Anyway, it's time to get back to reminiscing with our Commemorative Multi-Part Series the Second!
Ai Yori Aoshi
Ai Yori Aoshi was the second series TokyoPop gave us to translate, but the first one that was published for some reason. I wasn't around when we were assigned it, but Athena tells me it went like this (parentheses are me):
"Jake came up to me, and asked, 'What do you know about Ai Yori Aoshi?' (We had seen four episodes a few months previous, because our beloved Soichiro Hoshi♥ (Goku in Saiyuki) played the main character.) I replied, 'It's kind of like Love Hina, but more boring.' And he said (this is partially recreated, but she knows the end for sure), 'Oh. Well, you and your sister can translate the first three volumes for us, and then you'll each have fifteen hundred dollars. So there.' And that was how we came to be the translators for Ai Yori Aoshi."
As a note, according to our original contract with TokyoPop, we got paid $500 per book, and we had already been assigned the first three volumes of Fruits Basket. For those of you doing the math.
(I feel like I should say something about TokyoPop's payment model, but I'm not sure I have a whole lot to say about it. At the time, we thought it was a lot of money--we were just poor college students. It wasn't until we tried making a living on it that we realized it wasn't really that much. But as fast as we work, even back then we were able to get enough done in a month that we could make a decent living...as long as there was work for us to do. Looking back, the low payments are probably a big part of why some manga translators seem to think of it as a part-time job to get them through college, and not a profession to be taken seriously. That and the whole rewriting system. Those two things together make it seem reasonable to think it's okay not to take your translation work too seriously.)
Fortunately, a series is naturally less boring when you're translating it than when you're watching it, and of course the manga is almost inevitably better. (I don't agree with this sentiment so much anymore. Some series are a lot more fun to just sit back and enjoy than they are to translate. It's mostly a matter of text density, though, and it's still true that the manga is almost inevitably better. Unless the manga didn't come first.) Even so, it took us a while to get into Ai Yori Aoshi. I think it was volume nine that Kaoru and Aoi were finally completely over their, "Oh, I hope Kaoru-sama still likes me..." "Man, I hope Aoi-chan doesn't hate me..." I mean, come on! There's one part where Kaoru's club at college is doing a cafe thing for the Bunkasai, and Aoi is in the cafe helping out, and Kaoru's wandering around campus advertising, and they're both freaking out because they couldn't see the other one and they were afraid the other one hated them. Logic, people.
In Kaoru's case, it was especially dumb, because she was obviously his stalker. But anyway, I have to not rant about that too much because I don't want to have too many spoilers.
By volume nine, they have that all sorted out and start getting into all the intrigue and stuff going on behind the scenes, and that's when it gets really interesting. We had started to like it before that; I think Mayu's appearance is what did it, but it really does help to have more characters, with a story like that.
Translation-wise, this series was pretty challenging at first, because first it was one of our first professional translations so we were more worried about getting things right, and then in volumes two and three the characters do stuff like going out drinking, and we don't know the right idioms and stuff for going out drinking, obviously, because we don't do it ourselves. And at the time, we had been at BYU and not really watching normal TV for a while.
(Wow, I used the word "first" three times in one sentence. Don't worry--when we translate, we try not to let that kind of thing get past us...anymore.
But that paragraph does connect to a discussion Athena and I had on translation a couple of nights ago. (Sometimes we talk about translation before we go to bed. We love our job that much.) We decided that there are two factors that make a manga difficult to translate, aside from the amount of text. First is subject matter--if the characters are talking about something we don't know about, like medical terminology or something (recently there was something in Sherlock Bones, and it was so foreign to us that I can't remember what it is anymore), it becomes difficult to translate because one, we have to look more words up in a dictionary, and two, we don't know how people who are familiar with those words use them in normal conversation, so we have to try to find examples online and figure out what works. The second factor is harder to explain, so I won't try here.)
One of our favorite AYA memories is when we went back to TokyoPop the winter break after our internship. Jake gave us each a copy, because, like with Fruits Basket, he wanted us to finish it superfast so he could show copies to all the bookstores and make them want to sell them, so they already had it printed. Athena was holding hers and commenting on how thick it was, because she likes thick books, but Jake didn't know that, so when he overheard her, he interrupted with, "I hope you're not complaining about the length, because half the words in there are 'Kaoru-sama.'" So true. And because of that, we can now finish a volume of AYA in about five hours. On the translation difficulty scale, we give it a two. Unless they're out somewhere with a bunch of signs, in which case it goes up to a five.
I was thinking I might do this report without mentioning the nudity, so people would go check it out without any bias against it, but that wouldn't be fair. We don't want anyone to be unpleasantly surprised, and the nudity gets started pretty early on (Kou Fumizuki (the author) isn't really that great with comedy, but standard in many harem comedies is the "bath scene in which you find the two main characters in questionable positions"). It didn't really bother us that much, I think because naked girls aren't that big a deal to us, being girls ourselves, and it's not pornographic. Just a little excessive. It gets toned down after the first volume until Chika shows up with her friends, and then they're often in a locker room naked, because of course they're in swim club.
Our favorite character, as if you even needed to ask, is Kaoru. One thing that's very nice about harem comedies is that, in a lot of them, the author realizes that in order for a guy to have a harem, there has to be some reason for all the girls to like him, so he's usually a really great guy. He is kind of dense in some situations, and then there's the horrible sexism, but I blame that on Aoi, since it's her dream to be an oppressed female. Seriously, she visits his room one night, and she's the one who makes the tea! Since I think Kaoru's generally pretty nice, I think he lets her do it because he knows how badly she wants to, and that if he tried to do it himself, she would either insist, or get really insecure because she thinks he doesn't like her tea.
Fumizuki-sensei also gave him a lot of angst, but made it so he doesn't angst all the time, which is the best kind of angst boy. And he has scars.
We only have one volume left in the entire series to translate, and we are looking forward to it. Our only regret (that we remember) is that we haven't been able to buy the CD that has the Kaoru/Aoi duet to listen to while we translate. And that one scene... But really just the one.
Wow, did I really write this up before we translated the last volume? Oh my goodness, the last volume. That was very difficult for us, because (and hopefully this isn't a spoiler because it was going to happen eventually, either in the series or after the happy ending) there's a sex scene. It's very tastefully done, so I don't really feel dirty having translated it or anything, except for the fact that sex is a very private thing, and I know we're kind of probing these characters' lives anyway, but I think that's going too far. And of course the other issue we have with it is we think that chastity is a very good thing, and they should have waited until after the wedding.
So there was that. It's kind of interesting reminiscing about Ai Yori Aoshi when so many of our Facebook friends are discussing modesty and whether or not it should be promoted and how and all that stuff. Maybe someday I'll write up a post with more thoughts on modesty.
Today I'm thankful for the tasty Wheat Thins we had for a snack, LiveJournal coming back, Page being in her carrier even after Athena threatened to move it (with her in it) last night, getting to watch Walt Disney's Treasure Island last night, and having lots of time to read manga yesterday.