On Official VN Localization Companies

Last update: 16/12/2014

Surprisingly, many people in the English VN community seem to not really know much about the current players in the VN localization scene. Wait, is that really surprising? I don’t think they really manage to advertise their existence all that well. Maybe I’m just a nerd and way more interested in keeping in touch with VN news… anyway. Believe it or not, you can actually buy visual novels from these guys. If you feel like it, of course.

Note: I’m not covering console publishers at the moment (I basically can’t be arsed, and I know less.) They usually don’t just do VNs either. Off the top of my head, Aksys and NISA have both published VN translations (999, Hakuoki, VLR; Danganronpa).

JAST

Run by Peter Payne (bit of a character…), who is the owner of j-list, sellers of overpriced Japanese goods catering magnificently to a weeaboo audience. Grapevine general recommendation is to buy your weeaboo stuff elsewhere because jlist jacks up prices pretty hard.

JAST works mostly by leveraging existing fan translation teams, which isn’t exactly without issues. That said, they did release both School Days (Interestingly, this was done by the original Sekai Project) and Steins;Gate (had a patch out, seems to have been a leak and was a bit of a buggy mess though), which isn’t bad. Oh yeah, and Saya no Uta (had a decent enough fan tl patch, but apparently the text in the new release is better? I never did compare them…). Saya’s going to be a niche title no matter what though, so yeah.

JAST is partnered with Nitro+, of Saya no Uta, MuramasaKikokugai, Steins;Gate, Hanachirasu etc etc fame. Nitro+ wanting to do a lot of things by themselves seems to be a bit of a slowing factor from what I can tell. At the moment, the release I’m most interested in from JAST is Django, an Urobuchi (Saya no Uta, Kikokugai) VN. Didn’t actually read Kikokugai yet, but Saya is pretty good. Django will take quite a while to come out though, apparently T_T

They are known for taking a loooooong time to release anything, to the point of creating the term “JAST time” in reference to “Valve time”.  Also, for opening pre-orders for products years before their release (I think? For Saya no Uta, at least). They’ve probably stopped doing that that now. Ish.

Makoto, possibly the most respected translator on the VN scene (though not quite in the spotlight the way, say, koestl is), is strongly associated with JAST. His fan translations of Saya no Uta, Kikokugai, and Hanachirasu were all out way before any official release. Note: respected for translation quality. Guys like Ixrec are respected by the masses for their output, but get a lot of flak for their lack of translation quality. Can’t tell myself, being an EOP.

Their website: http://www.jastusa.com/.

MangaGamer

Started by a conglomerate of Japanese VN companies including Overdrive (Kira Kira, Deardrops), Circus (Da Capo), and… uhh, I can’t remember and can’t be arsed to look it up, but there are probably more. Their early translations were severely lacking in quality (for example: Hinatobokko, initial Edelweiss translation), giving MG a bad rep in the community. These days, their translation quality is looking up and they have some very interesting titles lined up for release.

At some point, their current lead translator and PR man (complaints about his skill in the PR department nonwithstanding.,..) Kouryuu (John Pickett) joined the company, which was in a bad situation financially at that point. Kouryuu might deserve his own section, but anyway – according to his narrative, he worked hard to convince the jp side of MangaGamer to increase translation quality and made them fire near everyone currently employed as a translator but him. MG is known for releasing a lot of nukige, which gets them a fair bit of flak but did help keep them afloat during their more problematic periods.

Notable releases are Kira Kira (stilted; reportedly butchered the style of the original writer as well), Higurashi no naku Koro ni (a “passable” translation which was pretty readable but clearly non-native in sentence construction skill), Cartagra, Kara no Shoujo, and lots of stuff like Da Capo 1 and 2 (with 3 in the pipeline, though getting translated slowly by Kouryuu because it’s huge) that I don’t really care about myself because >moege.

Higurashi is (slowly) getting a re-translation, by the way.

As of 2014 they’ve started to pick up / release some pretty cool stuff, most recently Cartagra, the original start of the Cartagra / Kara no Shoujo / Kara no Shoujo 2 series. Apart from that, as of 2014 they’re branching out into BL and otome VNs, currently just testing the waters with the BL nukige-ish title No, Thank You!!! and (all-ages) otomege OZMAFIA!!.

Currently my most respected localization company. I’m excited for their release of Euphoria, The House in Fata Morgana, and Gahkthun.

Website: http://www.mangagamer.com/ (NSFW).

Sekai Project

The upstart of the VN localization world. Uses crowdfunding for all of its bigger, and many of its smaller projects, which has caused constant worries about Kickstarter fatigue and general discontent in a vocal part of the community. Expect hate on /jp/. For VNs that have voices, voice licensing for overseas use seems to be a major monetary hurdle (Kara no Shoujo and Koihime Musou from MangaGamer both had this problem as well, getting voice patches only after so many sales).

