April 16th, 2013


Blast from the past

Ha, ha, ha! I bet you were not expecting to get another post about Kingdom Hearts manga today! It's true, I did exhaust a lot of my material. But I still have a lot more! I'm still undecided about whether or not to write a post about Xigbar, but I have something else to talk about today.

Some of you may remember that we have actually translated Kingdom Hearts manga before. Just one volume, many years ago. In fact, we re-translated volume one of the Kingdom Hearts II manga almost exactly six years after we translated it the first time. I hinted at it a few months ago, because that really was an interesting experience.

As I said yesterday, the first part of this assignment was to type up a script of the TokyoPop editions, and that included the volume we translated lo those many years ago. And when we typed it up, we were kind of horrified. So much awkwardness! Oh my goodness! I mean, I know we've grown as translators over the years, but we didn't realize we were that bad! Oh, the shame! The humiliation! I wanted to crawl in a hole and hide, but at the same time shout from the rooftops, "I'm sorry, Kingdom Hearts! We'll fix it, we promise!!!"

Then it came time to do the fixing, and make everything right. So we started to compare the Japanese version with the English version, and with the video game script. Come to find out, none of the awkwardness was actually out fault. ...Well, maybe some of it was--it's really hard to say for sure without getting our original translation and checking, but as they say on the interwebs, ain't nobody got time for that.

Here's what happened: a very conscientious editor from TokyoPop carefully went through the script and made sure the dialogue matched the game as closely as possible. We had actually thought maybe that wasn't the case, because we didn't remember the game sounding that awkward. I mean, sure, there are translations in the game that we disagree with (as stated yesterday, everyone has their own opinion about how something should be translated), but most of the time it wasn't awkward (there is a line of Goofy's in Space Paranoids...and a line of Demyx's, but that's much later on). But of course the dialogue in the manga, when compared with the dialogue in the Japanese version of the game, is, in fact, quite different.

I think only people who read the manga and have played the game will understand how this works, but the manga--especially in the prologue, which is what volume one covers--feels exactly the same as the game...but not. All the same stuff happens, but in just a slightly different way, so now the dialogue needs to be tweaked to match the context. It's just close enough that it seems like the game dialogue could match, but when put in those speech bubbles in those pictures, it no longer works. Sometimes, there will even be a line or two straight from the game, but because of how it was translated for the game and the stuff that happens around it in the manga, the translation has to be tweaked, despite the line being exactly the same.

It's all a very fascinating study in how translation works, but I guess it's harder to follow if you don't have all the materials.

Anyway, that's the story of how we were knocked down a peg and found out we didn't have to be. ...It's good to stay humble, though. Clearly we're not doing a very good job.

Today I'm thankful for more fascinating language studies, work going pretty well today, having our sink fixed, not having to eat shiokara, and the piano arrangement of the Traverse Town theme.