We had the chance to interview our very own translator, MysticDistance! We asked him about translation, his history with Japanese, Persona, and many other things related to his career! We hope you enjoy this exclusive interview!
When did you first start translating?
I first started translating back in 2013. I was midway through my sophomore year at the time and had noticed that Atlus launched a teaser site that would go on to become the Persona series information hub. So, as countdown to that November day edged even closer, I translated whatever would come out on a community thread on NeoGAF. Looking back now, those were some interesting days where some of my earliest work had the chance to shine. At the time, I was barely even a JLPT N3.
Why did you decide to start translating?
Ironically, it was never an intentional choice when I had started, so it feels more like it was fated nowadays. I had always been interested in localization and had studied Japanese for most of my life. During the Japanese promotional period for Kingdom Hearts 2, a specific site would translate the Famitsu issues that contained new information on the title. That inspired me a lot as a kid, as it allowed people like me to get a better grasp of the title in a way we can’t always get. When I realized that this was the announcement that would give us Persona 5, I leapt into action. I thought that perhaps if I could do this, then maybe the time for me to get into translation had begun. And since then, it’s been a journey I can’t really describe in words.
What got you into Persona?
I have always wanted to answer this question. As a young kid, my parents were very hands-off on my access to the internet. So, when Persona 3 was announced in Famitsu back in 2006, I had vaguely heard of it. Later on, one late night in 2007, I saw an English cutscene from Persona 3 on the now defunct G4. I immediately begged my mom to get me a copy. I was much too young to really grasp the themes of the game at that time, but I remember the feeling I had when Mass Destruction played for the first time. I know that this is a bit more than the question initially had asked, but the aesthetic, unique presentation and vibe that Persona has evokes (pun not entirely intended) a passion I don’t think I have for anything in the way I do for this series. To this day, it feels like a true honor to have even been able to contribute translations to Persona 5 and the fans of the series in the way I did.
What is your favorite Persona game and why?
Persona 5. I know that for many who have played it or are just getting into Persona that that is the go-to answer, but the beautiful aesthetic and self-contained presentation, including production values, makes it my favorite Persona title. The idea of a group of young people who recognize that, while their actions may on one hand be immoral, yet necessary is one that resonates with me on a personal level. Being able to face those who have hurt you or others and do something, even if by force, is something I think of often and I appreciate how Persona 5 represented it.
What are you looking forward to in Persona 6? Any specific features you’re hoping for?
MysticDistance: An entirely brand new setting, potentially one set in America. I’d also like to see a brand new battle system, UI style and presentation that completely differs from any prior entry, even if controversial. I think of this often, and one thing I’d like is if everything were streamlined in the way Persona 5 Royal is going for, as well as even larger locations and major changes to the calendar system, such as hours of the day.
Why did you decide to study Japanese?
It’s a very long story honestly. I won’t go too into detail, but as a young child I went through many traumatic events. However, there were two game series that really kept me going at the time, and they were Kingdom Hearts and Pokemon. I had a lot of respect (and continue to) for Nomura and when I read translations of his words, it pushed me to learn Japanese in order to do something like that someday. I wanted to do something that would set me apart and give me an interesting experience in my life, and I felt that if I could take on learning a language such as Japanese, that I’d be able to tackle anything and do great things for people. This later helped me when I was homeless. Most of my days were spent in public libraries studying Japanese at the time, as I had nothing else I could do but learn due to being too young to work a full-time job.
What are the types of things you translate? Do you specialize in any areas?
Primarily interviews and news reports. While I enjoy writing lines for characters whenever I get the chance to work on a full-fledged game, I find I really enjoy reporting on information and coming up with new ways to present the ways I report on news, whether it’s adding a few words or condensing a sentence in brand new ways. You may have noticed that I went for what I describe as a “marketing translation” in how I presented my Persona 5 Royal info translations. I’m constantly experimenting with new ways to translate a report. I’d say that’s where I really shine.
How exactly do you go about covering what you do? Is there a specific process?
