The interest behind this project arose out of Nintendo’s decision to change their initial position on the subject of dual language options in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Following the debut of the final trailer for the game at the Nintendo Switch presentation in January of 2017,¹ which featured Japanese voice acting with English subtitles, many fans had hoped to be able to experience the game in Japanese while still playing with the text and subtitles of their native languages. Consequently, many were disappointed when producer Eiji Aonuma announced that the game would not include a dual language feature. After receiving this negative feedback, Nintendo eventually released an update allowing players the option to choose the voice acting language they preferred.
Having completed the game by this point in time (in English), I was intrigued by the possible ramifications of this change. I had already watched a number of cutscenes in multiple languages, and I had noted several instances in which translations were quite divergent from one another. Focusing on Japanese and English, I saw that Nintendo of America’s product development division, Nintendo Treehouse—known for its occasionally controversial localization practices—had taken quite a few liberties in translating the game. With players now able to mix various languages together, an inevitable outcome is that there would be times when characters’ speech was not reflected by the subtitles given for them. In the interest of exploring the extent of some of these differences, I began transcribing and translating the Japanese voice acting into English.²
When I considered how to proceed in translating Breath of the Wild‘s voice acted segments, I decided that I wanted to keep things as “direct” as I could. This choice was in part motivated by my observation that many embellishments and alterations—ranging from subtle to overt—had been made when producing the official English version. As a result, it has a tendency to differ rather markedly from the Japanese, in both style and form.
To be clear though, I am not suggesting that creative liberties should not have been taken; that one should strictly adhere to some arbitrary notion of “purity” when translating. In point of fact, there is no possible method for constructing a “perfect” translation of any text, regardless of the languages in question.³ Therefore, I do not wish to give the impression that I am necessarily opposed to translators making changes to the “original” content. Nevertheless, seeing as this project was inspired by my desire to gain a clearer understanding of the discrepancies between the two versions, it does consequently cater to a certain degree of purism.
Since the project’s primary objective is to compare the official English version with the Japanese, the translations offered here are by and large conservative. In order to stay as “true” to the Japanese version as possible, I and my consultants aim to provide an alternative English translation that is as simple and straightforward as possible.⁴ While this may foster a temptation to assume that the translations are inherently more correct than those formulated by Nintendo Treehouse,⁵ I want to emphasize that attempting to precisely capture the original meaning of a text through linear representation does not necessarily correspond to “accuracy.” Finally, my last point: no matter how faithfully I may strive to render the Japanese version, my translation is in the end still just my interpretation, and as such is subject to error and criticism, and I invite those with differing opinions to raise them, provided it is done civilly and constructively.
Though I do not intend to prepare any biographies or résumés, I can offer a brief explanation of my background and credentials, and little about those who assist in this project and how they contribute.
I, LRA-n-Things, hold a degree in linguistics and I have about one year’s worth of formal training in Japanese, and while this educational background (as well as continued, personal study) has given me the basic knowledge needed to tackle a project such as this, I frequently find that I am in need of assistance when producing translations. To this end, I have cultivated a small team of Japanese speakers who contribute to varying degrees. These “consultants” each possess a native command of the Japanese language, and many times, their native-speaker intuitions have led to more polished translations. All of them have differing levels of formal, Japanese education—ranging from modest to extensive—which have been useful during peer-review. For the most part, this is the extent my consultants’ contributions, however there is one who (now) graciously assists with the transcription of Japanese—in both Japanese script and rōmaji. Together with these individuals, I am able to produce the translations featured on this website.
In addition to the information electronically displayed on this site, I make all of the files that I create during the translation process available for download. All documents are uploaded to this site as PDF files, and (naturally) they are all free. To download any file, simply click the link to open it and then save. Once saved, you are free to do what you like with them.
¹ While the original presentation video from Nintendo is no longer available, the Japanese trailer with English subtitles has been archived here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pA0Ia0G9Ac.
² After several months, I was encouraged by some friends/fellow fans to somehow share my translations, which I had been working on in my spare time. Being on the periphery of the Zelda community however, I saw no readily apparent way to accomplish this. So, I launched this website in order to showcase the fruits of the project.
³ This is of course the case with Japanese and English. These two are very different languages, having highly contrastive phonological and morphosyntactic features, not to mention the unique cultural histories embedded within them. Thus, many expressive nuances are lost in translation, and so any reader should acknowledge that the translated texts on this site are merely approximations.
⁴ Because of this, my translations can sometimes sound a bit stiff and/or dry. While I try my best not sacrifice fluidity for the sake of accuracy, it is still the case that I avoid embellishing the translations with any poetic or fancy language.
⁵ A sentiment I have observed among some Zelda fans is that the North American localization is generally inaccurate due to its failures—real or perceived—to capture the original meanings and expressions intrinsic to the Japanese version, which correspondingly equates to inferiority.