Judging from the comments, people are in an uproar about how I never do any “real” updates. I now see the error of my ways. Clearly, the problem was that I was previously including too many pictures and videos. Going forward, I will do my best to provide “real” updates in the form of long, boring reams of text. I seem to have gotten a lot of questions about names recently, so I guess I will discuss that. Those of you that will find this tl;dr may want to just stop now. Those of you that just look for pretty pictures and videos and ignore any and all text (and I know a lot of you are out there) will also want to quit now, because as I said, this post will be long and boring and will contain neither pictures nor video.
Basically, Tales of Hearts is a game with a lot of deep meaning behind each and every carefully-chosen name. Okay, not really. They just kind of threw a lot of mineral, fairy tale, and plant names all over the place and called it a day. I could discuss all of these, but I think the names that people tend to ask the most about are of three of the main characters — Xing, Hisui, and Kohaku.
“But his name is Shing! It says so on the official website!” you say. The official Engrish on the website is meaningless to me. If it works well, then sure, I’ll go with it. If not, though, I won’t. And it doesn’t really work well. The words a name like “Shing” brings to mind are not exactly positive, making it a very undesirable name to speakers of the English language. Xing, on the other hand, is pronounced the same and readily brings to mind another theme that Xing is heavily associated with — stars. Xing (星) means “star” in Chinese, and that same character is repeated throughout Xing’s Artes and titles. And I mean c’mon, his last name is Meteoryte.
It can also mean “heart” (心), and this is the meaning that the Tales of Hearts developers were supposedly going for, according to their blog. In line with the Heart theme, they wanted to make the main character a young man whose heart is like a blank slate. And so because he is endowed with a heart (心を具えている/kokoro o sonaete iru), they named him Shing (心具/shingu). I am not sure this explanation really makes any sense. Also, incidentally, this makes him the only character not named after a mineral. Which is a bit odd, since his mother and grandfather are both named after minerals, and he would be too if we were going with the Xing spelling. This, combined with the fact that Shing was originally a placeholder name that was intended to be eventually replaced with something else, which never happened since the dev team ran out of time and was too attached to the temporary names to make a real decision, makes me not really put a lot of stock in their official Engrish spelling, “Shing”.
tl;dr Some people, who shall go unnamed, argue that he should be called Shing because it represents the supposed 心具 meaning (?) better (?) than Xing does. I argue that I’d rather not have a main character named similarly to herpes. I think I win. My apologies to the Japanese dev team.
This one is probably the most straightforward of the bunch. Keeping in line with the mineral naming theme, Hisui means “jade” in Japanese. (He also is wind-element and has a green color scheme; imagine that!) So the question is, should his name be translated into English? Keep in mind that, other than characters who are from ninja villages based on Japan, Tales has never used Japanese names before. Hisui is not from a ninja village that is based on Japan, and his name means something that is relevant to the naming theme. The Japanese audience would recognize this and appreciate the masterful artistry that went into naming the characters (or more likely, groan at the cheesiness of it all). Therefore, it makes sense to rename him Jade — oops, we already have a Tales character by that name! Jaden it is.
However! Being a fantranslator, I am somewhat hesitant to completely rename a character. The audio is still Japanese, and if someone yells “Hisui!” and you read “Jaden!”, it’s slightly disconcerting. As I noted in the readme for the Demo patch release, if I were working on an official Bamco localization project for this game instead of a mere fantranslation, I would probably go with Jaden (or at least seriously consider it). As it stands, however, I kind of want to stick with Hisui.
The same arguments regarding translation apply to her; her name means “amber” in Japanese. I would totally rename her “Amber” if this weren’t a fantranslation. Since it is, though, I’m sticking with Kohaku.
“But wait, the official site says she’s Kohak!” you say. To that, I say psh and hogwash. Kohak is not a Japanese name; Kohaku is. More importantly, Kohak sounds stupid. If you listen to the audio, there is an “oo” sound at the end of her name. This is properly reflected in “Kohaku”. “Kohak”, on the other hand, does not reflect this, and further, sounds completely non-feminine. “Co-hack”? “Cough, hack”, perhaps? Or maybe more charitably, “Ko-hawk”? It would be a cool name for like, a muscled but lithe jungle native character who leaps from tree to tree and shoots bears with his bow and arrow in an exciting action-adventure game. Maybe even for a rough-and-tough female character along the same lines. Not so much for a cute young lady with an unpossible frilly leotard outfit and mage baton. (Note to Bamco: plz make the aforementioned game with aforementioned female main character)
While we’re at it, let’s discuss Artes. Artes require considerable attention and care because they tend to be interrelated with other Artes in many ways. As the series continues to add new Artes left and right, it is important to at least TRY to maintain some consistency and adopt names that suggest relationships between related Artes and do not suggest relationships between unrelated Artes. This will maintain some level of coherent mapping between the Japanese Arte naming system and the English Arte naming system. I am by no means an expert on this, but I’d like to share some Artes and the relationships they have, using Kohaku as an example:
Kohaku does a three-kick aerial combo.
My Localized Name: Dancing Gale
This one is relatively easy. It is clearly related to the Hienrenkyaku/飛燕連脚/Swallow Dance series of Artes. Additionally, there’s Shippuusen/疾風閃/Shining Gale. Hence, Dancing Gale. Admittedly it’s unclear whether Shippuukyaku and Shippuusen are really meant to be related or not, but ehh.
Kohaku does a six-kick aerial combo, similar to Shippuukyaku.
My Localized Name: Tornado Dance
This Arte is obviously related to Shippuukyaku by means of effect, similar to how Stahn’s Kuuga Shouryuukyaku/空牙昇竜脚 is related to Hienrenkyaku. Which is called… Dragon Toss, in English… ugh. This name dates back to Tales of Destiny for the PSX, which is somewhat of an unreliable source of decent Arte naming. I believe the ToDR translation project is planning on calling it Wyvern Dance. Anyway, the point is that the parallels are obvious, and if there were any good way of taking into account, it should be done. There really isn’t, though, so I just went with whatever sounds cool and refers to tornados/hurricanes/storms/whatever. Oh well.
Kohaku jumps up and back and throws a ring of flames roughly where she was standing.
My Localized Name: Pyre Ring
So, this one is based on Hell Pyre/紅蓮剣/Gurenken. Except instead of a sword, she does it with her baton thing. She has a previous Arte, Kasenrin/火旋輪, for which I went with Flame Ring. Hence, Pyre Ring. The “kou”/皇 kanji might come from Stahn’s Kouou Tenshouyoku or somewhere else, or it might just kinda randomly be thrown in there. Oh well.
Hopefully you get the idea. There are previous Artes that newer Artes are clearly related to, some that they’re not too clearly related to, some they’re related to but you can’t really figure out a good way to show that relation without making the name sound like Hurricane Fang Leg Ascending through the Rooftops at Dawn or something, and so forth. It’s very complicated.
Well, chances are few of you are still awake at this point, so I’ll stop here. I hope this post provided some insight as to how and why some things are named the way they (currently) are. Some of this might even be moot, now that I think about it, since I believe Kohaku shows up in Tales of Graces, which is due to be stateside sometime in the coming months/years. I guess I can just crib off their names once it comes out! Unless they go with Kohak.