August 29th, 2012



We finally bought a new computer yesterday! And it's sitting out in the living room, in its unopened box! Are you kidding me? We don't have time to set up a new computer! We've got work to do! ...Actually, we probably do have time to set up a new computer, but we've got this momentum thing going. And we only have a little bit of extra time, and after that long stint of having no extra time, we're under the illusion that we still have no time.

Anyway. While we were busy being busy, a lot of stuff happened that we wanted to talk about. I guess I might as well address things in the order that they came up, so first up is manga adaptation. Last week, liannesentar posted about Alice in the Country of Hearts, and why she made one of the characters rhyme, and why she adapts things the way she does and stuff. We wanted to comment directly to the post, but we felt a response would have needed to be well thought out, and we didn't have time to think things out at all. By the time things even started to calm down, it was old news, so we figured we might as well just write up our own post on the subject. But I'm going to be honest here--it still isn't very well thought out.

First of all, let's address the rhyming thing. We think it could be a good idea. We're not familiar with the series at all, so we couldn't say whether or not it's a good idea in this particular context, but it definitely could be. See, characters don't rhyme in Japanese. Like, ever. It's just not something that works as a poetic device. Even when they rap, they don't rhyme. In fact, we seem to remember being told in one of our various Japanese classes that poems were thought of as inferior if they rhymed, because the way the Japanese language works, it's way too easy...and would probably sound juvenile. So, "But he doesn't rhyme in the original!" is not even close to a legitimate reason to be upset about a character rhyming in translation.

Of course, we know that's not why people were upset about it, but I have more to say on the matter. In Disney's Snow White, Snow White talks in rhyme. In Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, Snow White only talks in rhyme in the English version. Why? Because rhyming isn't a thing they do in Japanese. But to make the translation a good one, the translators had to make sure Snow White spoke in rhyme, because that's a thing she does. (They then went on to make the Wicked Queen rhyme, which is a mistake, because that's not a thing she does...well, she rhymes when she's summoning the slave in the magic mirror, but that's about it. But whatever.)

The point is, sometimes, it's a good idea to give characters quirky speech patterns that weren't immediately apparent in the Japanese. For example, in My Heavenly Hockey Club, Natsuki's dad thinks he's a pirate. Pirate speak is another thing that just isn't a thing in Japanese. But it's a thing here, so if someone thinks he's a pirate, it would be a mistake to not translate him talking like a pirate. (We did our best; not sure we succeeded. That was a long time ago, anyway.)

On the other hand, the post said some things that we disagree with. Namely, the part that talked about the strength of the Japanese dialogue. This may just be our misreading of the post, based on what we assume to be the attitude of even some translators we've spoken with, but the post seemed to reflect this idea that seems to exist, especially in the manga world, that Japanese is a stilted, clunky language. Okay, that was a harsh description of it, but it seems like people think that if a translation script sounds clunky, that's the fault of the original Japanese, and not the fault of the translator in any way.

It always baffles me that people would think that, because if the original work was so popular in Japan, doesn't that indicate that the dialogue Especially if it's manga, and especially if it's manga where the art leaves something to be desired, like Happy Cafe. (I realize we're making ourselves look bad by indicating Happy Cafe, but dangit! We like that series, and if the dialogue sounds bad, it's because we didn't convey it properly, because that's a funny series!)

On the other hand, one of the other things that happened last week that I need to post about indicates that it may be a cultural difference and not any fault on anyone's part whatsoever, but we've always been of the opinion that people are pretty much the same wherever you go. So it sounds a insensitive? To say that a Japanese script always needs improvement.

Of course, just because something doesn't need improvement doesn't mean it couldn't use a little improvement, and that's the other thing I wanted to talk about. It goes back to the pirate talk thing. Sometimes, you need to add stuff to make it more fun, and more appropriate with the language change. But you have to be careful. Another thing we tend to notice about adaptations (and this includes adaptations done by the same person who wrote the translation) is a lack of understanding of the characters, or of certain wordings that might be important to the story.

The adapter tends to put his or her own words into the characters' mouths. For example, there was a scene in Negima! where Negi runs up to Asuna, and Asuna says (in the original English adaptation) sarcastically, "Oh good, I was getting tired of being clothed." It was kind of funny, and it does spice up the line (she originally said just, "Ugh, you're back"), but when we redid the Negima! scripts, we realized it was stuff like that that drew even more attention to the elements of the story that made us dislike the story, thus making us like the story even less. Whether or not that takes Asuna out of character is debatable, but the fact remains that it lessened our enjoyment of the story, when I imagine the goal was to do the opposite.

One comment that was made, either in the post or in the comments, was that Lianne likes to add things so that those who have the original have something new! to enjoy. That's kind of a valid reason, but we disagree with it. It only works when the people who have both versions can fully understand and enjoy both versions. Our understanding of the whole purpose of the manga translation industry was to make something that was unavailable available. (Of course, with scanslations, that makes the whole thing debatable again, but still.) That being the case, we want our readers to know the characters the same way we know them. We don't think of the characters as characters to be written, but as friends to be introduced, and so we don't want to color them the wrong way (although we very likely fail in some cases...). If they do something we don't agree with, well, they have their agency and can do what they want.

...I'm not sure I'm explaining this right, but it's like this: In Higurashi, there's a scene where one of the characters tells his theory about what the Resurrection of Jesus Christ really meant. It did not fit at all with our idea of the Resurrection, and I admit, I had a difficult time typing it up. But we didn't change it, because we're not speaking for ourselves--we're speaking for the characters. And it's a good thing we didn't, too, because that would have affected the story, I think, and we would have had to tweak all kinds of things along the way. (Also, we're okay with it, because it didn't seem like the story was advocating that theory. If it did, and if we weren't so close to the end, we may have asked to be taken off the project, because it's not our job to change things.)

Maybe one of these days we'll post the different versions of the Negima! lexicon entry on witch hunts.

And I'm not sure if I've really conveyed the thoughts I wanted to convey, but that's a start, anyway.

Today I'm thankful for Mom taking us to get a new computer, having a shiny new computer to set up at some point, having some free time today, Mom treating us to Baskin Robbins ice cream, and getting to listen to our Type-0 soundtrack today.