New Ways to Watch Anime

You know what they say: once is a fluke, twice a coincidence, and three times makes a pattern. (I don't know if "they" actually say that, but screw it I'm saying it now.) Well, we are officially into the "coincidence" phase, with the new Black Rock Shooter anime streaming on Nico Nico Douga starting February 3rd in eight different languages.

I would really like to believe that this is evidence of people listening to... well, not me personally, but certainly the sentiments I expressed the last time this kind of news came out regarding Fate/zero. I really do feel like we're standing on the brink of a major change in the way the American anime community can function, and I really do think that making shows readily available like this could be the gateway to a much broader presence of anime fandom in the United States.

And I do think that this should herald a decline in fansub releases. Of course, the last time I talked about this regarding Fate/zero, I relegated that issue to a later post. Well, now that later post has in fact been written. It's hard to tell really if anyone's planning to create a fansub for the Black Rock Shooter anime, since obviously nothing can have been released yet and any searches will run headlong into the OVA, which is already out (and which isn't available in the U.S., to boot).

But what I didn't say for Fate/Zero, I will say for Black Rock Shooter: I don't believe there should be any fansubs of this anime distributed. We have access to the show already, without having to circumvent the creators' chosen methods of distribution. If we are to have any respect for the people that create excellent shows such as these, we simply can't ignore that.

Time will tell whether this will become a pattern. I for one sincerely hope that it does.


Romancers' Neo Lyrics Translation

The notes for this translation are here. Please direct any comments about the translation to that page's comment field.


Romancers' Neo (Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha A's Portable: The Gears of Destiny OP)

Lyrics: Hibiki

Composition: Noriyasu Agematsu

Arrangement: Junpei Fujita

Vocal: Nana Mizuki


静かに…耳を澄ませば 聴こえる…流星の残響
届けカンパネラ  生命のRondo
決意に…追いかけたHeart tail 禁じた…剣を掴んで
弱くていい 君の定義 思い込めて往こう

Softly now... If you listen clearly,
you can hear the echoes of the shooting star.
Let the bells ring, life’s rondo.
Decision made, I chase after the heart’s tail,
taking hold of a forbidden sword.
There’s nothing wrong with weakness,
believe in what defines you and go!

感じて僕の声を 聖なるインフィニティ

Feel my voice, a holy infinity;
I can make this vow, for love’s sake.
“Right now, a small spark is fine,
for one day it will become a roaring blaze!”

イカズチでも壊せない その絆の限りRise
新時代の福音(ゴスペル)よ 夢追人を照らせ
もう迷わないさ 風のままに
未来はまばゆく輝いて 君を待つよ

Rise! To the limits of this bond
which even thunder cannot destroy.
The gospel of a new age; those who chase their dreams will shine.
I won’t lose my way anymore, as long as the wind blows.
The future shines brilliantly, as it waits for you...

何度も…倒れた日々よ 雫で土を濡らす程
強く芽を息吹く 大志(カルミア)
優しき…背を押したTrue shine 温もり…何かを教える
太陽さえ 見た事ない 煌めきのファーブラ

Over and over... these are fallen days;
to the point that drops of water soak the ground,
with a sprout’s strongly growing ambition.
Kindness... the true shine touches my back,
warmth... may it teach me something.
Having never seen the sun, a glittering fable...

遥かな空の果てに 聳える理想郷(ユートピア)

At the limits of the distant sky,
utopia towers over us...
The song of a trusted friend:
“as long as we have heart,
we can change our destiny!”

いまだけなら泣いていい 全部抱きしめるよBrave
そして君は気づくんだ 尊く光るチカラ
伝うこの気持ち 永久に咲いて
ゆずれない明日があるはずさ さあ…世界へ

If it’s just now, crying is fine;
embrace everything, be brave!
And you notice, the precious glowing power...
I will share these feelings, blooming for all time.
A tomorrow we will never surrender will be there,
Yes, let’s go out into the world!

震える日は暖めよう 凍える日は隣にいよう
君と云う名の下 始まるレジェンド

Let’s warm the shivering days,
set the frozen days aside.
The miserable ones...
oh, I will always be by your side, so
under your name a legend will begin!

イカズチでも壊せない その絆の限りRise
新時代の福音(ゴスペル)よ 夢追人を照らせ
もう迷わないさ 風のままに
二度とない今日を生きてゆく 君と共に…!

Rise! To the limits of this bond
which even thunder cannot destroy.
The gospel of a new age; those who chase their dreams will shine.
I won’t lose my way anymore, as long as the wind blows.
Let’s live through this day which will never come again,
together with you!

Translation Notes: Romancers' Neo

Romancers' Neo first caught my attention as the opening theme song of the Nanoha PSP game Gears of Destiny, which I've mentioned before. (The OP version runs until the end of the first chorus, where the translated lyrics are "it waits for you".) If there's one interesting thing about it, it's that the lyrics are liberally sprinkled with... I would say English terms except I'm not actually confident that they are all English. If they are, they're obscure enough to evade my fairly expansive vocabulary. In short, one of the hardest parts of being a translator is that you have to be everything else too, or at least be able to fake it well enough.

