Official Translation Review: No Game No Life Volume 1

Volume 1 Cover

Don’t forget, I’m neither rating the story, nor the translation accuracy here. Let’s cut down right to the case.

First, “nii” and “imouto” were literally translated as “brother” and “little sister”. That’s the way they address each other. This does not work. While “brother” is stupid, “little sister” is plain stupid, but I can see how the translator was put on the spot here. The original work lets the protagonist literally say “imouto” as a way to address Shiro (the imouto). The solution the translation provides, however, is unsatisfactory. It doesn’t work in English, it makes the sentences look weirder when they are already when he calls her “little sister” without any possessive pronoun whatsoever. “My little sister” would be the least. But the best they could’ve done is leaving it as “imouto” and put a footnote. Why? Because it’s not as weird in Japanese as it is in English, going by the fact that they really do call their Onii-chans “Onii-chan”. But hearing “imouto” is a first for me, too. And by leaving it in a foreign language it doesn’t seem as stupid since it’s a word most readers won’t naturally understand as part of their own vocabulary, hence making it look foreign instead of stupid or at least making it easier to accept it as a different culture. Of course, it can be varied with actually translated forms when it doesn’t hurt. But I guess it’s the stupid guideline to localize errything that drives translators down this road, to appeal to the “non-otaku” American target group.

Adding to the former point, he actually does call her “imouto” at times. Apparently, the protagonist likes to mix in a foreign language to dramatize his lines. Really? You use Japanese for that language? The first languages that should pop into the heads of English speakers are Spanish or French. While Spanish has a more comedic effect on words, the default choice should be French. I bet he’s using English in the Japanese original. The solution here isn’t to just reverse the languages, but to look what language would equal the way how the Japanese feel towards English. Especially if he wants to further dramatize. Japanese is yet another unsatisfying choice here.

Actually, most problems relate to Yen Press’ absurd allergy towards footnotes. There’s a reference in this volume that probably less than 1% of the readers will get. The protagonist even says so. It’s very likely a cross reference to another series, footnotes are predestined to solve this matter and make the reader understand. Instead, nothing. Literally. Great.

Second, the translation has “literal” written all over it. It’s just Japanese -> English. The vast majority of sentence structures have an uncanny resemblance to certain common Japanese structures. Even all the em dashes and countless dots with em dashes that literally make no sense in English at all are still there. Now that would’ve been a great spot to “localize”.

Contrary to “A Certain Magical Index”’s translation, it’s not just the first part that sucks. Again, up to around the first 30 pages, the translation is a plain disaster. It reads hardly better than bad fan translations. Then it gets better at times, with better meaning “okay to read”, but never ever good. There are still a bunch of pages that are just horrible after you’ve survived the first part. Honestly, it’s half the volume that reads horrible if you add it up. The literal translation sometimes culminates in sentences that just aren’t English anymore. It’s just sad. That’s what you get for “translating words”.

On top of that, there are typos and questions without question marks or normal sentences with question marks. Yay.

Third, the “1337-/internet speech”. I highly doubt that words like ”omigawd”, “chix0r”, or “ph34r the p33ps” are satisfying solutions for whatever the source said.

Fourth, is it understandable? Why, yes. It’s not like you’ll halve a problem to understand what’s going on. So if you don’t give two damns about English, this is for you. Or if you’re a die-hard fan and want to know what’s going to happen next, no matter what. But don’t expect a fun ride.

Before I move on to conclude things, I will open up five random pages and recite the first bad line that jumps into my eyes:

  • Wrapped in a black veil and cape as if for a funeral—the girl with black hair.
  • “—The enemy must have it ready. You know, a cheat that will put them ahead even in this situation.
  • “…As of now, that is so… It’s not as if it’s a requirement that each race have only one country—but Elkia is the last bastion of Immanity.”
  • And…on their way. Passing Ste…whatever her name was, the red-head—for some reason. On a whim, quietly—Sory whispered.
  • But—. Having come this far, it must be said that Steph’s consideration was insufficient.

So my thinking regarding this specific rating is:

  • 1/10: It’s something that resembles English.
  • 2/10: There are large parts that are readable.
  • 3/10: Half of it is readable.
  • 4/10: The dialogue feels alive.

To sum it up, it reads considerably worse than A Certain Magical Index and to top it off, provides unsatisfying solutions to various translation-centered problems. The only thing it has going is the dialogue, which feels more alive than “Index”’s lifeless, sterile, and plain one. This might be more the source’s merit than anything else, but oh well.

This volume of No Game No Life is poorly thought out, the sentences lack impact all the way, and overall it has zero charm. Even Stephanie’s scenes appear more retarded than bashful or cute – that’s not the story’s or author’s fault. It’s English, alright. And it’s understandable. But I can’t see anyone, but die-hard fans and people who just don’t care, buy this. Assuming Yen Press has anything resembling a QA, and further assuming they are native speakers, there’s no way they would’ve overlooked this evident lack of quality. If you want people to stick with a series and not just read one volume, you’re doing it wrong. I wonder who or what the higher-ups will blame when sales remain below expectations. It’s too localized to appeal to those fanatic weebs who think it’s just to make it sound as Engrish as possible (that’s what original reading experience is all about, am I right?), and it reads just way too poorly to appeal readers unfamiliar with the genre. But it helps to keep this stuff in a weird-o niche.

I’m really tempted to just push it into 3/10, just because people cared so little here. Especially since I’ve given Index a 5/10. But I guess that wouldn’t be fair.

However, if this is what licensing and professional work gets us, then I wonder. About many things.

Categorized in “Editing” too, as a bad example.

Rating 4/10



4 thoughts on “Official Translation Review: No Game No Life Volume 1”

  1. Another sub-par translation, I’m losing hope. We really need more Andrew! Who will they blame for fail sales? The “pirates” and the fansubbers, of course. They’re amateurs, how dare they do a better job than the paid pro’s? 😛
    If these are the professionals, I’m losing even more hope.
    The third and fourth quotes are so funny though, I’m tempted to use “on a whim, quietly” as my personal catchphrase.

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