Today we have our Head Translator, Kouryuu, offering a few words about the trials of Da Capo 3 R‘s translation.
2.5 years in translation.
Twice the length of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and equivalent to the first three volumes of A Song of Ice and Fire, Da Capo 3 R is easily the longest game MangaGamer has ever undertaken to date. When I first started my work on DC3R, we estimated the length at about 1,300,000 characters—very doable—and found out it was 1,800,000 characters—a daunting and challenging number that already proves nearly 2.5 times the normal length of full-length Visual Novels like DEARDROPS, euphoria, and Kara no Shojo 2. When we realized near the end of the common route that we had missed another ~200,000 characters worth of scripts (the equivalent of a game like Boob Wars or Armored Warrior Iris) in our calculations, it was a hard blow. I’m getting ahead of myself, though.
One of the themes in Da Capo 3 R is magic, and in the Da Capo universe, magic is drawn from the power of sentiments and emotions. So perhaps more than any other game, it begs the question of what sentiments went into its production.
At first, it was the desire to protect the title and our partner. Few may remember this now, but before work on DC3R started, there was a fan-translation for Da Capo 3—one of poor quality, by a person who publicly and explicitly expressed a refusal to work through official avenues. I personally couldn’t stand to see a good product being treated that way—especially not the follow up to a title I worked on myself (Da Capo 2).
However, the prospects of MangaGamer working on it were actually questionable at the time. In the history of our company, Da Capo‘s sales have been iffy. The original earned its profit mostly thanks to the high price it was initially listed at, Da Capo 2 took a while to break even, the fan discs flopped, and it took us several years to finally sell out of the one and only Limited Edition print run we ever did for both titles. Given that track record and the projected length of DC3R, it was hard to imagine this might be a profitable venture for us—and even harder to convince the higher ups that the venture was worth risking the probable loss.
Still, I was filled with the memories of the time I spent with Circus—meeting Tororo-dancho, Kayura Yuka, Takano Yuki, and their other staff at our booth during Anime Expo; singing along with rino, yozuka, and other fans during their concerts at our Anime Expo booth; sharing dinner with all of them while one of my friends joining us tried to flirt with them despite the language barrier; and even my time working on DC2 and interacting with those who really loved the series. Seeing and knowing the people behind the game like that, knowing there were dedicated fans out there hoping for DC3… I couldn’t just stand by and let it be mistreated. So I fought for it.
Also, our company has always valued our relationships and partnerships with the developers who trust us with their work. I felt that we couldn’t genuinely say we were honoring and defending their interests if we weren’t willing to take action to that effect. That was ultimately the point on which I managed to convince the rest of MangaGamer to approve the Da Capo 3 R project. Luckily, with the success of Go Go Nippon and Higurashi through Steam Greenlight, we finally managed to have hope that DC3R might actually earn its keep.
Of course, protecting something never just stops after a moment. It takes commitment to see it through. Yet, to honor those sentiments, I had to face sacrifices of my own almost immediately after our company managed to acquire the project and settle things peacefully with the original fan-translator.
At the time, I actually had my sights set on translating either euphoria—which I came to love after playing a sample copy to check and evaluate the content for acceptability in the west—or BokuTen ~ How I Became An Angel~—a game I’ve been looking forward to since I got a glance at the marketing materials sent out to pitch it to shops. Both were titles I really, truly wanted to work on, and it pained me to let go of both projects—I think I actually threatened both Café and DS55 with bodily harm if they screwed up on those titles, haha. Still, I had to take responsibility for what I pushed forward, and no one else on our staff at the time wanted to work on it. Once I began working on it, it quickly started consuming a lot of my time, including personal time, and the Free Company I had formed on Final Fantasy XIV with all of my friends and our staff also fell apart too. (I still haven’t managed to get back into FFXIV since then…)
The first several months after I started in December 2013 felt almost painfully slow, too. Having worked on the DC3 anime as well, I was determined to make sure I maintained consistency between both the game’s prologue chapter and the anime. A lot of lines were almost exactly the same, but several had very slight difference, so there was a lot of back and forth cross-checking that had to happen there. Even more so since the anime rearranged events and scenes from the prologue, meaning I had to bounce between scripts while cross checking too. Still, that prologue was only the first 6,000 lines or 200,000 characters—barely a tenth of the total text. It was unnerving, but not quite devastating.
