In July this year, it seemed the impossible happened. JAST BLUE announced the localisation of four Boys Love visual novels, all from the nitro+chiral catalogue. Coming up first, just in time for Christmas, is cult classic ‘sweet pool’, which is currently celebrating its 10 year anniversary. I’ve never had the chance to play any of these games, so was really excited when I had the chance to sit down with Verdelish, the translator for ‘sweet pool’ and ‘Lamento -Beyond the Void’, to find out more about the games.
Molly Lee, also known as VerdelishJP, has been working in localisation for nearly 4 years and has already made a name for herself as an incredible translator. Her stellar portfolio includes the full translation of MangaGamer’s first R18+ otome game ‘Fashioning Little Miss Lonesome’ and Sekai Project’s first otome game localisation ‘The Bell Chimes for Gold’.
Nitro+CHiRAL games seem to feature quite intense and dark themes. Which game would you suggest new fans to the ‘boys love’ genre start with?
Honestly, I was a total newcomer to BL when I was hired to work on sweet pool—I’d only ever read part of Hiroyuki’s route in No, Thank You!!!, and I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Looking back on it now, despite my initial reservations, I’m glad I decided to take the plunge.
If you’re a fan of dark, twisted stuff like yanderes, I think you’ll have a great time with sweet pool. But for those who would rather read something lighter and more hopeful, go with Lamento—though be warned, it does have its share of dark moments. (Strap in—it’s loooong!)
sweet pool is said to have a unique decision making mechanic, asking players to choose between thinking with their head and with their gut, what other exciting features are there for fans to look forward to?
One of the best things about sweet pool, in my opinion, is the soundtrack. At times it can be deeply unsettling, at other times it can be painfully poignant—and then there’s the ending themes. Personally, I liked Zenya’s ending theme “VLG” so much, I bought it on iTunes. Back when sweet pool was still in translation, I used to go for walks at like 3am and just blare it on my headphones. Really helped to get in the mood.
JAST BLUE has also announced the localisation of ‘Lamento -Beyond the Void-,’ besides hot guys and cat ears, what can fans expect from the game?
To me, Lamento is like one big furry road trip with your bros… and also some demons are there. My favorite part of Lamento, moreso than meeting all the charming love interests, is watching the protagonist Konoe slowly come out of his aloof, tsun-tsun shell and make friends. It’s really heartwarming.
Without giving too much away, how would you describe the gore levels in each of these games? Are they games anyone could play or only those with an iron stomach?
Lamento: you’ll probably be fine, for the most part.
sweet pool, on the other hand, well… Personally, I’m the kind of person whose stomach turns easily, and to be honest, I was expecting it to be a lot worse. There are definitely some gross-out moments, but I think it helps that most of the depiction is relegated to text rather than imagery. I will say this, however: Makoto’s ending in particular is not for the faint of heart. Tread carefully!
Out of each game, was there a guy who really stole your heart or who left an impression on you?
sweet pool: I went into the game with the recommendation that I would probably like Makoto the best, and during my initial readthrough, I definitely did. Over the course of the translation, however, I ended up putting a lot of love and care into Zenya’s dialogue in particular, and… I don’t know how it happened, but I turned into a Zenya stan. Maybe it’s because he wears green???
Lamento: Playing this game after sweet pool meant I developed an instant attachment to Asato, who shares the same voice actor as sweet pool’s protagonist, Youji. It’s possible this will change as I spend more time with the game, but for now, Asato is my sunshine boy and I will protect him with my life.
The protagonists in Nitro+CHiRAL games tend to grip player’s hearts and become iconic figures. What is it about the protagonists in each of these games that past fans adore and new fans will fall in love with?
I think scenario writer Fuchii Kabura has a knack for showcasing the weakness and vulnerability in her protagonists that triggers this… protective instinct, if you will. Youji and Konoe are both aloof orphans, reluctant to develop bonds with anyone outside of their One Designated Tolerable Person—for Youji, that person is his sister, and for Konoe it’s his friend Tokino. However, their personalities take this trait in different ways; Konoe is a grump who assumes the whole world is out to get him (and he’s not exactly wrong), and Youji kind of just has social anxiety (relatable).
