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Lost in Translation: Revolutions and Revelations

Posted Apr 8th, 2015 by loki

Rurouni Kenshin has a very special place in my heart. It is the first anime I ever watched from beginning to end. The first anime I watched in Japanese. The first Japanese story that truly and wholly captured my heart. It would be no stretch of the imagination to say that I owe my current passion for translation and the Japanese language to the world of anime and manga that Rurouni Kenshin introduced me to.

So when I found out last year that a new Rurouni Kenshin one-shot was being written to commemorate the release of the second and third live action films, I jumped at the chance to translate it. This is that one-shot. It's taken me a bit of time to complete—it was released in Japan in tankobon format in November of last year, and I got my hands on it around the same time—but I really wanted to do this franchise justice. Also, college is hard.

While reading this one-shot, I actually learned quite a bit about both the Rurouni Kenshin canon and the historical setting in which it is based. I'll discuss my revelations on the former topic at the bottom of the post; they contain spoilers and I'd hate to ruin this story for you now.

But before you go, I'd like to (as I've done in my other blog posts) offer a little primer on the real world events that inspired this manga. Bridging the illusory divide between fiction and reality and laying bare the roots stories have in history makes them all the more poignant. At least, I think so.

The main Rurouni Kenshin manga takes place in the early years of Japan's Meiji period. For reference, the era of the Tokugawa shogunate is the Edo period, followed by the Meiji. Next come the Taisho and Showa periods (think World War I and II), followed by the currently ongoing Heisei period. This one-shot takes place six years before the beginning of the main manga, that is, the fifth year of Meiji.

The Meiji period was begun by an eponymous revolution or "restoration," as it is commonly known—the Meiji Restoration. It sought to remove power from the feudal lords of the Tokugawa period—shogun, daimyo, and samurai—and consolidate it in the hands of the emperor himself. In that sense, then, a restoration of Japan to imperial rule, if you will. The Meiji Restoration was also a very important first step in the modernization of Japan. Before the Meiji Restoration began, while most Japanese samurai battled sword-to-sword, the American Civil War, fought with guns and cannons, had already concluded.

Change rarely comes quietly. The end of the Tokugawa shogunate was not a pretty one, and the chaotic transition period between the shogunate and the relatively peaceful Meiji Imperial era is known in Japanese history as the Bakumatsu. The Bakumatsu is also the backdrop for Rurouni Kenshin; although the manga doesn't actually take place during it, the events of the Bakumatsu deeply affect all the characters in the story, particularly Kenshin himself.

The chaos of the Bakumatsu was primarily a struggle between two forces: the pro-Imperial Ishin Shishi (維新志士, Restoration patriots) and pro-shogunate forces like the Shinsengumi. The Ishin Shishi were composed mainly of samurai from the Satsuma and Choshu clans, as the alliance between these two clans was what built the foundation for the Meiji Restoration itself. The top brass of the Meiji government was pretty much all former Satsuma and Choshu leaders.

The Meiji government used whatever means it could to undermine the shogunate and gain power for itself. Often, its methods were less than honorable. In particular, it relied rather extensively on assassination to eliminate key figures of the opposition. The four most notorious assassins of the period were known as the Bakumatsu Shidai Hitokiri (幕末四大人斬, Four Great Manslayers of the Bakumatsu). One of them was a samurai named Kawakami Gensai. This is the character upon whom Himura Kenshin is based. Kenshin, disillusioned with the death and carnage he wrought in his days as an assassin, decides to never kill a person again, but still continues fighting for Japan's betterment. His foe, Shishio Makoto, is the assassin that was hired to take his place, a man who decides that the order and peace of the Meiji government is weakening Japan.

So in a larger sense, the struggle between Kenshin and Shishio is a struggle between modernity and antiquity, a battle between order and chaos, a clashing of change and constancy.

This one-shot, though, is not about Kenshin at all. It is about Shishio. 
 
(Spoilers start from here on out! Go read the one-shot now if you haven't already.)

One of the problems with Shishio being a villain in the main storyline is that he is necessarily required to be evil, to be a foil in as many possible ways to Kenshin as he can. This leaves little room for characterization, or at least less than if he weren't confined to any particular plot role. The fact, then, that this story allows him the freedom to leave that "villain" box means we get to see a different side of the guy.

And its this side that I quite like. Make no mistake, Shishio is cruel and shrewd and merciless, but this depiction of him shows that he's also got a roguish, sarcastic attitude, and that it's straight up cool.

The best thing is that this story isn't just some ultimately irrelevant side story or "filler"; it's clear that it's intended to be canon. Events that take place in the main storyline are explained here, like why Shishio kills Yumi during his final duel with Kenshin, or what his final attack looks like. Learning the background behind these events further enriched my understanding of the main series. Made the pieces of that story fit just a little bit closer, if you will.

