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NISA Responds to Claims of Changing “Sexist Japanese Jokes” to be “Culturally Appropriate”

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel 3

Nippon Ichi Software America (NISA) have issued a statement, after staff made comments about their localization process caused uproar- many fearing censorship.

Editing Coordinator Eric Mort, and Project Coordinator Moët Takahashi (jokingly referred to as Editing Overlord and Project Overlord respectively) took part in a Q&A session on January 15th via Twitch, discussing The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel 3, and the localization process. You can see their segment start at 44:20.

Later, at 1:00:14, they were asked how often they ran into jokes that did not work in English, and how they reworked them. Both responded it happened “all the time” due to Japanese puns, and how Mort was “slowly learning how to say things to make people cringe in Japanese.” 

Being many Japanese puns rely on knowledge of their history and mythology, or play-on-words that do not translate into English, it can be a difficult task to re-create a joke with the same meaning.

Takahashi then explained how localization for them involved considering what culture they were translating the game to. “It’s hard but that is part of localization. Because whether or not it’s a joke […], we have to make sure that all the text makes sense not just in the language, but in the culture that we’re translating to.” 

Mort then explains how this can include Japanese jokes that “have a different values than we do.” Takahashi then explained “So things we tried to kinda work around, things that might be a liiiiiitle sexist for example, in Japanese humor. And with those things we like to try to make it more culturally appropriate for our players.”

Mort interjected, stating “- And that doesn’t mean it has to be made less funny either.” Takahashi continued, stating “Not at all, we can work in something even better, sometimes!”

Other answers revealed they did not keep in contact with Nihon Falcom “much” during text localization (bar questions involving issues such as character limits, “logistics stuff,” and back-end programming), but they then start to talk “all the time” once quality assurance begins.

When asked (at 01:03:36) if there were any edits or translations either of them were particularly proud of. Mort stated his were the “self-assertion panels”- DLC for manga-style speech bubbles as a cosmetic option.

Mort explains how in Japanese they were “silly, but didn’t really resonate all that much. So we just decided “let’s make them all a bunch of Trails memes!” ” Takahashi then quipped “Let’s be self-aware about it” while laughing.

The comments caused outrage among fans and gamers who are concerned with censorship, and inaccurate localization. Some expressed their desire to enjoy a Japanese game with Japanese culture, with direct a translation as possible.

Others were concerned that attempting to make things “culturally appropriate” to many different people across many different cultures would be nigh-impossible. Some felt this was merely an excuse to censor the game for other reasons.

Takahashi’s comments about “sexist Japanese humor” did seem to collide with earlier comments she made. At 58:38, both were asked about which character’s personality they grew to like the most as they localized. Mort stated how he enjoyed writing for Ash Carbide, as despite initially seeming like a delinquent, his sassiness allowed him to “cut loose.”

Takahashi meanwhile praised Musse Egret, a character who frequently flirts with main character and teacher Rean Schwarzer. Takahashi stated despite her initially coming across as “a naughty girl,” she was more than a “one layer, naughty, sexy character, and there is more to her.”

Combined with many other moments in the game (including bikini costumes), and other games in the Trails of Cold Steel series- it would seem NISA had not removed all sexualized content.

Nonetheless many wondered if content had been cut from Trails of Cold Steel 3, or other NISA localized titles, without their knowledge.

On January 17th, NISA PR Coordinator Erin Kim issued a statement via Operation Rainfall:

“NIS America does not engage in censorship or overzealous editing. We stand by our dedication to the authenticity of our localization efforts to properly contextualize a title within a localized framework for an English-speaking audience.”

Operation Rainfall article also reports that they “did some extra research into this topic on various forums and boards around the net,” and “couldn’t find a single player that played this game in Japanese and English that could point out any major changes to the text.” We have also had to rely on hearsay and anonymous claims.

NISA have seemingly been heavily criticized for their localization work in that past. These complaints center around the titles such as Criminal Girls Invitation, the DanganRonpa series, the Disgaea series, Fairy Fencer F, Hyperdimension Neptunia series, Mugen Souls, Witch and the 100 Knight, and more.

Alleged issues have ranged from bugs not found in the original Japanese game (including crashes, and even console bricking), more serious scenes and characters being made more comical and goofy, removal of sexual content, and changes to names without due reason.

One such example of the later is with Esty Erharti’s name in Atelier Arland Trilogy. Her name was changed to Esty Dee, sounding identical to STD.

So many felt the localization on Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana was poor (as we also felt in our review), that NISA President and CEO Takuro Yamashita directly apologized for it, with the game being subsequently updated along with later ports using the new localization.

In November 2019, NISA were questioned by fans why a particular bikini DLC costume for a character in The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel 3 had not been made available in the west. After stating it was not due to censorship (implemented by Sony’s policies on sexual content from December 2018 on PlayStation platforms), the DLC did become available later.

The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel 3 is out now on PlayStation 4, and launches on March 19th for Nintendo Switch in Japan (Q2 2020 world-wide).

Image: The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel 3 (via CGInferno)

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Ryan Pearson

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Taking his first steps onto Route 1 and never stopping, Ryan has had a love of RPGs since a young age. Now he's learning to appreciate a wider pallet of genres and challenges.