Alethea & Athena (double_dear) wrote,
Alethea & Athena

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I was going to start this post by saying, "As if we had time to ramble on about Japanese titles any more..." But then I remembered that we took the day off for no other reason than we didn't feel like working, and therefore are in no position to complain about time or the lack thereof.

Anyway, I'm starting to get the feeling we could go on for a very, very, very long time about titles. (I'm insisting on calling them titles instead of honorifics, because Japanese also uses honorifics that have nothing to do with names.) When we're reminded of it, we come up with all manner of little arguments, like, "And of course Mion isn't trying to sound cute when she calls Keiichi Kei-chan; her first-person pronoun of choice is 'oji-san' (loosely translated to 'this old boy'; she calls herself a middle-aged man)."

I wanted to talk about -kun some more. (You'll note that my use of a hyphen before a title is completely inconsistent. There is no reason for this.) If anyone insists on translating kun, usually the best way to do it is to leave it out, but of course you lose that entire nuance in translation. As translators, we understand that things are inevitably going to be lost in translation, but as purists, we like to keep the loss to a bare minimum. Also as translators, we're against the idea that it's our job to teach the readers Japanese, but again referring to monsieur and madame, we think it's okay to teach the readers a few things here and there.

(Once again speaking of monsieur and madame, we're considering calling people Signor and Signora (and Signorina), just for kicks. And speaking of all that, we're noticing that all the French and Italian titles are part of Chrome's spelling dictionary, but san, chan, and kun are not. Hm.)

Right, kun. Sometimes, it really, really, really needs to be left in. For example, in DN Angel, you have two characters, Daisuke and Dark, that sometimes look the same, each with a different attitude toward a different character named Satoshi Hiwatari. Daisuke wants to be Satoshi's friend (note that I call Satoshi by his first name because I'm an American and that's how we do things), and calls him Hiwatari-kun. Dark hates him and calls him Hiwatari. You can't just take of the kun and have them both call him Hiwatari, because you lose that attitude from each of them. You certainly can't have Daisuke call him Mr. Hiwatari, because they're in middle school. You could have Daisuke call him Satoshi and Dark call him Hiwatari, and that would work fine, I guess.

But then we move on to another character, Risa Harada. Dark calls her Risa and Daisuke calls her Harada-san. Daisuke has a slightly more distant relationship with her. You could have them both call her Risa, but again, you lose the relationship dynamics. Thus you see that anyone who says Japanese titles don't indicate relationship dynamics as strongly as people like me say they do hasn't had to deal with a series like DN Angel. (Of course, there's the possibility of Daisuke calling her Miss Harada (which I believe he does in the anime dub), but really? They're fourteen years old. And then you have her calling him Niwa-kun, which would then be Mr. Niwa, which is just wrong if you know the characters at all.

But let's move on to Fruits Basket. Fruits Basket has very interesting uses of kun, because Tohru is actually a boy name. So you have people like Shigure and Kagura calling the heroine Tohru-kun...and I'm really not sure what kind of a nuance that's supposed to have. Kagura might be doing it because Tohru is the opposite of a sempai to her, and kun is also the opposite of sempai. (Okay, so technically, kouhai is the opposite of sempai, but the kun is the title for a kouhai. We've never seen kouhai used as a title, but that doesn't mean that it never is. We don't think it is, because that's what kun is for, but...) Anyway, it's also possible that Kagura does it because Tohru is her love rival, so maybe she's using it to emphasize Tohru's masculinity or lack of feminine graces or something.

We think in Shigure's case, it might be because he think it's cool for a girl to have a boy name, so he's playing along.

But let's talk about Sohma-kun versus Yuki-kun. The best way to translate Sohma-kun to localize it and make it sound less exotic and foreign would be to drop the last name addresses altogether and have Tohru call him Yuki. That's how American high-schoolers do it, so anything else would sound unnatural. But then there's the scene where she calls him Yuki-kun for the first time, and his reaction wouldn't make any sense--she's suddenly calling him exactly what she's been calling him all along.

So how would the title naysayers suggest we deal with this? Maybe call him by an endearing nickname? In Japan, when someone calls you by your given name, it indicates a certain level of closeness (unless that someone is like Momiji, for example, who calls everyone by their first name, possibly to play up his exotic German-ness), which is exactly why Yuki reacts the way he does. To recreate that same level of closeness, we would have to come up with a nickname, preferably one that his close relatives call him. And by close, we mean relatives that he has a close relationship with...oh wait, Yuki doesn't have any relatives like that. Except maybe Hatsuharu? I guess if we had Hatsuharu calling him by a nickname, and then telling Tohru to call Yuki that same nickname, it might work. Still, that seems like it would be more of a "What the--!?" situation to Yuki than a pulling at heartstrings kind of thing.

Then there's the matter of coming up with a nickname. Yun-Yun's already taken...Yu-Yu is too close to that...maybe just Yu? Maybe. But would it really work to have Tohru calling him that throughout the series?

And never mind that, I just remembered Kyo-kun! Tohru calls Kyo that because he specifically tells her not to call him Sohma-kun. But she thinks it would be too forward of her to call someone she just met by just their first name. But let's say we don't want to use that in English. So how in the world would that go? "Kyo?" "Call me Kyo." "Kyo...?" "...Fine."

Okay, okay. It would probably be more like, "Mr. Sohma?" "Call me Kyo." "Kyo...?" "...Fine."

Not a whole lot better. Of course, you could just change that "fine" to "good," but that would mean completely changing what he said, as well as altering a scene that establishes the relationship between the two characters. Alternatively, I guess you could have her call him "Mr. Kyo," but...really? How is that any better than "Kyo-kun"?

I don't know if that's any longer than our chan rant, but it has a lot more stuff where it helps to be familiar with the series mentioned (DN Angel and Fruits Basket), so I put it under a cut.

Today I'm thankful for the wonderfully cool weather today (the high was 84!), Symphony chocolate bars, our favorite flavor of ice cream being in stock at Fresh & Easy, having a lovely time playing Catchphrase at Home Evening Group (we discovered one of the girls in our ward has a very strong aversion to the word "kerchief" XD), and getting a check in the mail!
Tags: dn angel, fruits basket, translating

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