Lost in Translation and Design

Making translations from Japanese to English is a massively cumbersome and exhausting task. Going further to localize the vernacular and cultural ideology is even more difficult. I do not envy the people whose job this falls upon, but on the other hand, it gives them a very unique level of creative license.

They are able to sculpture a unique voice and overall feeling for whatever they’re working on. Exactly how drastic this leeway may turn out to be depends on a multitude of variables from the actual script translation and editing to voice actor casting and directing. There are so many things at play when any game is brought over from Japan that it’s almost impossible to guage what the final product will look like in the end. I’m always brought back to the idea of author’s intent. As long as the heart, the core of the project is left intact, the rest is fair game.

Now, this is a completely unnecessarily long introduction to an even more unnecessary editorial on the official NieR:Automata NA website. In this post, I take a closer look at the design of the website and how it shapes up to the original Japanese site. This has turned into a rather long post with some [hopefully] interesting speculation thrown in, so buckle up and enjoy the read!

It’s been a long time since I went over to the NA page. I usually tend to avoid such sites due to my irrational abhorrence for translations and the unavoidable changes made between the lines. I am by far fluent in Japanese, but I would rather accept my insufficiencies and merely work harder to understand and learn the original Japanese, unfiltered and untampered by the localization process.

So, on to the website! The first thing that actually surprised me was the front page of the site:


It appears very similar to that of the original Japanese site…but If you look further and compare the two…


They both have the same basic design, but it’s very obvious that the NA version has the annoying menu floating freely over the background image, whereas the Japanese version is positioned in place and the menu doesn’t obscure any part of the background image.

The title is also centered better whereas the NA version looks like it’s trying to split the screen into two. I believe this is due to the particular design that they’re using, which (as far as I know) is a sort of template that is used on many other websites because it’s easy to design, but I think it loses a lot in the overall aesthetics of the page.

The NA version also appears to be much darker and uses too much black compared to its original counterpart. The Japanese site seems much brighter with its vibrant colors. The really nice catchphrase from the Japanese site is also missing on the NA page:

Is this a curse? Or is this our punishment?

…and what’s the deal with the Facebook icon sticking out like a sore thumb at the top of the NA page? Really? Was it really necessary to put that there? orz


Moving on… There’s not much of real content available on the NA site right now, with just three categories available: Story, Trailers, and Gallery. The categories on the Japanese site includes the following categories:

  • World
    • Story
    • Location
  • Characters
    • 2B
    • 9S
    • A2
    • Pod042 / Pod153
    • Commander
    • Operator 6O / Operator 21O
    • Adam / Eve
    • Pascal
    • Devola / Popola
    • Emil
  • System
    • What is “NieR:Automata”
    • Open World
  • Battle
  • Movies
  • Blog
  • Store

The NA site is really lacking a ton of information right now, but let’s take a look at what’s there anyway. Since I have quite a lot to say about the Story section, let’s take a look at the Trailers section first. Here’s what it looks like:


The first thing I think that’s important to note with this design is that… those darn menu icons overlap whatever’s beneith them, whether it’s one of these trailer videos like you can see above or even the image of 2B below.


Maybe people are okay with this style of design, but I really dislike it. Why would you want to cover up ANYTHING like these key visuals on the page? This is especially evident when you try to click on the third trailer video (or the photos in the gallery section below). You have to be careful to put the mouse cursor on the trailer image so that it lights up in more vibrant colors. Otherwise you’ll click on one of the menu options. Maybe this image will help illustrate what I mean:


As for the trailers themselves, there are only THREE trailers listed on the page:

  1. E3 2016 Trailer
  2. Paris Games Week 2015 Trailer (the link on the site didn’t even work!!)
  3. E3 2015 Trailer

The Japanese page lists FOUR other important videos. I’ll post them below incase you haven’t seen them.

  1. TGS 2016 Trailer
  2. PlayStation Conference 2016 Trailer
  3. Boss Battle
  4. Character Introduction

Now, I can understand why these videos aren’t included on the NA site because that would require them to have the English translation with voice acting completed. Thus far, there has been absolutely no word on the English release date… but I’m going to guess that they’re holding off posting these videos until they can post them ALL AT ONCE for maximum impact. If that’s why the videos aren’t included on the NA page, then I suppose that’s okay… but… there really isn’t any Japanese in the Boss Battle video, so why couldn’t they at least post that one, too?

As for the Gallery section, there’s really not much to say about it other than it’s quite bare. There are only SEVEN photos listed and I’m pretty sure they’re relatively old by now, too. I’m sure anyone who’s following this game has already seen them. Why don’t they include the new photos that the SQEX PR department just released a little while ago?? Doesn’t the PR department work with the website team… even remotely??

And now on to the Story section. I’m using a funky new spoiler tag for this portion because I do go into some detail regarding the story text on the NA page. I don’t discuss any major spoilers, but I do talk a bit about the YoRHa stage play and how it may relate to the story in Automata, so if you want to remain completely spoiler-free, then perhaps skip this portion.

I also talk a bit about the English name for the machine enemies that the YoRHa team is fighting against. I’ve seen multiple different names for them, so I’m curious to know which name you like the most. I have a Twitter poll for this listed within the spoiler tag below, but if you’d like to see the actual post on Twitter, you can find it here.


Second to last thing to discuss here… I started a poll on Twitter to ask fans which English name they preferred the machine enemies to be called in Automata. Here are the results:


Mechanoids won out but only 3% more than Bio-machines. This is quite stunning since it appears as though the least favored machine lifeforms will be the official name for these beings… But we’ll see, things could change in the meantime. xD

And that’s about all I’ve got to discuss about the NA website right now! Please let me know what you think of the two sites and what you’d like to see them do with the NA site!

Working out the Kinks

I was working until about 4am this morning on the blog, trying to get it to do what I wanted, and alas… I failed!  I don’t know if it will be possible to have this blog load from the main domain site.  I may have to make a static entrance page from which you can be directed to this blog and thusly see all updates that I’ve made.  Grr!  I’m still playing around with various things asking around for help, so hopefully I can beat it into shape sometime soon!

In the meantime, looks like we just hit the 900 Likes marker on the DOD3 Facebook page!  Thanks so much, everyone!  I’ll get around to making that thank you image tonight! <3