The House in Fata Morgana localization team interview part 2 by Lolinia – Developers: Novectacle – Publishers: MangaGamer
So, as many of you loyal readers may know, I recently reviewed a visual novel titled The House in Fata Morgana. The MangaGamer team behind bringing the game to the West also did an interview with me before the game released on both their website and Steam. I’ve already overly gushed about how much I love the game in the aforementioned review, including its original soundtrack, so I won’t tell you how much awesome-sauce is in the game right now. You can click the hyperlinks above for that or to go purchase the game at your storefront-of-choice.
Today, however, I bring you yet another interview with the localization team. This interview is a bit different than the one above. We are not withholding any info on the game, so if you haven’t read the visual novel or are in the middle of reading it, I HIGHLY suggest that you do not read further down this article. However, if you don’t mind spoilers or just want to get to know the team even further, then welcome to the second interview with the MangaGamer localization team behind The House in Fata Morgana!
Hey, again! It’s been a long time coming, but I’ve finally got the chance to interview y’all again! How have you been? Feel free to re-introduce yourself to the community. I’ll even start.
Lolinia: I’m Jonathan Phelps, pretty much known as Lolinia or TaisiHyuuga wherever I go on the internet. I’m a Co-Owner of both We Touch Games and The Drastik Measure and do game reviews. My passion is definitely rooted in anime gaming as I’m a very avid anime fan when I have time to watch! I’m here with Jeremy Davidson, Gerald Hiltz, and Kyle Roberts. Why don’t y’all introduce yourselves?
- Jeremy: Hey again! I’m Jeremy Davidson, aka BlackDragonHunt, the translator, programmer, and resident nitpicker for The House in Fata Morgana. It’s great to be back and have another chance to talk about one of my absolute favorite games.
- Gerald: Hello, hello! I’m Gerald Hiltz, better known as ritobito, editor (and colossal fanboy) of The House in Fata Morgana. It’s been a really exciting past couple months since its release, and I’m more than happy to talk about this game again.
- Kyle: Hey yo! I’m Kyle Roberts, otherwise known as Bubusan, the image editor of The House in Fata Morgana. Glad to be back!
L: So, Fata Morgana has been out for a couple months, now. Did you expect fan reception to be so well while you were working on it?
- G: Quite frankly, I’d never been so confident in a project’s overall quality until The House in Fata Morgana, so I was sure there would be many others who, like myself, were completely blown away by it. At the same time, I realized that it wasn’t for everyone, with one of the most profoundly tragic plots I’ve ever come across and such a unique visual style compared to a typical VN — definitely outside of the comfort zones of a lot of people, I imagine. Even so, reception has been overwhelmingly positive, and not a day goes by that I don’t see glowing praise on Twitter or Steam or elsewhere, and that’s just so amazing.
- J: I was certainly hoping so, at least! The game does so much so well that I figured most anyone who was willing to give it a chance would love it. The reception’s been amazing. I just wish we could get it into even more people’s hands, as I’m sure there are lots of people out there who would really, really appreciate what Fata Morgana does and has to say, and it just hasn’t reached them yet.
L: Jeremy, how does it make you feel that I spent so, so, so much time reading the text you wrote?
- J: It’s always incredibly nerve-wracking to think about people reading anything I write–doubly so when it’s something on the scale of Fata Morgana, which is more than 350,000 words long. I’m very self-conscious about my writing, constantly worrying, “Didn’t I use that same phrase a couple lines back? Is that the right word for that? Does this make any sense? Am I getting the point across effectively?” Fortunately, Gerald’s a great editor, so I feel a lot more confident in the final product knowing people were spared the vast majority of my flailing about.
- G: Yeah, Jeremy did such a tremendous job with Fata Morgana‘s translation. Even during the editing process, just as one example, we’d review particularly troublesome lines that just didn’t sound right, and more often than not, it would be one of his suggestions that we’d ultimately go with.
L: Gerald, I’ve got one phrase for you. *clears throat* LE’GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAASP.
- G: I’m sorry. I’m so, SO sorry. Georges is just Fata Morgana‘s dopey character that I can immediately channel, so I couldn’t help myself!
- J: In almost any other situation, I would have nixed that immediately, but the characters in that part are French, so it still makes more than enough sense whether you recognize it as a reference or not (and, in my defense, I actually didn’t at first, /ahem).
- G: I was actually thinking more of Pepé Le Pew than anything with that line, but I’m just that oldskool. Either way, it made for a suitably ridiculous line that roughly matched the original Japanese one, so I have no (okay, just a few) regrets.
L: Kyle, you said you were ‘quite anxious’ at how the game would be received. How relieved are you that not only do they enjoy the story, they (or myself in particular) also absolutely adore the visuals?
- K: I am quite relieved that the game was positively accepted. I am mostly glad that people enjoyed the art. It was somewhat my baby because of the edits to the menus, especially the song lyrics. So overall I am happy with the outcome.
