Otakon 2012: NIS America Announces "Umineko: When They Cry", Talks English Localization
NIS America’s industry panel on Saturday morning was hosted by PR and Marketing Coordinator Ryan Philips, anime producer Mitsu Hiraoka, and localization director Eugene Chen. The company had one brand new title to announce, the 2009 mystery series Umineko: When They Cry. It is based on a visual novel done by 07th Expansion, the creators of Higurashi: When They Cry. The show is a murder mystery where eight members of a wealthy family gather at a private island to discuss the division of assets when the dying family head passes away. But when a typhoon strands them and everyone else on the island and murders start happening, the survivors must deduce who or what is responsible and ponder whether a supernatural cause is at work. The 26-episode series will be released on Blu-Ray in two parts in December 2012. As usual, NISA will package the discs with hardcover art books. Volume 1 will contain 18 episodes and retail for $79.99, while volume 2 will include the final 8 episodes for $49.99.
Prior to this announcement, NISA also ran trailers for their current and upcoming releases during the panel: Anohana, The Flower We Saw That Day, volume 3 of Kimi ni Todoke, Occult Academy, Bunny Drop on 8/7/12, Ghastly Prince Enma -Burning Up- on 9/11/12 and seasons 1 and 2 of Natsume’s Book of Friends in October.
After the trailers, Hiraoka discussed the company’s approach to releasing anime as a premium product. While they recognize the interest for English dubs, Hiraoka stated “…we wouldn’t be here as a publisher” if the company were to try releasing dubbed products and they didn’t do well. Acknowledging the problem of fansubs and piracy, Hiraoka pointed to their use of high quality packaging and extras such as their full color art books to differentiate their product and offer something more to fans. Hiraoka also talked about their standards for the anime they release, commenting that they are generally “anti-Fan Service” and that the company looks for “story-driven” anime and comedy such as Ghastly Prince Enma or Toradora.
After Hiraoka finished, Chen discussed the localization of English subtitles. Using clips from Ghastly Prince Enma, Chen demonstrated three different approaches to translation: a “literal approach”, “westernization” and translation of meaning. The clip for the literal approach included obscure references to Japanese pop culture in the 70s, while the westernization clip substituted a reference to Mick Jagger for the original reference to a Japanese singer. The clip for the translation of meaning included an exchange dealing in language puns, with one character saying “there’s norway out!” and another saying “Let’s finnish this!” The original Japanese contained a similar joke that would have made no sense with a literal translation, so NISA went this option. Chen remarked that they want to get the spirit of what the original show was going for.
As for the process of subtitling itself, Chen explained that they read or watch anything related to the shows the company is working on and work from the same script the voice actors use. After a translator translates a script into English and an editor edits that the script, they screen their show throughout the company and then do a final proofread. Chen stated that takes about three months to get a product ready for viewing. During the panel’s Q&A session, it was also made clear that NIS America creates its subtitle scripts in-house from scratch; they never draw on subtitle scripts from Crunchyroll or anywhere else.