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Translating Names in Manga is a Strange Thing

Posted Jul 26th, 2014 by Jinn

There are many issues to face when trying to translate from Japanese to English, as it's not always a direct one to one translation.

In fact, it rarely is.

Many words and idiomatic expressions don't have an English equivalent, some things need cultural context, and so on. Right now though, I wanted to talk about names. Names that aren't native to Japanese in particular.

I'm sure many of you already know this, but written japanese is made up of Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji.

Kanji are Chinese characters. 忍、念、男、女、刀 星、闇、殺
But of them, Japan has designated roughly 1,945 for general usage. Each one has its own (sometimes multiple) meaning, and multiple pronunciations based on context.

力 means "strength" and is pronounced "chikara" however it can be pronunced "riki" when used in certain combinations.
馬力  bariki   "horsepower" or it could also be "ryoku" when combined here 協力  kyouryoku  "cooperation".

Hiragana and Katakana are Japanese Alphabets. These characters have no meaning on their own. Each is a phonetic (A, Ka, Sa, Ta, Ha, Ma, etc.)

Hiragana are used for native Japanese words and parts of speech. It looks like this:
あのさぁ、ぼくはかめがすきですけど。

Katakana on the other hand is used for non-native Japanese words or certain kinds of emphasis and looks like:
ナンデロボットガカタカナシカシャベレナイ

So for every name that is not a traditional Japanese name, it ends up spelled out phonetically within the constraints of the Japanese Alphabet. While some are fairly obvious or use common conventions for converting to English, others can be much more obscure. There's not necessarily any fully right way to go about it. There may be some outright wrong ways at times, and some almost certainly correct ways but you can never be certain until the author states how it's spelled in English.

For example, let's look at the character who up till recently was known as "Branchi" in Toriko.
His name was spelled out as BU-RA-N-CHI.
The first thing I do as a translator is look at it and see if it resembles any real life names.
Hrmmm...  Nada.
Next, I just go over some possibilities:  Branchie, Branchy, Buranty, etc...
Without finding anything I was too excited about, I stuck with something close to the phonetic pronunciation and hopefully safe... "Branchi." (Was never happy with that.)
Recently, "Buranchi" was revealed to be one of a group of three characters.
The other two were "DI-N-NA-A" and "NO-SHU."
So with "Dinner" and "Nosh" as two parts of a three man set and trying to figure out how "Branchi" fit with that, his name suddenly became obvious:
"Brunch"
Until something gets officially printed, it's pretty much up to the translator's discretion to decide what's gonna pass as a character's name.
Once something appears in canonical print always takes precedence.
That's a general golden rule.

For example, Roronoa Zoro.
I had always assumed the Zoro was after Zorro, the masked fictional character.
(I could be wrong on that part.)
However, as for the name "Roronoa"--
"Roronoa" is undoubtedly "L'Olonnais" from Francois L'Olonnais, a french pirate.
Buuuut his name has appeared as "Roronoa" in print by Oda numerous times, so Roronoa it is.

That's just the tip of the iceberg really. Once you get into the names of attacks and techniques or made-up concepts, along with creative and inventive kanji usage, there's a whole other world of interpretation to deal with. But I think I've rambled long enough for now.

If you found any of this interesting, had any questions about any of the translation process, drop a comment and I'll do my best to get back to you!! I find this stuff interesting myself and thought you might.

Thanks as always for reading.
-dzydzydino


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Content of Naruto Color Pages and Small Rant

Posted Jul 23rd, 2014 by Jinn

Figured we'd write a little blog post about those color pages in this week's chapter, as I'm sure they'll cause a lot of controversy and discussion. So I asked our translator dzydzydino to read them and give us a quick summary. He ended up ranting towards the end, but it makes a good post nonetheless. :D


So, this week's Naruto came with a little two-page color spread before the comic about the upcoming Naruto movie, entitled "The Last" ...which of course launches all kinds of speculation as to whether or not it's actually going to be the last Naruto movie or signifying and upcoming end to the series.

Nothing about that is mentioned. However, we do see some sketches by Kishimoto, who will be writing the story and doing character design for the movie. The pictures we see are of a grown up Naruto, under a title "Curtain Call on a New Era" Naruto Project. Lots of fancy big text like "AT LAST" "LONG AWAITED" "NARUTO PROJECT FINALLY IN ACTION" etc. etc.

Is there a forseeable end in the future of Naruto?

Personally, I think if the series is gonna end, it's either gonna be with Sakura dead or Sasuke. Though who knows... we all might be happily ever after, after all. Or we might be happily reading Naruto in 2020, and Kishimoto and Jump might be happily cashing in on 21 years in print.

If the series is actually ending, I'll probably be a lot more accepting of whatever happens. I know Kishimoto has written some of the Naruto movies before, but after seeing enough non-canonical filler-worthy movies written by assistants and asshats alike, I've stopped watching spinoffy movies.

