Alexander O. Smith
Alexander O. Smith
|Born||February 8, 1973|
Vermont, United States
|Education||Bachelor of Arts, Dartmouth College/Keio University, 1995|
Master of Arts, Harvard University, 1998
|Vagrant Story, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Final Fantasy XII|
Alexander O. Smith (born February 8, 1973) is a professional English–Japanese translator and author. While his output covers many areas such as adaptation of Japanese novels, manga, song lyrics, anime scripts, and various academic works, he is best known for his software localizations of Japanese video games including Vagrant Story, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, and Final Fantasy XII. He currently resides in Kamakura, Japan, where he operates his own contract localization business, Kajiya Productions, and is co-founder of a translation and publishing company, Bento Books.
Born in Vermont, Smith first gained an interest in Japanese after attending an exchange program in northern China. He obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Japanese from Dartmouth College/Keio University in 1995, and a Master of Arts degree in Classical Japanese Literature from Harvard University in 1998. Just before graduation, he interned at Sega, during which he was asked to perform voice-over for Winter Heat. His first work in translation was as a subtitler for Japanese television dramas. Smith joined Square after earning his master's degree, working as part of Richard Honeywood's nascent localization team. On his first project, Final Fantasy VIII, he and the other translators were not given access to the game files; they were instead forced to hack in their new dialogue using GameSharks during testing. In 1999, he worked as the main English translator for Yasumi Matsuno's Vagrant Story. Reviewers noted the high quality of the English script, in which Smith utilized various archaic English idioms and slang that distinguished the game from its straightforward Japanese counterpart. His last major work as a Square employee was on Final Fantasy X, for which he was awarded "Best Localization" of 2001 by RPGamer.
Smith left Square in 2002 to found Kajiya Productions—a freelance translation and localization company—with Joseph Reeder, his co-translator on Final Fantasy XII, though he would continue to collaborate on Square and Square Enix titles. By working as a contractor, he found that he had better access to the development team to aid in his translation process, free from the fetters of corporate communication protocols. In 2005, during the protracted development of Final Fantasy XII, Capcom hired Smith to work on the localization of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. He found director Shu Takumi's writing to be very funny and clever, which drew him to the challenge of translating Takumi's jokes and wordplay. Smith joined the Final Fantasy XII project after Yasumi Matsuno, the original director, had left and was not able to collaborate on the script with him directly, unlike with Vagrant Story. Principal voice recording took place over eight weeks, with months of translation work both before and after that. Smith worked with Matsuno again on the 2011 PlayStation Portable remake of Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together, which received a brand new translation. In 2011, Smith co-founded a book translation and publishing company called Bento Books with his friend Tony Gonzalez and his Kajiya Productions partner Joseph Reeder. The company's first major work was Math Girls, a mathematics-themed young adult novel by Hiroshi Yuki.
In addition to translation, Smith has composed English lyrics for a number of Nobuo Uematsu's vocal tracks, including "Melodies of Life" from Final Fantasy IX, "Otherworld" from Final Fantasy X, and "Eternity" from Blue Dragon. He also arranged lyrics for "The Skies Above" and "Otherworld" on The Skies Above, the second album from Uematsu's band, The Black Mages, and performed the spoken word intro to "Maybe I'm a Lion" as well.
With his translations, Smith goes to great lengths to preserve the experience of the original text as much as possible, especially if it has a distinct feel. For The Devotion of Suspect X, he mirrored Higashino's "sparse, methodical tone of Japanese" by using more elevated and formal language. He draws on his academic background in classical Japanese literature to inform some of these translations. When it comes to the question of leaving Japan-specific terms untranslated, Smith is careful to either translate around it or provide a concise description of the term. He only resorts to leaving a word in Japanese in rare, plot-critical cases, such as with a kotatsu used as a murder weapon in The Devotion of Suspect X, stating "Nothing kills the flow of a text more than a long-winded explanation of something which would have come second nature to a reader of the original [Japanese]". For less "literary" mediums like manga and games, Smith feels more free to maximize the audience's enjoyment if a strict literal translation that adheres to the original sentence structure would impede that enjoyment.
