A user on the /r/HarvestMoon subreddit named u/HellmasterPhibrizo asked a question that sent me down a bit of a rabbit hole: In Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town, why does Karen get mad at Rick when he brings up how they used to wrestle together as kids? If you’re unfamiliar with the scene, we’ll go over it in full, but in brief, Karen storms off rather suddenly, leaving Rick in the lurch.
Rick brings up that he and Karen used to wrestle, which is where she begins bristling, so I had a couple ideas. First, that perhaps Karen was embarrassed she used to play rough games like that in the first place. Second, that the memory of that much physical contact with a potential love interest was also embarrassing.
Another interesting thing about this scene is that SoS:FoMT is a remake of the GBA Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town. The original localization was handled by Natsume, and is quite a bit closer to a literal translation than its modern counterpart. For a while, now, I’ve wanted to do a comparison of the two to show just how much a localizer can affect the tone of text.
The event is known among series fans as a “Blue Heart Event”—a type of scene where romance starts to blossom between potential love interests, but isn’t wholly established. So, things are kind of intentionally vague and implicative. Here’s the remake’s version of the scene, along with XSEED’s localization, and my attempt at a literal translation:
Man, we sure played together a lot when we were kids.
Do you remember, Karen?
A long time ago, we played here often, huhh?
Hey, you remember too, right, Karen?
Yup. We came up with all kinds of games to play.
Kick the Can, Hide-and-Seek, Tag…
You name it, we played it.
That’s right, We played various things, riight?
We played kick the can, hide-and-seek, tag*, everything, didn’t we?
Haha! Yep! Heck, we even wrestled for a while, too.
Don’t think I ever beat you, either. You taught me at a very young age exactly what a mouthful of dirt tastes like.
In addition, we also played stuff like sumō, didn’t we?
No matter how many times we played, against you I absolutely didn’t win.
I would always be thrown to the ground, y’know.
H-Hey, I call shenanigans! I mean, it’s not as if I was
stomping around town like some muscle-bound freak.
Wh…, what are you saying?!
There’s no way something like that happened, I’d say.
I don’t have that kind of superhuman strength.
Uh, yes you were? I clearly remember you flinging me
around like a sack of turnips until I ran home crying.
Er, that’s not right?
I strongly remember I was thrown by you and it always made me cry.
Lies and slander! I don’t remember ANY of that. Nope!
Not at all! You’re making it up just to mess with me,
That does it. I’m leaving!
If I don’t know, I don’t know!
Rick, come on, you’re enjoying making fun of me, I bet.
Ugh, I’m going home!
Huh? What are you so mad for? Um, Karen?
Kaaaren…! Come back!
What’re you getting angry about? Hold on a sec, Kareen?
Focusing purely on XSEED’s localization, for now, let’s take a look at how their script differs from the Japanese one. There are some inventions, like the “mouthful of dirt” line, which almost give the impression Karen was bullying Rick. In general, the dialogue is also made significantly more colorful with the addition of lines like “flinging me around like a sack of turnips” and the “lies and slander” meme.
On the other hand, some of the Japanese text’s flavor is missing. Karen notably goes out of her way to end about half her sentences with わ (wa), a feminine sentence-ending particle that adds emotion or emphasis to what was just said. While Rick’s use of “man” and “yep” successfully convey the tone carried by his なぁ (naa) and casually-unemphasized speech, Karen’s manner of speaking is relatively flat by comparison.
With that analysis out of the way, before we examine the motivations in this exchange, I think it would be good to look at Natsume’s take on this, with the original GBA release. As another point of interest, the GBA’s script is a fair bit shorter than the remake’s, so it’ll be interesting to see how the Japanese writers adapted the tone of this scene to the GBA’s technical limitations.
We used to play here
all the time.
A long time ago, we played here often, huuh?
We played games like tag,
kick the can, hide and
That’s right, isn’t it? We played various things, riight? We played kick the can, hide-and-seek, tag, everything, didn’t we?
We also wrestled…
Although…I never could
Yeah, yeah! In addition, we also played stuff like sumо̄, didn’t we? Against Karen, I absolutely didn’t win, y’know?
