Welcome to July 2015's installment of "It Came From the Internet." On a regularly recurring basis that may or may not be monthly, the intrepid crew of the H-PCAACA venture boldly into the farthest reaches of the internet to find interesting and offbeat sites relating to American, world, and popular culture.
Japanese popular culture has gained a strong following overseas. In the United States, anime conventions are now common, manga has its own section in bookstores, and streaming services like Hulu and Crunchyroll deliver subtitled anime the same day as their broadcast in Japan. The news over a remastered Final Fantasy VII was the breakout story of the E3 gaming conference and the live action adaptation of the Attack on Titan anime is seeing an American theatrical release. This popularity led to the coining of "Cool Japan" and both political and academic explorations of Japan's new cultural soft power.
However, not all of Japan's cultural products make their way overseas. Some are very niche and lack a sufficient fanbase to justify the risk for companies. Overwhelmingly however, language is the major hurdle involved in exporting Japanese culture to eager fans with limited Japanese skills. Translation that capture both the meaning of a sentence and the imbued cultural context is the great issue facing both companies with official licenses and for amateur fansubbers/scanlaters.
Enter the visual novel. True to their name, visual novels are a form of interactive fiction with visuals and images that are often anime inspired. Visual novels vary in terms of gameplay, with most being very light on interactivity but long on story. A typical visual novel relies on a series of decision points to move the story in one direction or another, particularly in the case of dating simulations. Some may have only one or two choices and unfold like a novel with little input from the reader. While very popular in Japan, reportedly accounting for 70% of PC game sales, their impact in the United States has been minimal both in the form of American visual novels released and sales of Japanese imports. The popularity of visual novels in Japan has led to the adaption of several best sellers into anime such as Fate/stay Night, Higurashi na Naku Koro Ni, and School Days.
In the continuting tradition of anime fansubs, private groups and individuals have taken it upon themselves to translate visual novels and in some cases release English language patches to make the games accessible to American gamers. It is often a tough task due to potentially multiple endings, branching plot points, and large amounts of text. Amateur translator Ryu (no other name given) is tackling solo translations of several visual novel games on his web site vnccp.com and Youtube channel. Ryu records a playthough of the game, and then replaces Japanese text with English. The results are posted to Youtube.
Ryu's work on vnccp.com is a prime example of the fansub and anime communities' efforts to translate Japanese products. While occasionally running afoul of copyright laws, fansubbers and translators have been at the forefront of growth in popularity of manga and anime by making them accessible to audiences outside of Japan. Arguments have been made that unlicensed translations help drive interest in an anime, which creates a fanbase for a licensed release. There also have been arguments that unlicensed subs hurt legitimate sales. However, given the desire for immediate gratification and the long periods of time between publication in Japan and translation in the US, particularly with manga, fansubbers and scanlators are unlikely to disappear even in an age of streaming video. Fan groups can also be a launching pad for many into the business side of anime and manga. Crunchyroll started off as a fansub group dealing with unlicensed products, eventually went legitmate and is now one of the prime streaming services for anime.
Vnccp.com provides curious and language challenged fans the chance to watch playthroughs of games they may not have a chance to experience otherwise. The games Ryu features such as Nisekoi Yomeiri! are already popular due to their manga, light novel, and anime incarnations. The tighter connections between different media and the overall trend towards a transmedia narrative in Japan means elements of a story may be explained in other formats, like a radio play or game. Without official English releases, players will be paying hefty amounts to obtain an imported version of the game, if they are able to read Japanese. Vnccp, like others, skirts a fine line but may work towards increasing the popularity of visual novels outside of Japan and give fans the chance to see the origins or side stories of their favorite works.
Don't know where to start? Try Tsugumi or Onodera's route in Ryu's translation of Nisekoi Yomeiri! A little confused as to the situation? Try watching the Nisekoi anime and experience the transmedia narrative at work.
Stay aware of your flags, when in doubt pick option D, and may you always reach the Good End at the Visual Novel CCP.
Ryu's Youtube Channel :: https://www.youtube.com/user/RyuujiTk
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Dan Fandino is a recent M.A. graduate from the University of Central Florida. He has a PSP Vita solely for the purpose of playing Japanese games under the excuse it is for research and language study. He has never met a visual novel he didn't like, highly recommends Nisekoi Yomieru! and is firmly on the side of Team Onodera.
It Came From the Internet is an H-PCAACA feature on interesting and sometimes peculiar web sites relating to American, world, and popular culture. Feel free to comment by clicking on “Discussions” in the right side panel. If you are interested in contributing a post or if you would like to create your own blog or feature, let us know through the email link.
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