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Alethea & Athena
At the Kodansha panel 
8th-Jul-2016 04:27 pm
All this Pokemon GO stuff is driving us nuts. Don't you people understand we don't have time for Pokemon!? Nevertheless, we downloaded it anyway. And Athena's iPad understands that we don't have time for Pokemon, because it's not letting the app work. That's probably for the best, I guess.

In the meantime, work is going very well! We finished two translations and a first draft this week. So now we're down to three books that are due in ten days, and two of them already have rough drafts. Things are looking pretty good, but we still have to be cautious, because the one thing we haven't worked on at all is Noragami, which as you all know, is our most time-consuming series. And then we'll have maybe three days to work on our new series before we go up to Fresno. Nevertheless, we refuse to work tomorrow, because we need to take some time to relax.

But anyway, speaking of our new series, in our AX report, we were just about to go to the Kodansha panel. We were actually a little afraid we wouldn't get in, because before they let our section of the line in, they kept letting in more and more and more and more other sections of the line, and we'd been in that room before and we knew it wasn't all that big. Fortunately, we made it! And everybody got a free floppy that's somehow related to the Attack on Titan anthology. If we'd ever bothered to open it, we'd be able to tell you more about it. (It's not that we have zero interest; just that everything is such a whirlwind.)

The panel started out announcing their new titles...of which I only remember one. As in, I'm not sure they announced more than one. Athena said they announced 1F, which now that she reminds me, I remember sounding fascinating, being a nonfiction series about working at the nuclear power plant after the 2011 quake. But of course the list was reported elsewhere. And the main reason we remember the other title is that it's the new one we'll be translating! Fire Force, by the creator of Soul Eater. So even though the deadline is kinda tight on it, and we probably would have said yes anyway because we're always interested in new manga, when our editor told us it was by Atsushi Ohkubo, there was no way we could turn it down! We're really excited to work on it, and we started watching Soul Eater Not because now we've been reminded of that that's a thing.

Then the panelists wanted to talk about some new titles that have already been announced but haven't been published yet. We forgot most of those, too, because for some reason they chose a lot of titles we're not working on. But they did talk about Nekogahara, and it was kind of weird, because I feel like they were really tired or something, because they didn't seem exactly thrilled about anything. With Nekogahara, they pointed out that it's by the guy who did Shaman King, and that if you're a Rurouni Kenshin fan, this guy got his start as one of that author's assistants, and to me it felt like they were kind of scraping the barrel for reasons to read it, which is so weird because IT'S SAMURAI CATS!!! What other selling point could you possibly need? I mean, hello. You're in a room full of manga fans; obviously they like samurai action stuff. And cats! All these people use the internet, which means of course they love cats! Cats are what make the internet go round!

...So what I'm saying is, I don't understand how you could not be excited about this title. I also wonder if maybe none of them had time to read volume one all the way through, because they didn't really talk about what it was about. Also nobody seemed to pick up on the obvious reference to Sekigahara, which was a decisive battle during the Warring States Era, leading to the Edo Era. But maybe they just didn't bring that up because, since stuff like Attack on Titan is bringing in a lot of new fans, they might have thought the audience wouldn't be interested in a history lesson. Ah well. Anyway, we just turned in volume one yesterday, and it's pretty fun, so we definitely recommend it.

When they got to Welcome to the Ballroom, we almost immediately regretted not snatching that series up for ourselves (it was on our list, though!), because they turned to Yohei Takami and said, "Do you want to talk about this one?" Because he's the editor on it. Thinking about it, that might mean it was a good idea not to take it after all, because the main reason we didn't is that it seemed likely that it was going to take a lot of research. Not that we wouldn't love researching ballroom dance, but we don't watch Dancing with the Stars for the same reason we don't play Pokemon. There are all these fascinating things in the world and we only have so much time to invest in them! Arrrrrgh! ...Oh well. There's still a chance we'll end up taking over on the series somewhere in the middle.

They spent some time talking about their digital line, which is reviving a lot of older titles that TokyoPop and Del Rey published way back when, including! Alive: Something Something Something, the first series that Adachitoka worked on. (Turns out we tend to leave the -sensei off for her/them, too. I think it's because usually we either say the full name, or the surname plus -sensei, and Adachitoka sounds like a full name.) So that's available...now, I think, but since we don't read our manga in English, we just made a mental note to order Japanese copies and didn't pick up on American release dates.

