Sunday, January 5, 2014

Sato's Road to Manga

In addition to Manga Poverty, I've also begun translating Sato's autobiographical blog about how he became a manga artist, and the trials and tribulations of his career. This is a more personal, detailed account on his life, and it's pretty interesting, especially if you're interested in what it's like to live as a manga artist in Japan. It's updated almost concurrently with the original Japanese blog, and all the English entries can be read for free here:

Sato Shuho's Official English Blog

Friday, June 28, 2013

Manga Poverty

This year I translated another book: "Manga Poverty" by Sato Shuho, a famous manga artist in Japan. This is a nonfiction novel about his experiences with the manga industry and battles with Japan's ruthless publishers. Not only is it a quick, exciting read filled with Sato's unique wit and unusual experiences, but it also contains a wealth of information as to what it's like to be a manga artist in Japan. If you're interested in manga, publishing, or how artists in Japan live, then I highly recommend it!

Below the Japanese are links to the different E-book formats. Happy reading!




Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Fiend with Twenty Faces

My English translation of The Fiend with Twenty Faces has been published by Kurodahan Press with beautiful artwork by Tim Smith III. It's available for purchase on Amazon and Amazon JP. For more information, you can read about the book on the official Kurodahan page.

This was a great undertaking, and it's an honor to translate such a monumental work by a fantastic author. Hopefully, if the Fiend is received well, I'll be able to introduce even more great Japanese fiction to the English world. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Since today marks the birth of this site, I've decided to do a little explanation to all the links you see to your right. I'm not really sure whether this will turn into a full-on news/personal blog site, or if it'll simply remain a depository for links to projects I'm working on. As always, time will tell.

This is my professional home page, which contains my resume in both English and Japanese.

100% of the proceeds from this short fiction anthology go to aid orphans who were affected by the March 2011 tsunami disaster in Japan. A translation I did of a short story by Ashikawa Junichi is included. 

My translation of this Edogawa Rampo classic will be published in Winter 2011 by Kurodahan Press.

A translation I did of an excerpt from Sugiura Hinako's "Hyaku Monogatari" is featured within this excellent Japanese weird fiction anthology. 

Here, you'll find an original serial novel I've been working on. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Game Creators Discussion 2

(Continued from Part 1)

Games can bring back lost stories

Asano: Do you have any favorite game dialog?

Tomisawa: You mean from RPGs, or anything?

Yonemitsu: I liked how in DQ it said "You have died." when an enemy beat you. I named my hero "Rakko," and it was always "Rakko this, Rakko that," but suddenly upon death, the game said "You." It suddenly addressed ME. Up until that point, the game had treated Rakko and myself like a fused being, but then suddenly, when Rakko died, it was like I had been pushed out from the game.

Asano: Yeah, "Rakko has died" sounds like it's talking about a real person. I'd be like "Who the hell is that?"

Yonemitsu: Yes. Since "Rakko" is a name I entered, it's not just a character in the game, but me myself.

Tomisawa: So then you feel the horror of "Wait, it wasn't my character who died, it was me?!"

Yonemitsu: When you come back to life, it calls you by your character name again. "Ohh, Rakko, what did you go and die for?!" Like you've been once more pulled back into the game.

Asano: The great thing is that those are both lines that you would never hear in real life.

Tomisawa: Yeah, you're definitely not going to hear "You have died."

Asano: It may seem like you're being forsaken, but the whole idea is just so ridiculous, it makes me laugh.

Yonemitsu: From DQ2 on, the player gets reviving items and spells, but in DQ1, everything was handled with that one line: "What did you go and die for?!" That can only be done in a game; I really like it. At the time, games dealt with themes like passion, courage, and love, with a little bit of comedy. No middle-school boy would ever read a love story. He'd follow one in a game, though.

Asano: Yeah, and at that age, you can read some epic tale about saving the world without being the tiniest bit embarrassed.

Tomisawa: I wouldn't read a story about going to save a princess if it was a novel.

Asano: Gradually, the stories in games have gotten more detailed and closer to our real lives. For example, the "Ryu ga Gotoku" (Yazuka) series. There is definitely some reality in yakuza guys standing around the Kabuki-cho district. Saving the world is fantasy, but teaming up with girls and your friends and doing something...players can really identify with that.

Tomisawa: Right after "MOTHER" went on sale, I went to go interview Mr. Shigesato Itoi, where he told me that "games can bring back lost stories." And I thought yeah, games unabashedly tell embarrassingly "classic" tales about bringing peace to the world and saving one's friends.

