A WORLD OF RICE AND GODS: WHERE WHITE GRAINS SYMBOLIZE WEALTH. A study of Japanese game localization and crosscultural translation

University essay from Göteborgs universitet/Institutionen för språk och litteraturer

Abstract: Studies of Japanese translation are a common topic, and with good reason. There is extensive materialto work with, and the vast differences between Japanese and many other languages creates translationchallenges of considerable complexity as such. In the case of such translation, video games are a majorcomponent given how prolific and numerous the works put out by the Japanese side of the industry areas a whole. In other words, video games from Japan are frequently translated, and such translations areof sufficient quality to foster sizable international fanbases despite the vastly differing cultural spheresthe product and the consumer exist in.However, this begs the question: how can translators approach projects of this kind? Furthermore, howare successful and unsuccessful instances of video game translation, often called localization, created?In order to answer such questions, this thesis aims to conduct a case study of the video game Sakuna:Of Rice and Ruin, a 2020 title where rice as a Japanese cultural concept plays center stage. Using thefamous translation techniques established by Vinay and Darbelnet, applied to a Japanese translationcontext by Hasegawa, it explores the existence of culturally bound terms (CBTs) and how these canundergo contextual transition. Another important piece of the theoretical framework is the notion ofethical and responsible game localization as presented by Mandiberg et al. in their 2015 dissertation. This is accomplished through examining how terminology related to rice has been realized within theEnglish edition of the game, comparing the texts with one another to see which translation techniqueshave been used, and where.The results show that Sakuna is, by Mandiberg at al.’s standards, an overall ethical and responsiblelocalization where much of the Japanese semantics remain consistent. In some cases, information ischanged or omitted for the sake of fluency, but it is usually done in an effort to render the elementspresent in the source text in a way that English-speakers will find more easily understandable. Thereis, at the end of the day, no doubt that the game is ripe with inspiration from Japanese mythology andculture. This comes across in the English localization, which renders it ethical and responsible basedon Mandiberg et al.’s definitions.

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