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Alethea & Athena
Oh, those crazy fans... 
5th-Sep-2007 04:01 pm
I'm at a bit of a loss today, because I'm not sure how much of our ranting I want to translate onto Live Journal. See, yesterday umadoshi posted a link to a friend's blog entry in which he went through the first half of volume 1 of Fruits Basket and pointed out the differences between the TokyoPop version and the original Japanese. At first we just ignored it, but then someone commented about the translation notes with some things that gave us reason to think that something was up with these notes, so we headed on over to check them out.

Since we don't have our scripts for the first half of Fruits Basket, or our own Japanese copies, it was very helpful that he provided the TokyoPop version, the line in Japanese, and his own translation of each discrepancy he felt worth mentioning. Now, it's okay for fans to compare the American version of something with the Japanese, especially when rewriters are involved, because some things do end up getting changed "to be easier for the audience to understand." It's also true that we started Fruits Basket four years ago, and we still had a little (maybe a lot of?) Japanese learning to do, plus we make mistakes. And he did bring up some things that were different enough that they were worth pointing out.

However, we question the wisdom of making such lists when your Japanese is not perfect. Not that ours is perfect of course, but to see so many instances of this guy correcting us when we weren't wrong, it was a little annoying. And by "a little" I mean like super incredibly mega frustrating hyper alpha 12. Okay, so maybe not that bad. Scratch the hyper alpha 12.

Anyway, this can cause a few problems with misleading people. For example, when you say that it's you don't know what "itterasshai" means but you know it's incorrect to translate it as "come back safe," you're misleading the fans. Fans seem to have a tendency to trust other fans more than the people involved in the publishing of the work (maybe they think our interest is only financial, so we don't care about doing it right?), so even though he said he didn't know what it means, people are going to believe him. And the fact of the matter is, "itterasshai" is a command form meaning "go and come (back)," and since you would have to have survived the trip long enough to come back in order to actually come back, "come back safe" is not entirely incorrect, if taking a minor liberty.

And so we have been ranting to each other all afternoon. We've been trying to hold ourselves back from correcting people over things that aren't so important, but when the mistake was originally supposed to be correcting us, we felt we had a right to defend ourselves, so we posted a comment explaining where he went wrong in the instances when he did. Of course, it's possible that we're wrong, but BYU has a wonderful Japanese department, and we have great trust in our teachers. He did make some valid points, and there were some things that were different because of the rewrite (most of which made us think "...so?" but some of which made us roll our eyes when we re-read volume 1 ourselves a while back), so his list isn't completely useless. But yeah. We have had chocolate and other candy, so hopefully we will be calming down soon. (Our family is trained to an extremely high sugar tolerance, so candy is more relaxing than stimulating, we think. Or relaxing in a stimulating way, like exercise.)

Today I'm thankful for fun-sized Snickers, the ability to assertively defend ourselves, Kinokuniya carrying the novels we want (now we just have to order them), Goku songs, and the awesome teachers in the BYU Japanese program.
5th-Sep-2007 11:39 pm (UTC)
*cuddlespets* I can't imagine how frustrating that was for you guys. Can I have a link to the original poster? *would like to see what happens*
6th-Sep-2007 12:25 am (UTC)
Thanks for the support!

Here's the link. We're a little curious to see if anything comes of it ourselves.
6th-Sep-2007 12:50 am (UTC)
I was very happy that you commented, because I'm all in favor of anything that helps me have a more precise idea of the meaning, and the discussion interests me a lot, as you know. (And it strikes me as perfectly fair game, since it's your work being discussed.)

The rest of my reaction is sort of a jumble of being sad that it frustrated you so much (I totally see why it did, but I hate "seeing" my friends upset) and not being sure what else to say about it (having quite literally been staring at this comment box for ten minutes now). :/ I'm glad that people do take a close look at what makes it into the final English versions, because a lot of times it really does help, but I'm also guilty of sometimes assuming that the first version of something I see/read is actually what it says--whether it's a fan version or the official version--even though intellectually I know it's not necessarily the case at all. (This is part of why I'm so fond of getting multiple versions of series I like, so I can cross-reference and try to work out what's actually being said, in the absence of anyone to ask.) So I really am very glad he makes these lists, and equally glad that you clarified, and sad to think of you being upset, all at once. And having a very hard time articulating it.

Thus ends the unexpectedly long comment. :/
6th-Sep-2007 03:21 am (UTC)
Thanks, but don't worry; we're not hurt so much as irritated. Think of it like Dr. Cox or Sanzo. Since it was so long ago, we don't remember exactly what we had, or whether or not it matched the rewrite (though in some cases, that's obvious), so we don't really take it personally. Even my complaint about him saying he's not trying to disparage the translators or adaptation writers and how posting a list of all their mistakes is the opposite of "not disparaging" is more a complaint about using the language wrong and BSing than about personal insult or injury. We would have been just as upset if we hadn't been the translators. And on the other hand, our being the translators gives us more of a right to come on and argue with him, so it's probably a good thing. Though if we felt strongly enough about it (and with as many mistakes (more like not-quite-rightnesses, but we don't know the word for that) as he had, we may have), we may have been bold enough to post anyway.