Though there's something universally fanservice-y about seeing your favorite characters all grown up... like the end of Harry Potter. It's a given though--It's why every major series always has a timeskip. So kids can growup alongside their manga. So fart and boob jokes can turn into Kamehamehas and Rasengans.

Regardless, it's been a long run so far, from its start in 1999 to now, it's 15th year in 2014. My interest has varied from feverish to casual over this series throughout those 15 years, but I have always come back to it at some point.

I happen to be enjoying it currently, and wouldn't mind it ending on a high note as opposed to slowly fading into obscurity and getting cancelled.

Opinions? How do you feel about the story currently? Is the end nigh? Must we repent? Shannaro~


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Naruto - The Conflict between Message and Readers' Expectations

Posted Jul 22nd, 2014 by Jinn

Since the beginning of the series, Naruto spread messages against hatred and war. You could notice it already in the first episode, when Naruto declares his wish to be Hokage and prove himself in the eyes of the villagers who hate him, and later on when Iruka accepts Naruto as a human being and not a monster that killed his parents.

During the pre-Shippuden part, these kind of messages keep popping up in some occasions. For example, Naruto's speech in the Zabuza arc in attempt to explain that ninjas are people with emotions and not just tools of war. But the important thing for this discussion is; the message of the manga was never a main key element in the plot itself at that time.

The focus changed during the Shippuden part, and the message of the series became the main topic of the story. You could see it clearly in the Pain arc and Nagato's ideology of "The Cycle of Revenge". The manga's message, brought to the readers by Naruto, is that hatred and war can be stopped if people choose to cease violence. In this particular case - not killing Nagato and avenging the death of his beloved sensei. Eventually, Naruto beats Nagato by the infamous "Let's Talk no Jutsu" which most of the readers feel uneasy with.

Now, let's discuss recent events. Since Sasuke's defection from Konoha, the readers expected the manga to end with a final clash to the death between him and Naruto, who both were presented as eternal rivals since their bromance in episode 3.

But it's not going to happen.

Why is that? Mainly, because it will contradict the entire message of the manga. This turn of events was hinted since Hashirama's story about the founding of Konoha with Madara in hope to stop the blood spilling between the clans, and became even clearer by Naruto's and Sasuke's recent conversation with the Six Paths - in order to achieve peace, the endless fight between Senju and Uchiha must stop. Naruto and Sasuke fighting to the death now would only mean that nothing has changed.

So here lies the conflict: What should a writer do - fulfill the readers' expectations or stick to his message to the end, whether the readers like it or not?

 

Note: This blog post was devised and written by adi P. If you're also interested in submitting your ideas for a blog post, you can find all the instructions on how to become active yourself here: http://mangastream.com/blog/39


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Fairy Tail Zero & Fairy Tail Ice Trail

Posted Jul 17th, 2014 by Jinn

These two spin-off chapters were serialized in the debut issue of Mashima's own, new monthly, "Monthly Fairy Tail Magazine".

The first, Fairy Tail Zero, details the meeting of the founders of Fairy Tail and exactly what happened between them to lead them to found the guild. Ice Trail is a spin-off manga concerning Gray.

Both were written under Mashima's supervision, but while Mashima personally draws Zero himself, his executive assistant Shirato Yuusuke is the artist behind Ice Trail. Both are therefore official canon. Also published in the magazine are two special art pieces of Natsu and Igneel, which we have included as part of the first chapter.

Both of these series are monthlies and we will continue to cover them as they come out.

 


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Interpretations vs Adaptations

Posted Jul 14th, 2014 by Jinn

I recently watched the Death Note anime and I noticed that, aside from a handful of scene changes, it was almost shot-for-shot with the manga. There was no filler and besides translation differences, the dialogue was pretty well the exact same the entire way through. I found that this actually hurt the anime, as characters continually explaining what they just did really slowed down the action, and there was no improvement on the disappointing ending.

This got me thinking on manga adaptations in general. Manga is a unique form of story telling, as it provides a fully-functioning storyboard within its medium. This means that most anime will just be a colorful, moving read-aloud of the manga they are based on, with almost no artistic liberty given to the script writer or story boarder. As well, seasons are generally not limited to a small, abstract number of episodes, so the story doesn't need to be shortened.

Now, compare this to other stories: novels have to be compressed to fit screen time, so many scenes are removed, added or changed; American comic books have inconsistent plots written by multiple authors, so a few concepts and characters are chosen and turned into a screenplay; most TV series are very episodic, so reboots just create an entirely new plot. This method of interpreting a story, opposed to adapting it, is a double edged sword. Sometimes, through inconsistencies or just sloppy production, the interpretation does not do the source material justice. Meanwhile, there are others that have taken the story above and beyond what it had been before, albeit in a changed fashion.