Asano: Probably because the player doesn't look at a game as a story about someone else, but a story about themselves, active in the game's world. I think the symbolic nature is also a big part. When you see a really realistic picture of someone's face, it just starts to look weird.

Yonemitsu: If three grown men like us held hands and shouted "Let's team up!" together, it'd be laughable, but for some reason, when we do it with pixels, we think we might be able to get away with it. (LOL)

Enhancing the scene in your mind

Tomisawa: I think Mr. Akira Toriyama's character designs for the DQ series were perfect as an abstract. Don't the designs of "Final Fantasy" characters make you a little embarrassed?

Asano: True, because Mr. Yoshitaka Amano's illustrations don't focus on friendship. They're more aesthetic.

Yonemitsu: That's why the FF series has become more and more like Hollywood films. The main character speaks, and the villains get a lot of screen time. They're utilizing the language of cinema.

Tomisawa: More and more people comment on how nice it is that the main character in the DQ series doesn't talk.

Asano: He speaks at the very end of DQ1, though.

Tomisawa: Oh, really?

Asano: Just one line, before the ending. The King says "Please become the new ruler of Alefgard," and then the next line goes something like: "But then the hero said: No, I am going to go and live for myself now."

Tomisawa: Wow, I don't remember that part.

Asano: I tried to end "Torneko" like that too, with Torneko saying something like "Thank you" to his wife Nene at the end, but it got booed by a lot of people so it never happened. (LOL) They didn't want him to talk.

Yonemitsu: You mean you wanted to do it as an homage to DQ1?

Asano: Of course.

Tomisawa: So he did speak. I thought he was always silent. (LOL)

Asano: A lot of tricks can be done using characters that don't talk. For example, in "Metroid," you have a character that you think is one thing the entire time, but then at the end she takes off her helmet and she's something entirely different. Games can be more shocking than novels in that sense. I tried to do a similar thing when I worked on "Kamaitachi no Yoru 2."

Tomisawa: I remember the same thing happening in Mr. Yonemitsu's "Treasure Hunter G."

Yonemitsu: Oh yeah, with the monkey. That was kind of silly, though.

Asano: Let's see, what other dialog do I like...

Tomisawa: If you talk to a cat in DQ3, it says "Meow," and then gives you the option to say Yes or No. I laughed at that.

Yonemitsu: "But I don't speak cat!" (LOL) That was funny.

Asano: Also in DQ3, there was a horse that said "I am the talking horse, Ed."

Yonemitsu: Oh yeah, "Mr. Ed," that was some American TV show.

Asano: That was really funny. Oh yeah, remember how in DQ4 the characters' stories are split up?

Tomisawa: Like with the princess's chapter and the merchant's chapter...

Asano: In the beginning of the last chapter, monsters attack a village, and the hero is told to hide and taken into the basement. Then you just hear sounds of fighting.

Yonemitsu: Obviously there's a massacre happening in the town, but the game doesn't try to explain that with any dialog.

Asano: When you finally get out of the basement, the village is in shambles, and everyone is dead. That is real "text," if you ask me. It truly made me imagine what was happening.

Yonemitsu: Yes, that was amazing. It really moved me. I remember rain following forever in that scene. When you come out from the basement, rain starts to fall. Everyone is dead, and I just remembered thinking: "Wow, this is really something." When I went back after many years and played it again, though, I realized there was no rain at all. (LOL)

Asano: You were just imagining things.

Yonemitsu: I liked it so much that I enhanced the experience in my mind.

Asano: That came from Mr. Hori. I remember thinking "Oh my god!" when I was making it. I think that's the real job of a scenario writer: not to figure out how to write the text, but to make a good scene.

Tomisawa: It's close to directing.

Asano: There are important parts to the dialog, but each line is just parts set to help create the world of the game. People call movie scripts the "blueprints of a movie," so it's kind of like that. It's important not just to think of the lines, but how the entire scene is coming together.

Everything should be placed with the player in mind

Yonemitsu: There are elements that resemble movies, but a lot of different ones, too. For example, when the player enters a town, there's always someone who says "This is so-and-so village." There are lots of lines like those that you would never see in movies. But there they are. And players are happy when they find hints in the proper spots. With that, we get a strength different from that of realism.