Anyway, finally, it was time for Takami-san's demonstration. We imagine this is the same demonstration he did when he was making the convention rounds last year, because the slides showed a chapter that would have been published in Monthly Shonen Magazine around that time, and back then they were saying, "See a never-before-seen scene of Noragami!" or something that didn't repeat the syllable "see" so frequently. But the point is, he was demonstrating the Japanese manga editing process. The first step is discussion, which is very important, possibly the most important. He and the manga artist talk about anything and everything except the actual series. For example, Adachitoka (whom he referred to as "she" in the singular) has a rabbit named Borscht, and he'll ask how Borscht is doing. The idea is for everyone to feel relaxed and good about themselves so they'll be ready to write a good story.

Next is the name, which I think most of our readers already know about. This is the really rough drawings made when they're just hashing out the storyline and staging and everything. Takami-san showed a slide from when Bishamon named Shichi, and the drawings were indeed very rough. He indicated the text and said it takes special training to be able to read writing like that, but he's been trained. (I don't mean to brag (okay, maybe I do), but we have some training in that area, too, so we were able to discern what scene it was, despite it being very rough and a little different from the final version, by reading the text. ...Okay, we couldn't tell exactly what scene it was, because it was so rough, but we could read enough to know that it was a naming ceremony. And the other reason we couldn't tell which naming ceremony it was is that in that rough draft, Bishamon gave Shichi a different name...which we couldn't read.)

At this point, I may have been too busy trying to read the text to listen to what Takami-san was saying. I imagine it was something about how the name is the rough draft, where they go over story and staging and stuff. Next is the pencil sketches, and then the final version. Takami-san showed slides, and then he told us all the secret to good manga, which is top secret, and we're not supposed to tell anyone, but since he told a whole room full of people, I think it's okay to actually tell everyone, especially because it's not something that you couldn't figure out if you thought about it hard enough. The secret is that at any time, Takami-san can say, no, you can do more. You can do better.

It reminded me of Adachitoka's comment in Stray Stories, where she talked about how her editor would not let up on her. And we just went and checked that comment, and she said it was thanks to him that she was able to publish Stray Stories.

It's really true, though. We've seen a lot of stories that made us wish, like Lucy in Servant x Service, that somebody in charge would have said, "...Are you sure?" (Watch Servant x Service, you guys. It's hilarious.) But it's clear from this panel and the comment in Stray Stories that Takami-san has very high standards for manga, and Noragami probably wouldn't be as awesome as it is without his direction.

After the demonstration, they took some questions, none of which were very memorable, and then the panel was over. We went up to the front to say high to the panelists, but most of them were busy packing up, so the only one we really talked to was Takami-san. He said he was really nervous--he would have had no problem giving that demonstration in Japanese, but in English? I wonder if he did give it in Japanese at other conventions. Anyway, I know I would have been terrified, even if I were giving the presentation in my native language, so. By then I had pulled out the capybara plush, and he commented on how it was cute. I said it was too bad it wasn't Capyper, and he actually got the joke, which was still amazing to me, even though look at who we were talking to. I'm just so used to people in real life not understanding our favorite anime references. And most importantly, he said next time we go to Japan we should get in touch and we can go see his office! So we exchanged business cards, and that's when he finally got a look at our first names and was just as confused as most other people at the similarity. Ha, ha, ha. But then we explained the meaning and hopefully it was less confusing.

Oh! And he also asked, since Noragami is a comedy, isn't it hard to translate? Oh, boy howdy is it hard to translate, but not because it's a comedy. But that's when my Japanese failed me, and I couldn't really explain the details. We did bring up words with double meanings, and the thing about hafuri and haburu, and how we had no idea that it had that double meaning. And he said, "That's okay; most Japanese people don't know, either." And we said, "Yeah, but now we couldn't look up a word that means both in English." And he said, "There is one?" And I said, "I don't think so, but we would have looked!"

And then we parted ways and headed back to the dealers' hall, because we hadn't been able to talk to our editor at Yen Press yet. Also, it was the first time Cecille's plans and ours weren't in conflict, so we met up at the Yen Press booth. While we were there, we discovered the Handa Time calligraphy challenge thing, and we each took a calligraphy pen and wrote the symbol for "cat". The lady in charge turned to our editor and asked what she thought, and our editor was like, "You have to give them a passing grade!" So each of our papers got stamped with an adorable Naru that said...something about good work. And then we all agreed that the "needs work" stamp with Handa on it was more fun, so she stamped that one on our calligraphy, too. And then we stood next to the Barakamon cutout and had our picture taken with our calligraphy. After that, we talked and talked and talked with our editor about translating and dialects and this and that, and eventually something happened to Cecille's wig (she was cosplaying Duo Maxwell from Gundam Wing), so we ran off to the bathroom so she could fix it.

We wandered around with Cecille until it was time for the Gundam cosplay gathering, and we would have parted ways there, but her phone was out of storage and she was without a photographing device. So I stayed and took pictures. It was kind of nice, because it was a small gathering with just enough people there to say, "Okay, now a picture of this!" to make it organized. Those are the best kinds of gatherings.

