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Truth and The Mask - part 3

Posted May 24th, 2015 by Jinn

Hi guys, GTY_Ponzorz here. This is part 3 of the series of blog posts talking about Honne/Tatemae in Japanese society. Since the concept is pretty confusing, I thought it’d give some real life examples so people can have a better idea.

 

Applications in real life of Honne and Tatemae

(Some silly examples)

Example 1:
Urahara-san says to Isshin-san and Ryuuken-san very neutrally/casually, “Are you staying for dinner?”.

People fluent in Tatemae-speak (not an official word, I coined it just now please don’t quote it in official cases :9 ) will take this to mean that “You’ve been here long enough, we’re done for now, I have other business to attend to, pls leave.”

The proper response to this (understanding the hidden implication) would be to say “Oh you’re right, it is getting late! I shall trouble you no further and be on my merry way. Thank you very much for all your hard work today. Otsukare-sama deshita. *leaves*

People who don’t get it, will be like “Oh yar sure, I’ll stay for dinner. I have nothing to eat in my fridge at home anyway. Thanks man.”

( ;9 Which guy d’you think said what? )

Jokes aside though, in an actual situation if you don’t get the response right then that is your instant recipe to a very awkward situation right there. This is what we call “Kuuki yomenai” (lit. can’t read the air/atmosphere). I’ll talk about this later.

Example 2: As small kids, Sasuke would always be at Naruto’s house. When Sasuke’s mum comes to pick him up, she will say “Please, come to our house next time.” However, every time it is arranged for Naruto to go to Sasuke’s house, some inconvenience would always come up at the Uchiha residence and Sasuke winds up at Naruto’s house every damn time, all the time. In terms of Tatemae, this would mean that the mother doesn’t really mean to have the other kid over at their place. She is just saying “please. come over next time” to save face, to sound polite.

I will reiterate the above kind of examples are totally normal in Japanese society, and people who are used to this type of tatemae culture will just take it all in stride A-OK.

Example 3: This is not a direct example, but it’s something I’ve personally screwed up on in my noob days.

When someone asks you to do something/go somewhere, and your answer is going to be in the negative, don’t say it straight! You have to be vague. No joke. It’s considered very rude to give a flat out no.

Example: (Please keep in mind that GTY_Ponzorz doesn’t want to go to see Avengers in this HYPOTHETICAL scenario)

Voxanimus: Hey Ponzorz, are you going to watch Avengers with everyone this Friday?

Patapon: Nah, I’m not going. (iya, ikanai yo.)

^This does not fly. The asker will be pretty shocked you gave such an outright “no”. They might take it to mean that you have something against going, you are being condescending, you don’t like them, etc. Wrong impression.

Let’s try again.

Voxanimus: Hey Ponzorz, are you going to to watch Avengers with everyone this Friday?

Patapon: Ah… I want to go but… Friday is a bit… (Literally in Japanese, you will say, “kyou wa chotto”. Which translates literally to “today is a bit…”)

You want to go but Friday is a bit… what? Well, most people who get the implication will take it to mean, today is a bit NOPE NOPE NOOOPE / I don’t want to go / I’m not free, got my hands tied.

It basically means an instant “no, probably/definitely not going” without directly saying “i’m not going (ikanai yo)”. Even so, it’s a lot more acceptable, polite, and respectful.

Note that you said you wanted to go - most people who get this tatemae thing will just take that as fluff, the prelude. :9 But even so, most people say it.

Example four: This is another instance of an indirect vague-response to when someone asks you for a favour you don’t want to do.

DzyDzyDino: Hey can you please do this for me.
Ponzorz: No, I can’t do it / No, I don’t want to.

^ Yep you guessed it, wrong response. Rewind time.

DzyDzyDino: Hey can you please do this for me.
Ponzorz: It’s a little difficult… (chotto muzukashii ne…)

Muzukashii = Difficult , which is the key word.

Chotto = a little, which is a buffer in a bazillion cases. It’s so useful. -_-

What it DOES NOT mean: Yeah it’s difficult, but I’ll have a hack at it.

What it DOES mean: I don’t want to do it , I’m not inclined to perform this favour for you.

How do you reply to a “muzukashii ne…” ?

