translations and the so called “haters” are right? I don’t really buy this one not because I don’t think people with agendas don’t exist but because the content of some of MG’s best-selling titles (especially the Alicesoft stuff) would probably send anyone with a politically correct agenda into a stroke. And yet Mangagamer is still willing to market those titles.

Or is this simply the climate of entertainment media now where professionalism is no longer seen as important (Disney hiring people which then have public meltdowns, Wendy’s Twitter purely existing for memes and shitposts and the less I say about Hollywood the better) and MangaGamer is just following suit?

Also for the record in regards to the translation controversy I don’t think MangaGamer has a political agenda, I just think their very tone deaf to kind of audience they have. It’s fine to leave words like tsundere, onii-chan, senpai as tsundere, onii-chan, senpai because the people who are going out of to buy your product already know what those words mean. How could they not? Everyone with an internet connect probably know what those words mean because those types of Japanese words are pretty much a meme at this point.Last modified on 2020-05-06 at 03:35
#2 by encrypted12345
2020-05-06 at 04:04
Sekai has gotten more controversy earlier on in its life, mostly because Dovac couldn't keep quiet and because of broken Kickstarter promises. While they aren't as controversial nowadays, there are still a number of people sour on Sekai (me being one of them). Sekai managed to single handedly kill any and all hype for Baldr Sky. Even if Sekai was forced to do an all ages release, they didn't have to stall the confirmation that it would have been all ages only for so long.

In any case, I do agree that MG doesn't really have a political agenda; the most you could say is that some of the translators that work for MG might have one. That's an arguable issue with relying so much on freelancers. Furthermore, the translator for Fata Morgana doesn't even translate any more and only does scripting work nowadays (IIRC, the person is doing scripting work for Escalayer), so complaining about a 4 year old translation from someone who isn't translating anymore is a bit much.

Or is this simply the climate of entertainment media now where professionalism is no longer seen as important (Disney hiring people which then have public meltdowns, Wendy’s Twitter purely existing for memes and shitposts and the less I say about Hollywood the better) and MangaGamer is just following suit?

I think this is a fair point. I'm personally against boycotting a company for a person's personal views so long as the final product is unaffected though I understand employee unprofessionalism may affect some people's enjoyment of the final product. Fata Morgana arguably has bigger translation issues than "fragile male ego" with "Le Gasp", but other than various minor issues, the tl overall is solid. With that said, any dissatisfaction with the product is a good enough reason to not buy it, so I won't blame anyone who refuses to buy product from Mangagamer over this and the discord stuff in the same way I don't buy Sekai Project or NISA titles because of my issues with them.Last modified on 2020-05-06 at 04:15
#3 by bakauchuujin
2020-05-06 at 04:13
The discord thing and the Fata translation is more something that has been blown up by sites and youtubers who have no idea about what they are talking about. So atleast some of the newer critisism is in my eyes just bullshit by uninformed people. Looking in the comment section of Hero Hei's new video for instance shows that many of his viewers based on his commentary believe Mangagamer is a SJW company mainly aiming to push an anti male agenda, which anyone who has any actual knowledge about Mangagamer can easily dissmiss as stupid based on the things Mangagamer has released.Last modified on 2020-05-06 at 04:14
#4 by vario
2020-05-06 at 06:06
Did MangaGamer get too big for their britches after forming partnerships with big companies like minori, Circus and Alicesoft

I'll just leave here a quote from wiki and let you think about this question again.

MangaGamer was originally envisioned as a company that would sell Japanese visual novels overseas by Hiroshi Takeuchi, also known under his alias Bamboo, president of Japanese eroge development company Overdrive. Due to the cost involved, he convinced several other Japanese eroge companies (Tarte, Nexton and Circus) to take part in a joint venture
#5 by shinytentacool
2020-05-06 at 06:14
the most infamous case being onii-chan being translated as dude

lol
#6 by forever-here
2020-05-06 at 06:23
#3 I wouldn't put it past MG to be the next disney/naughty dawg/blizzard/activision/bethesda/EA etc. if those companies got infected by the SJW virus then what makes you think MG is immune to it?

they're getting woke. let's be honest here. it's only a matter of time before they went broke. only time will tell.Last modified on 2020-05-06 at 06:25
#7 by ecchihieronymus
2020-05-06 at 07:00
I'm not the Fata Morgana type of guy, what's going on exactly?

Can you give examples of mistranslations?

Also, I wouldn't say it's MG's fault but more so the individual translator's and maybe the QA person's for not checking and catching these things.
#8 by warfoki
2020-05-06 at 07:24
"Bad translation decisions" is pretty much the name of the game when it comes to VN translations. It just comes with the fact that VN translators are probably the most underpaid translators, maybe only second to people translating scam letters on Fiverr. When you can't afford to hire highly skilled professionals and your efforts run on mostly enthusiasm and the hope of catching someone who is competent enough AND in love with the medium enough to do the job at the rate the companies can afford, then shit translation decisions and egos getting in the way can and will happen.

