Amateur Translation: Saihate no Ima – Sayaka & Shinobu at the Factory (Edited Version)

This is the English-oriented edited version. You can view the commentary edition here


There are a number of aesthetic considerations that come into play when dealing with transference from Japanese into English, when you start to focus on the English editing.

The first is how to mimic the possible terseness of the sentences when, firstly, Kanji can easily shorten possibly longer multisyllabic English words into small Kanji compounds (and Chinese can shorten it further), and, secondly, being able to eliminate the subject from the sentence makes it even shorter.

The second consideration is the obvious problem of translating conversation and slang over to casual English. The same applies to formal or polite speech.

The third is jokes, puns, and wordplay, which is another big problem in all languages. There is always a trade-off. If you explain it, it may not be funny, but the alternative is that you have to be as good a wit as the writer.

The fourth involves guessing the tense, which is more of a strictly grammatical problem than an aesthetic one.

Inevitably, something is going to be lost. A person cannot expect to enter into any form of communication at all without fearing to compromise something of himself.

But, the flipside is this.

Something can be gained.

Translation, and especially Literary Translation, is, after all, an act of symbiosis. In the end, if the translator treats the deed as less a chore, and more an aesthetic exercise, or development, then he, of all parties, has the most gain. In this regard, if I held the sanctity of the text, I wouldn’t be able to acquire anything more.

So, I admit to being, for now, an amateur, in terms of translation, and the language. I completely had to use Translator Aggregator for this, even though I’m somewhat familiar with the grammar structure now (though not as comfortable as I would like to be as well) But, I’ll also see myself as a dedicated Artist, and the job of the Artist is to confer gain, to himself, but also, hopefully, to others. So I hope, in this way, people accept the desecration necessary to the job. On the other hand, if the translation is blatantly wrong, please feel free to flag up.

Anyway, I haven’t completed Saihate no Ima. In fact, I only got through around probably less than 5%, given that, for now, I haven’t really been reading those massively dense Wikipedia article style information interjections. This is probably the 4th or 5th scene in the game.

I like Romeo’s style because, strangely, it’s both gaudy and pragmatic, if you can believe that. What I mean is that the content of the message is always overblown (cosmic, melodramatic, psychological, ridiculously funny, philosophical, soliloquy), but the form of the message is always as pared down as can possibly be.

The scene in question happens to be about two people (Shinobu, protagonist, and Sayaka, a politician’s daughter and personal friend) drinking coffee at an abandoned factory (the primary image of the whole VN it seems, being a symbolic location of Youth), but, in a 100+ or so lines, also happens to include poetic descriptions of decay, lengthy characterization of a single person, a somber meditation on lost dreams of Youth in modernity, and it ends off with some light comedy, fully keeping in touch with character.

The way this effect is carried out is simple in theory, but hard in execution. It can probably be summarized in two principles: “Always use the small to say the large” and “Always be interesting”.

Firstly, Romeo sustains an image, of the dilapidated factory row, in the first segment, which is mainly descriptive. Noticeably, many lines in the descriptive section seems to involve anthropomorphosis or abstraction, which, rather than other writers who love floofing up their writing with purple prose, gives every described image the double function of linking up to a greater theme (in this case the idea of a ‘lost decade’).

Secondly, in the areas in-between, where he has nothing to work with thematic or characterization-wise, his descriptions then become fully pragmatic. He speeds through them as fast as possible. It can’t exactly be seen here, because this entire scene is rather thick in content, but it’s more apparent in the other scenes, or with the fast-paced action scenes in Rewrite. But, even then, he still likes to throw in the spare joke, startling poetic image, or psychological characterization, to maintain writing pace.

Thirdly, he always likes to throw a spanner in the works by, as said above, linking smaller scene to larger picture, in a ridiculously grandiose manner, which spans the whole range from societal rumination, up up all the way to cosmic tract or scientific exposition. The heights of this can, of course, be seen in the Moon Route of Rewrite. The scene here includes, at its core, an elegiac societal rumination.

Fourthly is his avid interest in the concept of the outsider, or the person on the fringe. Pretty much Romeo loves, and is damned good at, writing larger-than-life characterization about discernibly alienating psychoses.

His final weapon, which is a lot less apparent here, is the comedy, which is the indescribable part, since it encompasses everything from neologistic wordplay, to slapstick, to satire, to just plain fast and fun banter, to pop-culture references, to ridiculous anecdotes, to fake Ads etc.. etc.. etc..