Equally interesting to me were some of the attack and character names that I never knew before, as they are unfortunately never properly explained in most translations. So, as I've done in the past, I want to share some of that interesting-ness with you.

First, we have names. As my fellow translator DzyDzyDino has explained in a previous blog post, translating Japanese names almost always boils down to a trade-off between meaning and pronunciation. In English, in order to change meaning,  most of the time we have to change the pronunciation. English is written with the Latin alphabet, a phonetic script, meaning that the way we write a word is inextricably linked to the way it must be pronounced. Japanese names, however, are written in kanji, an ideographic script. This means that, in Japanese, meaning and pronunciation can be manipulated essentially independent of each other. For example, my (non-Japanese) name can either be written with kanji that mean "two-flavor sake" or "benevolent charming pearl"—two very different meanings, but the exact same pronunciation. Couple this with the fact that Japanese sounds nothing like English, and 99% of the time, it's impossible to communicate both the meaning and reading of a name with a single, name-like word. Given this impasse, most translations often just completely ignore any meaning the kanji of a name have and simply write it phonetically in English, which, although not incorrect, belies the often deep relationship a character's persona has with the meaning implied in his or her name's kanji.

Hanahomura and Hanabi's names are written thus: 華焰 (Hanahomura) and 華火 (Hanabi). The word hanabi when written with different kanji () means firework; yet, interestingly enough, in this case, these two words are actually not that far off. Both literally mean "flower fire," it's just that the name Hanabi uses a different kanji for flower. On top of this, the kanji read "homura" in Hanahomura's name is a word all its own; it means "flames" or "blaze." A grown-up fire, if you will. So, when the little flower fire Hanabi grows up, she may become like Hanahomura, a flower blaze. 

Moving on to the epithets of the Juppongatana, sadly most of them are pretty straight forward, but Anji's actually has an interesting back story. I've translated what he is called, Myouou (明王) as The Radiant King not because that is just one way to read the kanji, but because the Buddhist concept that the term myouou refers to is actually translated that way in Buddhist texts. The term myouou refers to the vidyaraja, the third, wrathful, type of Buddhist deity, after Buddhas and bodhisattvas. One commonly named vidyaraja in Japanese fiction is Fudou Myouou.

The name of Shishio's final attack also has roots in mythology. The word Kagutsuchi (火産霊神) in Japanese, which literally means fire-birthing spirit god, is actually the name of the Shinto god of fire. He is one of the sons of Izanami and Izanagi. According to Shinto texts, his birth comes at the end of the creation of the world and signifies the beginning of death. A rather fitting name for a final attack, isn't it?

Even Sameo and his little army have a bit of a quirk to their names. Sameo's first name is written 鮫男, and it literally means "shark man." His army's name is the Wadatsumi Kouheidan, written thus: 引原海鮫兵団. Wadatsumi is an actual Japanese name, but when written differently (海神) refers to a type of sea demon (also often called an umibozu). The "kou" in "kouhei" is the same kanji that is in Sameo's first name; shark.

On a cultural note, the fact that this story takes place pretty much entirely in a brothel colors its language, revealing some interesting facts about feudal-era Japanese brothel culture. In particular, there are quite a few terms used exclusively in the context of prostitution that are in this story, and not all of them were as translatable as I'd have liked, so I want to share here what I wasn't able to in the main body of the translation.

To begin with, there are a lot of specific terms for prostitutes themselves. Although the term geisha is often used in Western culture to refer to Japanese prostitutes in general, this is actually incorrect. The general term is yuujo, (遊女) or "play girl." The term used most often in this work, though, is the more "dignified" oiran (花魁), which is probably closer to "courtesan." By the way, the first kanji in that word means flower (Hanahomura and Hanabi's names weren't picked at random). Very highly sought-after prostitutes, those of a rank higher than any of the other girls working at their brothel, are called chuusan (昼三), a word I've left as is in the translation. Newly-minted prostitutes that have just begun working were apparently called shinzou (新造), which I have translated as "newbie." This is what Hanabi is. Very young girls like Akari and Kagari that live and "work" (in a non-sexual way, I hope) in a brothel as aids to the older prostitutes are called kamuro (禿). Being that English doesn't really have a term for this kind of occupation, I've left this too as it is in the translation.

The red-light district also has many names; pleasure quarter (歓楽街), play district (遊郭), etc., but the term most often used in the one-shot is actually the name of a real, historical and modern red-light district in the city of Tokyo—Yoshiwara. Additionally, the life of prostitution itself is actually sometimes referred to as "a world of suffering," or kugai (苦界).

That brings this rambling novel of a post to an end. If you've made it all the way here, I thank you for your attention. I thank you for taking time out of your day to read my translations. And I thank you for supporting all of us here at MangaStream.

As always, feel free to ask any questions about the one-shot itself or the translations in the comments below; I'll try my best to answer them.

Until next time,

voxanimus


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Lost in Translation: Happy and Happiness

Posted Mar 15th, 2015 by loki

Hi there, friends. It's been a while.