Smith considers his treatment of Vagrant Story and Final Fantasy XII among his best translations. He looks to Vagrant Story as a title that demands to be in English and thought of his work as revealing the inner English game that always existed underneath. Smith was able to speak directly with Matsuno to improve the script translation, marking the first of their many collaborations. For Final Fantasy XII, his role entailed rebuilding the world to make sense for an English-speaking audience. He chose to portray the Archadian Imperials with a British accent to distinguish them from the American-accented Resistance members. For both of these titles, Smith relied on Matsuno's dense notes on the world's backstory to capture subtle and implied connections and preserve the rich texture of the game.
Smith compares translating lip synced dialogue to writing entirely in haiku. The 7% of Final Fantasy XII's script that was voiced took more time to translate than the remaining 93%. In his role as voice producer, Smith searched for character actors like John DiMaggio and British stage actors for the judges. He was pleased by the performance of Johnny McKeown, the child actor who portrayed Larsa, a precocious prince. Smith was able to rewrite the script based on the actors he had cast for each character. He also made a key change to one of the final lines of Final Fantasy X with scenario writer Kazushige Nojima's approval. In the original Japanese, the main character's love interest, Yuna, tells the main character "arigatō" just before he fades away. Although the word literally means "thank you", Smith chose to elaborate on the connotations of the word and the tone of the scene, settling on "I love you"—the first time the phrase has appeared in a Final Fantasy game.
|Winter Heat||1997||Sega Saturn||Cast & narration|
|Final Fantasy VIII||1999||PlayStation|
|Final Fantasy Anthology||1999||PlayStation||Translation support|
|Chocobo's Dungeon 2||1999||PlayStation|
|Front Mission 3||2000||PlayStation|
|The Misadventures of Tron Bonne||2000||PlayStation||Editor|
|Legend of Mana||2000||PlayStation||Special thanks|
|Parasite Eve II||2000||PlayStation|
|Final Fantasy IX||2000||PlayStation||Lyricist, "Melodies of Life"|
|Bloody Roar 3||2001||GameCube, PlayStation2, Xbox|
|Mega Man Battle Network||2001||Game Boy Advance|
|Final Fantasy X||2001||PlayStation 2||Also lyricist, "Otherworld"|
|Mega Man Battle Network 2||2002||Game Boy Advance|
|Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter||2003||PlayStation 2|
|Everblue 2||2003||PlayStation 2||Editor|
|Final Fantasy Tactics Advance||2003||Game Boy Advance|
|Final Fantasy XI||2003||Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 2, Xbox 360|
|Fire Emblem||2003||Game Boy Advance|
|Final Fantasy X-2||2003||PlayStation 2||Editor, US recording producer|
|Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles||2004||GameCube||Special thanks|
|Star Ocean: Till the End of Time||2004||PlayStation 2|
|Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney||2005||Nintendo DS|
|Final Fantasy XII||2006||PlayStation 2||Also US recording producer|
|Blue Dragon||2007||Xbox 360||Lyricist, "Eternity"|
|Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney||2008||Nintendo DS|
|Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift||2008||Nintendo DS|
|Valkyria Chronicles||2008||PlayStation 3||English ADR writer|
|Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games||2009||Wii, Nintendo DS|
|Gyromancer||2009||Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360||Also editor|
|Vanquish||2010||PlayStation 3, Xbox 360||Editor|
|Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together||2011||PlayStation Portable|
|Final Fantasy V||2011||PlayStation Network||Translation support|
|Rhythm Thief & the Emperor's Treasure||2012||Nintendo 3DS|
|Crimson Shroud||2012||Nintendo 3DS|
|Anarchy Reigns||2013||PlayStation 3, Xbox 360|
|The Wonderful 101||2013||Wii U|
|Final Fantasy XII The Zodiac Age||2017||PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows|
|428: Shibuya Scramble||2018||Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4||Editor|