Asano: Yeah, there's always someone near the gate who says "This is whatever town." That's because the player has been fighting desperately, bringing himself to the verge of death in order to get to that point. When they get there, though, they think "I'm finally here...but is this really whatever town? I want to know for sure, right away." The player's feelings are what give that gatekeeper a purpose.

Yonemitsu: It would be tragic if we made someone all the way in the back of the town say that.

Asano: Mr. Hori has always been good at anticipating the player's feelings, and not just in those kind of situations. In DQ1, you're told to go find Princess Laura, so you go out of the castle and into the next town. There, you might see a girl character and think "Haha, what if that was the princess?" and approach her with a smirk. So what does she say? "No, I'm not Princess Laura!"

Yonemitsu: Considering that and then actually putting that kind of line in is really expert insight on the hearts of the players.

Tomisawa: Everything should be placed with the player in mind.

Asano: There's a purpose to every line, too. If you talk to someone and they say "It's nice weather out," or "This is a river," the player will just be like "Yeah, I know that already!" (LOL)

Yonemitsu: There are a lot of games where the lines just feel shoved in because the developers felt they had to put something there.

Tomisawa: It's hard coming up with all those lines.

Asano: Lines that make the player think of other characters and enhances their images are good, too. For example, let's say you have a "mysterious thief" character, and the player hears one villager say "The mysterious thief robbed someone." Then, in the last town, just have someone say "I heard the mysterious thief got caught." Lines like that are great. Even if you're just trying to fill space, you should still try to give the lines some purpose.

Tomisawa: When I think up lines like "No, I'm not Princess Laura," I usually end up changing where the person is standing. I put people with important lines in the back, and people with less important ones in the front. I think that sort of work is important too.

From the journalist, Reizuna Kato:

I remember getting the "Basement Key" in "Mother" and trying to choose the "Eat"command with it. The game told me "Please don't." I instantly replied, "OK."

They'll talk more about their favorite lines next time, along with discussions about "Pokemon" and "Baroque!"

Part 3 is coming on March 14!

Game Creators Discussion 1

Introduction: This is my translation of the original Japanese Excite article which can be read here. I really enjoyed reading this article, so I thought I'd try and translate it so that English-only people could read it and enjoy it too. This is just a rough translation I did in a couple of hours, so I'm sure it has its share of imperfections. Anyway, enough of me, let's begin the interview!

Game Creator Profiles:

Kazuya Asano - Programmed DQ4, DQ5, then went on to direct a bunch of sound novel/adventure games, including the famous "Kamaitachi no Yoru" for the Super Famicom.

Kazunari Yonemitsu - Directed Treasure Hunter G and Baroque. Also the father of Puyo Puyo.

Akihito Tomisawa - Main writer for the Pokemon series, among many other projects.

The "Momotarō" series is pun-friendly

Yonemitsu: Tomisawa, I heard the new remake of "Momotarō Densetsu" you're working on is coming out soon. (*

Tomisawa: This cell phone game, "Momotarō Densetsu Mobile" is coming out on April 1.

Asano: Is all the text the same?

Tomisawa: No, it's changed quite a bit. This is a game from 25 years ago, remember.

Yonemitsu: It's already been that long?!

Tomisawa: The Momotarō series is one that sort of focuses on jokes, but they're out of date. You know, no one's gonna laugh at old Jackie Chan jokes these days. (LOL)

Asano: Yeah, or like the name "Red Demon Horner," (referencing Major League baseball player Bob Horner.) No one's gonna get that today.

Tomisawa: It brings back so much memories, so I thought maybe we should leave it like that at first, but there's no way something like that would fly today. We didn't really alter the main flow, but we did change the details, events, characters, and the dialog that surrounds them.

Asano: How did you change them?

Tomisawa: For example, I suggested "Kizile" to replace the Horner joke. (LOL) It got rejected, though. (*A mixture of the character for 'demon' and the pronunciation of the name of the popular boy band 'Exile.')

Yonemitsu: Yikes! (LOL)

Tomisawa: "Momotarō Densetsu II" had five colored "Demon Rangers," so we wanted to use them, but then we started discussing how the idea itself of parodying the power rangers is rather antiquated. So we decided to line them up like a boy band and name them "Kizile."

Asano: That's hilarious. (LOL)

Yonemitsu: I wish I could have seen that...

Asano: That reminds me, we did a similar thing in "Kamaitachi no Yoru." I think I remember using the name of a 1987 drama as a joke. My memories are vague, though.

