Dead End Junction Translator Interview!
Last month, we released Wild West visual novel Dead End Junction to the world! Because of the unique setting of this title, we took extra steps to ensure a quality localization. Let's take a look behind the scenes with our translator, Hugo Brown!
Tell us a bit about yourself.
Oh no, personal questions! My greatest weakness!
I guess there's not much to say. I was born and raised in the American South, which was definitely a helpful experience for doing a title like DEJ, and now live in Japan working as a translator. I've been really into Japanese as a language for a long time, since high school I guess; it's an incredibly interesting one in and of itself, and the wealth of fun, unique media made in it is the very juicy cherry on top.
What is Dead End Junction?
Good!...You want more? Fine, fine. Dead End Junction is a lot of things, really; a coming-of-age story, an adventure novel, a comedy, an incredibly endearing cast of characters, a Spaghetti Western--or no, a Ramen Western? On a more technical level, I believe the term is "kinetic novel," a visual novel without a branching story. I don’t quite like calling it that though, as the narrative style and way it plays with presentation (like 98% of the game is told in speech bubbles, and the sprites are rearranged on screen often, in ways reminiscent of comic book panels) makes it feel more like a cross between a comic and novel more than a traditional KN/VN.
What does the Wild West mean to you?
I’d say it’s got two sides to it. One is a celebration of that quintessential American rugged individualism; cowboys, sheriffs, outlaws, all out doing their own thing, trying to carve out a place for themselves among an unforgiving environment and not-quite-unestablished social order. The other is less noble: theft from and oppression of Native Americans. That aspect is a lamentably dark part of our history, that unfortunately gets painted over more often than not.
Interestingly, while it of course has more of the former, DEJ actually spends some time addressing the latter as well. It doesn’t dwell on it or rub in your face, but it acknowledges that it was a problem and, to an extent, how it affected those on both sides of the issue.
What are some of the challenges you faced in doing this translation?
Boring answer, but definitely the biggest thing was the bubble sizes. Since the whole game (barring a few end-of-chapter monologues) is told through speech bubbles, I had to make sure all the lines would fit. You can fit a lot more "idea" in a lot less space in Japanese compared to English (which makes sense, right? When one "letter" can have 20 strokes, it’s not surprising you need less of them to say the same amount of stuff), so I had to really think about how to word things to sound good and natural, but also fit.
Another thing was the accents, of course. I’m from the South, so I had a pretty good idea of how I thought they would sound coming it, but I had to do a lot of research for exact wordings and specific idioms and such. I remember looking up a lot of words to see when they were "invented," to make sure I wasn’t using a word that didn’t exist until 1980, for example.
What would you say defines the vernacular of the Wild West and how did you incorporate that into the translation?
There’s a lot of things really, but to pick one, I’d say its frequency of idiomatic expressions, especially ones involving things like animals. A "toad strangler of a storm," a "one-horse town," "loster than a cat in a sack." That sort of language is/was very common in everyday speech, and I tried to make the Western characters (especially Jo and her uncle) use them whenever appropriate.
Oh, another one I guess is a sort of precursor to modern-day "Midwestern nice." Instead of calling someone an idiot or cursing straight up, they’ll come up with some sort of euphemism (that may or not hurt worse than a simple "fuck you"). That’s also something I tried to express, by having actual swear words be mostly reserved for extreme situations and instead trying to come up with more (or less, I guess? ha!) "colorful" ways of saying things.
If you were transported to the world of Dead End Junction, what would your life be like?
I’d probably be leading some boring middle-class life in New Water, voting for McFarlane every four years.
Final message for our readers?
Really though, I encourage everyone to at least take a look at the demo (which you can find here), even if VNs (or KNs) or Westerns aren’t your thing; it’s just an all around solid piece of work that I think just about anyone can find some things to enjoy about.
And feel free to message me directly if you have any questions about the translation or whatever! I don’t actually use twitter really, but you can find me there at @HugBdrill, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There you have it! Like what you see? Dead End Junction is now available on Steam and MangaGamer.com. Thank you for your continuing support! Till next time!