But, really, he has a repertoire waaaay larger than this (especially given the ridiculously long digressions when you click on the various buttons within the VN). These are just his most common techniques.

A weakness of all this, though, is a lot more ‘tell’ than ‘show’, which I personally don’t perceive as a weakness, especially given the pacing and information density, but, it seems, a lot of other people do.

So, without further ado, as I said above, this is the translation that confers ‘gain’. There’s also the first-draft version with the original text and commentary, which confers ‘loss’. This is more of a self-record thing overall, because I like noting down my processes, creative-wise, so I can go back and ruminate on the aesthetic choices I made, or whether I translated wrongly, or anything else.


The ruins of old factories stood still. They were active in the Showa Era. Now, smoke no longer emerged.

They were forgotten at the outskirts, out of use. Yet, there was no gloomy feeling. There was parched flavor. A lack of anybody there.

A single visit from a single person, would have, at least, prevented these existences from drifting away.

Bodies that were never directly seen. The unpeopled backdrop soaked into the selfhood of these monuments, and scattered them into a vagueness.

But people came. They walked on long unpeopled roads, and they established a sanctuary.

A forgotten past. A long defunct building. Rusted from a state of oblivion. Shinobu and company came.

It was spacious. The long years flowed through. The oldness blended with the light smell of metal.

The industrial machinery had been cleared out. Probably demolished, or sold away.

It was a completely useless, nameless, building. Yet, there was something peculiar.

An unnatural character. A bookshelf, a sofa, a cupboard, and various scattered chairs.

The area was an amalgam of dry ruins, and a crudely established living room.

It was for the intimacy of mutual discussion. It was for sharing even the silence itself. A ‘Secret Base’. A relic of childhood. Something no one ever really discussed anymore.

The space was limited to its seven owners. A place for the self. Sometimes, you came alone.

And sometimes, everyone was there. Especially Azusa, who came a lot.

Shinobu was with Sayaka today. He was nervous.

Bags were thrown on the pile of junk lying around. He occupied the sofa, and immediately opened his new book.

Shinobu: “….”

He was sucked into a fictional fantasy world. Untracked time passed.

A noticeably mellow rise in temperature drifted nearby.

After several pages, he pulled his eyes away. Sayaka was standing next to him.

When they came in, she had disappeared, probably to prepare a drink.

Sayaka: “Here you go”

The vapor of coffee rose up. She had used the portable cooker that they kept in the factory.

It was a surprising thing, that she had spent the time herself to brew coffee.

She rarely did something like that. Such an occurrence was a random act of civility.

Shinobu: (It smells like a PR shtick…I am definitely not saying that out loud.)

Sayaka was originally quite boisterous. She was never obsessively detailed, but you could also say she didn’t hate it either.

She never felt it important to rush. She always worked with a large-hearted thoroughness.

Together, the time passed slowly. Shinobu could feel it.

Like an old couple…

Shinobu: (Definitely, never saying it.)

He took another sip.

Shinobu: “…it’s quite warm.”

She had heated through only once. Quite the methodical attention to detail.

Sayaka: “Do you need seconds? It’ll take five minutes.”

Shinobu: “Okay.”

In reality, anymore times after that, there was grumbling.

Sayaka: “Is that a history book?”

Shinobu: “Historical-Mystery.”

He tilted the book upwards, to show her the spine.

Sayaka: “Interesting.”

Shinobu: “I’ll let you read it afterwards, if you want. I’ll leave it on the bookshelf.”

Sayaka: “Thanks a lot. I’ll gladly take it.”

She sat beside Shinobu. The springy fabric softened in. Her body weight spread throughout.

The simple act softened his heart. While appearing to drink silently, he glanced sideways.

The dignity of a samurai’s daughter. The upright poise. She had a profile like a still sculpture.

Yet, she had no overwhelming beauty. Her proud suspension in the corner of his eye (a downwards, slanted, sloping glide across), had no sting to its air.

It was a fleeting but strong complexion. Looking at her, you could always question whether she was about to disappear completely. But that uneasy wispiness was somehow entrancing.

She possessed no vigor of life. But, rather, a crawling mettle for existence.

Greed for life. An existential directive of brute fixation. This was the sort of thing that manifested.

In the end, this pragmatism ate away at her fullness of self.

In school, no one really talked to her. Sometimes, people would label her a whimsical character.

Speaking for her whimsicality, she was quite self-centered. To her closest friends, she performed unilateral acts of good will, but, even with them, there was always a sense of one-sidedness, and separation.

With her, a flippant response was impossible.