I admittedly know nothing about the Fata Morgana issue, but generally speaking MangaGamer and JAST translations are still light years ahead of shit like MoeNovel or attempted in-house translations. I'd say they are pretty much still our best bet for competently localized titles, even with MG's occasional fuckups.Last modified on 2020-05-06 at 07:24
#9 by encrypted12345
2020-05-06 at 07:41
@5 Yeah, Suki Suki's translation is really hard to read without cringing. There's a patch to fix that issue at least, though said patch is unofficial. On the bright side, he doesn't work for MG anymore, but why that happened is whole 'nother set of worms.

@6 They translate honest to goodness rape porn games. There can only be so much wokeness in a company that does that. Now, if they ever started outright censoring titles like Atlus USA, NISA, or Sekai Project do then I would consider them at risk at becoming woke, but until then, any claims of the company as a whole becoming woke are doubtful. For the record, while I dislike overly liberal translations, I don't consider them outright censorship as long as there's some line of logic as to why they had the translation choice. You could argue some of the employees are pretty woke, and that could theorectically be enough to cause the company a loss of profit.

@7 The tweet that started this whole mess was the translator admitting that he translated tsundere into "fragile male ego". I'd say it works in context because the character in question is a guy with a fragile ego to be sure, even if I sort of understand that the phrase "fragile male ego" gives a feminist bent that wasn't really in the original story. It's in an extra non-canon scene, so it doesn't really matter to the story as a whole. With that said, there was a scene in story where a character unironically exclaimed "Le gasp", which is a meme term that is genuinely worth criticizing. It's a small issue in a generally solid translation thoughLast modified on 2020-05-06 at 07:44
#10 by altonan
2020-05-06 at 07:48
@4 Ok I should clarify what I actually meant by that:

E.g. After partnering with Alicesoft and getting the rights to their big titles, did MangaGamer go: Ok, now need to hire more translators to pump out these releases as fast as possible and start hiring translators regardless of expertise/quality? (I mean they practically announced 4 new Rance titles in the span of a year, way before they were anywhere near ready for release). Thinking that with these new partnerships, that they were too big to fail. I just listed Circus as another example of a prominent company.Last modified on 2020-05-06 at 07:51
#11 by kiru
2020-05-06 at 08:42
As far as I know, Mangagamer translations are fine, given the medium. Translations will NEVER be perfect. Never ever. No matter which work you look at, context errors are super common and are way worse than "Le gasp", as it usually turns the entire meaning of a sentence around. i.e. "she got hit by him" ->"she hit him". Hard to avoid as well, because of how Japanese works and how translators often get tables of text, which might not even be in context and are just jumbled.

It's not strange how things get usually only criticized where someone without language knowledge can complain about. However, you don't even want to know all the REAL issues. Trust me. It's always been like that though. And it doesn't matter if it's Mangagamer or something else. (i.e. The translation of Death end re;Quest is pretty questionable overall, I didn't hear anyone complain yet. I mean, okay the story is highly questionable as well, but still)
#12 by ecchihieronymus
2020-05-06 at 08:46
@9 I can actually see how you could translate that although it might be worrisome for the TL to have that in their vocabulary/memory to begin with. This is a perfect case of right-wing snowflakery imo.

Yeah, looking at the VN I don't really see how "Le Gasp" would fit into that, at all. But I haven't read it and don't intend to so, meh.
#13 by butterflygrrl
2020-05-06 at 12:09
"people have become so unhappy with translation choices in Fata Morgana "

You mean, when a site that is dedicated to shit-stirring deliberately stirred shit regarding a single word in an omake of a game that had been available in translation AND EXTREMELY HIGHLY REGARDED for many years, causing people who had been refusing to play it to suddenly leap on the bandwagon of fake outrage?
#14 by bakauchuujin
2020-05-06 at 13:17
From what I have seen non of the people critizising it has actually read it and the ones who has praises the translation. So to me it seems like this is just a bunch of SJW haters who aren't don't care about VNs or about researching things before joining the hate waggon.
#15 by adamstan
2020-05-06 at 14:48
MoeNovel or attempted in-house translations.

It's almost the same :P I mean, MoeNovel hires subcontractors for actual translation work, but being owned by Pulltop they're definitely the "in-house" thing. Maybe more "in-house publishing" than "in-house translation".

Hard to avoid as well, because of how Japanese works and how translators often get tables of text, which might not even be in context and are just jumbled.