How long have you been playing Japanese games for?
Pretty much my whole life, really! Like many of you, I grew up playing Nintendo games… but it wasn’t until I got older and transitioned to JRPGs that I realized so many of those beloved classics were actually English localizations of original Japanese titles.
However, I didn’t start consuming Japanese-language media until 2013, 4 years into my Japanese language studies. I’m almost entirely self-taught, and it took me a really long time to get to that level. When I did finally get there, though, it felt like all those years paid off at last!
What inspired you to begin localising and translating games?
My heart has been with video games since age 4, and I started my career in video games at the young age of 20 as a Quality Assurance tester. Almost every company I worked for—GREE, BANDAI NAMCO, Pole to Win, to name a few—was Japanese in origin, and a lot of the bugs I reported were actually pointing out weird errors in the text: mistranslations.
Meanwhile, I was teaching myself Japanese using the benchmarks for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test as my guide. As the years passed, I found myself desperately wanting to be the person who translated the dialogue so the QA team didn’t constantly have to pick up the slack. Eventually, in 2013, I decided to try my hand at fan translating to see if I could actually do it—and it turned out I could, actually! I spent a couple years applying for jobs and polishing my skills in fan work, and then in 2015 I was finally hired for my first-ever freelance gig. I left my QA day job six months later, and the rest is history!
When you begin translating a game, do you start with your favourite scene or begin at the prologue and follow it from there?
My workflow typically goes like this: Once contracts are signed and the project has officially received the green light, the first thing I do is read through the whole thing if I haven’t already. (Most of the time I haven’t; the only exception so far has been Kimi to Kanojo to Kanojo no Koi.) As I’m reading through, I like to have my script file handy—usually either an Excel doc or Google doc—and if I think of any good ways to phrase certain lines, I’ll make notes as I go. This is also when I compile a glossary of any recurring terms.
Once I’ve read through the whole game, I move to the translation phase, starting right from the beginning. Unless I’m pressed for time, I like to have the game open as I work so I can refer to voiced lines and try to match the same tone and flow as the voice actors’ performance—especially when it comes to sex scenes.
Do you find some scenes / scenarios easier or harder to translate than others?
Speaking of sex scenes! As the years wear on, I’m starting to find it harder and harder to translate porn. Mostly because sex itself is a repetitive act, and so the scenes are usually written in similarly repetitive ways, and “Aaah, aah, aaah…” doesn’t exactly make for inspiring dialogue. If you see me posting to Twitter a lot, that’s usually a good sign that I’m procrastinating on a sex scene…
Do you have a ‘dream’ project that you would like to work on?
Real talk, my biggest dream right now is to translate an otome game for the Nintendo Switch. Currently the existing library of Switch otome games, uh, could use some work, to put it nicely! I’d like to show them what a good localization looks like!
For those who have an interest in pursuing translation, what advice would you give them?
Read! Please read! A lot! I wish someone had told me this sooner!
Consume media in your source language (books, games, whatever interests you the most) to keep your bilingual skills sharp. Then consume media from your target language to keep your native language skills sharper. For me, the most important thing isn’t being good at Japanese—it’s being a master of English.
As translators, we tend to unconsciously replicate the traits of the source language if we’re not careful; for example, as a Japanese-to-English translator, I might be inclined to write something in the passive voice just because so much of Japanese is written in passive form. Consuming English-original media helps to combat this, because it keeps me refreshed on what natural English looks and sounds like. And unless your source text was intentionally written to sound stilted and awkward, you’ll want your translations to be natural.
Lastly, it never hurts to practice your writing skills! How did I get so good at stringing sentences together? By spending many long and embarrassing years writing horrible forum roleplay fanfiction with strangers on the internet, of course! (Anyone else? Show of hands? Wait. Oh god. Please don’t Google it.)
Thank you so much to Molly/ Verdelish for taking the time to answer my questions. I hope you all enjoyed reading through this interview, and it gave you a better idea of the upcoming games and working in localisation.
‘sweet pool’ will be released on the 19 December, you can purchase an all ages version through Steam (with an adult patch) or a physical copy over on JBox, for super fans make sure to check out the Premium Fan Collection. Can’t wait till December? You can try out the free demo over on Steam!