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PartridgeSenpai
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Worse Than Nothing: A Critique of Gender in Japanese FFV

by PartridgeSenpai Wed Nov 20, 2019 8:16 am

I wrote this essay a few months back not long after I finished FFV on the Super Famicom (well, technically on the Wii U's Virtual Console, but whatever :b). Ack convinced me to finally share it here, and not just with a few folks on the Slack like I did originally, so here it is~.

This essay is about the Japanese version of the game, and the English localization changes a LOT, especially in regards to Faris and their gender. I'm barely familiar with any English version of the game, so that's not really a discussion I can entertain here, and it's not what the essay is about either. I held off sharing this outside of a few friends and those who expressed interest in reading it in the Slack channel because almost no one else on here has played the game in Japanese, so I figured it wasn't really something that people could discuss directly, they could only discuss it tangentially via the English version.

That disclaimer out of the way, I hope the concept of my essay is interesting enough, even though it's something difficult to engage with directly because of language barrier issues ^^;

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Re: Worse Than Nothing: A Critique of Gender in Japanese FFV

by dsheinem Wed Nov 20, 2019 10:07 am

PartridgeSenpai wrote:I wrote this essay a few months back not long after I finished FFV on the Super Famicom (well, technically on the Wii U's Virtual Console, but whatever :b). Ack convinced me to finally share it here, and not just with a few folks on the Slack like I did originally, so here it is~.

This essay is about the Japanese version of the game, and the English localization changes a LOT, especially in regards to Faris and their gender. I'm barely familiar with any English version of the game, so that's not really a discussion I can entertain here, and it's not what the essay is about either. I held off sharing this outside of a few friends and those who expressed interest in reading it in the Slack channel because almost no one else on here has played the game in Japanese, so I figured it wasn't really something that people could discuss directly, they could only discuss it tangentially via the English version.

That disclaimer out of the way, I hope the concept of my essay is interesting enough, even though it's something difficult to engage with directly because of language barrier issues ^^;

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I will certainly give it a read in the near future...can you give some context about why you wrote it (e.g. perhaps for a class, with aims to publish somewhere, etc.)?
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Re: Worse Than Nothing: A Critique of Gender in Japanese FFV

by samsonlonghair Wed Nov 20, 2019 12:53 pm

Well written, Partridge.
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Re: Worse Than Nothing: A Critique of Gender in Japanese FFV

by PartridgeSenpai Wed Nov 20, 2019 5:31 pm

samsonlonghair wrote:Well written, Partridge.


Thanks! ^w^

dsheinem wrote:I will certainly give it a read in the near future...can you give some context about why you wrote it (e.g. perhaps for a class, with aims to publish somewhere, etc.)?


I wrote it because I wanted to. I have a fair amount of down time at work where I'm mostly just supposed to be available or planning for my next classes, but I don't always have classes to plan for, so I'll just write about concepts I'm toying with to pass the time and help me digest my thoughts. I've had several more essay ideas since then sometimes make it as far as transcription into a Google Doc and even then to more revisions, but none have made it off the vine in a state I'm comfortable with sharing than this one. I talked about it on Slack a fair bit and asked if anyone would be interested in reading something longer-form about it and several people did, so the only place I ever intended to "publish" this was on my Weebly to share with a few folks at RB.

There's a thing that happens really early on in FFV that struck me as fairly problematic in regards to how Faris is presented to the player, so I had my eye out for it the rest of the time I was playing and it irritated me more and more to the point a full-blown essay came out of it. :lol:
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Re: Worse Than Nothing: A Critique of Gender in Japanese FFV

by PresidentLeever Thu Nov 21, 2019 9:24 am

Being able to respond properly kind of hinges on the fan translation being accurate for me and it seems you haven't played it.
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Re: Worse Than Nothing: A Critique of Gender in Japanese FFV

by Ack Thu Nov 21, 2019 10:40 am

PresidentLeever wrote:Being able to respond properly kind of hinges on the fan translation being accurate for me and it seems you haven't played it.


