Japan Expo Hatsune Miku Panel Report

Japan Expo is a Japanese culture and entertainment convention held in France and Belgium which recently has expanded to the United States. Their first ever United States convention was held Santa Clara Convention Center in California. It was held on August 23-25, 2013. Japan Expo featured many Japanese guests and sponsors, one of which was Sega of America. They had a booth and held a panel about Project Diva F.

Unlike most anime-related conventions, Japan Expo is more of a Japanese culture convention. It features events, booths and guests from many parts of Japanese culture, both modern and traditional. Alongside the usual anime/game events were traditional music performances, fine art galleries, Japanese snacks, and many more aspects of Japanese culture. The convention was significantly smaller than conventions like Anime Expo. Despite its size, Japan Expo had many official company and industry booths from companies like Viz, Crunchyroll, Funimation, BONES, Sega, and Aniplex, as well as airline companies, travel agencies, and even food companies like Kasugai and Yakult. There were also an Artists’ Alley, gaming room, and a fine arts gallery. Most of the events and booths were located in one large room and with a separate room serving as a performance hall for music events.

Sega's Hatsune Miku panelists

Sega’s Hatsune Miku panelists

Sega’s booth had several monitors and PS3s set up with the completed English version of Project Diva F for attendees to play. On Saturday, August 24th, Sega hosted a Hatsune Miku panel. As expected, it was about the English release of Project Diva F. It was hosted by two Sega employees who were involved in the localization of PJDF. The panel was a semi-interactive slideshow presentation. The panelist would often ask trivia questions to the audience, and whoever got the correct answer won Sega related goods. Unfortunately these prizes weren’t Vocaloid related and were mostly Sonic Anniversary goods.

Prize I won for answering a relatively difficult question

Prize I won for answering a relatively difficult question

The trivia questions ranged from easy questions such as “Who was the first Vocaloid?”, “When is Meiko’s birthday?”, “What are songs featured in the first Project Diva game?”, and “What are character items are associated with each Vocaloid?” to harder questions such as “Who’s the original owner of Rin’s steamroller?” and “What was the project name for Miku before she was announced?”. One question that stumped almost all the attendees was one regarding “mmts”, an acronym found in the programming of many of the Project Diva games. It is an acronym for “Miku Maji Tenshi”, which means “Miku is truly an angel” in Japanese. Using these questions as transitions into topics, the panelists went through a brief history and explanation of Vocaloid and Vocaloid culture. Then Sega went into a brief history and explanation of the Project Diva series.

japan expo 3

The panelists talked about how Project Diva came to America in the first place. While the Sega employees were fans were of the series, they had to convince the Sega higher ups that bringing over the game was a good idea. They were hesitant because they did not know whether or not there was a market for the game. In order to show that bringing over the Project Diva PS3 game was a good idea, Sega posted a picture of the game on their Facebook asking people to like the photo if they wanted the games in the West. That picture became the most liked/shared post in the history of Sega’s Facebook page. That was the turning point in bringing the game to the West.

The next topic was the process of localizing the game. One of the first hurdles was dealing with the thousands of licenses and copyrights associated with the game. Another challenge was translating and localizing the text. Since there are already many Vocaloid fans, many of whom imported the game, there were many expectations put on Sega’s localization team. They had to make choices between a “proper” translation and what is more familiar to fans. For example, one way to localize “Tako Luka” is to translate it to “Octo Luka”. However, “Tako Luka” is more recognizable to Vocaloid fans. One of the panelists who used to work at Atlus and said they followed how Atlus handled Persona 3 and 4. Unlike previous Persona games where names and cultural references were changed to Western equivalents, Persona 3 and 4 were not “fully localized.” Japanese names, locations, suffixes, cultural references, etc. were left unchanged from the Japanese version. By not fully localizing the game, it kept some of the cultural flair and Japanese feel to the game, which many fans liked. Sega did the same for Project Diva F. They had to make these sort of decisions for the many names and items in Project Diva. Sometimes they came across some incomprehensible things such as Shite’yanyo and Larval Rin.

Japan expo 4small

Song titles were another problem. Sega decided not to follow fan translated titles as many of these titles became popular through usage and are not necessarily accurate. They hired two localization firms to send recommended translations for Sega to choose. After Sega chose the titles, they sent the translations to Japan to get them approved by the creators. So despite what is more popular on the internet, Sega’s translations are considered the official ones. Most of the title translations were straight forward like “God-tier Song” for “Kamikyoku”. Their most extreme translation choice was using “Urbandonment” for “Torinoko City”.

Sega also discussed why they decided to go with romanized lyrics instead of translations. As with titles, the meanings of words are often lost in translation. Lyrics can be interpreted in many ways. Sega decided to keep the lyrics romanized and felt their decision was validated by the many people who sing along while playing the game.

Lastly, Sega opened the floor for a Q&A segment. Since Sega had many leftover prizes, people who asked questions got Sega goods. Most of the questions asked about localizing other Hatsune Miku games from Sega such as Project Diva f for Vita and Project Mirai for 3DS. Their answer was that Project Diva F PS3 is their first step at testing the waters for the franchise and they would only consider publishing on other platforms if PJDF sells well. On the same note, they said that Gamestop had told them they were close to running out of their initial shipment due to an unexpected amount of preorders. Sega was pleased to hear this because Project Diva F was to go on sale the following Tuesday. They said if anyone wanted the Gamestop pre-order bonuses they would have to order as soon as possible.

The panel finally ran out of time and ended with the panelists giving away more Sega merchandise off stage.

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  • Dasheble

    “Sega also discussed why they decided to go with romanized lyrics instead of translations. As with titles, the meanings of words are often lost in translation. Lyrics can be interpreted in many ways. Sega decided to keep the lyrics romanized and felt their decision was validated by the many people who sing along while playing the game.”

    Then why not give players the option to choose between romaji and translated text? I admit it’s nice to be able to sing along but I still would like to know what I’m actually singing about.

    • ステフィー @ おふろタイム

      I think that would have been a nice option, but I doubt Sega gave the localization team much of a budget, so I doubt they had enough time or money to program it in. Such a shame though!

    • jrharbort

      Because believe it or not, getting permissions for English translations can be a huge challenge. It’s one of the reasons why we had to wait almost 2 years for the Mikunopolis blu-ray to finally release in North America. And even then, a few songs were still without English translations, because the respective producers didn’t allow it. SEGA likely decided this would not be worth the effort for PjD F, and stuck with romanized lyrics.

      • anon

        “After Sega chose the titles, they sent the translations to Japan to get them approved by the creators. So despite what is more popular on the internet, Sega’s translations are considered the official ones.”

        Amd yet they asked every producer (or at least every necessary producer) for permission to translate the titles?

        • jrharbort

          Titles are one thing, lyrics are another. Obviously the song itself will hold far more meaning than the title, and some producers would rather this meaning not be lost in translation.

      • Samuel Leuenberger

        That’s quite unbelievable that you would need the authorization of an author to *translate* his song.
        I understand that courtesy would require you to ask for comments on the translation, but damn these copyrights laws are such a pain in the ass.

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