Recently, I had the opportunity to interview a localizer for the YO-KAI WATCH franchise in Greece. The YO-KAI WATCH anime airs on Nickelodeon in Greece and he has finished dubbing the first season of the anime in Greek. It is always very interesting to see how localization happens for other countries, cultures, and in different languages. The process rarely gets talked about, and we thought this interview would help fans to see how it all works.
Dimitris Sarlos: I’m the Greek voice actor for Nate Adams and also the translator for the anime series Yo-Kai Watch for Greece. I have worked as a voice actor and translator for 3 years now, and I’ve worked on many Walt Disney and Nickelodeon franchises as Voice Actor and translator as well. Zootopia, Legend of Korra, Lego Star Wars: The Freemaker Adventures, Ratchet and Clank, Packages from Planet X, and My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic to name a few.
Q1: How did you get the job as a voice actor for Nate Adams AND get the job as the translator for the Greek version of YO-KAI WATCH franchise?
A: Well, it’s a funny story. I was at one of the recording studios that I work with, and I was talking with the CEO about this new TV-series “phenomenon” that is similar in popularity with Pokemon, but it isn’t like Pokemon at all. I was aware of the popularity of the series and somehow I knew that it will “hit” Greece’s doorbell soon. I said “If it ever gets here, I must do the translation! It needs special treatment and only an anime fan can understand that”.
After six months I received a phone call from the same CEO. “The series that you were talking about is called Yo-kai Watch, right? Get ready, because we have a lot to do.” Of course I was very happy. I did the translation first, and the Voice Tests (auditions) came later.
Hasbro and Nickelodeon asked for some people to audition as Nate and the other main characters. I was first cast to voice Eddie Archer and Nate’s Dad, and after that I tried to voice Nate… That was it! They picked me for Nate’s role, and I’m very happy for that because the other voice actors were close enough too!
Q2: In translating/localizing, what parts of the franchise do you localize specifically? (such as the manga, games, anime, commercials, etc.)
A: Only the anime series is available here in Greece, for now. The commercials were handled by another company, but I provided my voice for the commercials as well. I hope if the manga gets here, I will have a say for the final product. I’ve never translated a comic or manga. I think it will be interesting.
Q3: How did your experience with translating the first season of the YO-KAI WATCH anime go? Was it fun?
A: I was very anxious at first, but after the first 5 episodes the process came out naturally. It was really fun! I liked the humor most of the times, it matches mine on many occasions, so I didn’t have difficulties on the “joke localization” part. I think it was clever that they included 3-4 sub-stories along with Nate’s.
Q4: How did you go about choosing the Greek voice actors for YO-KAI WATCH? Did want to retain similar voices to the Japanese or English voices?
A: All the main characters were decided by Hasbro/Nickelodeon. All those characters were chosen according to the English dub of the series. After that, I was asked to assign the other roles to the cast because I was already familiar with the characters, and which character talks with whom, that way it will be rare for a voice actor to give his/her voice to two characters at the same scene.
Most of the times, I felt that the English voices matched better for some reason, I guess it’s what do you expect to hear when you see an animated character. For example, Cadin, he has a sword, in the English Dub he has a woman’s voice and in the Japanese he has a man’s voice. I followed the Japanese there due to the fact that he looked more like a man than a woman. But I think that was the only occasion.
Also, there are many times that “Whisper’s voice” voiced minor characters in the show (I picked Whisper because he has a very unique voice and it’s easily recognized). Well we didn’t do that here, because we wanted to keep that voice unique, recognizable. I think those are the only instances that we chose a different direction from the English dub.
Q5: Are you translating from English to Greek or Japanese to Greek?
A: I translate mostly from the English script. But because I know how anime fans treats the dubs, I always check alongside the Japanese script too, because I can understand when the English dub took their translation-liberties. I used them both as I feel like, whatever suits the situation better etc.
For example the episode with the Tengu, I followed the Japanese Whisper’s explanation, because I thought It was the proper way to treat another country’s folklore. Even if it’s a comedy anime, I respect the Japanese myths and folklore. It’s the same way that I want the other countries to treat our Greek Mythology (even if most of the times, they don’t). Also in the same episode, after Whisper felt Tenglooms wind, he accepted the fact that he doesn’t know anything even if he calls himself a Yo-kai Butler. That was changed in the English dub, I didn’t find a reason to that, so I kept the Japanese line. It was funnier too!
Q6: How do you decide what things need to be localized and what not to localize?
A: Well we didn’t have much time to localize the Yo-kai Names or the names of the characters, but we did have a small opportunity. But as I said, we didn’t have much time and I didn’t know how the name changes will affect the future production of the series. Also, the kids in Greece are accustomed to English, we learn English at school, so it’s not that strange to hear English names on Cartoon series etc. That’s why we stuck with the English localized names. The only change that I did, was the Next HarMeowny, obviously taken from the girl band Fifth Harmony, for Greece they are the Hi-meow, from an old greek girl band named Hi-5. Springdale is still Springdale, but when Eddie was inspirited by Chatalie, I changed “President of America” to “President of Springdale”. Springdale can be anywhere in the world, I didn’t want to be specific on that. Especially when most of the scenery sometimes involves Japanese stuff like the temples etc.
Q7: What’s the most difficult challenges of the translation process for you?
