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Japanese Visual Novel Developer Novectacle Stands Behind Controversial English Localization Changes in The House in Fata Morgana

The Japanese developer behind The House in Fata Morgana have voiced their support for a less-than-faithful translation provided for the Western release.

Following a wave of backlash resulting from the discovery of narratively jarring changes made to The House in Fata Morgana visual novel, the game’s translation team and original developers have publicly expressed their continued confidence in the controversial alterations.

Developed by independent Japanese developer Novectacle, The House in Fata Morgana is a visual novel which follows the star-crossed romance of two lovers, Giselle and Michel, as they attempt to reunite their souls across historical time periods and spiritual reincarnations.

What unfolds as the player progresses is a sordid tale of heartbreak, physical violence, and supernatural mystery, taking place in a mansion with a constantly rotating assortment of residents and guided by an ever present and mysterious Maid.

Originally released by Nocectacle in 2012, the visual novel saw an international release in 2016 courtesy of visual novel English localization and distribution company MangaGamer. A physical version was released in 2019 through Limited Run Games, and a Nintendo Switch port has been announced for an upcoming but unknown release date.

The House in Fata Morgana entered recent discourse on May 2nd, following a tweet featuring a screenshot of an interaction between the witch Morgana and a paranoid businessman named  Jacopo, in which Morgana asks how Jacopo’s “fragile male ego [is] holding up,” with the poster exclaiming their enjoyment of how “This being the first thing said to Jacopo will never NOT be a thing of f***ing beauty”:

Here’s a look at the screenshot.

Japanese Visual Novel Developer Nocectacle Stands Behind Controversial English Localization Changes in The House of Fata Morgana
Without delving into too detailed of an explanation of The House in Fata Morgana’s intricate plot, Jacopo is seen to be an exceedingly jealous man, spending most of his time in the mansion concerned over his suspicions that his wife is attempting to seduce other men.

He even goes so far as to lock her in a small cottage on the property to prevent her from communicating with potential suitors. After his wife flees and Jacopo learns his suspicions were the result of outside machinations, he dedicates his life to searching for her, ultimately to no avail.

Despite his insecure and pompous exterior, Jacopo is later revealed to have protected Morgana when she was just a child, rescuing her from torture, caring for her wounds, and eventually falling in love with her.

The initial tweet was soon retweeted by Yukino, a member of the visual novel’s MangaGamer directed localization team, who noted that the “fragile male ego” line was originally written as “tsundere,” the term for a character who first shows hostility towards another character before gradually revealing their true affections.

The line was changed in localization in an attempt to make the game more palatable to Western audiences, with Yukino relating how it curiously “took over several weeks to come up with this translation.”

When questioned about their decision to use the term “fragile male ego,” Yukino justified their translation by stating “there were a number of factors that led to the decision,” including “setting, time period, character voice,” and interestingly, “target audience.”

This bit of insight into the visual novel’s development process soon caught the attention of general advocates for faithful translations of Japanese media, who took issue with the changing of a widely understood Japanese word into a line inspired by divisive language strongly inspired by social justice theory:

However, many fans also supported the revisions, arguing that they not only improved the work, but also disingenuously dismissed concerns regarding the localization’s faithfulness as being solely rooted in outrage over a political or ‘SJW’ agenda, pointing to the visual novel’s exploration of historical concepts of sexuality and gender roles, rather than support for adherence to the original script.

While the change to the dialogue exchange with Jacopo has garnered the most attention, other examples of suspect edits made in the localization have surfaced, including lines insulting “poor, fragile masculinity” and a reference to Reddit-era meme humor, which would have been more relevant around the time of the game’s original release, through an unnecessary use of the French determiner “le.”

Japanese Visual Novel Developer Nocectacle Stands Behind Controversial English Localization Changes in The House of Fata Morgana Japanese Visual Novel Developer Nocectacle Stands Behind Controversial English Localization Changes in The House of Fata Morgana

The mass of criticism being leveled at Yukino prompted responses from the teams involved with the visual novel’s production. MangaGamer condemned the backlash as “harassment” and encouraged fans to reach out to their support e-mail, claiming that the company does “take legitimate criticism into consideration.”

Novectacle voiced their support “for the main translator’s opinion,” explaining that translation “was picked up without taking into consideration the situation and the characters’ relationship” and providing further context to said relationship.

Yukino has since gone on to further explain the rationale behind their translation in a lengthy Twitter thread, noting that in an effort “to go with something easily understandable to all readers,” they had opted for “a translation of the *ideas* embodied in the word.”

What do you make of these changes? What do you make of Yukino, MangaGamer, and Novectacle’s responses to the questioning of the translation?

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