I did it! At long last, I finished translating the Clock Tower Adventure Novel: Jennifer's Part. 303 pages of scissor murder for your perusal - double that if you count the long-released Helen's Part.
And what better way to cap off this experience that with an iconoclastic list-based article! Here's the premise: I don't like the depiction of the final confrontation in the A route of Jennifer's novel as much as in the B/C route. Spoilers ahead!
- Helen's parting encouragement/benediction to Jennifer in B/C, because she always has kept going, works perfectly for Helen's level-headed but loving character and for a parental character who has to let her child go to do what she needs to do - giving her reassurance that she has the strength to do it. It shouldn't have been recycled for Nolan in the A route - it's his job to provide that push forward for Jennifer in A, but Nolan should have been given his own unique words there. I know the author recycles text passages to play with and show how the same scenario changes with different choices (and not just out of laziness), but distinctive bits of character voice shouldn't be recycled.
- Jennifer freaking out as in B/C at separation from Helen is understandable, but Jennifer is too far along in her hero's journey to be collapsing into catatonia like a ragdoll. That was dealt with effectively in the Tim aftermath.
(Helen's abandonment reminding Jennifer of being abandoned at the orphanage is an excellent character beat, but, man - bad move, Helen. Jen's novel kind of does Helen dirty here, though I suppose Helen's novel did Jen majorly dirty by making her a catspaw of Barton the whole length. Was Sciz low-key mentally-manipulating Helen here? Or did he figure that the attendant guilt from Barton and Beth dying was an easy way to separate Jennifer from Helen - a convenient bonus to those murders? Or was it just an unexpected benefit?
Perhaps I'm looking for something redeeming in a coherent but bitter character note, but I'd like to think that Helen going back had at least some hand in Gotts' survival in the A ending, given he's unmentioned and possibly MIA in B/C.)
- The handling of Kay's role is improved in B/C: Edward's "Kay is mine" speech is effectively, memorably vicious, and Kay is granted a modicum of redemptive agency in her final moments. Both outshine their parallels in A: Ed's kind of toothless "it's fun to dismember people" interaction with Kay that reveals the true nature of both their relationship and Ed himself, and his "oops, I missed" (which isn't bad so far as a nasty, in-character joke by Edward but not as impactful as the B/C choice).
- I also think that Edward is actually far more monstrous saying and doing all he does while in the body of an angelic 10-year-old, with the narrative underlining the disconnect and the other characters' disbelief to create a surreal atmosphere, than by literally turning into Halloween-costume Scissorman, however suitably-grody the transformation.
- For that matter, I don't need to hear from the ten-year-old how murder makes him sexually excited. Yes, I know Edward's a
1000-year-old dragonextradimensional murder demon and not actually anything approaching a human child, but no thanks.
- Quintin's ghost appearing to direct Jennifer to her final objective is cooler than the Final Chase, Really Big Edition. For one, Edward's reactions to Quintin are intriguing: he seems to have a personal animosity toward Quintin that goes beyond simply hearing tell of his "traitorous" reputation. Did he know Quintin personally somehow, and if so, how?
Also: the chase seems borne of some perceived law of homeostasis where Jennifer has to be more helpless (the collapse in the passage; this chase; the slightly-reduced agency she has post-door spell, where she's screaming and clutching at her boyfriend) the more active a role Nolan plays in the finale. There's a conscious theme, taking the various ending paths into aggregate account, of the value of other people and of working and being together - Nolan's vital contributions, despite his grievous injuries, to the survival of Jennifer (who, regardless of added damsel interludes, is still decidedly shrewd and worthy of survival in the A end); Helen's decision to split, despite the emphasized importance of the trio acting together, mentally wounding Jennifer and jeopardizing the mission; the horrible fallout in the B ending, where, despite an actual victory, Jennifer's death and absence has profoundly impacted the survivors' lives and made victory seem hollow. There's a clear message (represented by the decisive image of Nolan and Jennifer's hands clasping in the climax) that true victory is achieved through banding together, through love - and it's only logical that the novel would want to make use of all its players. But Jen does not have to be less badass the more capable Nolan is! They can both be badass!
Plus: the steak knife from Nolan wounds Edward more than Quintin's magic soul dagger! Ed shrugged off a full clip to his dick from Gotts in Helen's novel! Why is a steak knife hurting him at all!? (You want Nolan to have a critical role in the climax? Give Nolan Quintin's dagger through some contrivance and have him use it instead of the steak knife at the same point. Have Jen saved after the door is opened through the kid ghosts, like in Helen's novel - or through Quintin's ghost, who does not make an appearance in A. I almost think Makino might have intended something like that before some canon lawyer at Human or Ascii intervened.)
- Oh, and B/C also has the revelation that Jennifer's a Barrows. You don't get that in A, though maybe Jen's better off not knowing.
Obviously, I don't prefer the actual B or C outcomes. C has an audacity the game endings lacked, but I like Jen too much for her to end up there. The novel's take on the game's B ending illustrates poignantly that while objective are important, so are people, and losing someone special can make a victory seem hollow. Jennifer is important not only as the orchestrator of Scissorman's demise but for her internal, personal qualities, as a beacon of hope.