L: Now, going back to the subject of favorite characters… Maria… I loved her as a maid (betrayal aside), but I loved her even more as a whore. She had so much life in her. Since she was a topic in the last interview, I’d love to get more of your perspectives on her.
- J: Original Maria (for lack of a better term) is an absolute joy, yeah. Maria’s definitely at her best when she’s able to be herself. She spent a lot of the third chapter repressing herself and playing a role she didn’t fit, so when the mask came off, it exploded off. Whereas in the final chapter (and, subsequently, A Requiem for Innocence), she’s more toned down in both directions. Her natural self strikes a nice balance between genuinely caring and flippantly vulgar. While she’s not in a great situation, she rolls with the punches and makes the best of it without letting it get her down, and she feels much more real for it. That’s why I really like Maria as a character.
- G: Maria was another character that just clicked so well with me. On top of what Jeremy said, she allowed for some of the most colorful dialogue in the entire game, including some of my very favorite lines. To tell you the truth, I had actually considered toning down some of her vulgarity, but in the end I’m pretty sure I actually managed to ramp it up a notch. I think we’re all better off because of it.
L: Personally, I loved Giselle and Morgana. Giselle was such an energetic, spunky character. Seeing how she went from that to being The Maid made me want to hug her so much. And Morgana’s entire story. Just… Pardon my language, but holy shit. Morgana’s story just…. MY FEELS, MAN! MY FEELS! (It doesn’t help that as I wrote this, Everybody’s Crying started playing in my playlist.)
- J: Well, I hope you’re ready for Requiem, because you’ll be getting an even bigger dose of Morgana with that.
- G: Oh yeah, I love those two as well. They, along with Michel, make up the Trinity of Tragedy and all deserve big hugs. They say suffering builds character, and Giselle and Morgana certainly never lacked either!
L: Jeremy, you were having a hard time picking a favorite in the last interview due to stuff you couldn’t explain then due to spoilers. Care to explain, now?
- J: Maria’s still pretty high up there in the ranking, don’t get me wrong, but taking into account the latter 2/3 of the game, Michel easily jumps up to the top of the list. The way the story handled him and his situation was, I felt, incredibly powerful and very relatable. I can’t help but love him.
- G: Yeah, I believe I listed Michel as my favorite, myself, and for good reason! Plus, he looks kinda like Alucard from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, so he [has] that going for him as well.
L: The House in Fata Morgana is one hell of a ride. It deals with so many controversial topics, such as rape, incest, and sexual discrimination; with Michel being at the center of it with him being intersex. Not only that, but save for spirit-y stuff, the events in Fata Morgana feel like they could’ve happened to anyone in the world living in that time. It’s such a heavy piece of artwork, in my opinion. When you first got your hands onto the project to localize it, did you know it would be such a surreal experience?
- G: I sure didn’t! Obviously I took note of the gorgeous, dark art style immediately, and the plot sounded right up my alley, but I imagined it would be a mystery VN fairly similar to, say, Umineko (which it is, in some ways), rather than this powerful love story of bitter tragedy and humanity spanning damn near a thousand years. Honestly, this game plays at that expectation quite well, I think — it kinda lures you in under that pretense, and while it certainly does contain elements of mystery, it becomes apparent by the halfway point that there’s so much more to it.
And then, of course, there are the sensitive topics it touches on, which are core to the characters and their personal struggles, yet never defines them as characters. To me, at least, it felt like these topics were handled with a great deal of care, and I really admire that.
- J: When I was first offered the project, the only thing I knew about the game was that, as I recall, some of the staff had the impression it was supposed to be an otome title or something (and while that obviously didn’t turn out to be true, the audience has definitely skewed in that direction). I had only been doing programming for MG at the time, casually offering myself up for translation work every so often, so when an offer actually came, I was kind of surprised. I had no idea what to expect from the game, but I dug in, started reading it, and found myself absolutely enchanted. It was so much more than I could have ever imagined, and it quickly became one of my favorite stories in any medium.
L: In our earlier interview, Jeremy, you said that Fata Morgana was probably the hardest project you’ve worked on translation-wise. You couldn’t get into details back then, but if you can now, does it have anything to do with the above question?
- J: Absolutely, yes. Gender issues are a very sensitive topic that a lot of people care deeply about, and I wanted to make 100% sure the translation handled the subject with as much care and respect as the source material. This meant making a lot of very careful decisions with respect to pronoun and name usage that didn’t necessarily come up as often in the original text, simply by nature of the way the Japanese language works. There are characters who respect and accept Michel’s identity as a man and refer to him as such, and there are those who don’t, calling him by his birth name and referring to him with female pronouns (or, in the case of one particular piece of scum, as an “it”). It was a tough balancing act ensuring the English script reflected how the game respected him but many of the characters did not.
