al|together 2008 “CROSS THE RUBICON” Closing Statement
“When the stars cried out in their infinite space
Were you there in the crowd? Did you dare hide your face
When hysterical masses made light of your plans?
Rise and show me the work of your hands.”
- Frontispiece, al|together 2008
Six days. Six translations.
Yes, It's been an incredible festival season.
When I launched al|together in 2005, I had no idea what the response would be, or indeed how many translations it would generate. I also had no idea how much work it would take to put a festival like this together. Three years and three festival seasons (2005, 2006, 2008) later, I can proudly say that every year has been better than the last — and that this year was the best-executed al|together to date.
Three years. That's a long time. Back then, I was a medical student just finishing off his education in one of the most traditional medical schools in the land. Now I'm a resident physician with significantly less time on my hands — 100-hour weeks are not so uncommon in my profession. Edward Keyes, too, has gone from being a graduate student to an employee at one of the most exciting technology companies in the world. And those of you in the audience — some of you who were college freshman are now getting ready to graduate; some of you who were working one job are working another; some of you who were just beginning to learn a foreign language have attained some level of mastery of it by now; and the list goes on and on. Three years. Yes, that's a long time.
Yes, it's been an incredible festival season.
To lead things off, Chris St. Louis gave us a nice appetizer of a piece: From the Bottom of the Heart by Persian Blue. It was pleasant to work with him, and I can definitely say that we both learned something from the experience. The resultant localization isn't half-bad, too!
Then along came Crimsoness by Porn as translated by Edward Keyes and yours truly, a ferocious piece that kept us all in stitches. Our conversations with the original creator were full of light and laughter — and I think we all benefited from the encounter. Every single time we get an incoherent fan e-mail about this piece, we translate it and send it off to Porn ... who often responds with incoherent laughter of his own. And I think that might be the proper response. For both sides.
The palate cleanser after that came in the form of The Letter, a gentle, simple story told by P.o.l.c. and translated by yours truly. Some people laughed, some people cried, some people just shrugged, some people shook their heads; we've seen a wide spectrum of responses. The thing that attracted me to this piece to begin with, though, was the minimal nature of the production values. No custom art, no custom music, no custom anything — and still P.o.l.c. managed to create a package that was truly more than the sum of its parts. That, I think, is something that can — and should — be celebrated.
Then came the stunning Moonshine, beautifully realized by Sakura Mint and ably translated by one of my favorite community translators, AstCd2. This was a daring piece — tangling with issues and taboos that mainstream Japan still tries to hide away. I was therefore truly happy and grateful to be able to present it as the centerpiece of the 2008 festival season.
After that, the next course was the meaty May Sky by Scrubbing, competently translated by Irene Ying. Of all the pieces presented at this festival, this one was the longest — and took the most work to get to release. Irene and I both learned a lot during the localization process of this piece, and the assistance of Scrubbing proved to be invaluable. Despite the relatively simple nature of the overarching story, and despite the "slow" plot development, this is a piece of surprising depth and clarity. Look deeper, and you'll see so many overarching threads in the darkness ... but only if you want to. Otherwise, one can always take this work at face value — as a lighthearted, open-ended story of a romance between a young salaryman and an outrageously indifferent shrine maiden.
Finally, for dessert, we had LEAVEs by BEKKO.NET, a truly adult tale in all senses of the word. It is a fitting bookend, I think, for this festival season: for this piece that had been attempted in both 2005 and 2006, with no results. Now, in 2008, we finally write an end to this saga; we could not — and still cannot — think of a more fitting way to have ended this festival.
Yes, it's been an incredible festival season.
I would like to thank all the participants of al|together 2008 "CROSS THE RUBICON" for their hard work and their dedication throughout this entire process. I would like to thank all the original creators for trusting us enough to put the grave responsibility of properly localizing their precious pieces in our hands. I would like to thank the people who contacted me, asking me politely if an al|together would ever happen this year — your voices were heard. I gave you my word. And finally, I would like to thank the future participants of al|together 2009 — for it will happen.
Yes, let us say together. Yes, it's been an incredible festival season.
3 December 2008
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