Which brings up an interesting question, really. When translating, do you leave the original text in (where it makes sense to do so) or do you translate for meaning instead? Another good example of this is Only My Railgun by fripSide, the opening to A Certain Scientific Railgun. Presented with what is nominally English but which makes little sense to English speakers, what do you do when translating, whether for subtitles or for a blog like this one?

The second line, thus, provided no end of problems. Partly because it took me forever to figure out what "campanella" was supposed to be. Once I did think to look more closely at Italian, rather than English, the idea of talking about a bell ringing came shortly thereafter. This is a case in which I felt leaving the Italian term in the final product would have been almost completely nonsensical; simply replacing "bell" would only produce confusion, and trying to avoid adding the reference to ringing (which is not really in the original text) would have been worse. ("Reach, campanella!" Yeah, no thank you.)

Of course, then immediately after that I did leave a fairly obscure term in. For the record, "rondo" is a word in English, referring to a work or movement of music with its own particular subject. This time, though, trying to shoehorn in a definition would have been the less optimal choice. Any attempt to do a single-word replacement (such as "melody") would be materially different, and putting in an entire explanation would quickly descend into an overly-long string of words. So, rondo stays in, and anyone who wants to know what the song's exactly talking about can look it up, as I imagine many Japanese would have to as well with the original text. (It does show up in Japanese dictionaries too!)

The next incidence of an unfamiliar term came in the first stanza after the chorus (fourth overall). "Kalmia" is apparently a type of plant, assuming that that is in fact what was intended when these lyrics were written. (It's what comes up in the Japanese dictionary for the katakana カルミア, at any rate.) And there's a distinct way in which that reference makes sense, in that the rest of the line refers to a sprout... breathing strongly? In all likelihood, I made hash of that line, but I feel like the characters as written make... little sense. What I did in the end was to associate breathing with living, and connect that back to plants and growing, but that's very much a workaround.

Of course, the other problem is that the kanji there has nothing to do with plants. If you were to ignore the reading given, you'd see the word for "ambition", which is where that part of the translation comes from. Kalmia is apparently a decently pretty plant (if Google Images is to be believed), so perhaps it makes sense for "grow to become like this" to be a sprout's ambition.

And then we hit the end of the stanza and the Japanese katakana "ファーブラ", with which all I can really do is give you the near-direct romanization "fabula" and leave it at that. I can't even suggest what that might mean, because I have literally no idea. Searches in three separate dictionaries (the English, the Japanese, and the other Japanese on my phone) each yielded no results. If someone does have a theory they'd like to defend, by all means tell me about it. UPDATE: Aaaaaand I should have paid more attention to the possibility of Italian showing up again. Apparently "fabula" translates as "fable" in that language. Barring any better explanation, I've edited the translation slightly to reflect this information.

Once I got through the incredible mess of unfamiliar words, though, the translation was reasonably straightforward. I did flip around sentence orders in a few places, most notably in the chorus, where the word "rise" starts the line in the translation and ends it in the original text. Needless to say, I do think that the alteration is a more effective way of getting at what the song is saying.

Let me know what you think of the translation (or the song) in the comments!


A Post-Megaupload World

Anyone else tried to access Megaupload recently?

I first realized it here (a new site called Geek Revolt), and quickly went to confirm here (Washington Post) and here (Los Angeles Times). The site's been taken down. Given that attempting to go there itself returns no response, I'm willing to bet that this particular takedown was the oldest and most effective form of computer disruption: physically pulling the plug. And given the indictment against them (thanks again to the Los Angeles Times), I'm willing to bet they're not going to be coming back anytime soon.

Let's be clear here: Megaupload was hosting and distributing large numbers of files without permission. I would not be surprised to learn that there were large numbers of files on there which were being distributed legally, but I would be even less surprised to learn that there was pirated media available on Megaupload, quite possibly in much larger amounts.

As a result, I really can't find it in me to get worked up about this one. If the charges laid out in the indictment are in fact true, then there is every reason to be taking the site down quite permanently, thank you very much. And Megaupload will absolutely have their day in court, with all of the due process that entails - trying to claim that they're somehow not getting that process is kind of absurd.

Connecting this to the debate over SOPA is, likewise, absurd. Irrespective of the timing of the action. If your problem is with the government's action in this case, your problem is with a large amount of existing law, already in the U.S. Code. If it's as problematic as SOPA, by all means bring that to everyone's attention. But this is one site being taken down for demonstrable violations of federal law. Had SOPA already existed, every site that ever posted a link to Megaupload would be potentially in the crosshairs. That's the difference.

I said in my post about SOPA on the day of the blackout that the battle against piracy is going to be a long and complicated one. And I'm willing to agree that it is to some extent futile, in that there will be a countermeasure to any anti-piracy measure enacted. Whether they manage to throw doubt on the government's case against them and are able to return, or whether another site takes up their mantle, there will be another Megaupload. Perhaps its successor will be more under the radar, or perhaps it will be actively ignored for a time. That will not change the facts that brought this particular indictment forward, and it will not stop the government from issuing its indictment against that successor, should the time ever come.

