August 18th, 2011


Manga theory

So today I was thinking of talking about the manga industry. We think we figured out why its been such a long time since we've been assigned to a volume one, and why Viz won't answer our emails. Its all about supply and demand. Keep in mind that this is all complete and utter speculation.

From what we gather, it makes sense to think that when somebody thinks about getting into the manga industry, they've already been studying Japanese as a hobby for a while anyway, so why not be a translator? That being the case, aspiring translators are to the manga industry what aspiring actors are to Hollywood.

Okay, so its probably not to that extreme, but theirs a big problem that makes it extra difficult for translators to maintain their foothold in the industry: it doesn't matter how skilled you are as a translator, because nobody knows. Well, other translators might know, if they bothered to (or had enough time to) evaluate other translators' work, and if they were good enough to know. Because here's the thing: if your not really that good at Japanese, you won't really know whether or not somebody else is. But! you can still get hired as a manga translator.

You're English doesn't have to be that great either, because they'll just send it through an adapter and/or an editor. We think the reason adaptation became the norm in manga (aside from the localization aspect) is that, back when manga was getting started in the US, they're were literary translators who could translate the dialogue (as opposed to patent translators, who tend to be afraid of dialogue (we've seen it, sort of)), but we imagine a lot of them were like, "A comic book? Are you kidding me? I have better things to do." This theory comes from one of our Japanese literary professors, who was a very nice man but wanted nothing to do with manga, and our experience with smart people in general. So they got whatever translators they could, and the translations turned out stiff. But then they got they're comic-writer friends and it was all good...or so they thought. But I digress.

So anyway. The point is, we think theirs a glut of manga translators, and the only way to establish yourself as doing quality work is to be able to do fast work responsibly, that ideally doesn't read like...something unreadable. So what happens is these new translators come into the field, and then, regardless of how skilled they are, they prove to be irresponsible, or they decide they want to get a "real job," or they realize that oh my gosh this manga is wall to wall text!...and then the series gets handed down to us.

That being the case, the only way to compete is with prices. This is very very bad. Why? Because there are already scanslators out there doing this stuff for free! You can't beat free and still make a living. You can't be on par with free and make a living. And that's why we keep working for these companies who are so late in paying us all the time--its either play along or lose work. We can be the best translators in the world (which we certainly are not, but we like to think we're pretty good), but nobody will know, and therefore we are not irreplaceable.

The frustrating thing about it is that we've seen differences. Its not just us, either, so its not like we're being elitist. We've seen good translations and we've seen bad translations, and not all of them had to do with readability.

And its all well and good that we've figured that out, but now we have to figure out how to solve the problem.

Today I'm thankful for the fun Disney photo editor we have on our computer (we really need to play with it more often, but the thought of editing pictures always sends me running in the other direction), getting to watch Ryoko Fukuyama color, getting to see a new color (other than skin color) before we went to bed, the guys being done painting our balcony (not that they were really bothering us, but it was a little awkward), and the True to the Faith manual.
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