Tomisawa: That's the way we did things back then, and the jokes were very current. The "Momotarō" series is pun-friendly though, so there's a sense of freedom. It's like being invited to the "World's Greatest Pun Tournament."

One is enough, otherwise it gets confusing

Yonemitsu: I know I'm going way back here, but a long time ago, games were all text. Even in "Dragon Quest I," the hero's icon only had him facing forward. He wouldn't even turn to the side to talk with people. Pretty darn rude, that hero. The player treated him like a symbol, though, so that was all that was necessary. Even though the player is interacting with something on the side, the text that's telling him "this is the hero" won't.

Tomisawa: You're saying it's a symbol, like text.

Yonemitsu: Yeah. And for the word "apple," we just put on a symbol of an apple. Just a few pixels. And when you selected "attack," the hero wouldn't actually pull out his sword and swing it.

Asano: That makes things quicker.

Yonemitsu: There was a certain comfort that came with those symbols. These days, everything is expressed in 3D, including all the motions the hero has to go through to swing his sword. He attacks, he misses. That split-second interaction was really interesting to me. I don't really care if I see him attacking, just say "he swung his sword" and leave it at that.

Tomisawa: It's really tough to create all those realistic sequences, too.

Yonemitsu: For example, when there's a mountain-climbing scene in a novel. No author would sit there and write "He curved to the left again on the winding road," explaining every little detail of the process to a fault.

Asano: Unless, of course, they want to express the hardship involved in climbing a mountain. If they wanted to entertain their audience, however, that scene would end up differently.

Tomisawa: There is a lot of repetitive work involved in games, and when meat is added to all those repetitive parts, it can become a real hassle.

Asano: There are guys who use multiple text windows for townspeople conversations in RPGS, right? Most people get tired of reading at the third window.

Yonemitsu: And when they're done reading, you can't remember what was said in the first window.

Asano: I'll read to the second window, but I hate it when people wait until that point to mention the important things.

Yonemitsu: It's really annoying.

Asano: In novels and manga, a single person can talk at lengths on their own, but in normal conversations, when someone says something, the person listening will immediately toss something back, like they're playing catch. When bad game creators work on RPGs, the script just gets longer, because they try to explain EVERYTHING.

Tomisawa: Or they try to squeeze two or three pieces of information into a single line. One is enough, otherwise it gets confusing.

Asano: You don't need the introduction, development, turn and conclusion in that kind of dialog. Just the introduction and the conclusion. Otherwise it turns into a button-mashing game to get rid of the text as fast as possible. (LOL)

Yonemitsu: By the time the player looks at the third window, they've already forgotten what was said in the first one. Then the character will talk about some "item," and the player will just be scratching their head.

Asano: Yeah, don't use pronouns like "him" or words like "that." Just write things out clearly, like "apple." In "Otogirisou" and "Kamaitachi no Yoru," we were very cautious about the length of dialog. Three lines should be the max, but we tried to aim for two. One would be ideal. If we couldn't, then we'd try to put in blank spaces to add pauses. Otherwise, we felt like the player would get left behind and lose interest in reading. We also worked hard to make sure that words related to the game's system weren't brought into its world.

Tomisawa: I do the same thing. A long time ago, I was absolutely against mentioning the "A button" inside the game. Now, though, it depends on the game. I don't mind doing it in a puzzle game, but I would hate to break the fourth wall in a game like "Pokemon."

Asano: So you try to figure out how mention it in secret.

Yonemitsu: Like "There was some graffiti written on the wall" or something.

Asano: In "Torneko's Great Adventure," the player has to press R + the directional pad to move diagonally. We didn't want one of the characters to say this, but then we thought, well, how else are we supposed to do it? (LOL)

Tomisawa: That's a really tough question.

Asano: So we had a solider in the castle say: "According to an ancient legend, when a giant right hand pushes down on a grand cross in the ground..." But if you take it that far, honestly, who knows what this character could be talking about? (LOL)

Yonemitsu: Yeah, that's taking things too far.

Asano: It's a question of how well you can explain things without infringing on the game world. And it's tough. Lately, I see games just ignoring this fact and saying "OK, now let's press the A button!" Maybe it's too much work. We really racked our brains over it in the past, though. Remember the Famicon version of "Ultima?"

Yonemitsu: The one that Yasushi Akimoto supervised!

