January has been an incredible month for my Sonohana promotion efforts, with eight posts made that month alone. I posted my roadmap for the coming year on the 9th, which in short aims to turn my blog more into a fansite than a blog for myself, but I did not expect to have so much happen in a single month when I wrote it. Since then, I have:
- Uploaded three episodes of Hanahiranime!, although that started the previous month.
- Published a translation of relevant portions of Fuguriya’s FAQ, the answers of which were partially known throughout the community and answered a few more that were entirely unknown.
- Worked out how to make SHK Election participation for all readers possible.
- Successfully sent a letter to Reo-ppoi Radio and had it read as I intended, although I am destined to be forever known as “Greg” to the Japanese audience.
- Met another listener of that show as a result.
- Launched four translation projects in association with Yuri Project: Whisper With A Kiss, Petal-Colored Angel, Sweet Grown-up Kisses, and Lily Platinum, setting in motion the complete translation of the entire visual novel series to date.
My reflections on some of these accomplishments follow.
Concerns With Contacting Fuguriya
I stand on a precarious position between my efforts to have the visual novels translated and my correspondence to Fuguriya. The primary goal of AXYPB World has always been to support Fuguriya’s work by enabling as many people as possible to enjoy it. The translation patches are the primary attraction of my blog, but precedent has shown that visual novel developers are not always willing to cooperate with fan translators and are sometimes hostile to them. I do not know Fuguriya’s stance on the translations, nor am I willing to take my chances with a possible cease and desist order. I always emphasize supporting Fuguriya through purchasing the visual novels that I release translations for, but the post-release surveys have shown that not only are most users still not doing so, they are willing to admit that they don’t buy them. This may sound detrimental to Fuguriya’s bottom line as my translation patches could easily be seen to promote piracy (which I can do nothing to stop on my own) and it very likely is, but I choose to see it optimistically: The patches have caused people to buy the visual novels. If the patches result in only five purchases of Fuguriya’s products, for example, that’s five purchases that would not have otherwise been made. All of this is to say nothing of the subject matter of their works being highly questionable in English-speaking countries, as has been pointed out in the past, which may be why the 18+ section of their website blocks images to non-Japanese IPs, but their pages for Hanahira! are fully accessible.
For these reasons, I was hesitant at first to educate my readers as to how to contact Fuguriya as I did not want to risk them accidentally informing Fuguriya of my blog. I reluctantly wrote instructions for voting in the SHK Election after considering writing a web form to automate the process of sending e-mails with only the needed information. I was able to write to Reo-ppoi Radio because I have trusted individuals who help me with those, but the average visitor of my blog doesn’t listen to the show. Frankly, I fear that the average reader cannot be trusted to stay mum on the translations. Additionally, I don’t want to burden Tomino Nakiyoshi any more than I do now with my requests for non-work-related consultations, who has already contributed greater to my sites visibly and invisibly since I came to work for her. I do not see this policy changing in the near future, but once the community is better educated on the nuances of the series, I may write a third letter after taking questions from the blog. All of this said, my post about my first letter to Reo-ppoi Radio last May has been discovered by Japanese listeners and linked in the comments of the relevant episode to no negative effect so far.
Connecting With A Japanese Fan
The letter I wrote and the blog post that followed it attracted a Japanese fan currently living in Illinois. By far, California is the blog’s biggest source of traffic, more than any single country and more than the rest of the United States, so I was surprised to be contacted by someone from Illinois. She was, in turn, surprised that there were many American fans. A secondary goal of the blog is for me to personally start a dialogue about this series, but given that I do not live on the West Coast where most of my traffic comes from, this goal is rather unrealistic. However, Zero-O-Reo will be attending Anime Central on 27-29 April, so any readers who are also going may want to meet with her. I do not know how she will carry out her first experience at an American anime convention, but I wish her the best and hope that she will find even more fans there.