If you haven't, you should go check out the Mashima one-shot that follows at the end of the latest FT Zero chapter —"Happy, the Blue Cat."

I'm writing this blog post because that short seven-page work actually had quite the impact on me; I was hoping to share a bit about it with you all. So go read it if you haven't already! This post isn't going anywhere.

First things first; the Great East Japan Earthquake is actually referred to in Japanese as "The Great Disaster" (東日本大震災, Higashi Nihon Dai Shinsai). That should be enough to tell you how much of an effect it had on Japan and its people.

The whole theme of "Happy = happiness" as detailed in the note at the end of the chapter loses a bit of its poignance when translated from Japanese to English, so in an effort to get at least a little bit of that magic back, I thought I'd go into it a bit more.

Basically, whenever the word "Happy" shows up in the one-shot, it's written in katakana (ハッピー), identically to how it appears when it is used to indicate the name of the blue cat Happy. Although most Japanese people understand enough English to understand that this means "happy" as in the emotion, this word, when written in katakana and used as it is in this work, would be read first and foremost as a name, not a word in and of itself. It's sort of like if someone was named Mark; despite the fact that this is an actual English word that means marking, when you see the word "Mark" written like that, you automatically know it is a name.

The point of this one-shot is to play with this idea; on the last page, Mashima writes the word I've translated as "happiness" in Japanese, indicating that it is meant to be taken to literally mean just that. This, coupled with the statement on the preceding page that says that "my name is in everyone's hearts," completes the metaphor that "Happy = happiness." That is, everything Happy's said about his own name throughout the one-shot applies to the concept of happiness itself.

Quite a cute and inspiring little message, isn't it?

I know the world is a crappy, saddening place sometimes. Probably most of the time. But try to stay strong. And maybe, just maybe, do me and Happy a favor today. Think of that tiny little happiness in your heart and try to smile.

- voxanimus


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Recruitment Round 2015

Posted Feb 18th, 2015 by Jinn

Hey all!

We're looking for two reliable new additions to our staff at the moment, and I figured I'd use the blog to give you some insight and details on a few things worth knowing and maybe get you interested in joining.

What we need is help in the typesetting department. In other words, copy/pasting the translation text into the bubbles of a page by using Photoshop. You can find a bunch of test pages and basic instructions in the Recruitment section of our website, though please make sure to send your application to smokybarrettms [at] gmail.com - and not the other email provided there.

You might wonder if you're suited to do this kind of thing if you haven't had any experience doing anything similar before - and the answer is a clear maybe. Honestly, we had people with years of experience with Photoshop apply before, and their test results were awful. At the same time tho, we also had complete beginners to any sort of editing software and they've since become integral parts of the team. It's all about whether you have an eye for what we're going for and the ability to learn the norms and standards - or not.

What you definitely need though is availability. I'll be mentioning times in GMT+0 format to make it easier to convert to whatever your timezone is. You should be able to help out with Jump, which we basically work most of Thursday on, starting at, say, 9-11am till, well, till everything's done, and the more of us, the faster it is, currently I basically do all three series on my own and work on that until about 4-6pm, depending on how wordy the chapters that week are. Then there's also the Monday morning, where we got FT and 7DS, plus other series at random times throughout the month. You don't need to be there for each and every last thing every week, that's obviously not expected of you, but you know, 3/4 of the time would be great? Haha.

In terms of time, I'd say 2-4 hours, on about 3 days a week, and you'd be a great help already, but talking from experience - we either had people join who could commit wholly and became core staff, dedicated themselves to working on whatever landed and whenever they could make it fit with their schedule - or they didn't stick around for long, helped with 2-3 chapters and then ran off because it wasn't what they expected it to be like, or I dunno.

If you're considering taking the test and applying at this point, then let me give you some words of advice: Read through a bunch of chapters of, say, One Piece, and Ippo or Fairy Tail. Don't read them for content, I mean look at the shapes of the bubbles we went for, look at the size of the text within the bubbles, how we change it from regular to bold italic for shouting bubbles, etc. Basically, try and imitate what you're seeing on the reader.

Later on, if your test results are promising and all, and we get to talk personally, I'll give you all the detailed instructions, like that you have to set the kerning to 'optical', that we always typeset with 'smooth' anti-aliasing and all the tips on how to make annoying lines fit while maintaining a nice shape (like reducing the width of certain lines within a bubble to get a perfect diamond shape and preventing a shitty one). You're of course free to implement these in your first test results already, by doing so you'd show me that you actually read this article until the end and aren't a complete waste of time to begin with, xD, but your main focus should be about getting good shapes, and nailing the font size appropriately for the bubbles.

I really hope to find some reliable helpers, good luck to you all. There isn't much reward for doing this other than the readers' moaning and bitching when we're 'late' or did something wrong, but the occasional simple 'thank you' and the fun that the typesetting process itself actually is, definitely makes this worth doing, or so I think, anyway.