You would therefore have to follow on with a “Oh I see, don’t worry about it then” and drop it, or, find another way to persuade the person now that you understand they actually don’t want to perform your request. Don’t say “how is it hard? It should be easy for someone like you!”. They don’t want to do it. Either change tactic, or drop it altogether.

(Sorry Dino and Vox for randomly shoving your names in to the examples, yurushite kure ;-; I’m bad at making up names.)

 

Kuuki yomenai

As mentioned before, Kuuki Yomenai literally translates to “Can’t read the air/atmosphere”.

It’s for those people who are often saying / doing the wrong things, at the wrong time, and making a situation very awkward.

In colloquial japanese, this is abbreviated to the acronym “K.Y” which just stands for, Kuuki Yomenai.

You can upgrade this to SKY, which is “Super Kuuki Yomenai” .

It is generally not advisable to aspire to be a super KY, or an Ultra KY, or a super-ultra-mega KY. It’s perceived as a negative trait most people in Japanese society strive to avoid being labelled as.

To quote the Tofugu website,

"Basically, KY is used to describe people who have trouble getting a read on situations, or have trouble feeling the atmosphere of a situation. This is viewed as a bad thing, and most Japanese do what they can to avoid being labeled as KY.

In many ways, KY can be representative of Japanese culture in general. Japan is a group-oriented society that values harmony, rainbows, and cute animals. As such, Japanese people are well known for being indirect, ambiguous, and avoiding conflict.”

Well then.

That said though, those KY people are often an archetypical character in many anime/drama/manga storylines. Those kind hearted, or maybe loud mouthed, silly, silly, people. How many can you think of?

Okay to be straightforward with you all I’m done with part three. Don’t be a KY and have a good week. :D Part four will be about how all of this can be related back to the Manga and Anime y’all so avidly follow. Sort of.

Thanks for reading! : )

GTY_Ponzorz


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Truth and The Mask - part 2

Posted May 17th, 2015 by Jinn

What’s up guys, GTY_Ponzorz here. As promised, here is part two of the blog post series about the mysterious Japanese concept of Honne and Tatemae. This post is an overview of why such a thing even exists, and how it’s applied in Japanese society in the grand scheme of things. Might be a bit dry… but there is still part 3, 4, and 5, woo... *-_-*

 

History/Cultural Background as to why such an explicitly stated thing even exists and is so deeply entrenched in Japanese culture:

Historical roots

The Honne and Tatemae is often known as the double code of Japanese society. It basically originated from the Heian Period of Japan (794-1185) where this Minamoto dude became the first epic Shogun of Japan and established the Shogunate (bakufu). In this period, the shoguns were the de facto rulers of the country, though officially they were appointed by the emperor. Minamoto Shogun-san gave heaps of power to his shogunate in Kamakura, while the emperor and the imperial court situated back in Kyoto was still intact but held pretty much… zero power. ZERO ;9. This is the origin of the shadow government, where the government that was the Tatemae, and the Shogunate was thus the Honne, the true source of power.


Cultural roots

Most of the cultural roots for Honne/Tatemae comes from the idea of collectivism, that Japan is a society built upon social harmony and peace. Tatemae is used to avoid conflict, lest you inflict your non-homogeneity (that is not a word imsosorry) and selfish desires on the rest of your people and shame yourself/bring inconvenience to people around you. D: (sarcasm)

 

Applications in Japanese society

Politics

Lowdown is politicians speak in fluent Tatemae and it is safe to say that is the only language they now converse in.

They often have broad statements of philosophies that can be interpreted in many ways, avoid use of vocabularies that implies judgement on any given topic, and they have a lot of token words that they just pull out of their .. basket of token words, and everything they say amounts to a load of nothing. An Asahi Editorial that came out in 1994 commented that “a prime minister’s speech must be a vague speech that ‘touches everything covers nothing’. Which further shows that Japanese are already fully aware that these speeches are only for show and do not in actuality address issues.

Examples of politician tatemae speak:

They say “jubun ni” which means adequately. This is a delaying tactic, and no one knows how “adequate” the word “adequately” means to be.

If colleague Gin-san does something wrong/scandalous (for example), colleague Aizen-san will say “I feel sorry” (Ikan ni omou) . This expresses neither accusation nor personal apology, but indicates that the speaker understands that he/she is supposed to “feel sorry” about a certain incident involving his colleague.

