Because it seems that taking on Mareni full force would be too crazy, so I decided to try the more toned down version of him in Shinju no Yakata. But, his style isn’t exactly the focus here, because this comes from Romeo.
Shinju no Yakata, from what I’ve read so far, is the story of a bookwormish university student Kugetsu Akinari and his exuberant female best friend Yotsutani Asako visiting this extremely gothic western style manor – and it’s probably going to be all about the gothic mystery hijinks that occurs there. Most notable is the fact that the writing is a collaboration between Mareni, Romeo, and third writer Myougayajinroku.
The route Romeo is covering seems to be based on the two creepy female twins, Itsuki and Imi. This translation in question is an excerpt from a particularly gothic scene early on in the common route. Actually I’ve only just read it about an hour ago, but I somehow felt the urge to translate it.
Incidentally, because the twin only appears halfway through the scene, I wasn’t sure who was writing it at first. But then later the specific touches were too apparent, especially the psychological exposition. It’s interesting to see the normally off-the-walls Romeo playing into a subdued Gothic style, which is kind of like the mansion recollections that Taichi has in Cross Channel. His tenor has to be strictly poetic, keeping with the ornate and mysterious tone of the story. (Or, then again, it could be any of the other writers aping his style for fun. Who knows?)
Without further ado, the translation
Kugetsu went to the corridor.
Coming away from the light atmosphere of his room, the overall air of the western mansion felt steeped in a lonesomeness. Neither sunlight nor moonlight could cut through.
The lamp attached to the wall left off a subdued light.
It wasn’t fluorescent – so the darkness wasn’t shredded to pieces, but shades of color were left here and there.
The antique disposition of the house was kept alive in those red lamps.
Their intensity was ample for navigating the halls, but never went any further.
Neither for reading, nor even for sweeping.
It may have been inconvenient, but it may also have been a continued custom since the Meiji Era. Kugetsu didn’t know. He also didn’t really hate it.
The unfathomable mood in these halls was merely a part of the experience – he felt.
But, at that same moment, he was also struck with unease.
Akinari: “It seems like, that shadow…”
Every time the flame trembled, the shadows of the hall would flutter with it – living shapes.
His feet stopped.
It was just the shadows of the furniture, I guess.
Then, in a moment, he was engulfed as countless numbers overlapped upon him.
Was it from the multiplicity of lights – a common occurrence in these halls?
Akinari: No, that’s wrong.
Wrapped up in those shadows was a feminine color, he felt, and that consideration was soon turned over into reality.
Towards the thin darkness, he could confirm the source.
Kugetsu rubbed his eyes. Then, in a moment, perished his faltering look and set up a possibly strained smile.
Akinari: “Oh! Good evening. Itsuki… was it?”
Refined garments. That bearing.
A girl whose appearance held a strange harmony with the very essence of the mansion.
As if inseparable. As if a part of.
Rather small. A lovely petite girl. One of the two twins living here. A fragment of that duo, you could say.
She didn’t respond.
No, it wasn’t just no response. She demonstrated a complete zero-reaction.
As if he was a transparent specter.
Or maybe she didn’t hear him, so, he decided to continue.
Akinari: “Or… sorry, you’re Imi aren’t you?”
He recalled his first introduction to her.
She didn’t respond. Now, it seemed to him, she was like a doll made of ice.
Akinari: Right. It’s because it’s her.
Akinari: If I bungle up, it’ll be bad.
It was general common sense that a child of her age would be hard to deal with. He knew that well.
Normally, he was introduced to other sociable females just like Asako, and so he was completely negligent in this regard.
In any case, regarding a girl brought up in this kind of insular air, he had no prior experience. He was thrown abruptly into this situation.
Akinari: Such a considerably large anti-social lockout space… but…
In some consideration, he adopted the stance of banter. His drew up his everyday tenor.
Akinari: “Sorry. Are you mad?”
Unresponsive – but, with something like the empty feeling of glass marbles – her gaze brushed smoothly across his face.
Round. Truly large irises. Lovely eyes.
In an uninterested way, she drew back her gaze. Silently lowered eyelids.
Then, slowly – opening.
Pause. He was speechless. Only, gazing at her profile.
It wasn’t fascination.
He didn’t just glare, but felt as if bound. Full body paralysis.
