Butmoni Coronzon (From the Mouth of the Witch)


Filed: Bayonetta, Community, Games, PlatinumGames

Hi. I’m JP Kellams. While I normally blog about other things, this time I’d like to talk about my role in the English adaptation of BAYONETTA here at PlatinumGames.

I suppose the first thing that stands out is why I did not use the word localization. Localization is a very software specific term, and while games are software, you have to consider what really comprises the bulk of getting a Japanese game into English. Sure, translating menus and such are classical localization tasks; however, the most important part of the job I had on Bayonetta was taking the compelling script that Kamiya-san had written for the game and getting it into English.

Prior to joining PlatinumGames, I worked on a variety of titles, including the English script for Shinji Mikami’s God Hand, but this is my first opportunity to work with Kamiya-san. In fact, I was a bit intimidated, as it seems to me that the worlds his games encompass exist fully realized in his head, and to deviate even a little would be both a disservice and unacceptable. Yet, one of the lessons I learned from God Hand was that deviation is necessary and productive to adapting these stories into English (especially since God Hand was basically a love letter to obscure 70s and 80s Japanese pop culture). Surprisingly, Kamiya-san was very open to my ideas, and we would collaborate on ideas ranging from character and location names to the little details like what should be written on Rodin’s apron (“I love chicks” with a small baby chick logo). In fact, during translation, Kamiya-san would sit with me at my desk going over my day’s translation work, discussing lines, doing rewrites, and approving/rejecting additions or rearrangements I had made. His time and input really helped me, and it is incredibly rare for that kind of attention to be paid by the Japanese director.

So what were the challenges of realizing Kamiya-san’s story in English? Well, Bayonetta herself presented a number of issues. How would a European witch from 500 years ago talk if she had been exposed to grimy pseudo-American urban culture for 20 years? Kamiya-san was very specific about making sure Bayonetta spoke in a British accent, and while I have a basic understanding of the King’s English, I was blessed with the input of numerous British editors. Also, the Americanisms that would surely come into her vernacular aren’t something that can’t be accounted for in a Japanese script, so I was always thinking of how to incorporate those into her lines.

Then there was the issue of Bayonetta’s character.(Sorry for throwing in my own interpretation…)To me, Bayonetta had to be posh, sassy, and totally aware of herself. When Bayonetta is cheesy, she knows she is cheesy. When she is teasing, she knows she is teasing. Her inner monologue is fast enough to get out the line a normal person only wishes they would have said, and she exudes confidence in everything she does. There is nothing subtle about her, but that is exactly what you want her to be, and she knows it. This proved to be the hardest part of the translation to balance.

To counter-balance her you have Jeanne, who is more reserved, more sinister – an ice queen’s ice queen – with far more going on behind her eyes than you realize. Throw Luka, a not-so-innocent character (he does love chasing the girls), but ultimately a driven, passionate, kind-hearted soul, into the mix and you have the makings for some interesting situations. You also have your full compliment of character types with the child (Cereza), the wise old man (Rodin), the jester (Enzo), and the trickster (I’ll leave this one to your imagination). Kamiya-san’s interesting Japanese script, with its strong characters, and the wonderful direction of Yuji Shimomura, really lent itself to a compelling story. I hope you all enjoy the ride.

There were also copious amounts of in-game text, background text, and non-story lines that had to be translated, and in many cases written in English with Kamiya-san’s direction. They all hold meaning, both literal and hidden, so make sure to look over them thoroughly. This meaning extends to one of my favorite parts of the game, the Angels’ voices. Kamiya-san first asked me to come up with sounds for when Bayonetta would summon demons for her Infernal Demon attacks – something disconcerting but powerful. Research led me to an answer not only for her Wicked Weaves, but also for the Angels themselves. A dead, invented (?) language known as Enochian. Transcribed or invented by mathematician and occultist John Dee, a 16th century advisor to the English throne, Enochian is said to be the language of Angels. Dee spent the latter part of his life trying to arrive at a universal language spoken prior Babel and the confounding of language. In Bayonetta, we use Enochian in various places. All of Bayonetta’s summons, both torture attacks and Infernal Demons, are triggered by an Enochian phrase, and all the angelic enemies in the game speak in Enochian.

There are few resources for Enochian, other than some simple dictionaries, so I tried to create an idea of syntax and semantics in my head based loosely around interlinear glosses (in this case a morphophonemic transliteration) used in linguistics. Here is an example of how we did things:


Kamiya-san would then go back to my original English translation for all of the lines and rewrite the Japanese subtitles for readability and to match the nuance of the English translation. I think his work here gave the game an even higher level of polish for Japanese users, and was another one of the many times I was happy I could rely on Kamiya-san’s above average English abilities. Thanks for that, Kamiya-san! …Even though he would always get on my case about things! Hehe.

BTW-Here is another bit of Enochian. For Joy’s torture attack, Bayonetta is saying Piadph (in the jaws of [death]). Sorry to disappoint some of our Japanese fans.

So have fun searching the game for Enochian, whether it be hidden in magical seals or spoken by our cast of characters. Next time, I will go more into the dialogue of the game, and introduce you to our outstanding cast of voice actors!

Qaal ovof vomsarg! (More Enochian!!)