When I started working on the translations, I decided to enact a policy of secrecy; that is, I would declare my intent to patch a visual novel if someone else was willing to translate, but not give any progress reports until the translations were fully edited and not answer any inquiries to their progress. This solved two perceived problems I saw with those projects that publicly announced their efforts:
- Being a fan translation project that no one is obligated to work on, the staff would not face any undue pressure by impatient visitors to finish, and
- I would not set a release date that I had no way of guaranteeing would be met.
I reasoned that by keeping the translations private, no one would know that a project had failed should it come to that, and in the best case, they would come as a pleasant surprise. I have in the past worked on patches for some of the games that fell apart due to disagreements, so this was a very real concern for me. This is the raison d’etre for the comment moderation policy on AXYPB World. On the flip side, this policy came at the expense of traffic and publicity for them, but these problems were insignificant to me compared to the potential of making promises I cannot fulfill.
The open translation platform Yuri Project allows anyone to request translations and work on them, in contrast to the private manner in which I worked in the past. Their interface is an imageboard, wherein visitors and regular staff can post links to content they want translated as they watch. One visitor there suggested that Kuchibiru to Kiss de Tsubuyaite be translated in lieu of a “mystery group” that wanted to stay anonymous, which I now admit was myself, Kuchibiru, and @fkeroge. As much as I wanted this translation released ahead of Sweet Enchanting Kisses, the fact remains that that translation was mostly complete by the time it was handed to me last August, and the translation of the former had only barely begun. I will not continually update my readers on the progress of these translations, but they are welcome to keep track of them for themselves with the links above.
I had known about other such platforms like TLwiki, but I hadn’t considered them simply because I did not need them. I was able to get the staff I needed from the beginning and fortune kept them working with me until the end. I also believed that keeping the staff small minimized potential communication problems — “Too many cooks spoil the soup,” to use an expression. However, the sheer number of times I’ve had to revise the patches has caused me to reconsider this policy. I wanted to protect the staff from undue pressure with respect to their personal lives, but perhaps that is what’s needed to keep pace.
Additionally, early working versions of ArcTool had limitations that I had to work around while proofreading the text; many of these no longer exist. In light of this, dclives has agreed to edit the current translations produced behind closed doors. I had done editing on my own so as not to have any conflicts with another editor as had happened with previous aborted projects, but I am simply not capable of proofreading so much text by myself, and the translations are still in extensive need of review. dclives has a proven record of proofreading experience unlike some of the editors who offered to help in the past, so we will not have any such issues with these new releases. Expect the next versions of the translations to be very different from the current versions.
It must also be mentioned that as much as I value consistency, I unwittingly introduced some discrepancies between the CountPacula release of the first A Kiss For The Petals translation and the ones by my groups, particularly the name of the school (St. Michael’s Girls Academy vs. St. Michael’s School For Girls) and possibly others. My Dear Prince used the latter and I failed to notice that the translation had changed, but since that was decision was made before A Kiss For The Petals was released in February 2010, I continued to use it. This may not be an issue for some players, but it’s one that I regret making. This will be difficult to resolve since I would like to revise that translation and create a patcher for it to allow users to avoid having to download more than 80 MB of data when less than 10 MB need to be changed. We are also working on patching the remakes of the first two visual novels as the encryptions on them were changed, unlike Joined In Love With You, the remake of which changed only the text of the script and not the encryption it used, so I was able to create a single patcher for that. Until then, the current version of My Dear Prince is still incompatible with the remake version of it released last year, which is the one currently on sale at DLsite.
In conclusion, this post fulfills my stated objective to be more open with my activity on my websites. I posted these thoughts here rather than on AXYPB World where more people would see them because I don’t want to overstate my own importance; I am simply a dedicated fan who seeks to make more fans. This month has set the standard for my actions in promoting Fuguriya going forward. It is my hope that 2012 will bring further growth to my reader base and more translations of Fuguriya’s work for their benefit and yours.