I'm actually not sure any fan translation would help fully understand the issue, since it relies on specific gendered words and Japanese social constructs. In truth, while I recall many of the scenes mentioned, their implications in English are sometimes lost due to the differences in our languages.
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Re: Worse Than Nothing: A Critique of Gender in Japanese FFV

by PartridgeSenpai Thu Nov 21, 2019 10:43 am

Ack wrote:
PresidentLeever wrote:Being able to respond properly kind of hinges on the fan translation being accurate for me and it seems you haven't played it.


I'm actually not sure any fan translation would help fully understand the issue, since it relies on specific gendered words and Japanese social constructs. In truth, while I recall many of the scenes mentioned, their implications in English are sometimes lost due to the differences in our languages.


I have not played the fan translation, but Ack has things totally correct. A translation is a different text, even if it's theoretically "closer" to the original than the localization. Especially things like a more masculine speaking style or using explicitly masculine pronouns, like Faris does in Japanese, is something there just isn't a way to communicate in English in remotely the same way. Judging the original Japanese against any English translation has the same issues as comparing it to the official original English localization, in that regard.
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Re: Worse Than Nothing: A Critique of Gender in Japanese FFV

by PresidentLeever Thu Nov 21, 2019 4:30 pm

Ok, gotcha. I can't say there was anything making me think there was more to her/them than "tomboy" behavior when I played the fan translation, but it's been years now and I guess some nuance got lost. Would be cool to get confirmation from the devs on it.

Are you a native speaker yourself?
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Re: Worse Than Nothing: A Critique of Gender in Japanese FFV

by pierrot Thu Nov 21, 2019 11:02 pm

Ugh, I was working on a post, but I accidentally hit the back button, and the auto-logout trashed it.

I can't write it all again, so just a couple things:

- There are actually some dialects where women of all ages default to 'ore,' and at least one dialect (as well as a few situations) where a man could use 'atashi,' and not be made fun of. In a number of dialects, older women start to use 'washi,' like older men do. Personal pronouns don't necessarily dictate what gender a person identifies as. It can be more about a sense of masculinity/femininity or formality/informality in one's station. I'd known some women in Tokyo who would use 'boku,' a lot of the time. (It was my kryptonite).

- I don't know that I totally agree with the premise. I think if you wanted to make the argument that Faris is transgendered, it would come with the implication that she wasn't born that way, but was indoctrinated into it. She didn't really have a problem with her gender until a group of men essentially told her that she couldn't be a leader of pirates without acting more like they do. It's a problematic character either way, I just see Faris' masculinity as more of a firewall, and not really indicative of her gender.

- It's been a few years since I played FFV, so I skimmed through a video of the Necrophobia battle to be sure, but Gilgamesh doesn't really indicate that he has feelings for Faris. He says「恋でもして ちったあ 女らしくなりな」 ('find love and become a little ladylike'). Also her muteness is the same reaction Rena has to Gilgamesh telling her 「いつまでも どうぶつをいたわる やさしさをわすれるな」 ('Never lose your kindness, and never stop looking after the animals'), which is basically to say that he's just a big, dumb, KY, idiot, and that's their tacit tsukomi to that boke.

It's an interesting read. I just don't think I agree with the suggestion that displaying certain traits or characteristics that are typically associated with a specific gender necessitates being that gender.
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Re: Worse Than Nothing: A Critique of Gender in Japanese FFV

by dsheinem Thu Nov 21, 2019 11:16 pm

After reading the critique I think that the main takeaway is, for PS, that the “intent” by the creators doesn’t really matter near as much as the “impact” of their narrative/dialog choices for certain audiences. In other words, there are enough collective signals provided in the game to make this interpretation one that at least some players will walk away from the game with. This makes it worth dissecting.

To support this, you can certainly find lots of evidence online that the character has been taken up as or otherwise referenced and understood to be a transgender character by especially modern audiences. If you can understand that, then it is certainly reasonable to see how PS and other players might read Faris as an early example of a transgender character in gaming that is subject to a series of microagressions that are grounded in some pretty shitty stereotypes that are tied to (especially Japanese) constructions of that gender identity. It also tracks that this has consequences for subsequent portrayals of transgender identity in the medium.

I thought it was an interesting read, so thanks for sharing.
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