|Guin Saga||2003–2008||Novel||Kaoru Kurimoto||Novel series; translated with Elye Alexander|
|Samurai Deeper Kyo||2004–2007||Manga||Akimine Kamijyo||Volumes 6–21; translated with Rich Amtower|
|Shaolin Sisters||2005||Manga||Narumi Kakinouchi||Volumes 1–5; translated with Rich Amtower|
|Dr. Slump||2005–2009||Manga||Akira Toriyama||Translated with Rich Amtower|
|Fullmetal Alchemist||2005–2007||Novel||Makoto Inoue||Light novel series; translated with Rich Amtower|
|The Twelve Kingdoms||2007–2010||Novel||Fuyumi Ono||Light novel series; translated with Elye Alexander|
|Brave Story||2007||Novel||Miyuki Miyabe|
|Muhyo & Roji's Bureau of Supernatural Investigation||2007–2010||Manga||Yoshiyuki Nishi|
|All You Need Is Kill||2009||Novel||Hiroshi Sakurazaka|
|The Summer of the Ubume||2009||Novel||Natsuhiko Kyogoku||Translated with Elye Alexander and Amanda Jun Katsurada|
|The Book of Heroes||2010||Novel||Miyuki Miyabe|
|The Devotion of Suspect X||2011||Novel||Keigo Higashino||Translated with Elye Alexander|
|Rocket Girls 2: The Last Planet||2011||Novel||Hōsuke Nojiri|
|ICO: Castle in the Mist||2011||Novel||Miyuki Miyabe|
|10 Billion Days & 100 Billion Nights||2011||Novel||Ryu Mitsuse||Translated with Elye Alexander|
|Salvation of a Saint||2012||Novel||Keigo Higashino|
|Journey Under the Midnight Sun||2015||Novel||Keigo Higashino|
|A Midsummer's Equation: a Detective Galileo novel||2016||Novel||Keigo Higashino|
- Sorted by year of English language release
- Credited as translator or localization specialist unless noted
- Localization of Square Enix video games
- Richard Honeywood – Smith's superior at Square's localization department
- Jeriaska (2007-04-27). "Localization Tactics: A Conversation with Alexander O. Smith". Square Haven. Archived from the original on 2013-02-12. Retrieved 2016-02-13.
- Smith, Alexander O. (2016). "Alexander O. Smith LinkedIn profile". LinkedIn. Retrieved 2016-02-13.
- MacDonald, Mark (2014-01-24). "8-4 Play 1/24/2014: CANDY has a CRUSH on SAGAt" (Podcast). 8-4 Play. Event occurs at 8:15–10:55. Archived from the original on 2016-04-02. Retrieved 2016-02-13.
- MacDonald, Mark (2014-01-24). "8-4 Play 1/24/2014: CANDY has a CRUSH on SAGAt" (Podcast). 8-4 Play. Event occurs at 47:15–48:15. Archived from the original on 2016-04-02. Retrieved 2016-02-13.
- Jeriaska (2011-11-16). "Interview: Kajiya Productions on Translating Final Fantasy". Gamasutra. Archived from the original on 2013-02-12. Retrieved 2016-02-13.
- Zdyrko, David (2000-05-22). "Vagrant Story". IGN. Archived from the original on 2016-05-28. Retrieved 2007-05-08.
- Vestahl, Andrew (2000). "Vagrant Story Game Review". GIA.com. Archived from the original on 2007-06-27. Retrieved 2007-05-02.
- RPGamer staff (2011). "RPGamer Awards 2001: Best Localization". RPGamer. Archived from the original on 2016-02-22. Retrieved 2016-02-13.
- Dibbell, Jeremy (2011). "Alexander O. Smith: LibraryThing Author Interview". LibraryThing. Archived from the original on 2016-02-16. Retrieved 2016-02-13.
- Mackey, Bob (2015-06-23). "Expert Witness: An Interview with Alex Smith, the Writer Behind Ace Attorney's English Debut". USgamer. Archived from the original on 2015-09-05. Retrieved 2016-02-13.
- Learned, John (2015-10-12). "A Voice for Ivalice: The Localization and Voice Acting of Final Fantasy XII". USgamer. Archived from the original on 2016-04-08. Retrieved 2016-02-13.
- Ward, Dave (2011-11-08). "Alexander O. Smith Interview". RPG Site. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2016-02-13.
- Tong, Sophia (2009-09-07). "Final Fantasy XII vets talk game localization". GameSpot. Archived from the original on 2014-06-11. Retrieved 2016-02-13.
- Klepek, Patrick (2015-12-14). "From Japan, With Changes: The Endless Debate Over Video Game 'Censorship'". Kotaku. Gawker Media. Archived from the original on 2016-02-16. Retrieved 2016-02-13.
- Smith, Alexander O. (2001). "The Last Word". すばる [Subaru] (12): 36–37.
- Kajiya Productions [@kajipro] (8 June 2016). "We're happy to announce that @aokajiya and @josephreeder are working on Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age! #ff12 #FINALFANTASY" (Tweet) – via Twitter.