Asano: There was a "Save Department Store" in that game. On one hand I felt like crying, and on the other hand, I felt like punching him in the face. (LOL) These days, though, I think that's the better route because at least it's funny.

Tomisawa: I fell off my chair when I saw that.

Yonemitsu: I remember being really angry at the time, but I can forgive that now.

Make sure it isn't a game just for the sake of being a game

Tomisawa: Yeah, because it's like a backstage joke that you see on TV. Mr. Yuji Hori called the player's save data an "Adventure Journal." I thought that was really awesome. He just thought about what they would call such a thing in that world, and then made that word the standard. In "Momotarō," we were trying to figure out how to explain the controls in a natural way. There are pieces of poop that teaches the player about things in the first town, so we decided to make things simpler and have the poop explain everything. And then edited their text a little, making them say things like "What would you like to assk about?"

Asano: You're really putting a lot of thought into these.

Tomisawa: We had one poop running around say "I'm a poop that runs" in order to let the player know that they can move faster too.

Asano: Yeah, it's kind of like, "Making the player murder humans is bad, but if they're zombies, they can go all-out."

Tomisawa: Right, and since it's poop saying all this stuff, who cares? (LOL)

Yonemitsu: Mr. Tomisawa, you worked with Mr. Hori on a manga in "Shonen Jump," didn't you?

Asano: You mean "Famicon Shinken?" (*roughly translates to Fist of Famicon, a play on Fist of the North Star)

Tomisawa: Yeah. Not directly, but I learned a lot about making RPGs from one people who learned directly from Mr. Hori, Hiroshi Yamaoka. (*Creator of the Metal Max series.) I learned the Hori style of game and script design.

Yonemitsu: Could you explain his style a little?

Tomisawa: Cut down on dialog, make it easier to understand, and only insert one element per line. Mr. Hori worked at Jump, so he learned about manga dialog from them, and I carried on his ideas.

Yonemitsu: You worked on DQ as well, haven't you? You're both "Children of Hori."

Asano: Indeed. When I was working on DQ5, someone brought up the idea of using kanji characters, so we had to decide how far we were going to go with the kanji. I was really stubborn, and said "only up to the kanji that appear in fifth-grade textbooks." But then Mr. Hori ended the discussion with a single line: "Only the kanji that appear in Jump."

Yonemitsu: That makes so much sense!

Asano: I finally saw the light. Textbooks are so irrelevant, and his was definitely the better idea.

Tomisawa: He's really a person who understands the essentials.

Asano: When we were designing the dungeon maps, I would say stuff like "put an item in the left corner of that area on the right," but then Mr. Hori would come in an say "Put the most important item in a place that looks really cool." In other words, don't just dump it on the ground, surround it by water, put it up on a plateau -- make it look like this precious item is really being protected.

Tomisawa: So that the player can really say "I made it!"

Asano: This completely changes the sense of acquisition players get from picking up a treasure, you know? For the player, this might seem like something obvious, but we were so wrapped up in the game mechanics that we forgot about it. We were too concerned with creating the dungeon.

Yonemitsu: And there can even be a story connected to the location of that treasure chest.

Asano: Exactly. If we forget that, then we end up making something more like a puzzle game. A while back, a friend of mine who is a mystery author got mad at Kenji Ino's "Enemy Zero."

Yonemitsu: Why?!

Asano: The character wakes up from cryogenic sleep in a spaceship and looks for the other members of the crew, but they're all sleeping in different places. This mystery author was like "There's no way that'd ever happen. Space is a scary place, so they would all be sleeping together."

Tomisawa: Hahaha!

Asano: He totally bashed it, saying "of course it's a game, so the designer wants the player to walk around the ship, but there's absolutely no reality to be found in the way they're sleeping so far apart from one another." He also writes stories, so he just couldn't accept that.

Tomisawa: Seems like placing the cryogenic capsules that far apart would also make the life-support systems a real pain to hook together. (LOL)

Asano: It does seem rather cold when you think about it. They're all alone in space, yet they choose to sleep so far apart from one another?

Tomisawa: Maybe they just really hated each other. (LOL)

Yonemitsu: We have to be careful not to make games just for the sake of being games.

Asano: Yeah, definitely. The only reason things are like that is because of the convenience it adds to the game itself.

Yonemitsu: We have to make sure the games we make aren't games just for the sake of being games.

Asano: Absolutely. That's just making the game more convenient to create. I think Mr. Hori really understood that.