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.
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.
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?
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.
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? 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.
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
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.)