It is an interesting discussion; it was just the way he seemed to be acting like he knew what he was talking about when he didn't know as much as we did. Like the key chains and stuff that say, "Those who think they know everything are really annoying to those of us who do." Usually we try not to let the arrogance come out too much, but we're confident in our translations, and we can't have people debunking them when there's nothing to debunk.

Actually, when we first started out, we were adversely affected by fan translations, too. That's where the "Is Kyo back?" thing came from--the Fruits Basket fansubs. But we justify it by saying Kyo had disappeared, and his coming anywhere would mean he's back from having disappeared. And since the Cat is so important to the Juunishi as someone to look down on, they would have cared.

And in regard to your e-mail--no worries; it would be cowardly of us to post about him only if we knew he'd never find it. And like I said, we're pretty confident in what we said, and I left out most of the vicious comments we had made to each other *evil grin*
6th-Sep-2007 10:51 am (UTC)
*laughs* I'd rather not think of it like Sanzo, as I'm quite fond of Adam and my mental picture of Sanzo always involves guns. ^^

And in regard to your e-mail--no worries; it would be cowardly of us to post about him only if we knew he'd never find it.

I figured that was probably the case, but it just crossed my mind afterwards that it always startles me when I remember people can tell I've linked to them (and not remembering the technical term for that is going to bug me all day), so... (Actually, I don't know if anyone else has ever dropped by and said, "Hi, I saw you linked to my post," but I'm glad he does it since that's usually when we wind up exchanging a few emails, and he's always been helpful and friendly.)

Too early in the morning to come up with anything else coherent, and really, I guess any other thoughts I have still boil down to being perfectly happy to read this kind of discussion long after everyone actually involved has gotten completely bored with it. Which you know. So I'll wander off to work.
7th-Sep-2007 09:03 pm (UTC)
Sanzo has a paper fan, too... But he's not nearly as prone to rantage as Dr. Cox, so it's probably more like him anyway.
6th-Sep-2007 02:41 pm (UTC)
Like umadoshi, I'm not sure what to say. I'm sorry you found my post so irritating. I'm also sorry you think I was "BSing" when I said that I didn't intend to disparage your work. I really didn't, and I meant it when I said that you and the adaptor could undoubtedly do a much better job in general than I could. But if you don't believe me, there's nothing I can do.

I agree that I'm not the perfect person to do these comparisons. To really be qualified, one would have to be a native English speaker who was completely fluent in Japanese, or vice versa. But there don't seem to be too many of these, and those that do exist don't spend their time comparing manga translations with the original and posting the results online. So if anybody is going to do it, it'll have to be someone like me. And since a lot of people, including me, care a great deal about Fruits Basket, and since there really are discrepancies, some significant, between what's in the Tokyopop editions and what Takaya wrote, I think it should be done.

I also agree that people shouldn't take what I write as gospel. When I started doing these, I invited people to correct me where they thought I was wrong, and I meant that too. Nobody ever did, so I got out of the habit of putting that in. I'm glad you replied to my post (and I mean that!) even if it was out of irritation.

I've posted a reply (http://completelyfutile.blogspot.com/2007/09/fruits-basket-translation-notes-vol.html) to your comment on my blog. I have to say, though, that somebody who only read your remarks here would get a very misleading impression of the extent to which I was mistaken. Actually, you only commented on a quarter of my notes; and some of your corrections were minor, and were much closer to what I wrote than to what's in the Tokyopop. To me, this indicates that I succeeded in what I was trying to do, since I never expected, or claimed, to be perfect.

On the "itterasshai" issue, I said that I wasn't sure what it literally meant. I gave reasons in my original post, and in my reply to your comment, why regardless of whether "come back safe" is correct as a literal translation, it is wrong in this context; and I stand by those reasons. An analogous situation would be an English-language work in which someone says "bless you" when somebody else sneezes. If you were translating this into a language where no such habit existed, it would be wrong to translate it as "May God bless you" (at least without a footnote), even though that would be a correct literal translation.

7th-Sep-2007 09:15 pm (UTC)
As we were going to bed that night, we realized that we were wrong about the BSing, and I'm sorry I said it.

In regards to our misleading people about the extent of your mistakenness, don't worry--not many people read our Live Journal. (Not that we know about, anyway.) Also, I believe the reason you posted the comparison was to make sure everyone understands the work 100%, or as close to 100% as possible, as things inevitably are lost in translation. In that case, wouldn't being 25% wrong defeat the purpose of your post?