Then we ran out of things to do, so we figured we might as well check out of our hotel and go spend Sunday at home. We returned to the convention on Monday morning (after obtaining more peach lemonade Slurpees), and first we went to the dealers' hall, where our editor from Yen Press gave us each a packet of all the Fruits Basket freebies they had been giving away on Sunday. She's so good to us! There was one of everything--a clear file, postcards, etc. We're very grateful to her, as always.

We also went and made the two expensive purchases we had decided to make. First, we wanted to get a puzzle box. We saw them last year and we wanted one then, but we didn't get one, and this year I just really wanted one! So we got one, but ended up not getting one that was too expensive, which meant we could splurge on the fancy cedar box set of Japanese: The Game. Somebody developed a card game to help people learn Japanese, and we're like, "Hello? Translators? We already know Japanese." But it seemed like such a neat game anyway! And we know people who are mildly interested in learning Japanese, and we might come into contact with them at some point in the future, so why not?

Finally, we had to get a grab bag. This year, we were a little bit more selective about our grab bag, because while we have a weakness for surprises, we realized that it's better if you narrow down the field a little bit to make sure the surprise is something you're going to really like. And as it so happened, Bellzi.com had a booth where they were selling grab bags containing adorable plushes. Just one plush and one accessory in each bag, but the plushes were nice and big, and super adorable, so that was the grab bag we had our eye on! ...If we happened to see the booth again before we left. And as it just so happens, we did! So we bought a grab bag, and it came with a narwhal lanyard, and an adorable and very soft plush of Lioni the lion. I haven't checked the website, but it does make me wonder if the Bellzi people have the same naming sense as the four-year-old (now six) we used to babysit. (Some of you may remember the argument we had when she tried to rename our plush snake Riku to Snaky.)

And now it's just about time for us to go to the Primary pool party, so I'll have to save the reporting on the last two panels for tomorrow.

Today I'm thankful for making very good progress on the Big Five, finally having a puzzle box, plush toy grab bags, our very kind Yen Press editor, and incentive to go back to Japan (as if we needed more).
9th-Jul-2016 02:40 am (UTC)
I know, right! And some people don't have the smartphone OR the time for it. Sad days. (I know, the no-smartphone-thing is the result of my own life choices.)

Yayyy, the panel report~ The new series that I'm not lettering!! Hahaha. Have fun with it though :D Oh and Welcome to the Ballroom! Another series that I'm not lettering... (I was offered it too, but no time in general, and specifically no time when they wanted it done by. But then they offered it to my brother instead, and he's excited about that! Yay!) I am excited to read samurai cat manga too!!

Ahhhhhh so cool you got to have a conversation with Takami-san about Noragami!! Oh maaaan!!! And that you explained a bit of what makes it hard to translate besides the comedy. Hahaha. Wow, visiting his office would be so cool too~ I also appreciate all his advice and insight about the editorial process!! The evidence seems pretty clear he does a great job with that.

I'm kinda-sorta-really-super curious about what they'll do about continuing the Alive manga, since Del Rey stopped at like 10? Will(/DID?!) they farm it out to some half-rate Crunchyroll team?? I hope not. But the original translator passed away last year... and I don't think Kodansha works as much with the company that did the lettering (thankfully, because it was kinda crappy in the one volume I have). You know where I'm going with this. Why do I do this to myself...??

Yen editor!!! The best editor!!!♥ Hahaha, I agree about the stamps (Handa's disapproving Needs More Work face makes me laugh and laugh) but it's nice that they gave you credit for your good work :D Also, HEY!!!! I WANT TO SEE A PICTURE OF YOUR HIYORI/YATORI COSTUMES AND YOUR CALLIGRAPHY AND THE BARAKAMON CUTOUT!!! (sorry for shouting.) :D
9th-Jul-2016 04:09 pm (UTC)
I know! And it turns out you do need to have some kind of constant internet connection, so an iPad that doesn't have a data plan or whatever is only going to work in places where you have internet access--not so good for exploring. We're now considering the possibility of upgrading a phone or two in the near future (but not too strongly; we really don't have time for Pokemon). It would be pretty neat if you could play it on one of those smartphone watches.

Thanks! We hope we do have fun with the new series! But man, Welcome to the Ballroom! That was the one that, when we first read the announcement, we were really bummed that they hadn't asked us to translate it. Then we found out we could have any of those titles, and we ended up not choosing that one, and it's bugging us, especially now that we've done more than one series that has us wishing for better editors (before we met Takami-san, even; we would just remember how Bisco Hatori talked about her editor demanding funnier material, and we wished more editors would be like him). But we're happy for your brother! (We still haven't given up hope that we'll be working on it someday, but we can't wish for it too strongly, because the other translator might like it a lot.) And yes! Samurai cat manga! Guaranteed winning combination!

