Tim Rogers spent 800 hours over the course of two years replaying Final Fantasy VII sixteen times in both English and Japanese. This eleven-part series excavates, examines, and explains dozens of tiny nuanced differences between the game's first English translation and its original Japanese script. This is not a "retranslation." It is a slow translation: our narrator allows the relatively terse Japanese language to blossom into English words that could not technologically have fit into the game's text boxes in 1997. By focusing with (extreme) intensity on one video game, our narrator seeks to prove the hypothesis that the only "perfect" translation is a slow, personal one.
In which our narrator tempts curiosity by beginning concurrent games of Final Fantasy VII in both English and Japanese. He promptly discovers that the translator missed a barn-side-sized opportunity to punch up the very first line of the game. Thus the obsession began. Seriously: this was supposed to be the only video.
In which Cloud meets Aeris, whose tragic death halfway through the game shocked millions of players in 1997. We investigate her princessly English nature's Japanese roots, and discover her original dialogue to be far wittier in comparison. Also, we examine the most famous typo in Final Fantasy VII ("This guy are sick.") Spoiler: it turns out it's not as interesting as literally anything else we've been talking about.
Cloud and Aeris, to save Tifa, must assemble dressmaking materials so as to disguise Cloud as a woman so as to infiltrate a crime lord's mansion. This is the famous scene set in the seedy "Wall Market" red light district. We unearth remarkable differences between the presentation of gay men in both versions of the game. Also, a man calls Aeris a "heifer" in English, so we dig a deep hole in the original Japanese.
Our band of eco-activists invades the headquarters of the evil Shinra corporation. Cloud's longtime rival Sephiroth appears with murderous intent. We escape the city and listen to Cloud tell the story of one day, five years ago. One missed name results in our narrator speculating that the translator had, as of 1997, never eaten at a Pizza Hut. We learn that Japanese Aeris has a nickname for Cloud which is never translated into English.
Our friends chase Sephiroth across the width of the earth. We participate in a military parade. We spotlight several examples of the translator, finally, having some fun and being himself. Barret wears a sailor suit as a disguise aboard a navy vessel. We dive deep into the translation of Cloud's description of said sailor suit.
Our friends continue chasing Sephiroth. We learn how to say "All that's left for me is to just live in this hole all day" in Japanese. Our narrator begins to lose the thread. We learn about a friend of his who had trouble describing other people. One particularly perplexing English line results in the narrator speculating that the translator had dry eyes and translated the entire game up to this point without sleep, a hypothesis for which he continues to unearth possible evidence in future episodes.
We chase Sephiroth into an amusement park, where we learn about Japanese name suffixes, Japanese Aeris's emotional intelligence relative to Tifa's, our narrator's ex-fiancée, and Barret's tragic past. We discover that the Japanese script explains the nature of Barret's right arm amputation with more clarity than the English translation.
In the town of Cosmo Canyon, we learn that sagely talking animal Red XIII is in fact an immature child, because he is forty years old and his race lives to be thousands of years old. Our narrator thereupon questions the point of superhuman intelligence. We learn about Japanese first-person name pronouns and the doomed astronomy of Final Fantasy VII's solar system. Via the power of memory, we introduce the narrator's college dorm neighbor, whose presence puts the climax of our story in sight.
We befriend a vampire, meet a washed-up astronaut named Cid, clash with the evil Shinra corporation, and then get locked into an amusement park wherein, based on our choices so far in the game, Cloud goes on a date with one of four possible characters. So of course we look at all four of them in this, our longest, densest episode yet. It turns out Aeris's dialogue during her date with Cloud is magnitudes more magical in Japanese than in English. We conclude that the translator didn't like Aeris. We also meet the narrator's bandmates in Saitama, Japan, circa 2002.
After an eight-month hiatus, the series returns for its feature-length final episode, for which the narrator has learned to properly edit videos and use Photoshop well enough to put "Photoshop" on his resume. Expecting to end the series after a brief examination of the death scene of Aeris, we instead discover a massive translation mistake that might have been responsible for millions of English-speakers' misconceptions regarding the climax of the plot. The first part ends on a cliffhanger.
Our two-part, feature-length final episode ends with a deep investigation of what our narrator believes is the most important dialogue in the game. We conclude that the translator has not slept in many days, and point to many signs of the translation's unraveling. We root deep in the dumpster of what our narrator calls The Worst-Placed Typo In Japanese Video Game English Translation History. We witness the death of Aeris. An extended epilogue follows. (Coming 19 April 2019.)