Alethea & Athena (double_dear) wrote,
Alethea & Athena
double_dear

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The one that started it all

Since a couple of people have expressed interest, and those are about the only two English-speaking people who comment to us these days (thanks, guys!), we decided to go ahead and do a multi-part series reviewing our ten years as official manga translators. But like I said yesterday, we're lazy and ten years is a long time to remember, so we're going to cheat a little by using the first series of posts we did back when we were celebrating our hundredth translation, lo these many years ago. This will also help give us ideas of what to be thinking about when remembering all the stuff we've done since our hundredth translation.

Here's how it's going to work. I'm going to copy and paste the original posts, and add some commentary where appropriate. At the end, if either of us thinks of anything else that seems relevant, we'll add that, too.

We'll start with the one that started it all, everyone's beloved Fruits Basket!

Fruits Basket was actually the second of our translations to be released, but the first one we turned it. And! Volume 17 is our 100th translation!! Thus we come full circle, or something.

The story of how we got to translate Fruits Basket goes a little something like this: We were at TokyoPop, working as interns, of course, and we were copying something for the office manager, when Jake Forbes, then a senior editor at TokyoPop, came to us and told us he had an offer he thought we would find difficult to refuse. He then asked how we would like to be the full-on, paid translators for Fruits Basket. We told him we would like that very much, thank you. So he went off to do more senior editor stuff, and we started jumping up and down and squealing (quietly. There were people at work).

He wanted to get the book done very quickly so he could hype it to all the retailers, so as soon as they finally got copies of it, he asked if we could get it in by next week. Based on how easily we had finished previous amateur translations, we were sure it wouldn't be a problem. And then we learned that it's Fruits Basket. It really didn't help that first volumes are among the most difficult to translate, we weren't used to the TokyoPop format yet, and Hakusensha sometimes gives more pages to first volumes (as they did with Fruits Basket). And of course, all our translating had to be done after work, which basically meant we were working two full-time jobs. Nowadays, translating seems like a part-time job, but trying to get that much done in that little time made it full-time.

Fruits Basket is probably our third most difficult series to translate. First of course is CLAMP no Kiseki, and second we'd say is Nosatsu Junkie. In some titles we translate, the translation just flows from Japanese into English very easily. Fruits Basket is not one of them. I think it has something to do with writing styles, and how in synch we are with the characters. We used to explain it like this: Natsuki Takaya is a master of the Japanese language, which makes it that much harder for people like us to accurately convey her meanings.

Part of the problem is that, when you look up a word in a dictionary, sometimes you get a lot of SAT words, like, for example, volplane. (That's actually not a word we've found while translating Fruits Basket, it's just one we got as an example from Gessel-sensei in our Japanese 444 class, and it's the only one I remember.) But there's no chance in heaven or earth that Kyo Sohma would use a word like volplane. Or spoony. Or other such words. So we have to figure out the best way to convey the phrase in English. Fortunately, Jake was an excellent editor as well as manga fan, and he does his best to make things work as well as preserve the original feeling of the manga. He's no longer a senior editor at TokyoPop, but he still does the English adaptation for Fruits Basket.

(After some years more experience, Athena points out that the SAT word thing is mainly a problem if you're translating with only a dictionary, as opposed to a dictionary and experience. Or at least a dictionary and a Japanese language dictionary that can give you a better idea of nuance...assuming you can understand what the Japanese language dictionary is saying.)

On a translation difficulty scale of 1 to 10, 1 being the translation comes as soon as Athena reads the lines and 10 being soul-crushing, I'd give Fruits Basket an 8. Some volumes are easier than others, of course, but usually we're very frustrated at how awesome a line is in Japanese and how difficult it is to make sense of it in English.

(I'm interested to see if we'd feel the same way about this difficulty level now, because reading Takaya-sensei's latest work, it doesn't seem like it would be that difficult. Of course, her earlier works, like most young Hana to Yume artists' work, were a little more text heavy. I seem to remember that Fruits Basket wasn't quite as bad as, say, I Hate You More Than Anyone, or Gakuen Alice, or Maid Sama!, or...anyway, I still wonder if Fruits Basket would be as hard to translate today as it was then, especially because our approach to translating has changed so much.
We've always thought that if anyone rescues the license to Fruits Basket we would be more than happy to re-translate the whole thing. Hopefully whoever rescues it won't think that we did so terribly the first time that they won't want us to touch it...but more likely than not, they'll just want to do it all themselves, i.e. with their favorite translators.)


Favorite characters... they're all very awesome, of course. I always liked Shigure, because I like the evil scheming type, and of course I like the love interest, so I've always liked Kyo. And he's so cute the way he tries to be nicer to Tohru and stuff. Athena really likes Kakeru; he's her kind of crazy, she says. She likes Yuki a lot, because she can relate to him, and so do I. Especially when he's talking to his mother and she's acting just like ours. And of course there's Kureno, who is basically Tohru, only male and cursed, which makes him even hotter. But with Kureno there's always the esoteric factor, since he's not in the anime, so it's like we like him just because less people know about him. And Momiji!!!!!