Oh and feel free to ask any questions you may have in the comments, I'll try and answer the smart, sensible ones, since, well, contrary to the popular saying - yes, there are fucking dumb questions. :)

PS: If you're an experienced redrawer and/or have a graphics tablet, can handle it well and know how to use Photoshop, shoot me a mail too, I'd be happy to hear from you, since we definitely need some help there too so we can increase our speed.


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Somewhere in Translation 26日12月2014年

Posted Dec 26th, 2014 by Jinn

Hey everyone. DzyDzyDino here.

It's been a little bit since my last entry. Since then, we've picked up a couple new series and have a lot going on this winter here at Mangastream. It's pretty exciting.

We've picked up-
Akame Ga Kill!
Seven Deadly Sins (Nanatsu no Taizai)
Sukedachi 09

and also been working on a few of Matsuena's post-HSDK One-Shots. Got a few more things in the works as well, so definitely look forward to it.

Akame ga Kill and Seven Deadly Sins are both definitely "new" series, in terms of manga. Although we've hopped onto these partway through, and they already have a lot of established canonical vocabulary.

That's what I'd like to talk about a bit. What becomes standard, canon, or part of the fandom when a series starts.

This is pretty much completely up to the translator that starts the series. For example, we've had the opportunity of picking up Sukedachi 09 straight from the first issue. So far, I've found it to be an exciting series. Vox has been working with me on translating it and establishing much of the "standard vocabulary" for it.

What I mean by standard vocabulary is, for example, why in Naruto we referred to techniques often as jutsu, why sharingan and rasengan were left as such rather than translated. Kazekage. Konoha. Why some groups refer to Nine-Tails as Kyuubi, shadow clones as kage-bunshin, etc.

Every series has terms which either have decidedly more flavor left in Japanese, or has Japanese terms that have certain subtleties that get lost in translation. (Like the ubiquitous "nakama" from One Piece). Sometimes they're just for flavor.

Sometimes it's even done by the author, but gets lost because of lack of translation. Like the manga Akame ga Kill. It's literally アカメが斬る. Akame Ga Kiru. Kiru is how kill would be pronounced in Japanese, and written like this, it actually does mean kill... but specifically, to kill by slicing or slashing with a blade. Which ties in with Akame and her Murasame. The same Kiru is used in all the chapter names.

Often too, some terms or concepts, especially names, get "cropped" in favor of localizing the series. Where rather than explain some cultural reference or some deeper meaning, it just gets translated to something more convenient. Often these end up as reocurring themes that have to get changed every time if the translator chose to chop it out the first time.

For Sukedachi 09, we're trying to provide as much of the original meaning as possible. As it is, I'll try to provide either a blog entry or a featured comment in the Disqus comments at the end of the chapter explaining. I'm sure Vox will have some input on the chapters, as well.

I'll just throw out a few of the terms I bumped into in Sukedachi, and later on in Vox wants to add anything, I'm sure he will :)

First off is the name of the Series, Sukedachi Nine.

A literal definition of sukedachi (助太刀) is like backup, seconds, a guy waiting in the wings, perhaps even something like a tag-team partner waiting to jump in when you go down. It's written with with the kanji for assisting or helping (助 suke) + long sword (太刀 tachi). This is what's written on the backs of their uniforms.

The people that are sukedachi are referred to as Sukedachi-Nin (助太刀人). Nin means person (can also be pronounced jin), and is the usual ending for professions, much like -man is in english. For a more natural sound, I use Sukedachi to refer to the people as well. Like "We are Sukeadchi." as opposed to "We are Sukedachi-Nin", although you can't deny there's something interesting behind Sukedachi-Nin(e) :). The series is full of little wordplays like this.

The term for Vengeance they use in this series is is Adauchi (仇討). Which is pretty literally "vengeance" (as opposed to revenge (fukushuu 復讐). Sukedachi is sometimes used to mean vengeance in this series too, and depending on its meaning, I sometimes translate it as vengeance.

The term used for reversing a vengeance is Kaeri-Uchi (返り討ち). This term is so specific, that I've kept it in Japanese. Loosely, it can be used like turning the tables on someone. But literally, like when someone challenges you to something or is expecting to defeat you and you turn the tables on them. It also has a definition of killing someone would was trying to take vengeance on you. "Killing a would-be avenger." Rather specific, no? So I've left this as Kaeri-Uchi.

There's so much going on in this series, that if I were to fill up one blog post with all of it, it would go on and get really long. I'll leave you with two more chapter specific things on Sukedachi 09.

The "Cautious Driving" and "Presumptious Driving" from chapter 1 and part in chapter 2 were literally "Kamoshirenai-unten (かもしれない運転)" and "Darou-unten (だろう運転)". Unten means "driving". Kamoshirenai means "maybe", and darou kinds of mean "probably". The basis being the kamoshirenai-unten driver would always be like, "there might be someone around the corner. maybe i should stop and check this way and that way. maybe the light might turn red.". The "darou" driver presumes everything like "there probably wont be anyone at the intersection." "That guy will probably yield to me" "I can probably make this turn safely". and so on.