I oppose unreasonable methods of combating online piracy, a category into which SOPA and PIPA certainly fall. In the end, though, I do not oppose reasonable and effective means of combating piracy, whether economic or legal in nature. And I don't believe that the indictment and takedown of Megaupload can be considered truly unreasonable.


Acts of Terror

So the Rachel Maddow show had some interesting news about the latest activities of Operation Rescue.

I don't even know where to begin with this. This is what's known as respect for life?

And before someone tries to tell me that not all anti-abortion activists are like this... well, first, I'm damn well aware of that, because I know people who are opposed to abortion, and to the best of my ability to tell, they're not homicidal. But the other important part of that is that most of the people I'm thinking of right now are personally opposed to abortion, rather than agitating for its ban as a matter of public policy. And yes, there is a difference.

If you are in favor of a ban on abortion as a matter of public policy, you are by definition in favor of forcing women to submit their own desires to the government's will - in favor of state-sanctioned disrespect for life. There is no getting around that. Shakesville says it far better than I ever could, really, so just go read this. (In fact, I first heard about this story from there, too.)

In short, I don't want to hear about how you of course don't support these kinds of acts of terror. And not just because we both know that one would have to say that if they ever wanted me to talk to them again, but also because this is merely the most extreme example of a disrespect for life that is part and parcel of the movement to ban abortion.



Today, a large number of sites (most notably Wikipedia) are blacking out to protest legislation being considered in the U.S. Congress that would have a chilling effect on the Internet's ability to exist.

At first, I was ambivalent, I admit. This was before I understood what the Stop Online Piracy Act (and the Protect IP Act) would actually do, when I was still thinking about the (very real) problem of piracy online. As an anime fan, I'm well aware of the extent of piracy in that community, to the point that piracy has transcended "unpleasant but necessary" to become standard practice. And I've written before about the ways in which that might change and the ways in which it should.

SOPA is not one of those solutions, to anime piracy or to anything else. What it is, is a free pass to major corporations and to the Attorney General's office to demand that all websites censor anything that could infringe on copyright. (There's a more detailed and probably more accurate primer here.) What's more, entire websites can be targeted for blacklisting. Under the terms of this legislation, either of the two videos I posted early on could get my entire blog taken down.

In short, the battle against piracy is going to be a long and complicated one. Pulling out a legal hammer and smashing everything flat will not only cause excessive collateral damage, but will also fail to achieve the stated goals. For that reason, I oppose the proposed legislation in Congress, both SOPA and PIPA. And while I am not going to black out this blog (it's not as if anyone would even notice, given how often I produce content) I stand with those sites that have, and I encourage everyone to stand up and make your voices heard.


In Defense of Similarity

One critique that I've never quite understood, whether it be with video games, music, or really anything else, is the idea that "sameness" is generally a bad thing. Or rather, it's not so much that I don't understand the problem, but more like it's never felt like a problem for me.

I think part of it is that to me, the idea that any given thing is similar to another is simply a statement, not a positive or a negative. To take one example, I certainly don't disagree that Skyward Sword is very similar to any other Zelda game that's come out since Ocarina of Time. I might even go so far as to call that statement of similarity a fact, rather than an opinion - Skyward Sword is very similar to Twilight Princess, and Wind Waker, and Ocarina of Time - especially considering that there's more than enough elements of gameplay that I can point to as evidence of this.

That doesn't bother me, though. And it's not a strike against the game from a critical perspective, in my opinion.  Certainly, if one would rather have a new and fresh experience, that's a perfectly valid choice to make. But to express such a preference as a criticism of the game's quality doesn't really make sense.

Besides, it's not like Skyward Sword is a copy of Twilight Princess or Wind Waker. This is the other part of why it doesn't feel like a problem to me: I tend to disagree with accusations of excessive similarity. I think this has to do with what elements of my entertainment I tend to focus on.

My favorite video games are those with a good story. I can be somewhat scattered on what actually qualifies as a good story, I admit, and of course what I'm in the mood for at any given time will change. I think it's safe to say, though, that no matter how much I enjoy any given game in the moment, it will never become one of my all-time favorites if it doesn't have at least a decent story behind it.

With something like music, I tend to focus on the lyrics. To the extent that purely instrumental tracks rarely make it into my playlists. The melody of a piece might occasionally catch my attention, but the lyrics are what keep my attention on a song.

In those respects, it's effectively impossible for any one piece of music or any one game to be the same as any other. Can you imagine trying to sell a book that had the exact same story as another? I won't deny that similar storytelling elements persist between different Zelda games, but then similar elements persist across all media (TVTropes, anyone?), so if we're going to go there it's really just a question of degree.

In short, I do understand disappointment in Skyward Sword, or in Pokemon, or any other franchise that keeps repeating the same basic formula. For my own part, I certainly enjoyed playing Skyward Sword, and would tend to disagree about how similar it really is to Twilight Princess or Ocarina of Time. That said, there's nothing wrong with not enjoying Skyward Sword on account of its similarity to previous Zelda titles, as long as that's a personal preference rather than an objective assessment of Skyward Sword itself.