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Japanese: 電子生徒手帳 (lit. electronic student notebook)
While Monokuma gives a partial explanation of the term during the prologue–which is sufficient in-universe–there’s actually more to the story than that.
First of all, a literal translation would get very, very clunky very, very quickly. The word 電子生徒手帳 appears in more than 200 lines in the script, and “Electronic Student Notebook” uses up a quarter of the available space in the text box, which means many lines would have to be compressed or split.
Unlike 超高校級 (Super Duper High School), there’s nothing really extraordinary about the word 電子生徒手帳 that would warrant a long or unwieldy translation. A 生徒手帳 (student notebook) is pretty much what it sounds like: a small notebook given to students in Japan (usually from middle school on) that contains the student’s ID, the school rules, the school song, their schedule, and other information–though the exact contents vary by school. The 電子 part of the word used in-game just means all that functionality has been made electronic.
Because there was nothing awkward or unusual about the original word, we wanted to use something equally innocuous. Something that didn’t take up a lot of screen space, was easy to say, and made it generally obvious what the purpose of the device was. Ultimately, we arrived at ElectroiD for much the same reasons as Monokuma gives. It’s electronic, and it’s a student ID. The lowercase i/capital D thing is easy enough to understand. The game is constantly making references to and poking fun at popular (and not so popular) culture, so we couldn’t imagine an opportunity to make an iDevice jab would go untaken, had it been present in the original text.
In the end, ElectroiD is a translation that mostly satisfies our three goals for the word. It’s nine characters instead of the twenty-seven in Electronic Student Notebook. It rolls off the tongue (I, personally, pronounce it like “elec” + “droid” only with a “t” sound, though I can’t vouch for the rest of the staff). And, as Monokuma explains, the function of the device is relatively clear from the name. It doesn’t cover every aspect of the Japanese 生徒手帳 (student notebook), but hopefully the “they’re IDs but even cooler!” bit is enough of a tip-off that they might have some additional functionality.
Coliseum / Academic Coliseum
Japanese: コロシアイ / コロシアイ学園生活 (lit. killing each other / killing each other school life)
殺し合い–the more “standard” form of the word above–is one of the many, many words that sounds just fine in Japanese and like someone decided to play darts with the dictionary in English. These sorts of things show up all the time, and you can usually write around them or find some other way to get the point across, but コロシアイ is a word that shows up a lot in Monokuma’s dialogue. It’s essentially his name for the situation the students are in, which meant we needed to give it a little more attention and come up with something we could use the same way in English. It needed to be simple, easy to throw around without getting clunky, and invoke the same bloody, murderous image as the original.
Well, as they say, you find inspiration where you least expect it, and that’s exactly what happened here. As we were brainstorming how we wanted to handle the term, it struck us how similar the katakana-ized コロシアイ looked to the Japanese word for “coliseum”: コロシアム. While the resemblance is almost certainly a coincidence, we thought it fit the intent of the original extremely well, so it stuck.
Yamada: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.”
Leave it to Yamada to start things off with a doozy. The original line is actually the title of Chapter 62 in Xenogears (which appears to correspond to Chapter 59 in the English release, though I’ve never played either version). To make references as easy to catch as possible, we put considerable effort into finding and using official (or common) translations of quotes and terminology taken from other sources–where translations exist.
The problem we run into here is that the official English rendering is just “First and Last,” whereas the Japanese text is actually referring to a person, and it sounds grandiose and epic. “First and Last” has none of these traits, and even if we were to fiddle with it and do something like, “I am the First and the Last,” it still doesn’t have the impact of the Japanese line.
Because this is the very first thing Yamada says when introducing himself, we decided it was more important to leave an equivalent impression than stick strictly to the original reference. But we did still want him to be quoting something, to keep with the spirit of the line. So we picked a quote that fits the meaning of the original while also having the kind of impact it needed. (Based on some cursory research, it seems Xenogears has some pretty overt religious themes, so it’s not too big of a jump, either.)