The names in this series are also very colorful. We'll take a look at the criminal's name for chapter 02. His name is Hige Gokuo (卑下獄夫).獄 is the Goku from jigoku (地獄) which means hell, and means prison (jigoku literally translates to earth prison). 夫 means husband or man. So his first name kind of prisoner or prison's husband.

It's his family name that's interesting. 卑下 (hige) means humility or self-deprecation. Putting yourself down. Etc. Not to the level of self-loathing, but still in that vein. Hige can also mean beard (髭), and this goes into play with the character, with the stubble on his chin. Apart from his catch phrase about his specialties, he has this phrase when he gets excited where he literally says "my beard is getting goosebumps".

That sounds a bit silly in English, especially when his name isn't "beard" in english, and in English beard is more a full grown beard and not just stubble.

Phew! That was a mouthful!
With all these new series, there's a lot of little bits I'd love to get caught up on. I'll try to write weekly and bring you all up to speed on all the little tidbits from these series. Sukedachi Nine is really promising and exciting so far, I have high hopes for it! If you haven't checked it out yet, try and do so!

Anyways, happy holidays! Have a merry christmas, happy hannukah, kwanzaa, whatever!

-DzyDzyDino

P.S. Because I said I would mention it, one more bit about Nanatsu no Taizai, there's the character named Death Pierce who popped up recently. Now, in Japanese, a Pierce (ピアス) is an earring or a piercing in the jewelry sense. The first part, DESUPIA kind of sounds like "Despair" too, which Oda used in One Piece in the Sky Piea arc, Enel's Ark Maxim had his dark clouds move called "DEATH PIEA" which also was a play on Despair and the whole sky piea/death piea thing.

Also something to think about, DEATH in Japanese is pronounced です which most easily e a conjugation of "to be". Therefore, dying and existing are the same word depending on how it's used. :)

Okay, Merry Xmas from us at Mangastream!!

 


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The Art of Translation - Using Bleach 605 as an Example

Posted Nov 17th, 2014 by Jinn

Literal Translations vs Subtle Nuances

Sometimes translators have to make the choice between a literal translation and capturing the nuance and atmosphere of the dialogue. Literal translations give you the word-for-word dialogue in another language, but grasping the overall atmosphere of the scene is sometimes more important.

Kyouraku Shunsui of Bleach is a very charming, polite character despite how jaunty and lazy (and powerful) he can be. In Bleach 605, Shunsui adds the –san suffix on to the end of the word “Teki”(敵 which means “enemy”). He is referring to the Quincies in this context, and we can translate this a number of ways. Enemy-san, Teki-san, or Quincy-san, and so forth. But none of these fit in that well in fluid English, and this is where the overall nuance of the dialogue can take some priority. The –san suffix is added to show politeness, and despite the fact that the Quincies just came in and all but destroyed Seireitei, Shunsui has added the –san suffix on to the end of their collective term. He is trying to show cordiality and politeness when referring to them. Call it politeness or call it sarcasm, I have decided to translate “teki-san” in to “Quincy friends” in English, because this term in English seems to carry over well both the meaning, and the nuance that the original Japanese term (teki-san) had.

Shunsui also uses the word “Kureru” a lot when speaking about things that have been done, and this is also something that is extremely difficult to convey in English. There are various kinds of grammatical specificities such as “Kureru” that modify the nuance of a sentence/statement in Japanese, but for the time being I will focus on “Kureru”.

The grammar point "Kureru" is used in spoken Japanese a lot and mostly in the context of when someone has done something nice / a favour for you and you are trying to express gratefulness without having to outright state that you are extremely grateful. 

For example, just so you can understand the nuance:
"Nanao-chan did all my leftover paperwork (Insert Kureru here) today".

This would express mainly the fact that Nanao-chan did indeed do the leftover paperwork, but it also shows that you are grateful for it.

Shunsui is stating that the Quincies shattered all of Seireitei -insert Kureru here-. This is perhaps more sarcasm, or just showing that Shunsui can make light of almost anything and take everything in stride – this nuance is very hard to convery – but it is important in conveying the intricacies of a character via their dialogue.

 

Literal Translations vs Metaphorical Expressions

Every language has some metaphorical expressions which are not to be taken literally. For instance, if I were a Samurai and I said, “I feel naked without my Katana”. What does this mean? I don’t really mean I feel like I have a distinct lack of clothing and I feel cold and embarrassed. :x In this context, it would mean I felt incomplete without my weapon of choice.

There has also been a lot of discussion about whether Ichibei told, or did not tell, Yhwach that his throat would be Crushed.