Of course, the problem I faced in 2014 was the fact that MangaGamer was effectively run by only me and Evospace—him on the Japanese side, and me on the English side handling all of the marketing for all of our company’s releases single-handedly, working together to try and cover project management between us, wrangling staff to try and get materials and information to promote titles since I no longer had the time to play each one we were releasing at our increasing pace, reviewing and hiring new staff to handle our increasing title load… Things like that just kept piling up until cracks started to form and I was going nearly crazy trying to handle everything, even with Kaitsu, DS55, RaptorFB, and others helping where they could. The fact I was still only 30% done at the end of the year—still stuck in the common route—had me devastated and in a constant state of high-stress. I felt like a failure—back when I had less responsibilities I could’ve done that same length in 6-8 months, so I was already 4-6 months behind in my mind. The thought that I still had another 24 months ahead of me was frankly terrifying and crushing.
Ironically enough, I felt like I was trapped, stuck in time, watching as everyone else I knew moved on with their lives—just like Sakura. Like Aoi, I felt like I was stuck in a different time, a different world away from everyone. I couldn’t keep up with friends like I used to—they grew distant as they moved on, and it was hard to make time for them with the looming sense of pressure I had to fulfill my obligations and get more translation work done somehow. Try though I did at points, I couldn’t really make new friends outside of work either—the lack of time inevitably created a distance I could never bridge, because I knew I’d have to disappear back into work again. I couldn’t really convey how heavy it weighed on me to those at work or outside of work—I had too much to do and no time, so all I could really do was smile and pretend everything was okay. In a sense, it was loneliness evolved into isolation.
Still, it was bearable because the common route was almost done at last, and I could soon start on the individual routes.
This was around when Doddler and I found the missing 200,000 characters worth of scripts…
I started to snap and fray. I would wake up almost every day depressed, constantly asking myself, “Why am I getting out of bed? Why am I doing this?” and answering, “Responsibility. Obligation. Duty.” Good_Haro had already started slamming me with ideas for marketing and promotion as I drew towards this state over the prior year, and I eventually caved, giving her permission to go for it if she wanted to do it herself, largely since I didn’t have time to. At the time, I was more frustrated and aggravated than anything else. Like Sara, I wanted to be able to handle my role, and the fact that I was struggling to live up to the expectations on me had me on edge. Surprisingly, this was probably one of my better decisions. She proved more reliable and capable than I initially thought, and since she kept wanting to do more as well, I kept giving it to her. It freed me up to translate more, which is exactly what I did.
While in the pit of that abyss, I had trouble remembering why I translated. It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t enjoyable to wake up every day and stare at my Sisyphean boulder. I cried inside, a lot. When I finally cleared the common route, it felt like the end was finally in sight. As I worked on Ricca’s route, I began to remember the fun good story and good characters can provide. Like Charles, I could finally breathe again and move on now that some of my load was lightened.
Around halfway through 2015, when I was finally halfway through the game and picking up speed, our newly hired project manager offered to try and find someone to take some of what remained in Da Capo 3 R. Honestly, I was floored and slightly appalled at the idea. This was my beast to tame, my work to protect, my reputation on the line, and I’d already poured enough sweat and tears into it. I didn’t want it taken away when I was finally winning. This was my lone struggle, and my pride was invested in it at that point. Like Ricca, I wanted to create the best result possible now that I was involved, I didn’t want to lose or give in to the hurdles before me, and that drive fueled me to continue walking my lonely road even stronger.
Even though I was finally making visible progress by the latter quarter of 2015, and feeling much better about it, getting an editor on the project changed things again. For the first time at long last, it wasn’t a solo project anymore. EldritchCherub was my Himeno, pulling me out of the mire this project had become and showing me again, first hand, how much fun and joy there is in sharing something you’ve helped create with someone new and seeing their enthusiasm and excitement in response. It was a lot of fun to finally talk to someone about the characters, the funny lines I’d worked on, the silly scenes, and all the exciting revelations throughout. He gave me energy, but moreover, he helped rekindle my hope that readers like you might one day come to enjoy it too, and share it with your friends.
With the long labor finally behind me, I’m filled with a sense of pride. I did it. No one can change that now. I’m excited for the new prospects awaiting me next—a game in a very different tone—and I’m hoping I still have enough time to shore some more things up (and perhaps start something new) before I delve hard into the work again.
Yet above all, I hope that lots and lots of people worldwide will share and enjoy this work I spent two and half years of my life helping to create. If the Everlasting Cherry Blossom can only grant one final wish, I pray that’s it.