July 20th, 2018


The translation panel

Oh man, the Fire Force edit went slower than we hoped. That dialect took forever to deal with. You're gonna wanna check it out to see what kind of a dialect it was! And then we thought maybe we'd have some extra time tonight, but instead of watching anime, we decided to try and finish Nekogahara, and that turned out to be harder than we hoped, too. We were aware of the possibility that it could be as hard as it ended up being, so at least we weren't disappointed, but oh my goodness. We're up late and we still haven't finished it! And we're on the last page! But we couldn't see ourselves wrapping it up in a timely manner, so we just decided it was time to stop. And so everything continues to be pushed back, back, back...

Anyway, let's talk a little bit more about Anime Expo. It occurred to me after Wednesday that I could have had a nice cliffhanger at when we were about to go to the "So you want to be a translator?" panel. This is the panel that had us going, "Well, maybe we don't need to put ourselves on the waiting list after all." See, because we wanted to do a panel ourselves this year, but we waited too long to apply, so two weeks before the convention they emailed and said, "We know it's hard to deal with uncertainty this close to the convention, so if you still want to be on the waiting list, just email us back." But we were too busy to deal with it, and we knew there was already going to be a panel on translating, so we just kind of let it slide.

The premise of the panel is that the host had three contestants that were going to participate in a sort of translation game show, as a way to show what goes into translating...or something like that. It took a long time to start, because they were having technical difficulties. Eventually they decided to just rearrange the order, and do the stuff that didn't require Power Point first, while they figured out how to get everything to work.

So the host introduced the panel, and said he was from J-Novel Club, and had this whole spiel about how hard it is to translate light novels as opposed to manga and anime. He said that with manga and anime, you have the visuals to help you know what's going on, but with light novels, you don't get any help, so it's like translating naked. I thought, "Well...you do have the words to help, and, as a translator, it's kind of your job to know what those mean." Maybe I was just being contrary because we were waiting outside in the heat for so long.

Or maybe I was getting angry because he seemed to be trying to convince us all that light novels are soooooo much better than anime and manga. At one point I even just spoke out and said, "Are you trying to say that manga is inferior? Because, as a manga translator, I'm offended." His response was to introduce Athena and me to the rest of the room, say we're some of the "most...well-regarded" translators in the industry. I can't help wondering what that pause was for, but on the other hand, I'm like, "We're well-regarded? Nice!"

He had brought judges for the competition, all of them translators for J-Novel Club, who had been translating for as long as two years. That was kind of sweet, actually, but what was less sweet was when he interviewed them (this was originally supposed to be part of "half-time," but they still hadn't resolved the technical difficulties, so it came early on) and asked questions like, "You've translated manga and light novels now. How would you say light novels are more rewarding?" I wanted to slap him.

Now, in defense of light novel translators, we haaaaate translating constant narration, so if that's what you like to do, we are so happy that you are there to do it! But I don't think of it as a hierarchical thing. Manga isn't better than light novels, and light novels aren't better than manga. They serve different needs.

Anyway, they did eventually get the game show working...and maybe we would have liked it better if they didn't. All the questions were so inane. I'm not sure if that's the right word because I'm too tired to look it up, but it feels like that's the right word. The only category that even seemed vaguely relevant was the sound effect category, but they'd already mentioned how sound effects aren't so much of a thing in light novels, so... (Actually, we know for a fact that sound effects are a thing, even in light novels. Sheesh, they don't teach you about onomatopoeia in English class for nothing.) There was a category for finding the odd one out--for example, of Volk's, Friday's, Denny's, and Johnathan's, which one doesn't belong? The answer is Friday's, because it's not a Japanese company. (Someone we talked to later said she was sure the answer was Volk's, because it's a doll company not a restaurant chain. My suspicion, and Wikipedia has confirmed it, is that Denny's is not a Japanese company, either. I thought maybe he meant that Friday's didn't have Japanese franchises, but the internet has told me that they do, so...)

There was a slang category, which is probably relevant depending on which light novels you're translating, but dang, that's what Google is for. You don't need to know this stuff off the top of your head. Translation isn't about memorization; it's about knowing how to find the things you don't know. And there was a first-person pronoun category, in which a character would be named, and you would have to tell which first-person pronoun they use. This category is 100% useless in translating, because the translation of all of those answers would be "I." Also, one of the characters was "cats," as in "every single cat," and, having translated several cat characters, and even a whole manga series of all cats, we were pretty sure they didn't all use the same first-person pronoun. In fact, we're pretty sure Norachiyo uses three different ones throughout the course of Nekogahara, and none of them are wagahai, which apparently all cat characters have used since Natsume Soseki's book I Am a Cat was published. We're pretty sure Meowth says "oira," and Doraemon says "boku," and I think those are the two most famous cats in Japan right now.

Anyway, the whole thing was pretty frustrating, and by the end of it, we just wanted to yell and scream. Fortunately, our boss at Yen Press had invited us to the Yen Press AX party (which also happened to take place at the hotel we were already staying in), so we were able to go to a place full of people we could commiserate with. Also, our Yen Press boss is a good friend, and made sure to introduce us to new people. She even stuck with us until she could tell we were having a solid conversation with somebody else. As it turns out, the somebody else we spent the most time talking to was Deb Aoki, probably the most widely known manga...internet...knowledgeable person. Correspondent? Manga blogger? I don't know what she does exactly, but I know she writes about manga for various publications.

And I mostly bring this up because she thinks it could be a good idea to have us on an ANNCast to talk about the Eternal Edition of Sailor Moon. We told her we're dying to tell the world about quality translation, and she said she wishes we could have gone to Japan back when we won the Manga Translation Battle, because that was kind of the point--to sit us down with Japanese editors and explain what goes into translation. But our thoughts probably weren't as well formed back then, so it's just as well. Anyway, the dust should have finally settled from Anime Expo, but Comic-Con is this weekend, so we'll see if we all remember all the stuff we said we were going to go home and do. Which reminds me, we promised our Kodansha editor that we'd send her cosplay photos...

So the party was pretty alright, and we managed to get all our venting out. Then it was off to bed, and the next morning...turned out to be pretty hectic. To be continued.

Today I'm thankful for finishing our Fire Force translation, being thiiiiiiiiiis close to finishing our Nekogahara translation (who am I kidding? we might only be this close), the super yummy Cheesy Bites Pizza we had for dinner, potential platforms for discussing translation quality, and getting to sleep in tomorrow.