The Japanese for what Ichibei says is "Nodo ga tsubureru" (喉が潰れる).
Nodo = Throat 
Tsubureru = Crush

So yes, it literally means that throats shall be crushed. But no Japanese native speaker will take it that way.

What it really means is

"You will lose your voice / your voice will go hoarse".

If you look at Bleach 605, Yhwach did lose his voice. It can then be argued, sure, that he did go and destroy his throat by plunging two fingers in to it (ouch) to regain his voice so the expression may have had some sort of a double entendre.

As mentioned above, however, no Japanese speaker would take that expression literally to mean a crushed throat. That would be akin to native English speakers reading about a grand heist at a casino in Vegas being a “close shave”, and then proceeding to conclude that the entire operation had been about the thieves using razors to intimately shave each other. Just, no.

Come on guys, some phrases shouldn't be understood literally or the true meaning is totally just gonna go over your head. (Unless nothing goes over your head because your reflexes are simply too fast…)


The vagueness of a sentence without a subject

In Japanese, when you speak you don't actually need to indicate a subject. You can just pick up a conversation without explicitly indicating what/who it is you are talking about. This can sometimes make it very hard to discern what is actually being discussed, and consequently prove difficult to translate.

In the scene when Ukitake is discussing the Quincy Invasion in to the Royal Realm, it is not actually clear who it is, that Ukitake is saying has "let" the Quincies invade the the Royal Realm. (“Let” can be otherwise understood as “failed to stop”.) Ukitake could be meaning Shunsui, or he could be the Royal Guard.  Shunsui does not confirm or deny whether it is himself in the next panel, he just goes on to ask Ukitake if he has realised that this is as predicted - the "Kamikake" is *doing something/been put in to action* and seems like it's successful. 

To discern whether Ukitake is indicating whether it is Shunsui or the RG that have "let" the invasion in to the RR happen, the general path to take is to think about within whose power it is to have been to "prevent" it. I had thought it was primarily the RG who were responsible for letting Yhwach take a walk around in the RR, so I had translated it as "They". But the Chinese scanlations team has put down "you've" as the pronoun, indicating that Ukitake is speaking directly about Shunsui. This can also be correct. Note that this sentence is just plain vague, and there isn't really a way to be 100% sure unless you gave Kubo-sensei a phone call yourself. 

Also, do note that this entire statement by Ukitake is a conjecture based of what Ukitake has caught wind of to bring up a point with Shunsui. 

 

When new concepts/objects/skills are brought in to a Manga

When a new move, or a new object, place, skill, concept, or character – is brought in to the latest chapter, translators have to make a choice on whether to translate the name in to English words, or leave it in the original Japanese and add some notes. In most cases, the latter is the safer choice but even then, to try to understand the introduction of something new may take a lot of research and background knowledge.

What is a Kamikake? No one knows at this point, but most Native Japanese speakers see the word as a derivative of the word “Gankake” which is a Shinto/Buddhist prayer.
Kamikake comes from that same vein, except for fictional purposes, the "Gan" has now become "Kami".

The entire dialogue of Ukitake discussing the Kamikake, I interpreted to flow something like this:
The Quincies successfully set foot in the RR > Someone (Likely Ukitake but maybe not) predicted that the RR shall be invaded by Quincies > The Kamikake is set in motion > The Kamikake seems to be working in their (SS) favour.

In time, we shall see what the Kamikake is.

Senri Tsuutenshou 千里通天掌 (Ichibei's giant palm)

Just wanted to talk about the origins of this skill and what it's likely to be based off.

This palm is based off the palm of a buddha called "Ru lai". (and Ichibei is a monk! Ah-hah! )

It's actually extremely difficult to find English material about this Buddha in question, but in my own words, this Buddha has a palm that can extend to infinity. This skill is most famous in Journey to the West, and for all I know it probably originated from there. (Journey to the West is a Chinese Classic Novel published in the 16th century and is widely used as an inspirational source for many fictitious stories and games today)

This reference of the all-extending palm that you can never run away from is so well known amongst Chinese kids (because Journey to the West is the childhood story almost all Chinese kids grow up with) it's often used jokingly (or half jokingly) to describe one's mom.

This is an extract from the Wikipedia Article of Sun Wu Kong, which narrates Wukong's experiences with Ru Lai Buddha based on events which happened in the Journey to the west. 

Imprisonment
With all of their options exhausted, the Jade Emperor and the authorities of Heaven appealed to the Buddha, who arrived from his temple in the West. The Buddha made a bet with Sun Wukong that Sun Wukong could not escape from Buddha's palm. Sun Wukong, knowing that he could cover 108,000 li in one leap, smugly agreed. He took a great leap and then flew to the end of the world in seconds. Nothing was visible except for five pillars, and Wukong surmised that he had reached the ends of Heaven. To prove his trail, he marked the pillars with a phrase declaring himself "the great sage equal to heaven" (and in other versions, urinated on the pillar he signed on). Afterward, he leaped back and landed in the Buddha's palm. There, he was surprised to find that the five "pillars" he had found were in fact the five fingers of the Buddha's hand. When Wukong tried to escape, the Buddha turned his hand into a mountain. Before Wukong could shrug it off, the Buddha sealed him there using a paper talisman on which was written the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum in gold letters, wherein Sun Wukong remained imprisoned for five centuries.