A: The lip synch was quite a challenge at many times. Because of the liberties that the English dub took, I had to figure some better way to adapt the script while maintaining the meaning of the line. The production companies here are MAD about the lip synch, the actor must talk for the same duration as the animated character.
Also, another thing that was kinda difficult was when the Yo-kai names had catchphrases according to their name. We couldn’t leave Noway to say “No way!” in English, or how to adapt the catchphrases of the Nosirs. I had to come up with different lines maintaining the character of the specific Yo-kai without alienating the fans of the series.
Q8: What were your favorite moments when it came to localizing YO-KAI WATCH?
A: Hmm… That’s a tough question. Well I love translating, but I love voice acting more. So I will speak for both fields.
Translating: I’m happy when I localize a joke and it’s genuinely funny in Greek too. It’s a very difficult task. Different cultures etc. Also I like it when I add funny slang words (when I’m allowed to do so). They make the series sound cool and true to the world that we live now. (Most of the translators don’t use slang phrases on cartoons here.)
Voice Acting: Pretty much every time was my favorite moment! I loved the episode with Cheeksqueek (sadly it didn’t air here due to the fact Cheeksqueek is basically an…um…bottom?) It was so funny. Also I loved the episode with the Yo-Kai Gargaros. I like also the running gag that Whisper doesn’t know anything and Nate/Jibanyan always comments on that.
Q9: How has YO-KAI WATCH been performing in Greece as a result of your localization efforts?
A: I was informed that the TV-series is going exceptionally good! The toys are selling well, and the Christmas season is around the corner. I guess that will decide the future of the series too.
At first, I was at a loss! I received many excel files with all the info that I will need: bio of the main characters and their classmates, Yo-kai names etc. Everything! Both in English and Japanese among other languages. I realized then how much they worked on the English localized names, as there was always a good reason for the changes. (I guess those are the files of the game’s localization that applies for the anime too.)
I felt the pressure of the company, “Yo-kai Watch must be a successful franchise here too”! They never said that to me, but that was the feeling that I had when I started the translation. I thought that if I translated something the wrong way it may put off some fans, or some people new to the series. So I had to be extra careful. I picked every tribe name in Greek carefully, I wrote the summoning lyrics as good as it gets.
The songs were important to me since they play every time, and that’s what you remember when it’s summoning time! But I guess everything went OK and the series is quite popular! I was glad when I heard one day, two kids say “Let’s go home to watch Jibanyan!”. It felt good to know that the kids like the show. Kids are a very difficult audience, they don’t have patience, so if they like it you’ve done something really good!
Q10: Is there anything else you would like to say?
A: I want to thank you for the opportunity that you gave me to talk about the Greek version of the series! As a fan of Yo-kai watch (and many other franchises) I always check the “multi-language” videos that fans make on YouTube to see how the series is treated in other countries. It’s a nice way to see the reactions of the fans around the world.
As for the Yo-kai Watch, I hope to see it grow bigger in the West too. It’s a fun series. It’s not a coincidence that Digimon Universe: Applimonsters and Pokemon Sun & Moon anime series have features inspired from Yo-Kai Watch.
Ευχαριστώ πάρα πολύ (“Thank you very much” in Greek)! I can’t wait for the season 2 of the anime!
Q11: What did you do before becoming a voice actor for Nate and becoming a translator?
A: Four years ago that I wasn’t officially dubbing in the industry, I was studying Tourism Business and Management at the National Technical University of Athens, and spending my time making YouTube videos [such as fan-dubs and various videos with information about the latest games for Naruto Storm series and Digimon games], and writing reviews about video games on various Greek video gaming sites.
One of the things that I loved the most, and I still love, is fan-dubbing. But unfortunately, I don’t have enough free time to do them. Now on my YouTube channel you will find mostly official works. Fan-dubbing made me the person who I am today, and I never forget it. All that started from my huge love for the Greek dubs.
Disney movies, TV-series, you name it! The fan-dubbing scene was small back then. And when I and some other YouTubers officially found their place on the dubbing industry, there were many people that wanted to do fan-dubs. I don’t say that we were pioneers or something like that.
We worked hard and we work now even harder! But maybe we inspired them to do fan-dubs! And that’s great! Because I was inspired by the voice actors that I still admire, and I’m very happy that I got to work with some of them officially.
If you check my YouTube channel, you will understand immediately that I love the Digimon franchise so much! I saw that Johnny Yong Bosch, Nate’s English voice, that he voiced T.K. (Takeru) on the latest Digimon Adventure Tri. movie. T.K. is my favorite character from the Digimon Adventure series… I just hope to voice T.K. as well.
Q12: What is about YO-KAI WATCH that makes you love it so much?
A: It’s a nice comedy anime. You don’t laugh out loud, but you can spend your time watching it and enjoy every bit of it, without judging the scenario or anything else. I love also the Yo-Kai with their unique personalities, how they interact with Nate, and the consequences after the Yo-kai have caused. Also, the fact that I worked on that project helped a lot! I knew about the series, and I just liked it. The love came after I voiced Nate and translate the whole first season!
Also, I love the series so much because it’s so relaxing. I come home at night after an exhausting day, and when I watch an episode, and all the stress is gone! Magical!
I hope you enjoyed this interview! I thank Dimitris for the opportunity to interview him! <3