That's horrible, especially with Japanese, which is often outright impossible to translate without context. They should be provided with some kind of consistent script to work on, not just a bunch of jumbled lines... But yeah, many of the errors in VN translations seem like being caused by this. Including many of the MoeNovel ones ;)Last modified on 2020-05-06 at 14:49
#16 by gerardlonewolf
2020-05-06 at 16:04
It's a controversy because people wanted a controversy. On another note, people with the LOUDEST voice in criticizing the translation accuracy of MG released are often the one who has "almost" zero knowledge of Japanese language.
#17 by sanahtlig
2020-05-06 at 16:32
I’ve never seen such a niche localisation company go through so much controversy in so short a time.
You haven't been following the eroge industry for very long then.

Pretty much every major player in the English eroge industry has been embroiled in "controversy" through some period of their existence. For JAST, it was DRM, censorship, and quality control. For Sekai Project, it was crowdfunding and neglecting the eroge side of their business, paired with...unconventional...PR. For MangaGamer, it was poor translation quality at first, and now it's condescension towards their fans (this is nothing new; it was just highlighted by the leak). Nutaku has faced a long list of issues: censorship, quality control, customer abuse, and a host of issues endemic to F2P browser games. Unlike the downloadable game localization companies, Nutaku has leverage over both its partners (who rely on it for funding) and its users (games as a service, which can be terminated at any time), which gives it the unique ability to control the public narrative and banish troublemakers.

It's the nature of fandom to closely critique every decision and find fault. It's the job of PR to defuse such tensions before they blow up. Many of the criticisms of MangaGamer I've seen actually seem pretty frivolous compared to the long history of industry turmoil I've witnessed. If you go looking, you'll find bitter controversy ("drama") just about everywhere--even within community sites such as VNDB and Fuwanovel.Last modified on 2020-05-06 at 16:57
#18 by mrkew
2020-05-06 at 17:17
#16 That's funny because people have been posting concrete examples with the original lines and translation comparisons. Boy, am I glad I don't need to rely on shitty translations any longer, but that doesn't mean I don't want companies like MG to go bankrupt. Not even mind-controlled EOPs deserve what these localizers are doing to them.
#19 by bakauchuujin
2020-05-06 at 17:26
While drama and controveries is something that has been with the VN localization buisness since the start I think the more recent controversies are quite different from the old ones.

Older drama seems to have mainly been something pushed by people who are dissatisfied with certain things companies have done and comes from actual VN consumers who want things to change for the better and complain about things they themselves have problems with.

The recent drama seem to mainly come from people who aren't part of the VN community who have never and probably will never read a VN and just likes to be outraged about things and call all western publishers SJWs. Basically lots of people who don't have anything to do with VNs just jumping on a hate bandwaggon.

That being said I haven't been active in the VN community more than like 3-4 years so maybe there has been older controversies that was sparked by outsiders rather than people who actually read VNs.
#20 by being
2020-05-06 at 18:04
I think there is a pretty important aspect to these controversies happening to MangaGamer in particular (although let's be honest, other publishers like Sekai Project have been far more controversial). MangaGamer does not have a unified vision and picks up all kinds of VNs for all kinds of audiences. This means they are catering to all kinds of different audiences with very, very different ideas. These controversies happen because they build relationships with many different groups of people with different priorities, that may be on board with one aspect of mangagamer but be against something that was catered to a different audience.

Fata Morgana for example is catering to an audience that loves this translation choice. In their world, it's a perfect jab that fits the game completely. But as far as I can tell, the change is just fan service for the game's specific audience. The people getting mad are mostly people that didn't play Fata Morgana but are interested in other kinds of titles. It's a while ago, but I also remember there being a controversy with a group of people being upset that Higurashi wasn't censored enough or something like that. MangaGamer's strategy of catering to different group of people with completely different ideas is very difficult for them to handle because they have to somehow satisfy all of them, when a lot of people are quick to let 1 or 2 things they don't like wreck their opinion or even boycott certain publishers. Mangagamer is constantly on thin ice, as opposed to NekoNyan for example, that focus entirely on Moege and as such can have a clear idea of how to handle eventual controversies, without upsetting people with different ideas than the ones they initially offended. When you just have one audience, you can learn how to read that audience and cater to them without upsetting different audiences you also aspire to cater to.

Cause think about it with Fata Morgana. No matter what Mangagamers stance on it is, some groups will have a lower opinion of them. There is simply no way to win. It makes the most sense to stick with the people they catered to with Fata Morgana and just cut their own losses. IIRC they also handled the Dude shit like that, although that might've been the wrong move since the people that actually wanted the game were the ones upset that time. All in all, it seems MangaGamer aren't very happy with some of their audiences, and favor some groups over others, which I'm not necessarily condemning, but maybe they should try a different approach to their image and vision?