So, what if we were to apply this concept of “interpretation” to manga? Say an animation company got the rights to reboot a big anime, like Dragon Ball or Full Metal Alchemist (or, most recently, Sailor Moon), this time with the artistic freedom to change the story as they pleased, while keeping to the very bare-bones plot. Would you, as a manga reading community, welcome the change and like to see how things could be done differently? How many of you would say that the changes could somehow “ruin” the source manga, and why? What series would you like to see changed into an interpretation, rather than a simple manga adaptation? Any suggestions of your own on how you would change a favorite story in a more cinematic way?

 

Note: This blog post was devised and written by Adam. If you're also interested in submitting your ideas for a blog post, you can find all the instructions on how to become active yourself here: http://mangastream.com/blog/39

 


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Power Scaling And Power Ups

Posted Jul 10th, 2014 by Jinn

Whenever I read manga, one thing I value very highly (since it helps me enjoy the fighting more) is the attention to proper power scaling and balance with regards to power ups. By power scaling I mean keeping in mind a definite level of power and ability for characters and using that to relate to how they fare in battle with their opponents. Even when this isn’t explicitly shown (as in Dragon Ball Z), I find it helps me enjoy it a lot.

An example in One Piece, is seeing Usopp going against Trebol and Sugar, knowing there is no way he can win against them and wondering how Oda is going to pull a victory off. Mangas I think have good attention to power scaling are Feng Shen Ji, One Piece, Soul Eater, Berserk, History’s Strongest, UQ Holder and Negima. Those I believe don’t seem to give it much importance are Bleach (the recent defeat of Zaraki) and Fairy Tail.

With regards to power ups, usually they tend to feel very biased in favour of protagonist when not handled properly. An example, in my opinion are the free christmas (or easter) gifts Naruto and Sasuke got from the Sage of the Six Paths, and Orihimes tears bringing a dead Ichigo back to life with a plethora of abilities suited for dealing with Espada number 4.

What do you think? Do you feel power scaling and power ups need to be handled right in shounen manga or do they just not matter? Has a correct or abysmal handling of them ever made a significant difference in your enjoyment of a manga? If so, can you share those experiences?

Note: This blog post was devised and written by Lightsyde. If you're also interested in submitting your ideas for a blog post, you can find all the instructions on how to become active yourself here: http://mangastream.com/blog/39


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A Consideration of Reading Choices

Posted Jul 3rd, 2014 by Jinn

Have you ever made the decision to step out of your comfort zone and read a manga that you knew little about? Consider the different factors involved in the decision whether or not to give a manga a try.

First off, what drew you to mangas like One Piece, Naruto, and Bleach in the first place? Was it the strong personalities of the characters? Was it the storyline that had you wrapped up from page one? Or was it just because it is popular and you could discuss it with your friends on a weekly basis?

Many previous posts have attempted to generalize these most popular manga series. This is because the most popular manga (OP, Naruto, Bleach) are like popular music: formulaic and catchy. Researchers have determined that pop music is basically crack for your brain. Naruto was the "gateway" manga that got me hooked on the medium, but it is easily not the most meaningful manga I have read.

Manga, like any other art form, can elicit many different emotions from a reader other than just giddy excitement. So please consider what you want from reading manga. Can you suggest a series that is meaningful to you and believe other people should read? To begin, that series for me is Homunculus (Mature/Seinen Drama).

 

Note: This blog post was devised and written by Zach. If you're also interested in submitting your ideas for a blog post, you can find all the instructions on how to become active yourself here: http://mangastream.com/blog/39


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Do you think Bleach should have ended after Aizen's defeat?

Posted Jun 29th, 2014 by Jinn

For a while, I agreed with the argument that Tite Kubo should have ended the manga series, Bleach, when Aizen died. The following arcs after Aizen seemed like Kubo trying to milk his success on Bleach's popularity, and that if it did end with Aizen's defeat, the series would be a master piece.

The fullbring arc felt like a rushed and disappointing excuse to return Ichigo's power in order to continue the series. Even now, this feeling remains. In my opinion, not only was it  terrible, but also boring.

But now with the Quincy's arc, I realised that Kubo's purpose of extending Bleach seems to have more meaning behind it, and that's to answer the mystery between the Shinigami and Quincy, along with the king of Soul Society. This might spoil a little, but Uryuu Ishida's family and past has been very vaguely shown early in the series, showing the struggle of the Quincy's beliefs and the Shinigami's system. There's also the problem with Ichigo's parentage - why is it important for him to belong in both sides of the war? Is Ichigo a "Romeo and Juliet" device, ultimately reuniting the Shinigami and Quincy (possibly through his death) due to his race?

My opinions on whether Bleach should have continued or not changed. I think it's good for Kubo to answer the mysteries he created in the first place, and Bleach is finally getting more and more interesting again. Do you agree? Is there any more mysteries Kubo created previously that hasn't been fully explained? Would you have been satisfied without knowing the past between Quincy and Shinigami?

 

Note: This blog post was devised and written by Rhastae. If you're also interested in submitting your ideas for a blog post, you can find all the instructions on how to become active yourself here: http://mangastream.com/blog/39


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