Part four is still part of chapter three, but now that Paula is safe and sound, we come to Threed to check out the area. Let’s get right to business.
The band continued playing an endless medley of music as the bus rolled on. Ness remembered a night long, long ago when he awoke in the middle of the night. He could recall hearing the radio playing some of this from his parent’s bedroom. Paula recognized a few songs she had heard while lying on her dad’s back. The music continued to blast, so everyone in the bus was so caught up with the tunes—not to mention the bus windows completely blocked by costumes and instrument cases—that they didn’t even notice they had already passed through the ghost-ridden tunnel.
The seemingly endless inner-bus gig casually changed to the closing song of auld sang lyne. They took turns with solos; the trumpet, then bass, followed by harmonica, each playing with master technique. Before they knew it, the bus had come to a stop.
“Alriiiiight, we made it to Threed!”
Our next excerpt takes us to Chapter Three, to one of the sections in the game that translates powerfully into novel form: Happy Happy Village. Fittingly, we find ourselves in a temple that basically resembles a school gym, and in this gym-like stadium we have a stage with a zushi–essentially, a small buddhist shrine shaped like a cupboard that holds a statue of Buddha. This time, though, the doors are housing none other than a small statue of Mani-Mani–there is a mini version of the statue that appears in the book, and here it is.
Carpainter and the Happy-Happyists (a fantastic band name) have just completed their Outstanding Believer Awards Show, wherein believers win awards for outstanding acts of innovation and courage in demonstrating unparalleled faith such as setting free 300 blue coral snakes in a neighborhood area, striking down 50 people–pitiful, unknowing sheep astray from the ways of Blue Blue–with loving smacks until they were covered with so many bruises their skin turned black and blue, and, most Japanesely of all, rewiring every single traffic light in town so that all of them would always display that lovely color of blue-green at all times.
It’s always bizarre when this game novelization, which takes place in the very epitome of America, throws out strictly Japanese cultural cues. I’m not even talking about the Buddhist props being used by Happy-Happyists. I’m talking about the fact that Japanese people, to the chagrin of all non-native Japanese speakers, call the green light of traffic lights “blue”, not green. And now I’m trapped having to convince people that a traffic light has even a vague tint of blue to it.
Liar: So chapter three was 15,000 words. What’s that like to slog through?
Chewy: Heh every time I finish a chapter and look back, exhausted, I feel as proud as if I had just translated an entire novel. Then I flip to the next chapter and all relief pretty much drains from me. It’s such a time-consuming project that I’m curious how long it will take people to only read through it.
Liar: Luckily for us, we don’t have to read it in two languages. A lot has started to happen in the novel, now that Ness is moving from city to city and Paula has shown up, and for me, reading your rough drafts, the book is starting to get more exciting as a result. Do you feel the same way?
Chewy: Absolutely. There are scenes in the book where I actually translate faster because it’s so suspenseful that I can’t wait to see what happens. I start plowing through it so I can hurry up and get the English out and see it.
Liar: I joked about Pokey not being a matinee idol in the last excerpt post, but he’s actually kind of creepy in the book—Kumi kind of brings out the sociopath in him, doesn’t she?
Chewy: Yeah, as a child I was always a little disturbed by Pokey’s behavior, but I can see that Kumi went to town with him—it’s almost like the nonexistent narrator hates him personally. To tell the truth though, even though some of the characters seem to depart a little from how they were in the game, I really think Pokey is consistent with what Itoi was aiming for in Earthbound. Now that I think about it, though, it’s interesting that Kumi, who was 35 years old when the game came out, was also affected by his twistedness. I was young and impressionable when I experienced it, so having that insight in retrospect tells me that Itoi did a good job with Pokey.
Liar: Then, of course, there’s Ness and Paula
Chewy: I was always a loyal Ness+Paula shipper.
Liar: Oh, definitely, Ness and Paula forever. After all, I named Ness after myself.
Chewy: But I gotta be honest, I prefer a more passive romance. Like, the Jim+Pam effect—gotta make them work for it! For now I’ll just be relieved that they haven’t acted outside of their age group yet.