Other than that, it seems to be a mixture of bad luck and bad personalities/thoughtlessness, as well as the existence of stupid E-celebs that rally up stupid people. For example, the chat log controversy could've just as well never been made public and then obviously nothing would have happened. And the Fata Morgana thing is exacerbated by E-celebs that are just in it for hate clicks. But you could also say that to begin with, they probably should've been more thoughtful and less malicious with the chat logs, and perhaps not use malicious fan service in a translation. Let's also not forget that Sekai Project has been much, much more controversial among fans overall.Last modified on 2020-05-06 at 18:05
#21 by gerardlonewolf
2020-05-06 at 19:15
#18
That's funny because people have been posting concrete examples with the original lines and translation comparisons.

Oh, they do? Wow. That is certainly funny. Why aren't they offering their "expertise" to work or help localizing the releases to make it a better translation. I am sure they are not MG consumers because they are already Japanese literate. So why the nitpicking? Are they self elected Japanese grammar police?

Anyway, concrete examples are concrete to people who could verify the truth. I can't read worms, so I can't verify this "concrete evidence" without taking someone's words at face value. I do know, however, that if nobody localized this stuff, then I wouldn't be able to enjoy it and I'm sure this sentiment applies to others too.

Boy, am I glad I don't need to rely on shitty translations any longer, but that doesn't mean I don't want companies like MG to go bankrupt. Not even mind-controlled EOPs deserve what these localizers are doing to them.

What an egoistical elitist statement.

VN is a foreign product being localized for the masses whose English is their primary or secondary language. There are bound to be mistakes or liberal translation. The point is to make it accessible for people who can't read worms. It isn't a holy grail of a masterpiece that locals have to make sure the integrity of the context is preserved 100% without fail or doomsday coming. I am not defending bad translations, but some people can be a snob ass shit. It's either a translated VN or worms that people can spend their sorry asses figuring out what it means for days. But hey, maybe people like it that way huh.

Perhaps I should add that some of the LOUDEST critics don't only have zero knowledge, but are also, pirates. Zero contributions, but wants the right to complaint nevertheless. Some people just want to watch the world burn.

I can't help but cringe when I saw posts on VNDB with glaring spelling and grammatical errors whining and complaining about the translation's accuracy and such. It's a giveaway that they are not even fluent in English, so if you know who you are, cut the crap, please. It's embarrassing.Last modified on 2020-05-06 at 19:37
#22 by kiru
2020-05-06 at 19:34
Honestly, it's hard to trust people telling you this or that translation isn't right anyway. I can pretty much guarantee you one thing: If you actually know Japanese, you won't care about proving something anymore. Yes, I'm seeing problems in translations. I don't raise a ruckus though, because I understand.
Translation is hard, and there's no guaranteed way to make things work. Every time information gets transferred, something is lost. That goes for you reading text as well. You will misunderstand things, overlook stuff and so on. That's human. If stories would lose all value because of that, nobody would read stories. As such the translation issues won't lead to works being completely terrible. Yes, once in a while there are REALLY questionable things happening, but I really rarely encounter that kind of stuff as more than just an unfortunate exception in an otherwise fine work.
Translated works can also simply be a whole different thing, which is why I prefer full localizations, not subs only. Take Dragon Quest, where the western version is WAY different than the original. But so what? It has it's own charm. Different != bad. People who get mad mostly do so because the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. They can't have it, so it HAS to be better. As untrue as that is.


Chances are, people who still care and raise a ruckus about translations aren't actually particularly good at the language, and need something to feel better than others. Takes a lot of time to learn a language as well. If you'd really know Japanese, and don't need translations as well as don't like them, why even try to prove they are bad? Ignore it.
#23 by sanahtlig
2020-05-06 at 22:54
The recent drama seem to mainly come from people who aren't part of the VN community who have never and probably will never read a VN and just likes to be outraged about things and call all western publishers SJWs. Basically lots of people who don't have anything to do with VNs just jumping on a hate bandwaggon.
So basically the OneAngryGamer audience? For sure, their coverage of VNs is a recent development.
#24 by lucumo
2020-05-07 at 13:32
@22: "If you'd really know Japanese, and don't need translations as well as don't like them, why even try to prove they are bad? Ignore it."

Maybe they just want to help people who don't know the language but actually want a good translation instead of a bad one? There are enough people who would choose no translation over the latter any time of the day.
Also, for people who want to play Dragon Quest but get served Dragon Warrior instead, it matters a lot. It's disingenuous.
#25 by warfoki
2020-05-07 at 13:45
OneAngryGamer

Oh, right, that site. That explains the sudden influx of "muh agenda" people here. Once upon a time I used to really like that site, before they essentially became what they originally criticized: drama-queens trying their damnedest to look at absolutely everything via their political goggles.