1

Okay, so I'm attempting to translate the text from an obscure Japanese Super Famicom game (for fun/general posterity). (This is not a translation or proof-read request of course - those are against the rules.) The game is "Olivia's Mystery" (オリビアのミステリー). The format of the game is a picture puzzle - you grab square cut-outs from a looping-animation picture (only mild animation, no sweeping changes across the frame), rotate them, and place them appropriately relative to the other pieces. When you've completed a level, some (Japanese) text scrolls across the screen, providing a narrative story to go with the images you're unveiling.

Here's the full text for the 8th level (which I'm working on), for context, with the pertinent paragraph emboldened. The broader context is, there's a water shortage on earth, this guy shot himself out of a human cannon (at a circus) trying to aim for a nearby country to get water to bring back to relieve the situation, but... overshot and wound up shooting himself to the moon (which has a breathable atmosphere somehow) (yes, this story has gotten absolutely bonkers). He's in some ancient, abandoned lunar civilization's city, and found a way to solve his water problems, but now needs to find a way back to Earth.

さて、いろいろさがしたすえにやっとつかえ
そうなものをみつけた。
みるだけで、空を飛ぶためのものであること
はわかる。
なにしろ、とりのかたちをしているのだ。こ
れが飛ぶためのものでなくして、なんであろ
うか?
ただし、学者モジャイスキーがつくった飛行
機とはちがって、はばたくようになっている
のがとくちょうであった。
なお、この機械はナスカ地方にいくとでっか
いイラストがあるので、ひまな人はみにいっ
てみるとよい。だいぶディフォルメされてい
るが、イメージはつかめるでしょう。だれが
かいたかしらないが。

しばらくパタパタと飛びまわったころには、
水くみもおわっていた。とりあえずはすこし
あればいい。
これはこれで皇帝の娘にあげちゃって、あら
ためて水道パイプでもひけばいいさ。月に水
があるなんてだれもしらないだろうな。
さ、それではいそいそと、かえりますか。

Now, here's the translation that I'm going with (for now anyway) up to and including the bold passage (extra emphasis added to final line) (some of my line breaks have been eaten):

Well, after a lot of searching, I finally found something that looked to do the trick. Just by the sight of it, it was obvious that this was a thing for flying. The reason being, it was shaped just like a bird. If this thing isn’t for flying, then what the heck is it for!? However, this machine was different from any airplane that aviation pioneer Mozhaysky might have designed, its wing-flapping design being a notable distinguishing feature. If you go to the land of the Nazca people, there is an enormous illustration - those with the leisure to do so should go there and see it of themselves. They are fairly distorted drawings, but the images are still fairly recognizable. Whoever drew them is a mystery. The machine I found, it could be compared to those illustrations, in its representation of a bird.

As you may have noticed, I added that final sentence pretty much in its entirety, based on little else than that the Nazca stuff did at least begin with 「なお、この機械は」. I must confess that this passage really baffles me - it begins with この機械は, and then absolutely nothing else in that section connects things back in any way (that I can tell) to that supposed topic that we just marked with は.

So now, finally my actual question - is this Japanese passage (the bold one) as strange and awkward to native Japanese readers (and any of you with lots of experience with the language) as it strikes me as being? Or is that initial 「なお、この機械は」 really enough of an introduction to the paragraph to more-or-less imply the "made up" sentence (or something much like it) that I made up and tacked on at the end because of how incredibly awkwardly it would read in English without it?

If it is really awkward, it wouldn't be the first instance. In the last level, when he's searching for water, it spends the whole time talking about how he's in an abandoned lunar city and how if he had more time he'd love to explore it, etc, and then wraps up with a terse "Anyway, finding an atomic water collector, I then set about the task of finding a way back - after all, he certainly wasn't going to find a return cannon back to earth!" (アトミック水くみ機をみつけた私は、水くみをまかせて、自分はかえる方法をさがすことにした。なにしろ月に大砲は、ない。). That one, I'm quite certain is just really awkward writing... but even so, this one feels so much more so!

Honestly, this whole project is such a weird mix. It often sounds kind of scholarly and sophisticated in spots, like the brief reference (before the emboldened section) to Mozhaysky (学者モジャイスキー) (apparently just assuming the reader knows precisely who that is), and in general some of the wording... and then lately this really bizarre stuff with overshooting himself with the cannon and winding up on the moon (so suddenly cartoonish a plot!), and the story itself kind of rambles around.

7
  • 1
    Not sure this is a problem in Japanese. For me, I see no problem with your English translation and I don't think it is awkward. You've just been told about this amazing flying machine. It stands to reason that you'd be interested in knowing what it looks like. Rather than giving you a detailed description, the author tells you where you can go see for yourself. A picture paints a thousand words etc. – user3856370 Apr 1 at 7:30
  • 1
    About "it begins with この機械は, and then absolutely nothing else in that section connects things back in any way ... to that supposed topic that we just marked with は." 「この機械はナスカ地方にいくとでっかいイラストがある」つまり、この機会のイラスト。So I think it is connected. – By137 Apr 1 at 8:16
  • @By137 if it had included 「つまり、この機会のイラスト」at the end, I'd have no objections. My feeling is that it's quite awkward without it (but perhaps that's just me?) – Micah Cowan Apr 1 at 10:04
  • 1
    I think you may be overthinking this and I don't think you need your final sentence. It is implied quite naturally in my opinion. Do you see anything wrong with the following sentence? "I saw a fascinating monument when I was on holiday. There's a picture of it in a book back at my house. You should come and have a look if you have time. It's a bit blurry though and I have no idea who took it.". This is essentially the same as your passage and, personally, I see no problem with it. – user3856370 Apr 1 at 10:20
  • 1
    Sorry, I should have been clearer. The author is not referencing the Nazca picture because it happens to be similar to the machine he's talking about, he's saying it IS a drawing of the machine. Tying something from the real world into his fantasy world. Like the ancient civilization saw the bird-machine flying through the sky and were amazed and drew a huge picture of it. So the sentence you added is actually moving away from the intended meaning. – By137 Apr 1 at 13:20
3

In the sentence

この機械はナスカ地方にいくとでっかいイラストがあるので、ひまな人はみにいってみるとよい。

ナスカ地方にいくとでっかい is all modifying イラスト, so in its most basic form it says

この機械はイラストがあるので...

Roughly translating to

There is an illustration of this machine

So there is nothing unnatural about the grammar, just a lot of modifiers that make it harder to see the underlying sentence.

Once you can see the basic grammar, you can see that the author is not referencing the Nazca picture because it happens to be similar to the machine he's talking about, he's saying it IS a drawing of the machine. Tying something from the real world into his fantasy world. Like the ancient civilization saw the bird-machine flying through the sky and were amazed and drew a huge picture of it.

1
  • 1
    @Micah Cowan I made this answer based on our comments, let me know if there is something else you think I should add. – By137 Apr 2 at 12:56

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.