And as for "itterasshai" and "bless you," you seem to be failing to take the character's personality into account. If it was a religious person reacting to someone's sneeze, they very well might say "May God bless you," and mean it exactly in that way, and therefore it would not be wrong at all to translate it that way. We think that Tohru is the type to take responsibility for everything. She's always worried that if anything bad happens to her, she somehow deserved it. Through a lot of volume one, she's always saying if she's not grateful for her blessings, she'll be punished. In that regard, whether you translate "itterasshai" as "come back safe" or not, she would still think that she deserved to have her mother die, because she stopped being grateful enough to take the effort to say goodbye. At the same time, she would feel bad for bringing misfortune on her mother by being irresponsible. "Come back safe" seems to be the best way to fit all those emotions into one sentence.
6th-Sep-2007 04:29 pm (UTC)
"come back safe" is not entirely incorrect, if taking a minor liberty.

Personally I thought it was pretty clear that in the context of the story and Tohru's characterization, "itterasshai", while not normally having the significant connotations of 'come back safe' for everybody all the time, has those connotations for Tohru specifically -- maybe she even started thinking of the phrase that way because of her mother's death.

I totally hear your frustration with having translations critiqued by people who don't seem to know what they're talking about. It also irritates me profoundly that the tendency in anime/manga fandom seems to be toward clamoring for the 100%-literal-to-the-point-of-nonsensical translation of every last little thing, as if the manga we all enjoy so much is some kind of holy scripture to be picked apart and studied word-by-word rather than a story for the readers' entertainment. It frustrates me that there are fans out there who would seriously rather read something that went like "Today mall at shopping to went" over good, natural, coherent and poetic English dialogue -- which may not be perfect but preserves the parts that matter.
7th-Sep-2007 09:16 pm (UTC)
29th-Oct-2007 05:48 pm (UTC)
*wanders by from google blogsearch*

This was actually a really interesting discussion for an outsider to read. I translate for fun, and you guys touched on some of the trickiest parts of translation. I'm not surprised you were annoyed, and I winced at the whole not knowing what 'itterasshai' means thing. On the other hand, he did have a good point about "my home is my castle". That idiom is from "a man's home is his castle", which means that an individual (or in this case the head of the household) is the absolute ruler of his own petty domain. Regardless of what sort of household you grew up in, that's what the idiom means. I have no idea what the best translation would have been in that context, and maybe you chose the best alternative after all, but your comments about the phrase left me feeling a little dubious.

Again, thanks for a good read.
30th-Oct-2007 06:09 pm (UTC)
Well, to be honest, knowing our own style, we probably translated it as "you can get used to living anywhere," and if we were being really good, we left a footnote for the editors giving the literal meaning of what she said. (I don't remember for sure; we turned the translation in over four years ago and we lost our original script.) So most likely it was the English adaptation writer who made the choice, but I'm still going to defend it, because we don't think it's entirely wrong, even considering where the idiom came from. As I explained to Mr. Stephanides, our theory is that the Japanese phrase "sumeba miyako" was a way for courtiers to console themselves when they weren't able to live at the capital. They're saying that it may not be ideal, but it's what they make of it. With that analysis of the Japanese idiom, you can go on to say that they can make of it whatever they want, because they're the absolute ruler of it. It may be a bit of a stretch, but you can see the reasoning.

Another thing to point out is that it doesn't matter where a phrase came from, because, much as I'd like people to understand things the same way and always be on the same page, the fact of the matter is they don't and they aren't. So what we need to consider when translating something from one language to another, especially in the case of manga, is how the speaker would interpret the phrase. Whether or not Tohru thinks herself the absolute ruler of her little tent domain, she probably does think a castle would be a pretty nice place to live. She herself may not know where the phrase "my home is my castle" came from, but, knowing Tohru's personality, it's entirely possible that she would interpret that exact phrase as "wherever I live is as nice a place as I make it."

So overall, "my home is my castle" doesn't seem like too bad a choice, even if we ourselves probably would have left it as "you can get used to living anywhere."
30th-Oct-2007 06:52 pm (UTC)
I didn't mean that it comes from that other phrase in the sense that historically it had that meaning. I meant that it still very much has that, and only that, meaning. It hadn't occurred to me that a native speaker wouldn't be familiar with a standard expression like that one. I agree that it's a valid choice as a translation, but not for the reasons you're using, unless Tohru is honestly supposed to be illiterate and misuse language constantly. I'm sorry to be so bitchy, but I'm honestly horrified that a translator would use the logic of "well, people are stupid and don't understand idioms anyway" to justify a translation when "the meaning was changed so it would make more sense to Americans" would do just as well.
30th-Oct-2007 07:50 pm (UTC)
Eheh. Sorry; I didn't mean it that way. What we meant was you can't say something has one meaning and only that meaning, because people are going to interpret it differently no matter their level of intelligence. We happened to think "my home is my castle" was a good choice, because we didn't realize it only had that one meaning--we thought it could be meant the way Tohru used "sumeba miyako" in the Japanese. That in itself shows that we interpreted it differently than you did, but I don't think we're illiterate, though I suppose that too is debatable.
30th-Oct-2007 08:45 pm (UTC)
though I suppose that too is debatable

Now you're just asking me to come troll you. ;-)

But, yeah, I don't suppose it makes much difference in the end. If I want perfect "authenticity" in my manga reading experience, I'll get better at Japanese. :-)
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