(We have to talk a little more about Momiji, because he really needs a lot of love. He's been through so much, and he took it all so well.)

Ayame is awesome for several reasons, but for us, the number one reason is that he's the most fun to translate. Part of this is because he's crazy enough to use words like volplane and spoony. Actually, that's all of it, really. He just strikes us as the type to be very dramatic and embellish everything, and it's fun to choose words and giggle at them. We were very proud of ourselves when we came up with "forthwith" (see the chapter when Tohru and Yuki visit his shop; hopefully they still used it). Though at first his wild stories were annoying because of all the run-on sentences. It took us twenty minutes to translate the one page where he tells the story of why he has long hair.

Everybody is just too lovable. But couples-wise, my favorite is Tohru and Kyo still. It had to be Kyo from the very beginning, because putting a cat in the Zodiac would be like putting an onigiri in a fruit basket.

Oh! That reminds me. TokyoPop's completely redone their site now, but whenever you went to the page that lists all the manga, they advertised Fruits Basket with a thing that said, "A family you can't help but love--even if they act like a bunch of animals!" And every time we saw it we were like, "Dude, it should totally be 'even if they are a bunch of animals'." It made us sad.

Akito is...still rather disliked. Learning his back story sheds a different light on everything, but man. There were times when Athena wished her numbering pen was sharper so she could scratch his face out. That's a special honor reserved for him, Hiwatari (DN Angel), and Hazel (Saiyuki Reload). Of course, it might often depend on how irritable she is at the time of translation, but not always. It could just be how into the story she is. She's not sure right now, since it's been a while since she's felt that way.

(When we first wrote this paragraph, we had only just turned in the translation for volume 17, so we needed to keep it spoiler-free; hence the masculine pronouns. It always bothers us when we see people talking about how certain characters shouldn't use male pronouns for Akito, and we're like, yeah, if the people who knew just avoided using pronouns so as not to give away Akito's real gender while not dishonestly referring to her as male, either they're going to slip up, or someone's going to notice that they keep avoiding pronouns and wonder if there's a reason for that. Sohmas are not unintelligent, and they're already being dishonest by treating her as a man in public anyway, so they might as well just use masculine pronouns. As for using masculine pronouns in private, you never know when someone might overhear you anyway, and if you keep switching back and forth, you're way more likely to slip up when it's important. Considering the fact that no one ever did slip up...well, that's just because of the way Japanese works. But most importantly, we started translating the series before it had ever been revealed that Akito was a woman, even in Japan, and so characters who knew the truth had been calling her "him" in private for several volumes already. It's not going to make sense for them to suddenly switch because now the audience knows. When we got to that part of the series, we were yelling at the air for a while out of frustration for that very reason. But then Kureno said everyone was supposed to think she was a boy, so we realized it was okay all along for the reasons listed above.

We don't hate Akito quite so much anymore, now that we've read the end of the series. She's been through a lot too, and while he dealt with it very poorly, she eventually realized that fact and did what she could to make up for it. I also want to talk about a certain line toward the end, because it was disputed when a later volume came out because it didn't match some fan translations. Akito said she was jealous of Tohru from the very beginning because "she (Tohru) was so much prettier than her (Akito)." That's how we translated it, because that's pretty much what she said. Of course, Japanese is the language of vagueness, so when the fan translation had it as something about being a better person or something, that's not an entirely invalid interpretation, and so we didn't argue the point too much. But then we remembered that the very first thing Akito says to Shigure as far as her opinion of Tohru is "she's so ugly." She was probably making that up to cover up her insecurity, because that's how insecure people work. The fan translation still works, because the true secret to beauty is being a good person makes you beautiful (ask Audrey Hepburn), but I wanted to defend our choice.)


One last thing I remember about Fruits Basket is that at first, Jake didn't want to see the anime so he wouldn't be biased in editing it, but then he decided it would be better to watch it so he would be more familiar with the characters. He told us as he read the subtitles that our translation matched the subtitles about 95%. We were a little worried that maybe he thought we were plagiarizing them, but we didn't have our own copies of Fruits Basket DVDs at the time, so we couldn't have. Not easily, anyway, and it wouldn't have been worth the money.

We were a little sad when Natsuki Takaya stopped talking about video games in the chat columns. She stopped like the week before Final Fantasy IX came out, so we never got her thoughts on it. It was very depressing. If she ever comes to AX, I hope to be able to spend hours fangirling over Kingdom Hearts with her. Or, you know, twenty minutes at the Meet the Guests Reception. But she stopped talking about video games, so we don't even know if she liked Kingdom Hearts! (grief...)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I think that covers it, really. But if anybody has any questions about it, please feel free to ask!


Today I'm thankful for ten years at a job that we love, getting our copies of Kingdom Hearts manga (they're super fancy! previously unreleased chapters start at 14), getting our copies of Nabari and Higurashi (it's funny--it was packed like, "Here, have some drama! Then trauma! And now have some Kingdom Hearts to feel better!"), finally having figured out all our plans for the rest of the week (Doctor Who tomorrow, temple session Saturday!), and having something to eat for lunch even though we're out of bread.
Tags: fruits basket, multi-part series 2
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