And of course there’s Giselle’s transformation into the Maid, where her concept of Michel slowly changes as she withers away outside time, being manipulated by Morgana into believing her memories are not real. Chapter 6 frequently switches back and forth between using the name Michel and Michelle (for which there is no distinction in Japanese) to illustrate the dissonance in Giselle’s mental state. And if you pay close attention, there are a couple scenes in the early chapters where the Maid asks the White-Haired Girl her name, but it’s blocked out with X marks. In the second chapter, the length of the censored name the White-Haired Girl says and the one the Maid says are different, but in the third chapter, they’re the same, reflecting the change in Giselle’s condition between the two eras.
Making sure we got everything just right, down to the smallest details, was a herculean task.
L: Every character felt relatable in some fashion. For me, it was Michel. I’m not intersex, but the feeling of being constantly misunderstood as you grow up and not knowing why. The feeling of being rejected by your own self and feeling locked away from the rest of the family because they don’t want to deal with you is a very real feeling that him and I share in that regard. Him being intersex and myself having autism. Our dads, as reprehensible as it is, also share a common trait… Are there any characters you felt particularly relatable with?
- J: I would definitely have to go with Michel as well.
- G: Yup, definitely Michel. Personality-wise, I am OH-SO-VERY Michel, and I found him almost painfully relatable at times, particularly with regards to his (sometimes comical) social awkwardness.
- K: I would have to go with Michel too.
L: As I mentioned in my OST review, Gao’s Cicio ended up being my favorite piece of the soundtrack. It was a huge tussle for me to choose between that and Yusuke Tsutsumi’s A Fleeting Fata Morgana, in the end. Did you have a favorite track?
- J: It’s a tough choice, but I think I’ll pick “Girlhood in Shambles.” I can’t get over that piano.
- G: It’s a very difficult choice between “Serie de Fragmento” (which has an absolutely phenomenal rendition in Requiem, I might add) and “Assento Dele.” I find myself coming back to the latter more than any song; its somber atmosphere just gives me goosebumps.
- K: Hmmm… Difficult choice, I would have to choose Venomous Angel, I just love the mix of Piano, Violin and Vocals. I am a fan of Opera and especially the violin so the OST was just a treat for me to listen to.
L: I noticed while looking at Twitter that Gerald is editing The House in Fata Morgana: A Requiem for Innocence. Are the three of you also working on that together, as well?
- J: Yep, it’s all the same team for Requiem.
- G: HYPE.
- K: *Thumbs Up*
L: Is there anything you can tell us and the MangaGamer fans out there about it so far? And also, if so, more interviews when it’s closer to release? 😀
- J: All I’ll say right now is this: Ceren. Look forward to her (and the rest of the game, I guess).
- G: And look forward to more despair and misery, but I mean, that’s a given. Perhaps it won’t all be doom and gloom, though…
L: It’s been one hell of a trip with Fata Morgana. At first, I didn’t think I’d like it at all. Honestly, the only reason I took it was because before I had a chance to even think no, I got a second email after the initial press release with a spoiler for the main character being intersex. (>.< to you, Kouryuu/John. THAT’S RIGHT, YOU ARE NOT ESCAPING THIS!) Since part of the story was already spoiled for me, I figured I’d go ahead and take it and, boy, do I not regret that decision. Even having known that little bit of story spoil beforehand did not really ruin the game, though it did take some surprise out of it. Nonetheless, there was a ton more surprises in store for me with Fata Morgana and I couldn’t be happier that I had the honor of reviewing the game and interviewing the staff twice. Any last words for the readers?
- G: I was actually in a similar boat with regards to said spoiler, in fact — Jeremy had played through the game before I did and it’s simply the nature of editing that you’re bound to get spoiled hard unless you can read through the game first (sadly, that’s often not possible). Even so, I don’t think the emotional impact was softened, because I was in constant anticipation of hints and reveals, and always anxious of how things would pan out.
But yeah, The House in Fata Morgana is genuinely one of my favorite VNs, and seeing reactions (particularly the overwhelmingly positive reception) brings warm and fuzzy feelings to my shriveled heart of stone. And I desire nothing more than Novectacle trampling said heart mercilessly again and again in the future, so if you enjoyed The House in Fata Morgana, by all means, be loud and proud about it — word of mouth is so important for a game like this! Can’t wait for you all to play Requiem.
- J: Well, if you’ve made it this far, chances are you’ve already read the game, so I hope you enjoyed it! And if you did, please share it with your friends! And your enemies. And everyone else you know, for that matter. It was a huge honor working on The House in Fata Morgana, and I’m really glad I had the opportunity to talk about it at such length. Spread the word, and I hope you’re excited for Requiem!
- K: Thanks for sticking with us, I hope you enjoyed The House in Fata Morgana please share it with others and if you haven’t read it yet please check it out! I loved working on this and hope you enjoy the next Installment A Requiem for Innocence!
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Thanks for reading this interview! I’m looking forward to A Requiem for Innocence a ton and maybe more interviews with MangaGamer staff in the future! Keep a lookout on both the Twitters of The Drastik Measure (@TDrastikMeasure) and We Touch Games (@WeTouchGames) for more reviews about games and things adjacent to them! This has been Lolinia, over and out.