-Source: Wikipedia

Journey to the West has been the inspiration for many games and fictional works, the more you read about it the more you realise! Some examples are, Son Goku from Dragon Ball, Wukong from League of Legends, and the Saiyuki Manga, for starters. 

I just want to say that Wu Kong is my childhood hero.

That’s about it from me, sorry it’s so long – hope it gave a little bit of insight in to what it is to translate between Japanese and English, and some of the choices translators have to make to bring out the most accurate portrayal of a story to the readers.

Jaaa mata.

GTY_Ponzorz.


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Somewhere in Translation: 03

Posted Nov 12th, 2014 by Jinn

Timeskip 15 years later! Naruto is over!
We made it, everyone! What a ride it's been, too.

So we had a color-packed fanservice filled harry potter epilogue style final chapter to top it off.
Lots of ____ X ____ shipping dreams come true. We have Naruto's kid, Bolt. Though the feeling gets kind of lost pronouncing it like you would in English, "Bolt." Just like you would pronounce "Na-ru-to", his name is "Bo-ru-to". When said in Japanese, the names sound very similar.

When I was looking at Neji's gravestone, I got really confused. For some reason, this had never clicked in my head before. Maybe because I wasn't really translating Naruto during any major arcs with Neji or Hinata, but Hinata's name is always written in Katakana, just like Neji. Their family name, "Hyuuga" is written in kanji as so 日向 which means "in the sun" or "a sunny place" and is read... as "Hinata". So if you didn't know that the family name was actually read as "Hyuuga", you'd look at Hinata's name and think, "Hinata Hinata?". Coincidentally, 日向く would be what sunflowers or "Himawari" do, "face the sun". Okay, pretty dumb and not all that interesting, I know, but I thought it was funny just 'cause I never noticed it. Chances are you all probably did.

So, as you probably know, Japanese sentence structure is Subject Object Verb, different from the general norm of Subject Verb Object. In Japanese, you wouldn't say, "I go to the store." It would be more like "I to the store go." In other words, everyone talks like Yoda.
What I find funny about that, is that the way Yoda talks in The Empire Strikes Back, he adds dramatic pauses to his sentences via phrasing only possible with a Subject Object Verb language, as so often happens in manga. Imagine: "A powerful jedi... you will become." - "A powerful jedi... you are not."

There's a pause after the subject/object in the sentence. You're thinking "A powerful jedi! A powerful jedi what?! Will I be one? Won't I?"
Instead of "You will become... a powerful jedi." "You are not.... a powerful jedi." where you think "I will become what? I am not what?"
The feeling is completely different in the two, and the emphasis and suspense gets placed on the verb, in other words, what will happen/is happening.

A common cliche that pops up in high school romance and shojo manga is the heartthrob boy coming up to the tsundere girl who secretly likes him, and he says "Ore wa... Makoto-chan no koto... ... ..." and then gets interrupted or says something completely opposite of what she was expecting. The expected "cliche" completion of that sentence would be "suki desu.". This would be the equivalent of "I... really love... ... ..." the girl's heart starts beating faster. "Yes?" "I... really love... cashews." followed by the fall take, and some raging anime eyes and smashing heads and such. But the feeling is slightly different. You know the sentence involves him and her. He... something... her. and what that something is is the focus of the suspense and ambiguity. As opposed to the action being clear and to whom or what he is acting upon being the suspensful part of the phrasing.

So when people trail off in sentences, or intentionally leave them incomplete, depending on what it is, it takes some interpretation to convert it to English in a meaningful way. You can't have Naruto say to Sasuke, "Someday... I *mumble cough* you...". Perhaps from the conversation it's implied, he'll see him again one day, he'll save him, he'll bring him back, they'll be together again, whatever. But it could just as easily be, I'll defeat you, I'll kill you, I'll knock your teeth out, I'll bitch slap you for every single time you've said the word "revenge" over these last 15 years, etc. Context is so important.

Which is why it's really important for a translator to kind of be caught up on a series and have a general idea of what's going on and who's who. It can also be very hard sometimes to translate just one bubble by itself with no given context around it for the same reasons. Even being familiar with a series, we'll miss things.
As intended for a reader in Japan, they're expected to see some things as vague or alluding to something they're not sure what, or referencing something they kind of remember from before... well, the hardcore readers will know all the references... and translating, we have to be at that level as well, so that we can properly translate the references and the inside jokes and all that -- because just being a word for word translate bot definitely isn't going to cut it.