Anyhow: I'm very glad to have been fortunate enough to translate these novels. I feel they were really well-done. I didn't agree with every single choice, but I agreed with enough of them, and they delivered in all the ways a game adaptation should: they fleshed out the characters in a manner consistent with their in-game portrayals and put them in new scenarios, where they made illustrative choices; they largely followed the story and structure of the games the fans loved but developed it in new directions, with new lore; and they offered imaginative endings.
Speaking of author Osamu Makino, I noted shortly before I finished the translation someone on Twitter talking about having picked up some novelization of the Wii Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles games that were, I noted to my surprise, penned by him. It turns out that Mr. Makino, in addition to a prolific solo career, has also had an unexpectedly notable career in video game-related novelizations outside his excellent Clock Tower work, evidently including not just the Umbrella Chronicles books but also a rendition of the first Milla Jovovich Resident Evil movie, as well as a translation of a novel based on the first Silent Hill movie:
The Silent Hill novel is an odd case, as though it had an evidently Western author (a Paula Edgewood), it was never released outside Japan, in English or whatever its original language was. Also odd: though there was an English-language novelization of the Resident Evil movie, Makino was hired to write (and not translate) a separate novelization for the Japanese market. According to the Amazon reviews, it's a markedly different take on the movie's plot: Matt apparently dies in the opening, and Alice takes on the Licker with a knife, in true speedrunner fashion.
I can't fault Capcom and Konami for hiring Makino. The man did a good job with Clock Tower. We'll close with a few moments I thought were particularly strong:
- Gotts weighing his options upon first encountering Scissorman at Rick's house and deciding that the best course of action would be to shoot Scissorman in his dick. Monster Squad would be proud of you, Stan.
- That Makino took the time to think up another clock tower-themed death for poor Professor Sullivan.
- The bit in Helen's novel in Barrows Castle where Scissorman makes his entrance in a painting, first appearing as an indistinct figure far in the distance, then coming closer, and closer... A great concept that works better for being well-written, with a strong transition from impossible, dreamlike abstraction to sharp, focused action.
- Barton explaining that he wants to prevent an apocalypse at the hands of the gods only because that would be the end of humanity, and as a psychologist, he cares only about humans and how fucked up they can get.
- Gotts' badass farewell in Jennifer's novel - the best use of the "It's Assistant Inspector!" joke.
- Jennifer being generally badass in her novel, something that is not at all hinted at in Helen's novel. "Nolan. Look at me. Bitch."
- The drama and choreography in Jennifer's ending as she screams out the door spell in defiance, "in a voice she had never known since birth," dodging Edward's blows dramatically - then finally eating, and shrugging off, a blow to the shoulder to complete the spell. (Helen's door spell scene isn't bad, either.)
- The endings, which go places the game didn't: Jennifer the Scissorwoman. Helen, Jen, and Ed together as a murderous cult. The children's ghosts pulling Ed to his doom. Plus, Helen's true ending path hinging on identifying the right choice as: "Barton, shut the fuck up."
That list isn't comprehensive.Finally: I'd like to apologize for how long the translation of Jennifer's novel took. I know it's the old refrain, but work and life got in the way: I had work opportunities, including some in professional games translation, that required extended attention, and I've been dealing with a long-term local problem that I've wanted to share here but haven't found the time to write up. I know not everyone could hang around for the long-delayed conclusion of this project. Thanks for the patience I was graciously extended, and I understand completely if it ran out.
All right, next up, hopefully on a snappier timetable: I'm going to be putting together a spreadsheet of the Angelique SFC script that pairs the Japanese lines with their English translations. I've gotten feedback that this would help immensely with getting a patch made, though given how resistant this game and series have proven to any sort of English translation, I'm imagine that the project's not going to drag itself over the finish line until I learn how to insert the text into a patch my goddamn myself. (This is not to belittle the amount of work it takes to learn ROM patching or actually create a patch; it's a comment on how seemingly impossible it has been to make any headway in producing an English version of Angelique. It's a landmark title - the very first otome game, the launch of a massively-popular series. There is no excuse for it not being available outside its native language by now. Let's hope that I'm wrong and that a patch doesn't rest on the ability of a woman whose HTML skills have never gotten out of the '90s to learn ROM patching.)
For an active translation project, I'm going to go back and do the rest of the Lunar interviews from Beep!21 - including an extremely long Yoichi Miyaji interview with an entire half dedicated to the shooter Silpheed, which I guess I'm going to have to play if I want to translate the article in total. (Check out here and here if you'd like to read the interviews that have been translated so far.) I also might go back through the earlier chapters of Jen's novel and polish up a few clumsy turns of phrase - nothing major; just cosmetic. I considered doing it before posting the end chapters, but I just couldn't delay the final release any longer. It had gotten ridiculous.
In any case: that's a 303-page translation under the belt! Hey, Reddit, you understand that a woman's gotta rest after that, right?