Liar: So. Chewy. If I am looking at my notes correctly, and not numbers, chapter seven of ten marks the halfway point of the translation project.
Chewy: Yeah. I think that’s supposed to be really invigorating and gratifying, but I’m freaked out by the fact that I have as much ahead of me as I already struggled through.
Liar: Successfully struggled through. Gotta keep that in mind. It took more than Golden Week—he said, leading the interview—but it’s happening.
Chewy: Yeah. I guess considering it’s been stuck halfway through chapter one for six years, relatively speaking I’m translating at the speed of light. I’m upset that my time goal fell through when I realized I take a lot longer than I thought, but I think it’s going to be genuinely good quality in the end.
Liar: Yeah—the I Have to Rewrite The Mother 2 Novel Translation Blog would be less interesting than this one. And you might have to get another co-blogger.
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.
Liar: What do you think about chapter one? I’m sure in the course of attempting to translate it you’ve read it more than any other chapter in the book.
Chewy: Haha, that’s quite true. I actually had mixed feelings even by the time I finished chapter one. She seems to have a really strange writing style. I don’t exactly have a big collection of Japanese novels that I’ve read before, but this is the first time I’ve seen an entire book narrated in “masu” (polite) form.
Liar: What’s that mean for the Japanese-impaired? Or the actual English of the translation, I guess. Is she really apologetic about writing the whole thing, or just for intruding on the narration, or what?
Chewy: Well the norm for writing is what is usually referred to as the “plain form”, which is also the style people use when speaking casually. The fact that she’s using the polite form brings in this weird feeling of a first-person narrator more than just a story written in third person. The “narrator” is never given an identity or anything and doesn’t exist in the story, but there are still times in the book where she breaks that wall and interjects into the narrative itself. It’s kind of colloquially told.
Liar: The big reveal in chapter one—I don’t think this is much of a stretch—is probably that Ness’s dad is the owner-operator of a fast food chain that’s in hock to the Minches, and that his mom is an ex-supermodel (apparently all Western women are models or ex-models?) What did you think about all that?
Chewy: I thought it was pretty funny at first, but I’m around chapter three right now and, well, spoiler alert, all these Western women are apparently model-tier.
Liar: Wow. I’m not sure I’m ready for Hot Paula’s Mom.
Chewy: Well, to balance her out, apparently her dad looks like Abraham Lincoln? But I’m just getting ahead of myself here.
Liar: That makes Paula the Ultimate American Stereotype Chimera. One-half Abraham Lincoln, one-half blonde-haired, blue-eyed supermodel vapidness.