Who decides the "true" romanization of foreign names in japanese media?

Heya people, I’ve been wondering about this question and wanted to share it with you.

In many media, we find a lot of foreign sounding names and places, for example “Anor Londo” and “Queelag” in Dark Souls, or the place “Thanalan” in FF14. In the original japanese versions, those names are written in katakana, respectively アノール ロンド, クラーグ and ザナラーン.

My question is this: in your opinion, did the creators only think in “phonetic” terms and katakana, and the choice of romanization was made by the localization team, or did they originally thought of it in roman, and turned it back to katakana for their audience’s sake? I don’t know how used to the roman alphabet the typical japanese player is.

Thing is, the choice of romanization can greatly impact the “feel” of it, for example by adding silent h, extra spaces, or doubling consonants or whatnot. “Anho Luondo” or “Zanaran” would definitely give me a different feeling about the places.

I suppose it must vary from game to game, but I’m curious as to if there’s a general trend for these types of things.



Sometimes the original creators specify, but frequenly it’s just up to whichever company is doing the translation.

If there’s no official translation, it’s just whatever the fans collectively settle on.


I’m not sure it’s fair to say that something like Dark Souls was “originally Japanese.” FromSoftware is a Japanese developer, but is there even a Japanese voice cast? Unless it has been stated otherwise, I imagine it’s fair to say that the Japanese and English used in that game were developed alongside each other. Quite different from some other examples of localization.


IIRC, no. They purposefully only did it in English.


this reminds me of final fantasy 7
there’s an item called Vagyrisk claw, which drops from an enemy called Bagrisk
both were supposed to be バジリスク basilisk.
even stuff like the famous Midgar Zolom was just meant to be Midgardsormr.

I could go all day about FF6

basically translators just come up with something on the spot
but that was back then, surely things are much better now…right?


Not just that, but in a lot of cases you had a lack of communication between team members and different translators just looking at a spreadsheet of things to translate with no other context.


On the topic of “thinking in roman”. Listen to a young child recite the syllabary and you’ll hear a smooth transition from さ to そ and also た to と.

After a lot of keyboard use people tend to pronounce し and つ differently.

What do you mean by this?

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This will be a contentious point anyway but the ‘sh’-ness tended to blend in and out smoothly when reciting the さ sounds and so し would have a little less ‘sh’ and す would sound a little bit like しゅ. It could equally well be kids learning that they need to differentiate those more clearly rather than thinking in roman as it were.

These are the ones I want clarification on. Are we talking about natives and non-natives here?

I still don’t really get what is meant by the different pronunciations, but I guess starting from “who are we talking about” would help first.

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I’m talking about native speakers. I’m also trying to find an example online on what I mean…

If we’re talking about native speakers, why would they be affected by their “keyboard use”?

For natives, さしすせそ are sa si su se so and たちつてと are ta ti tu te to.

They wouldn’t type shi or tsu, but maybe you were referring to some different reason for the difference you’re describing.


In any kind of work, whether it be a movie or song or videogame, it is up to the creator to pick how they want a katakana word to be. Sometimes the creator might not even care and just grab the word from memory. If a creator doesen’t like any katakana translations that exist for a word, they can create something that will work for them. The only problem with creating a new katakana translation, when others already exist, is that it adds more to the messiness of katakana.

Levi: レビ, レヴィ, レビィ
Levi: リーヴァイ, リーバイ, リバイ, リヴィ,
(Even though many of these are slightly different, they represent different people and characters, while レビ is from the bible)

Who decides the “true” romanization of foreign names in japanese media?

Yes, there isn’t really a “true” romanization is there? :thinking: A bit like there can be multiple ways of transcribing names from Russian into other languages, there can be multiple ways to romanize foreign names used in Japanese media. :thinking:

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I think the Final Fantasy franchise is kind of notorious for weird カタカナ and as far as I remember it goes all the way to the first games. It took me a good while to decipher the names of spells in Final Fantasy 10, even though the canonical English names are romanized versions of the English-sounding kana names :exploding_head:


Well, FF6 was done back in the dark ages. :wink: It was pretty much just one guy.


Yeah the closest thing is when there’s an official translation, 'cause then there’s an official romanization, but that doesn’t necessarily make others incorrect romanizations, they just don’t line up with the official canon. This discussion reminds me of how people used to spell it Rukario before diamond and pearl came out in English, but the official translation decided on Lucario, and that spelling is used now in all official sources, even in Japanese versions of games where the name is written in roman letters. (Smash bros is an example… if you set the game to Japanese, the names on the character select screen are all in roman letters for style, and Lucario’s name does not change from the English version compared to other characters like Bowser / Koopa.)


Reminds me of a character in GochiUsa. Her name is シャロ. The official romanization in the manga is Syaro, which just bugs me so much.


Oh, tell me about it. That said, that is (to be fair) the ISO-standard Kunrei-shiki romanisation…

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Thanks for all the insights!

In some way, it makes the localization process that much creative. What is lost by not being translated, you gain it by giving it your own feel, it’s kinda cool.