What do you mean?!
I don’ t remember any
Wh…what are you saying?! I completely forgot that stuff!
Don’t you remember how I
used to cry when you threw
me to the ground?
That can’t be right, can it? Wasn’t I always crying after being thrown by you?
💢 Karen leaves.
I told you I don’t remember,
so I don’t remember!
I’m going home now!
💢 Karen leaves.
If I forgot, I forgot! I’m going home!
💢 Karen leaves.
What are you mad for?
What’re you angry about? Wait up.
As we can see, the Natsume translation is actually fairly close to the literal meaning, if a touch flat. So, let’s focus on how the text changed between each Japanese release, and see if we can composite a whole idea from it. Most of the changes are in the latter half of the conversation. Mostly, it was just adding details. For example, in the remake Rick adds, “No matter how many times we played,” and Karen notes that she doesn’t have “that kind of superhuman strength.”
There are some meaningful changes, however, that make the nuance of the scene a bit clearer. In the GBA version, Karen uses 忘れちゃった (wasurechatta), which roughly equates to “completely/totally forgot”. In the remake, she instead says はずないでしょ (hazunai desho), or “that can’t be, right?”/”that’s highly unlikely, don’t you think?” In the GBA version, I’d say it’s a bit less clear what direction she’s going in at this point.
In the GBA version, Rick’s pushback is softer as well. He uses だろ (daro). Rick’s daro is identical in meaning to Karen’s desho, an assertion that the speaker expects the listener to agree is true. However, it’s also a bit more casual and masculine. In this case, it also conveys a nuance that Rick has information that he feels supports that he’s right and Karen really does remember. He also offers her a chance to agree with him with a じゃないか (janaika, isn’t it?).
Meanwhile, the remake has Rick simply say Karen’s mistaken. He uses a rising intonation in the way a valley girl would, indicating confusion, but retaining assertion. He also uses しっかり (shikkari)—an adverb indicating something is tightly or securely held—to describe his memory. Rick leaves little room for Karen to wriggle out of the situation with any doubts he might have.
The last interesting change is Karen’s insistence she doesn’t recall the wrestling. In the GBA version, she continues to use the same verb, “forgot”. In the remake, however, she switches to 知らない (shiranai) or “I don’t know.” This actually contains a difficult-to-localize nuance that holds the key to explaining her anger. There’s a connotation with this verb that conveys willful ignorance. Essentially, the base verb 知る (shiru, to know), implies a level of active participation on the part of the knower. I think in this case, a good summary might be “I don’t know, and I don’t care.”
Karen is implying a level of disconnectedness from the wrestling, as if it’s something that has nothing to do with her. I think the XSEED localization goes a bit overboard and heavy-handed, but it does successfully convey this idea. If you’re interested in further granularity on this “disconnect”, I think this thread from the Japanese StackExchange is a pretty interesting read.
Of course, Rick’s obliviousness persists in all four versions. That being the case, I think it’s pretty clear Rick’s inability to read the situation is in large part responsible for Karen’s anger. The two are lightly reminiscing about innocent, carefree days, and Rick brings up an indelicate and messy memory like Karen beating him up while wrestling. Since she’s going to pains to demonstrate her femininity with her speech and her personality overall, I think that’s the biggest thing she took issue with.
Hopefully that helps give you a clearer idea of the underlying motivations in this scene. I also think it’s really cool that even the Japanese scripts seemed to be hamstrung by the Game Boy Advance’s limitations. Perhaps there was an austere appeal that’s lost with the extra dialogue, though. What do you think?
If you liked the article, I’d appreciate if you shared it with friends! I have some incredibly ambitious Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons-related projects in the works on this site, so I hope you’ll follow me on Twitter, as those are going to launch sometime this month. If you’re interested in learning Japanese, things “lost in localization”, and/or Harvest Moon, I can guarantee you won’t want to miss it. Let’s say you’ll find Entertainment Channeled by what’s to come. 🙂
In the meantime, maybe you’ll find this article about a Harvest Moon 64 mistranslation interesting, or, for more nuance that was hard to translate, this article about why Touhou‘s Mokou is afraid of jelly donuts.