Tatemae is used for politicians to avoid a ‘loss of face’/public embarrassment. Tatemae is the safest way to be ambiguous about opinions, commitment, emotions, and thus the safest route to retain political hold.

As a result, the Japanese public does not trust the Japanese government. Tokyo Times (2011) reported that 8 out of ten Japanese felt that the leaders were not telling the truth, especially in the wake of the Great Tohoku Earthquake. D:

Note: Will provide a source for all of this at the bottom of the page + extra reading for those interested

 

Media

Automatically assuming that the incumbent government have a strong influence over what is published in the mainstream newspapers, (as many other countries in the world also do) coupled with the fact that all the Japanese politicians speak in their facade-y vague Tatemae speech anyway, readers can just assume that most of the content in the Asahi, or Yomiuri newspapers (main national-level newspapers in Japan), is the prim-and-proper, pre-determined Tatemae side of a story. It’s like a kyouka suigetsu... of a kyouka suigetsu. (Yo dawg, I heard you like kyouka suigetsus… )

In contrast, the magazines, which have the image of being very trashy and gossipy, are surprisingly, said to show more of the true story behind the curtains, the honne.
 

Foreign Policy

Based on facts and figures, Japan provides a looooot of foreign aid. Japan is one of the biggest donors of Official Development Assistance (ODA) alongside France, Germany, UK and US. The MOFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) states that the Japanese ODA is extended to developing countries where people are facing various concrete problems. However, some scholars argue that even in Japan’s allocation of ODA, Honne and Tatemae is being practiced.

The real intention behind such foreign aid is to foster Japan’s own commercial interest. Put bluntly, altruism is the Tatemae that hides the real intention, and the honne, is their own agenda. While Japan truly did allocate more funds to poorer countries, trade partners of Japan in ASEAN countries received higher development funds from Japan. (ie. In the name of ODA , Japan has been giving funds to ODA eligible countries who are also big trade partners with Japan.)

In Business

Japanese workers are given annual leave, but that is a tatemae and it’s socially expected that you don’t use the annual leave you’re given . :x

The infamous drinking culture of Japan exists to bridge the gaping hole between honne and tatemae, so people can loosen up and say what they want. It’s also culture that what you say on a drinking session stays within the drinking session, it is forgive and forget the next day.

Okay, that’s all I have to say on the above four big aspects. Sorry that must have been quite dry, but I thought maybe a few of you might want to read it. Though… yeah it might have been really boring.


Extra on the side: Honne and Giri

There are a lot of other concepts that tie in with Honne/Tatemae. Giri is “duty” or “obligations” - in the sense of discharging your duty (or never discharging your duty) till the day you die - it’s a self-sacrificing sense of devotion to your superiors, your country, your people.

(If you ever watch Valentines episode anime, there is always “giri choco” - chocolate a girl gives you, not because she is romantically interested, but because you are her friend and she will give “giri choco” to everyone that is her friend. It sounds bad when you translate it and call it “giri choco” because I’m sure she’s giving her friends chocolate because she wants to and I would be happy to receive giri choco (Unless I was interested in her lol then woe me) but in the workplace, and perhaps other situations, you give dat giri choco to everyone - even people you don’t like - because it’s obligatory and it helps networking, maintaining interpersonal relations, etc) but I digress!)

There is a conflict between honne and giri - which is often examined in Japanese literature and drama, every time, all the time. A good example is for the protagonist to choose between carrying out obligations to his family/state/government/lord, or pursuing an epic (read; secret, clandestine) love affair. I am a real sucker for this kind of basic setting in a story but it usually ends in tragedy. *cry*

(On a side note, the recent generations of people in Japan pursue a more free and individualistic path which has clearly deviated from the path of their forefathers - but I suppose change comes slow, and the notion of giri is still very deeply entrenched in Japanese culture.)

-

Oke doke, this is the end of part 2 – part three will be some IRL applications of this concept. When does yes mean no, and when is it that someone is subtly trying to kick you out of their house? (x_x)

 

In the meantime, it would be interesting to hear from readers in this post and the next, what kind of norms are in your own cultures? (My German friend tells me it’s sometimes considered rude to be wishy-washy and indirect in the german mentality (More of which I will cover next week), my French friend tells me French politicians have a “langue de bois” (tongue of wood) for the tatemae speak of the politicians and my Serbian friend tells me that in some situations, a second cup of coffee served is a subtle queue to leave? In Chinese, there is an expression of having a “thick face” to express that someone is shameless, and so on… :9)

That’s it for now, sorry for the long post and thanks for reading.