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11 Comments Add Your Own

Rikitatsu Posted on December 11, 2009 at 8:37 pm

Mindblowing!!! I thought The Metal Gear series had the best attention to details, but what I've seen from Bayonetta thus far tells me otherwise, and this Enochian is the final nail in the coffin.

JP, what you're doing is no normal localization, you are right, its more than that, It's adaptation.

The amount of well written lines , and awesome western references in the game makes me hardly believe this game is coming from Japan.

" DOUCHEBAGS!!: " I love you man xD Keep up the good work, I hope you're working on Mikami's title too.

FAUNA Posted on December 11, 2009 at 9:06 pm

This is one of the most interesting blogs yet. I am fascinated with languages and anything ancient in general. I am very intrigued by the Enochian language and plan on researching it. One of my favorite aspects of Bayonetta is all the 'ancient history'. I am most excited about uncovering the story and seeing all the cutscenes. All at Platinum has put so much into this. Everyone of you have have executed a masterful stroke of true genius!

FAUNA Posted on December 11, 2009 at 9:08 pm

Oh yeah, I love all of the names you have given everything (Wicked Weaves…that's simply awesome!).

SonicTHP Posted on December 11, 2009 at 10:51 pm

I feel kind of bad for talking to you and even saying the word "localization" now.

This attention to detail is amazing and I am really glad to see the inner workings of what you guys did on Bayonetta. It proves the point that P* really is made of talented and enthusiastic individuals, which is what will show up in the game itself. Thanks for all your hard work, JP and P*!

Bancha Posted on December 12, 2009 at 2:38 am

That info about the Enochian is fascinating. I hope translations of the angels' dialogue will available in the game or online.

Solivagant Posted on December 12, 2009 at 5:19 am

Excellent. Most Excellent.
That's how you do a proper adaptation! Fantastic work, JP. Using Enochian, great idea really. Those voices are otherworldy!

GUILLÉN M&Aac Posted on December 13, 2009 at 8:22 am

Reeeally interesting post. I'm studying translation and the whole localization process fascinates me. It is something that is not covered enough by the videogames media. I remember playing MadWold in English and thinking 'how on earth have they localised this in other languages. It's impossible.' So I stopped after the second level, switched to Spanish and replayed them. It was absolutely hilarious. I thought "PlatinumGames is awesome!!" Not only they make this cool game but they've managed to adapt it to other languages! That made me play Bayonetta in Spanish. Love it too, but I promise I'll check your adaptation as soon as I finish it on hard level. Keep up the good work!

Shun Posted on December 16, 2009 at 10:24 pm

Now i have certainly learned something here.

Enochian, eh? How creative was that to include such a language! XD

I'd like to see if i can maybe learn a bit more, & take note on it when i come across it in game.

I can't wait to hear/read about more on the dialogue & voice actors! ^_^

Until next time! (I wanted to write that in Enochian, but i could find a translator!)

Gregory Posted on December 19, 2009 at 9:29 pm

I find Enochian integration intriguing, however, I would find it even more interesting if your Enochian was more accurate. I must say you have done better with your Enochian usage than most games, tv shows, or movies. You do have some flaws, such as Coronzon, which is not the term for “demon,” but rather the name of a specific, diabolical being. Nevertheless, considering the limitation of decent resources on Enochian, I am very pleased at the notion of this being part of the game. I would still recommend something more like the following:

Transliterated Enochian:

Geh sibsi* Paradial chis allar a** Donasdogamatastos, od ge angelard

chis lel. Crip pi niis pambt paradial q oi trian lap ge.

Enochian Pronunciation:

Je sib-see. Pa-ra-dee-al kiss a-lar a Don-as-dogam-at'ast-os, od je

an-je-lard kiss lel. Krip pi nees pamt pa-ra-dee-al q oi tri-an lap je.

English Translation:

Thou art understood. Our lives are tied with Hell, and our thoughts

are the same. But, she comes forth unto us alive or this shall be for not.

*Could also use "Omag" ("om-a-jee") which would mean "I/We understand you."

**Can also you "g" ("ji") for "with."

Sidarob Posted on February 15, 2010 at 5:31 pm

You poor, poor man. You know what I'm talking about. I hope you were/are well paid for what you went through in service to this game.

Asynca Posted on August 20, 2010 at 3:18 am

This is absolutely fantastic: my first degree was in linguistics and foreign language. I want to know much, much more! I have no prior knowledge of Enochian, but I've done thee-way translation before and know what an enormous pain it is.

Even with two-way translation, I want more exmaples of dilemmas you faced with particular text or words, and reasoning as to why you went with the translation you did, etc, etc. I love that stuff.

I find it especially interesting the Japanese was the primary language the script was in. You've obviously done a good job to translate it, as even with my qualificaitons (and a passable knowledge of Japanese), I would never, ever have guessed that. Usually when games are translated from Japanese to English you get some odd Japanese-isms in the English text (like odd translations of -chan into jarring pet names, for example), but I picked up absolutely NONE of that in the script.

In fact, the only indication I had that there was any Japanese cultural influence in the game was some head-movements Luka makes when he's lecturing Bayonetta right before they hop on the plane – he moves in a distinctly non-American fashion. A way I've seen male Japanese actors behave in movies. I'm wracking my brains to try and remember if I noticed any others – I think a couple of times little Cereza looked slightly Japanese, but that's probably it.

Masterful job! I want to go replay the game to admire your work!

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