Yeah, and when we were on the bus home, I couldn't stop thinking about what all else I had to say about Noragami being hard, and why translators seem to think comedy is difficult and... Anyway, we're sure that if we happened to be traveling with a friendly letterer, she would be welcome to come along with us on an office visit.

Oh, so they DID stop in the middle... Oooohhh... We do happen to know (after talking with our editor at AX) that when Kodansha does simulpub type things, they ask the USA office if they can recommend any translators, which is likely how we got assigned the work on Farewell, My Dear Cramer, so... On the other hand, the original translator passed away? And the author passed away, too. This series doesn't seem to have a good track record for people who write the dialogue... But not everybody passed away, so it's probably fine.

She IS the best! And the stamps! And thanks for the reminder! I'll see about transferring pictures from the camera to the computer this weekend. (It's a little bit more involved, because our camera doesn't like cables, so we have to pull out the tiny tiny memory card and put it in a less tiny adapter so we can insert it directly into our computer. So the first step is to remember where I left that adapter... ETA: The very next thing I did was say, "I think I left it really close by," and moved some stuff and there it was!)

Edited at 2016-07-09 07:10 pm (UTC)
9th-Jul-2016 05:29 pm (UTC)
Ew, I'm sorry about your series with not-so-great editorial direction. That brings to mind Monthly Girsls' Nozaki-kun's two editor characters. I get so curious about how much is exaggerated because the bad editor is just THE WORST EVER and it pains me to imagine him having some basis in reality.

Ah, the flood of things that could have been said and come to mind after a conversation!! But now you can be prepared for next time you meet :D Awww, traveling! Visiting Japan!! I want to!!!! Hmm, I've only got two books currently scheduled for November...... (is it scary that I have a list going through December, and that most months already have 4-5 books on them?)

And what were your thoughts on why translators seem to think comedy is difficult? My current theory is that, more than figuring out how to translate jokes or wordplay into another language, the difficulty would be getting the comedic timing and phrasing right consistently throughout the dialogue, which builds up to a more funny overall experience and helps me to laugh at the peak comedic moments when I might otherwise just smile or say "oh, that's funny." At least, that's one of the things that stands out to me in Noragami and My Little Monster. On the other hand, there are comedies like Izumi Tsubaki's (Nozaki-kun, Oresama Teacher) which I think have more average translations (Nozaki's may be refined some in the final version; I read it pre-edit) but I still laugh a ton because the situations are so thoroughly ridiculous. (which isn't to say Noragami/MLM don't have their ridiculous moments too. they've got it all!)

Yay, you found the adapter!! :D
9th-Jul-2016 06:39 pm (UTC)
Ha ha, yeah, that Maeno was pretty funny in the anime. I think in the cases we're thinking of, though, it was more a matter of an editor either being too lax, or maybe even just having a different sense of humor. For example, *coughcoughmaidsamacoughcough* could have benefited from somebody saying, "You know, I think you can do better."

I know, right? It is scary that you have a list going through December. Ours only goes through September, but then I guess since we're the first step in the process, a September deadline for us would be later for you. And of course, we don't currently have a long-running bestselling series that needs to be churned out at inhuman velocities. Good luck!

Anyway, as for going to Japan, much as we would like to go, y'know, right away, due to schedules and finances (braceeeees! *shakes fist*), we're currently thinking the most realistic option would be to shoot for when the next Noragami stage play opens, which should be around February. But of course, we're trying to stay flexible.

Ha ha, I have a new theory on what makes comedy translation difficult every day! It's all speculation, because we never thought of it as being especially hard--and I don't say that to brag; we just don't really think about it until someone mentions it, and then we think about it nonstop for a while. Of course comedy that revolves around pop culture references or wordplay is going to be difficult for the same reason non-comedy that revolves around pop culture references or wordplay is difficult.

My most charitable theory is that translation is the art of taking an incomprehensible language and making it comprehensible, and a lot of comedy relies on the unexpected and the unnatural. If it's your job to make words make sense to other people, you're kind of trained not to translate lines to sound silly. In that vein, there also seems to be a sense of, "It makes sense to native speakers!" so when something comes along that's not natural to native speakers, and that's why it's funny...well, it just gets confusing.

My least charitable theory is that most translators are a bunch of intellectual snobs who are afraid of looking silly themselves, so they have a really hard time bringing themselves to write those silly lines. This theory is backed up by multiple experiences of working with other translators (or reading their work) who had a hard time with comedy unless the comedy involved mean snarky comments, in which case they did great.
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