Instinct, you could say. Precaution.
The girl… Imi. She made a sidelong glance at him – devoid of concern. Walking away.
With that, there may have been a slight bow.
Or, there may not have been.
At the very least, there was a thrust in his thought to form conversation – but somehow his consciousness couldn’t climb up to the level of words.
The depth of those eyes towards him – turned his heart to stone. Somewhat of a chill.
She walked away slowly – back facing him. Towards that form, all of his words were packed throat, as if snapped into an angle.
Akinari: Whatever that was, seemed something rather than hate… kind of.
This time, other than a slight discomfort, there wasn’t much else.
Some brief notes.
A few sentences had to be restructured because of the Japanese.
Became: Coming away from the light atmosphere of his room, the overall air of the western mansion felt steeped in a lonesomeness. Neither sunlight nor moonlight could cut through.
‘Lonesomeness’ was chosen as the stand-in for寂々 because of the repeating ‘ooo’ sound that I felt matched the dual ‘sabisabi’.
The original is also structured more like: “Coming away from the casual/light atmosphere of his room, with the sunlight and moonlight excised, the western mansion’s air was soaked in loneliness.”
But the problem is that there’s too much space between the contrast of the light room atmosphere with the heavy mansion atmosphere. It works in Japanese because the sunlight & moonlight part is directed modifying the “洋館の空間” – which then transfers the energy from the front into that object.
In English, the primary focus seems to shift from the room to the sunlight & moonlight excised corridor, without the mansion atmosphere as a linking idea. So I decided to conjoin those parts together first, and end with the light being excluded as an ending image. I used the ‘cutting’ verb for strong effect.
But the original probably has a more melancholic air, because it ends on the ‘soaked in loneliness’.
I used ‘steeped’ because it matches the sharpness of the ‘cut’ at the end. That creates a reinforced effect in the final beat.
Became: It may have been inconvenient, but it may also have been a continued custom since the Meiji Era. Kugetsu didn’t know. He also didn’t really hate it.
Original is more like: “It was an inconvenience but, an uninterrupted custom from the Meiji era. Not knowing for sure, Kugetsu didn’t really hate it.”
This makes more sense in Japanese because the知れぬ is the modified term that receives the impact of the previous part, but in English even I have to cut away the ‘not knowing’ part and put it as its own thing. Since I’ve already split that up, I decided to go for a clipped style of writing by splitting that last part into two short sentences.
Became: “A girl whose appearance held a strange harmony with the very essence of the mansion.”
Original: “The girl, with the mansion itself, held a strange harmony.”
Pretty obvious why the change. Actually, now that I look at this new translation, it may work.
Perhaps if I minimalistically changed it to: “The girl. The mansion. They held a strange harmony.”
Some Commentary On Some Parts
The most notable section, I think, is that paralysis that occurs at the end. Romeo starts with that sudden twist of a metaphor “empty feeling of glass marbles” (ガラス玉のような感情の無い視線) and then slowly focuses on second by second description to ramp up the overall strange mood.
The角を折れて行くまで is also a strange rupture of an image. It creates the impression of a fishbone. But using ‘fishbone stuck in the throat’ would probably be too generic, so it feels like he just abstractly played it out as ‘angle/corner/point broken’. Other people would probably use gloompy images like ‘lump’ or stop at ‘packed’ – but with this word choice, there’s this stronger sensation than merely having a blockage.
The part that is most prominently Romeo is the description of Imi’s introversion and Kugetsu trying to slowly broach into it. The precise psychology described is a trait of his writing. Romeo loves giving witty but powerful descriptions to psychological states – ずいぶんとだだっぴろい閉鎖空間 (roughly – Considerably and Excessively Spacious Lockout/Antisocial Airspace) just feels so much like something that he would use.
(Another term that comes to mind, from a different LN of his, is when he described a shallow internet social critic as子どもが背伸びして世の中を斬っているような浅薄 – the superficiality of a child standing on tiptoe making cuts into the world)
And that, really, should be the goal of a writer. Every line must have an item of interest beyond its content. Either subtext, poeticism, or idea expressed wittily – and, if particularly skilled, all three at the same time. That marks the moment when a writer jumps from the realm of mere explanation, into the realm of prose.