GlitterBerri.com has been getting a lot of recognition as of late due to the recent English translation of the official Zelda encyclopedia entitled Hyrule Historia (a book of which revealed the official timeline of the Zelda series). Nintendo Gamer has featured this newly revealed timeline along with an interview with the owner of GlitterBerri. In this interview, they talk about the translations made to the Zelda games by Nintendo of America in the past and her input on the matter. They also get into a discussion concerning the Zelda manga and her contributions.
Nintendo Gamer: Who are you and where are you based?
GlitterBerri: I’m a Japanese major attending university in British Columbia, Canada. I’m continuing my language studies after spending a year and a half on exchange in Japan and hope to eventually be employed in a job related to the Japanese gaming industry. In the meantime, I maintain my website to cultivate my interest in gaming, sharpen my linguistic skills, and ensure that little-seen game resources like derivative works, developer interviews, and hidden content make it to English-speaking fans.
NG: Japanese translation can’t be easy at the best of times. How do you cope with the extra burden of Zelda’s fantasy jargon?
GB: The trouble with Zelda is that it’s a very long-lived series, with over 18 games and countless spinoffs spread out over 25 years. Many translators have worked on the game series over time and created a lot of confusion in the process.
The translations for the early Zelda games were rough, loose, and limited by space constraints, not to mention heavily censored by Nintendo of America. References to anything concerning the occult or religion were replaced or removed, such as the temples in Adventure of Link being renamed to palaces or the Bible item in the original Legend of Zelda being called the Book of Magic in English.
The primary villains in Zelda, Ganon chief among them, have always been known as Demon Kings, but it’s only recently that Nintendo has started to allow the term into official translations with the release of Spirit Tracks and Skyward Sword. Still other messages or names have been changed for seemingly no reason whatsoever, again seen in the original Legend of Zelda where a helpful suggestion such as “Search for the lion key,” was mysteriously rendered as the meaningless “10TH ENEMY HAS THE BOMB”.
Consequently, the same term or phrase central to the series’ canon might have been translated differently over time, or never translated properly at all. As a fan translator approaching the games, I have no idea what Nintendo’s official policy is on fixing past translation mistakes or whether they value overall consistency, so I often have to make an executive decision about whether to go with the official translation, questionable or not, or change it to something more suitable.
Compounding the difficulty is the fact that Zelda fans are a special breed, heavily devoted to unravelling the games’ stories. Where there are ambiguities in the relationships between the games and the characters, fan-made theories sprout up like mushrooms after a rainfall, and there are entire groups dedicated to unravelling exactly what Nintendo had in mind. Do I stay consistent and avoid confusing the casual fans by messing with standard series canon, or appeal to the hardcore fans by translating everything literally? It really depends on my audience, but it’s hard to please them all.
NG: Do you think reading the manga adds anything to the game experience?
GB: The authors of this Skyward Sword manga, who go by the pen name Akira Himekawa, have written a similar prequel to Majora’s Mask which was included as a bonus chapter in their graphic novel of the same name. It’s possible that the Skyward Sword prequel is the same idea and Himekawa will later rerelease it as part of a full manga based on the events of Skyward Sword.
While their prequels are imaginative and their work is officially endorsed by Nintendo, the pair of manga artists are given free license to make up things that don’t necessarily jive with the games’ canon. Though it shouldn’t be taken as an official Skyward Sword backstory, I think that reading the manga spurs players’ own thoughts on the history and lore of the Zelda universe and deepens their appreciation of the overall fandom. After all, a series that can inspire so many other people to create derivative works in the realms of art, literature, and music is a wonderful thing.
NG: If our readers were to read only one Zelda manga, what would you recommend?
GB: I really enjoy all of Akira Himekawa’s work. I translated their Phantom Hourglass manga on my site and found it to be more entertaining than the actual game. They really manage to capture Zelda’s atmosphere and characters, which can swing in an instant from innocent and playful to bittersweet and tragic. I’d really recommend their Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask manga, those three volumes are part of what got me started on studying Japanese in the first place. I believe you can purchase the official English localizations from Viz Media.