Sekai Project has gotten a lot of licenses that would have seemed impossible a year ago. I mean, Key? Grisaia? Let’s just say that CLANNAD‘s licensing was a flying-pigs moment. The success of their CLANNAD Kickstarter thus far is probably making waves in Japan right now, and might be another part in the changing Japanese attitudes toward the West we’ve been seeing recently. Personally, I’m happy CLANNAD is getting a re-translation; I always planned to re-read it once Doki had finished polishing it up, but this is probably significantly preferable to that outcome. Also, Grisaia no Meikyuu. Kajitsu was great.

SP has its roots in a fan translation project for School Days. One of the two main heroines is named Sekai… thus. Incidentally Sekai is best girl, Kotonoha a shit… though really, none of them are waifu material. Sekai Project eventually started working with JAST and got an official release out for the VN-ish fully animated game.

A while afterward, Sekai Project surfaced as a player in the VN localization world. Initially, they worked to get Narcissu on Steam as a free download, putting it up on Greenlight and eventually getting it through the process. After this they worked to get World End Economica and other VNs on Steam, at least partly aiming to show Japanese companies the wonders of Steam and get them interested that way.

Criticized for having put so many irons in the fire without actually completing much, they currently have projects in various states of progress for Narcissu (some re-translation), World End Economica ep 2/3, CLANNAD, the Grisaia series, WAS -The Hourglass of Lepidoptera-, Paca Plus, and Koenchu! -The Tale of the Voice Actress-. They do claim to have staff for each project — ish. But they have said that some staff is shared as well.

Yet another bone of contention: CLANNAD, Planetarian, Narcissu, and the first part of the Grisaia trilogy already had free translations of varying quality prior to SP working on them. World End Economica was essentially just put on Steam with minimal processing to start with. Some would consider Sekai Project’s work to be redundant and/or a money grab because of this. With that said, CLANNAD is getting its translation fixed up and Grisaia is getting additional Vita version CGs if things pan out. In general SP does seem to work on improving their products, even if they are already translated.

Their actual releases are… an improved version of Planetarian (had fan translation patch), the meh-to-kusoge-tier OELVN Sakura Spirit (publisher, reportedly sold like hotcakes), Sunrider: First Arrival (Kickstarted OELVN, was going to be free anyway, Steam publisher), Narcissu (previously had fan translation, but they put it on Steam for free so its a decent service – Narcissu‘s a p. cool VN in general so it getting publicity in any form is nice), fault -milestone one-, and a very minorly edited version of World End Economically ep. 1‘s rather rough initial translation (it wins out over MG/Kawa-Soft by a small margin…).

The fault release is the first real crowdfunded release featuring content not previously translated. Somewhat of a milestone (笑) for them – and it’s p. good. I recommend buying it.

On the non-VN front they translated some book that reviewed headphones and had cool art, but who cares about that?

The CEO (Raymond Qian, net handle dovac) tends to whine on his Twitter account, be vague and go back on his word a decent lot. You could call this being responsive to feedback at times. For example, the CLANNAD translation was originally set to be done by “working with: the current fan translation group (Doki) working on improving its (reportedly terrible including machine tl, though I must honestly say I never found it to be true machine tl level terrible) translation. They then went into an increasing vagueness spiral promising increasing levels of professional attention until finally settling on hiring some expensive but professional translators.

Adding to this, Sekai Project seems to often be powerless against the whims of the companies it deals with; the Grisaia 18+ separate release shitstorm is just one example of this. Granted, the talk about 18+ patches, Steam being ok with or not, bluh bluh in the beginning was pure SP vagueness, so that’s also a thing.

As you can see, there are many reasons for SP to have a less than stellar reputation at the moment. Not to say everyone hates them or anything, but especially the new Grisaia development seems to have caused a lot of rage (dovac blames it all on Frontwing, which actually seems likely. Conspiracy theories flourish, of course.)

All that said, I think they get a bit more crap than they deserve. If ALiCE IN DISSONANCE (creators of the excellent fault) are anything to go by, they are at least very nice to the Japanese companies they work with (and AiD is really doujin too, so it’s not like there’s a huge leverage factor).

Website: https://sekaiproject.com/.

Update History

13/12/2014 – Initial version
16/12/2014 – Added fault released info, Koenchu isn’t free, some small edits in general. SP section is getting some redundancies at places and losing focus by now; I’d like to edit it prettier but I have other things to do.
6/04/2015 – Fixed Raymond Qian’s name (from Raymon), not very major edit, added some comments on fault since I’ve read it now.

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