None of us claim to be all-knowing oracles of knowledge on the series we translate, but we have an awesome team of great people here at mangastream, and between all of us and the actual all-knowing oracle that is google, we often come up with the answers we need.

Okay. Little boring today, but we've got something pretty interesting and exciting up our sleeves. Expect a hefty interesting blog post when we release that. Otanoshimi ne~!

 

-dzydzydino

 


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Lost in Translation: Humanity and Divinity

Posted Oct 10th, 2014 by Jinn

Hello there everyone, voxanimus again. You were all so kind in your comments on my last blog post that I thought I'd do another one. Well, that and this week's One Piece chapter has yet again a lot of stuff I want to talk about. I think.

Anyway, let's get the more lighthearted stuff out of the way. Several characters' full names were revealed this week, and I wanted to give some background on the references contained therein. Corazon's real name is Rocinante, or the name of Don Quixote's horse in the eponymous book. Law's name contains two references to the Napoleonic Wars: the Battle of Trafalgar is a naval engagement in which British forces led by Horatio Lord Nelson sunk 22 French ships without losing a single of their own. "Water Law" is a transliteration of the Japanese pronunciation of "Waterloo," the name of the battle in which Napoleon was defeated once and for all. Japanese has a habit of using the native pronunciation of a word when adopting it into Japanese; the Belgian pronunciation of Waterloo is closer to "Water Law." This means that transcriptions of the name as "Watel" and the like are clearly wrong. On the heels of this fact, I would like to make a request to all of you readers. Please refrain from commenting other scanlation groups' translations—be it of names, attacks, or dialogue—in the Mangastream comments section. I find it disrespectful to not only my work but that of our other translators. We spend no small amount of time and effort trying to come up with the most faithful and appropriate renderings we can of these manga, and to ignore that work is not very nice, to say the least.

Now, let's talk a little about the main underlying reference of this week's chapter. Again, though, to understand it, we need a bit of historical background.

Following Japan's defeat in World War II, the Allied Forces insisted, as part of the war reparations, that Japan move away from its imperial government and towards a more democratic one. Pursuant to this goal, Emperor Hirohito was required to issue a statement officially renouncing his status as living god, which would thereby decrease his monarchical right to sovereignty and pave the way for the writing of a new Japanese Constitution that would formally enshrine democratic power as the de facto arbiter of Japanese politics. The Emperor and the Japanese royal family would remain as mere symbols of the Japanese government, with little real power. The name of this declaration was 人間宣言 (にんげんせんげん, ningen sengen), which means "declaration of humanity." Sound familiar?

It is certainly very evident that Doflamingo's father's descent from the Holy Land and attendant renunciation of holy status is at least superficially similar to that performed by Emperor Hirohito following World War II. But the similarities do not run as deep as they did last week. Doffy's father's reverse apotheosis, if you will, caused his family to fall into ruin, as they were preyed upon by those they used to rule. Yet, on the other hand, Hirohito's renunciation of divinity was, at least in the long run, a very good thing for Japan. It allowed for the appointment of a Japanese Prime Minister and governance power to rest almost wholly in the hands of the three branches of the Japanese government.

In truth, though, Japan was actually occupied by Allied forces (in effect, the United States) and the majority of the governmental and economic reforms implemented following the war were done so at the behest or even command of the occupying forces. While it is probably not disputable that the long-term consequences of Allied occupation of Japan were beneficial, the attitude of the average Japanese citizen towards the occupation itself is less clear-cut. Some believed that the somewhat ham-fisted occupation's use of power hearkened back to the pre-Meiji days of the shogunate.

Ultimately, I cannot say whether or not Oda is trying to critique, using Doflamingo's family as a foil, the treatment of Japan at the hands of America following the Japanese emperor's renunciation of holiness. I was neither alive during the occupation period nor have I been to Japan and had a chance to talk with Japanese people about this. In addition, attitudes toward these sort of political issues vary from generation to generation, and I know not which generation's reaction Oda is calling upon. What do you think? Leave your opinion, or any suggestions or feedback, in the comments below.

Stay frosty, friends.

- voxanimus

 


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Naruto Ending (Very) Soon

Posted Oct 6th, 2014 by Jinn

So, it really is happening, and sooner than most of us thought. November 10th (officially, as usual we'll get it a few days earlier), or in other words, 5 more chapters to go.

This 'thread' here is for you to post your feelings and thoughts about Naruto coming to an end.

Also very welcome are any and all kinds of predictions on how you see the final 5 chapters going - what will happen? Will Naruto and Sasuke even fight at all, considering how little time is left for that? Will Kishimoto solve this final conflict that we've been all waiting for with another 'Talk no Jutsu'?

Finally - what are your wishes for the future? Would you all be into a continuation of some sort? Naruto GT, with their kids or grandkids taking over? Or just let it end and rest in peace - we did have a great ride after all, especially in the early beginning, pre-shippuuden - in my opinion, anyway.

Anyway, any and all thoughts are welcome.


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