The obvious consequence: They called her eccentric. Tilting the cup to her lips, Sayaka drank.

When she took intermittent sips like that, he thought about the hot fluid passing into her gullet.

Shinobu: (Woah.)

The undulation of her alluring throat gave him a chance. Without completing his observation, Shinobu returned his gaze to his cup.

Same as her, he took a sip. Then, together, they took the same breath. Perfect timing.

Shinobu glanced to the side. It was too late. Her eyes were placed in ambush.

Their gaze met. Shinobu smiled. Sayaka smiled.

There was no trace of embarrassed confusion. They were soaked in tender air. Sweet affection shared between young boys and girls.

Far away from the bustle of home. An ordinary leisure. To Shinobu, there was nothing better than that.

The factory was theirs. Their own constructed playden. An obsolete place.

It was a weathered construction, strongly tinted with the residue of a past glory, now futile.

But, the youth living now, had no expectations of Paradise.

Illusions of utopia had changed into decaying ruins. A strange thing from long ago.

In the shell of the wreckage, they sought for a small, imperfect, place of rest. Nothing else.

That was the state of the period called ‘the present’. But, Shinobu was content. A limited Elysium for a morose age.

After the arrival rapid growth, came a long grey stagnation. Those born in the middle of it lacked aspiration.

A colorful future. Marriage. Childbirth. Living plentifully. A blessed home—

These words were understood only superficially. The impression they gave was of a kind of illusion, or myth.

Shinobu: “…”

So, Shinobu regarded the time spent in the factory, as the best hours of his life.

Feeling worn out, he looked up at the sky. The back of his neck felt sore.

The sky grew with a dense vivacity. Within his eyes was a scattered red glow.

Whatever kind of time this was, he understood that the end was coming.

It was fully, drawing, closer.

Sayaka: “Aren’t you cold?”

Shinobu: “Not really.”

Sayaka: “Why don’t you wear… this”

Shinobu: “Shouji’s Panther-Coat?”

Sayaka: “Panther? Oh. You mean the pattern… It’s quite warm, anyway”

It was used for night-life, so, it probably was. But it reeked of sleazy gaudiness.

Shinobu: “Still… there’s quite a lot wrong with it.”

Sayaka: “Like?”

Shinobu: “The image.”

Sayaka: “Eh?”

Sayaka tilted her head, doubtfully. In the end she forced the coat onto Shinobu’s shoulders.

Sayaka: “Come on. Put your arms through the sleeve.”

Shinobu: “It’s okay…. Really.”

He strongly opposed.

Sayaka: “Don’t make me worry.”

Shinobu: “Even if you say that… it’s still troublesome.”

Sayaka: “If you catch a cold, it’s also troublesome!”

Charged with a stronger force. Absolute unconditional will. He had to wear it.

Sayaka: “See?”

Shinobu: “Come on…”

The sleeves were too long. The hem hid his knees halfway.

The shoulder width was lacking. It sloped down his shoulders. He felt burdened with bad taste.

The furry leopard print smelt of cologne. He gave the coat a wave.

Sayaka: “Wow. It fits. It really fits.”

Shinobu: (Why did she have to say that…)

The overly mature Sayaka had values totally separate from what you’d expect of her youth. She didn’t care about outward appearance.

She was normally an “anything-goes” type of person. But, now, she was trusting her fashion sense.

Raised without being tainted by common values. Such was her life.

Shinobu: (It’s no good… she’s unshakeable.)

In that case, Shinobu figured, she was probably trying to feel slightly more her age.

For better or worse. He had no way of escaping his suffering, except getting home fast.

Shinobu: “Well… it definitely feels warm.”

Sayaka: “It is, right?

Shinobu: “But…”

Sayaka: “Then why not take it home?”

Shinobu: “Can you… pause for a second… please…”

His voice squeaked out.

Sayaka: “Eh?”

Shinobu: “Take home? This?”

Sayaka: “That’s right.”

Shinobu: “If… if I take this back, won’t he be worried?”

She took out her phone.

Sayaka: “Hi. It’s me. The coat at the factory… can we borrow it?”

Sayaka: “Yep. Shinobu’s cold. That’s why.”

Shinobu: (But I’m not…)

The call ended.

Sayaka: “Shouji said Yes.”

Shinobu: “I see…”

Sayaka: “It doesn’t seem like anyone else is coming does it? Let’s go.”

Shinobu: “I suppose…”

So, both of them walked home together.

They reached town. His attire stood out. Sayaka didn’t notice, at all.

He took it off the exact moment they parted.