There actually is. I like to describe being able to cover a game as a “miracle” in of itself. When it came to covering Persona 5, I had to give up an entire semester of school and my hours were cut down in order to ensure I could cover a title. In recent years, I’ve been able to find better ways to go about this that require small loopholes, such as allocating when my days off are, reporting on information while at work and it isn’t busy or scheduling things in advance based on when Atlus will hold an event. I’d like to continue doing this for as many years as I can, even though it can be very stressful. However, it’s incredibly rewarding and I’m just happy I can do something good for people.
What is your favorite game of all time and why?
The World Ends With You. I was living in Manhattan at the time and was a few years younger than Neku is, but the messages and the presentation really hit home for me and inspired me to get out there, be active and talk more to people. I began to really value the stories people had after watching Neku grow.
What consoles do you currently own? Which is your favorite?
I own all of them except for the Xbox One, although I’d like to get one as prices continue to come down. Although I really enjoy the portability and Nintendo exclusives the Switch offers, I’d have to go with the PS4. The PS4 has my preferred selection of first and third-party titles. I also like that it allows me to really take advantage of my 4K TV setup as well as a more affordable way to experience VR gaming. That and Persona 5, which is all I really needed to make my PS4 worth it. I’d like to see Sony humble themselves a bit though.
What are you looking to do on Jack of All Controllers?
I’d like to contribute unique opinion pieces and translations. While I don’t see myself contributing Persona translations due to outside circumstances sadly, I’d like to use my personal know-how and experiences in order to really push Jack of all Controllers forward. There’s a lot of work to be done, so I’d like to concentrate my time toward the site as it becomes available.
Over the past few years, you’ve gained a unique following and there are those who have stated that you are an important figure in the Persona community? What do you think of this and how do you handle it?
Honestly, it’s pretty crazy. I don’t know how to describe it. As a kid, my dream was to become a translator and be someone who could help people by giving them translations of important information. For it to reach the level it has is pretty mind-blowing. I personally don’t even know how to interact. One huge example of this is when my personal hero growing up spoke to me, not knowing what I thought of him and told me that he was incredibly impressed with the work I do for Persona and that he looked up to me. It felt unreal, as if it had all come full circle. At the same time, it makes me pretty nervous. I know Atlus keeps a close watch on me at times, which is both an amazing yet worrying thing. When it comes to translating, the nature of Twitter means it is an “all or nothing” effort. There is always a push to ensure everything is worded concisely and that no translation is incorrect. The rapid fire nature of Twitter and the lack of an edit button mean that, once it’s out there, it’s out there and then propogates other parts of the web. So, I push to ensure my translations are of a high quality. I never expected it to reach a level where I am not only an important part of a community, but someone who has gained a following. I’d like to do right by people and continue to make positive choices.
Do you have any way of sharing news that’s going on in your life?
I will, on occasion, tweet about certain events in my life. However, my main concern is not bogging the timeline down with said updates. I think a monthly recap of my current month that also allows others to chime in with a recap of their month will do wonders to help us all engage with each other. I’d also like to share my story in a book I am writing, particularly the story that made up my 2018.
What is the Mystic Direct that you announced last week?
The Mystic Direct is a new way for me to engage with fans and share info on things I’m doing. As for this next one, it’s primarily focused on projects such as Madoka PSP, Mystic Final Chapter and the future of Morning Game Brew, a podcast Sojiro and I launched earlier this year. I have a few more surprises in store, so I hope people look forward to it. This is a brand new format for me that is meant to be inspired by the Nintendo Direct format in more ways than one, so I’d like to present at least two more this year.
Is there any way to support you and your work in translating?
Yes, and I’d encourage people to please look into donating to my Ko-Fi or supporting my upcoming Patreon. While I can afford rent, I can barely do so and transportation costs eat away at the majority of my paycheck when I am not working overtime or sacrificing a day off. While my content will always remain free and I will never push anyone to donate, please consider it if you’d like to not only support me, but also support future ambitions that I’d like to take on for fans. I’ll even provide proof of progress for said ambitions, as I know people should be able to see that what they’re giving to is going to the right causes. I also understand that a majority of you may also be facing the same circumstances as I do, so please consider sharing your own Ko-Fi or way to contribute to you. I’d like to support you in any way possible, even if I don’t know you too well.
(You can support MysticDistance here: ko-fi.com/mysticdistance )