Liar: Chapter four focuses on Jeff, and while I don’t want to give the whole thing away, in case you figure out how to distribute this, it’s one of Saori Kumi’s biggest divergences from the source. Talk a little about it.
Chewy: As you’ll read in the afterword, I think Kumi decided to focus on Jeff particularly closely for a few reasons. For one, he was her favorite character, and from what I understand (having not yet read the MOTHER novel) she wrote the heck out of Loid in the MOTHER novel and didn’t want any overlap between the two books.
At first, I was a little put off by Kumi’s decision to add such a wild element to the story—his backstory is enough to actually establish that this book is not “officially canon” with the game—but as I read on, all the pieces began to fall into place in a way that only truly talented writers can pull off. By the end of the chapter, I was thoroughly impressed when such a random addition led to another seemingly random addition, and by the time you get through it, everything between Jeff and his father—something that seems intensely deep in the game in an ineffable way—is finally completely explained. And I personally feel she made some excellent decisions.
Liar: I like EarthBound’s way of suggesting a lot of what it doesn’t want to say, but I agree that Kumi’s way of explaining things was also very interesting. Okay, that seems like enough teasing for tonight. Any last words before you return to your translating chamber?
Chewy: I just wanna thank everyone for the nice comments, and for following the blog. It feels really good to have a group of people with me as I work through the project.
The first time I played through EarthBound I was interested in seeing what Paula was like, myself, but in the MOTHER 2 novel, perhaps because Ness does not have the player’s guide to look at, such speculation is given a much wider scope, viz. this conversation between Ness, Apple Kid (“a chunker about one-and-a-half times the size of Pokey”), and his genius mouse, who in the novel is literarily named Sir Algernon.
“Say hi to Paula for me,” Apple kid said with a smile. “I used to go to their Preschool when I was a child. Paula was still just a baby, but she was absolutely beautiful.”
“Whoa,” Ness tried to respond casually, but his cheeks turned red. “Really. Paula’s cute?”
Apple Kid reassured him. “People say she’s going to be the next Miss Twoson. Maybe even the next Miss Eagleland. No guarantees for Miss Universe, but—”
“Good news, eh Ness?!” Algernon said with a hoot. “You gotta go save her either way, but it’s still a lot better to run off and save a girl who’s cute than one who’s not!”
Algernon, you scamp, you.
Meanwhile, back in Happy Happy Village (“Blue birds soared across the blue sky as a blue cow chewed on the blue grass at its feet. Beyond a row of blue houses stood a smooth row of blue mountains, and a blue river, sparkling shining lights of blue, curled like a ribbon and wove into a blue forest.”), Carpainter, who’s a little worried about Pokey’s whole sociopath thing but still reliant on him to make the Happy Happiests mainstream, has Paula captive.
There’s a lot of cool stuff going on in this chapter—we briefly meet the terrifying Mani Mani statue, Carpainter has second thoughts about going into business with Fatso when all he wanted was to help other shy people make friends… Ness actually meets Carpainter first, in this version, inadvertently teleporting to Paula’s cell when he’s struck by the Crashing Boom-Bang attack. And then—then things get goopy.
Paula slowly opened her eyes at the sound of the voice calling to her. A sickly-looking woman smiled softly at her from the other side of the iron bars between them.
“How are you feeling, Miss? You must be getting hungry.” The woman placed a handbasket on the floor and pulled out some tupperware. “Here, I brought you some lunch. Please, eat up.”
Paula watched the woman offer her the meal through the bars. Steam poured out from the hot soup inside the container; the sweet and sour fragrance of herbs smelled delicious, but the color was horrifying. It was a shocking shade of blue. It looked absolutely nothing like food. The woman also had bread rolls colored a vivid shade of blue. They reminded Paula exactly of the copper sulfate science experiments she had witnessed in school.
Now you understand why her theme song is so depressing.
“Thanks, but, I don’t need any.” Paula took a few hesitant steps back and smiled uneasily. “I’m sorry. I’m—on a diet.”
From there, Kumi fills in another MOTHER 2 gap—how Paula ended up in Happy Happy Village in the first place. (If she’d just been another few levels higher I can’t imagine it would have been a problem, especially if she’s already got the Franklin Badge.) Her explanation, after the jump.