 

Jaaa mata.

 

 

Reference source:

http://skemman.is/stream/get/1946/17171/40110/1/ThesisH$0026T.pdf

I did some extra reading up to write this post – which is basically a summary of this link. If you want extra detailed reading, this is the source.

Thanks again for reading!

 

GTY_Ponzorz


Comments

Truth and The Mask - part 1

Posted May 10th, 2015 by Jinn

Hi guys, GTY_Ponzorz here. I mainly translate Bleach. I am not sure why but it came to my realisation lately that this certain aspect of Japanese culture actually crops up in anime/manga more than we realise, so I thought I’d just write a post about it for anyone who is interested. Since I translate Bleach, many general examples I give will be Bleach related so please bear with me, but hopefully it’s not too bad. What would be awesome is if you could leave in the comments your own analysis/views about your favourite anime/manga in relation to this topic!

This post will be divided in to five parts which will be posted weekly, on Sundays (GMT) – to save you from reading a super long post all at once. Promise it will be good. :x

Okay, so here is what I want to talk about:

The truth and the mask: Honne and Tatemae

This is a very distinctly Japanese concept, and may be a little difficult to explain and grasp so please bear with me.
As a short-and-sweet summary to give you an idea;

Honne is the truth; someone’s true feelings, their inner desire, what it is they themselves want. In Japanese society, this is not something that is revealed easily. You’d have to be considerably intoxicated or be very trusting of someone (close friend) to disclose your honne.

Tatemae is a facade; I don’t want to call it a lie, but in many cases you can’t deny that the tatemae is a lie. It’s the polite exterior mask you show to the world, to avoid conflict and preserve pride.

This concept is deeply, deeply entrenched into Japanese culture, and small children, knowingly or unknowingly, learn to grow up maintaining their two different codes of conduct. (Kids are legit taught to have a Tatemae face in the classroom, regardless of their personal thoughts on an issue.)

This is not to say that such a concept is unique to Japan. A lof of people who are familiarised for the first time with Tatemae say, “Oh wow wata bunch of flaming liars the Japanese people are then.” I don’t think it’s reasonable to assume people of the Japanese society lie more or less than any other group of people on this planet. For starters, in many oriental cultures with confucian values, the idea of honor, pride, saving face, doing what is right vs what you want, has been prevalent through centuries and centuries of civilisation. I am sure in your respective cultures, there is such a standard of maintaining a facade, being polite, telling white lies- things which you learn to adapt to - and gradually get a grip on what kind of stuff you do and say flies in your society, and what just really doesn’t.

Why I say this is a distinctly Japanese concept though, is the fact that they have coined specific words such as “honne” and “tatemae” to explicitly talk about this social convention - it is a big deal to them - and this concept of a polite facade is definitely more evident in Japanese society, and more acceptable too. (There are also many anthropologists, psychologists, linguists, who do research on this stuff! ) and having an understanding of it, even a basic understanding, can help to better understand a lot of the other issues, behaviours, events, that happen in Japanese society - because once you’ve learnt to identify Honne/Tatemae, boy is it obvious sometimes - and as a reader , some of the things people/characters do can make a deeper impact/ hold more significance than before. : )

As a translator of Japanese, having a solid grasp on this concept is especially important in order to make solid translations of the meanings in the dialogue. How do you translate a conversation that means on thing on the surface, but may imply something else completely?

To quote Jay Rubin (Translator of many of Murakami Haruki’s novels, and Japanese literature lecture at Harvard University)

“The Japanese language can express anything it needs to, but Japanese social norms often require people to express themselves indirectly or incompletely.”

I’m sure Dino and Vox have written many a post about how vague the Japanese language can be in comparison to English, and the challenges translators and readers alike face in reading a story that’s been translated to a different language. I guess this post will build on their posts, and hopefully this post will connect to previous blog posts.


Next week I will cover some ground on the applications of the concept of Honne/Tatemae in Japanese society, so don’t forget to come back and have a look.


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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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