The story of our first encounter with the Saiyuki manga is going to be more rambly than Fruits Basket and Ai Yori Aoshi, because we had been translating it before we got to TokyoPop. We owe it all to baranoneko, actually. She had found some info on it and asked us to buy her a copy of the first volume. We remember specifically having to ask the store clerk which was volume 1 because Saiyuki manga uses the more complex kanji for one, two and three, and we didn't know them at the time. And he was very nice and got a copy for us. And then we had to ask him to go back and get another one.
We offered to translate the manga for baranoneko, since we had just kind of gotten into translating manga. (She reads all her manga in Japanese now.) Until then, we had been translating the Fushigi Yuugi novels, which taught us a lot, but are so different in style it's no wonder Saiyuki was so hard to get through. It ended up teaching us a lot too, since they use more honorifics (by which I mean different verbs and conjugations to show differing levels of respect, not name-suffixes) and it helped us get used to different styles, but it was very difficult.
(Wow, I think it's really weird that I talk here like the Fushigi Yuugi novels were easier than Saiyuki. A)They weren't, and B)our translations of them are probably completely terrible.)
Still, for some reason we were really into it, even though we're usually not so much into the slicey-slicey stuff (oh, Gojyo...) and we still weren't quite sure what was going on (going over our first translation later, we found out how incredibly terrible it was). So when we found some fansubs of the anime available for download, we downloaded them and showed them to The Posse. They can tell you that we made sure to point out every part that had been done better in the manga, and we had only read volume one.
(Wow, it's been so long since the Posse has even been a thing, I feel like I should probably explain who they were. They were our little group of anime buddies in college. We used to cosplay together.)
One of the things about Saiyuki was that, not only did it have awesome characters, but it had the perfect number of main characters to correspond with the Posse. (There were four main members of the Posse, and one auxiliary member--the four members of Sanzo Ikkou and Kougaiji.) As such, we kind of proclaimed on our own that it was the Posse's mascot series. chibidrunksanzo obviously had no problems with that (note username), and I guess majority wins? Or it had a lot to do with chibidrunksanzo's super-ultra-hyper charisma max-alpha 3, which has a habit of causing people to happily go along with whatever she wants. But that's not the point.
The point is, she liked it so much, she asked us to translate the rest of the manga for her. And that's how we spent the entire summer of 2002 translating Saiyuki manga. As it just so happened, that was around the same time that Saiyuki Reload started running in Zero Sum magazine, so as soon as we finished the nine volumes of non-Reload, we got to keep going, and it was wonderful. Although at times, we went crazy, because we were translating it all at home home, not at college where our friends were, so we would often be yelling at the manga, partially in hopes that someone would be amused by our antics. It's a good thing Goku is in there to balance things out, or the angst may have killed us (see: volume 5).
And that actually brings us to how we got to TokyoPop in the first place. Those who have heard the story know it, but for those who haven't, I shall retell. By winter semester of 2003, we were rooming with most of the Posse (minus, perhaps ironically, chibidrunksanzo), and our resident Gojyo told us one day that TokyoPop was having an online survey, asking fans what serieses they want TP to license and bring to America. All her friends, she said, were putting either Saiyuki, our other favorite series (more on that next time), or both. We are very possessive people (for those interested in astrology, we're Tauruses), and we were very upset. We thought, "They can't bring those to the States! Those serieses belong to us!"
But then we realized we couldn't beat them; with the titles being that popular, they would inevitably come to America anyway, so we might as well join them. This thought process took a few seconds, after which we rushed up to our room to check the TokyoPop website and see if they were hiring. Indeed they were--interns in the fields of something, something, something, translation, and something. So we e-mailed them right away, and they said, "If you'll be in LA..." and we thought "Yessss!"
And so we became interns at TokyoPop. We got to be production interns, which is a lot nicer than being marketing interns, especially when there are enough marketing interns that they don't need our help. Our main duties consisted of reading manga and writing summaries, helping editors when a translation question came up, and quality checking DVDs. We quality checked some manga too, and we translated some signs in some anime episodes (you can find one or both of our names in the credits of GTO 10, Brigadoon 4, and Initial D 1). It was sweet.
It actually wasn't too far in that we discovered they had the rights to Saiyuki, at which point we said, "We actually already translated that, if you're interested." I think the translations we sent in then became our test to make sure we don't translate crappily, but that might have been when we were asked to translate a song for Brigadoon. We weren't officially made the translators of Saiyuki until after we'd already turned in the Fruits Basket and Ai Yori Aoshi volume 1s. Thinking about it, we were lucky to be given all those titles, since they were titles a loooooot of people were asking for; now that we're working for other companies, it seems like they try to give newbies the more obscure stuff first.
When we went back to TokyoPop the winter break after our internship, we found out that Jake, who had not been the editor on Saiyuki before, was now the editor on Saiyuki. He said that the first rewrite was terrible, and almost every line was a bad attempt at a one-liner, and so now he was practically rewriting the whole thing again. We found out he had our original translation, so we sent the reformatted, reworked translation to him as soon as we could. As I said before, when we went over the translation again, we found out it was absolutely awful.
We were very happy to see Jake working so hard to make Saiyuki a better series. I'm a little worried that he may have been doing it out of fear, though. Our internship happened soon after volume 1 of the Saiyuki anime was released on DVD, and we had been absolutely horrified by the dub. This was one of our absolute favorite serieses, so we were hoping we'd be able to show the dub to our family, since they're weird and don't like subtitles. But after seeing the dub, in which they seemed to try to be taking the story back to the original "Journey to the West" legend (a terrible mistake, since Kazuya Minekura obviously made all her characters the opposite of what they were in the legend), our dreams were shattered.
And so I may have said a few times that I had thought of finding the dub director/writer's house and burning it down. Eheh.
Those of you who know us would know that we would never, ever do such a thing (it was just a joke; talking about it was satisfying enough, and we're far less extreme now), but even so, it's nice to have fewer enemies, I'm sure.
Anyway, now Saiyuki is one of the most popular serieses TokyoPop has, and, as I mentioned in our AX report, we've had someone tell us that it's the only manga they'll read in English.
Our favorite characters, as you may have figured out by doing the Posse math, are Goku and Hakkai. After deciding that Saiyuki was The Posse Series, we were matching characters to everyone, and I was bouncing along being hyper, when someone asked, "But who's hyper enough to be Goku?" and they all turned around and stared at me. (Actually, I was ahead of everyone, Athena points out, so more likely they stopped and said, "Gee, I wonder.") She got Hakkai by default, which we actually felt guilty about, because it was baranoneko who introduced the series to us, and Hakkai was by far her favorite character of the main four. But as it turned out, as far as we can tell, she (Athena) and Hakkai are very similar, so it worked out very well. Except that he's the younger twin, and she's the older twin.
Actually, even though we were matched with Goku and Hakkai, for the longest time Sanzo was our favorite character. Just the way he would tell people when they were being stupid, and they'd either stop, or get shot. Our family was going through a really hard time then, so we really wanted someone like that.
It's still hard to say for sure who our favorites are, but I definitely think we relate to Goku and Hakkai the best. It was really funny when Hazel first showed up, too, because, after seeing him in the Gunlock anime, Athena reeeeeally hated him, and then, translating the manga, Hakkai really hated him too! Good times.
I said before that Saiyuki volume 1 was very hard to translate. Maybe it's because we spent an entire summer translating Saiyuki that now I would actually give it a 2 on the translation difficulty scale. We mostly only have problems now when we're trying too hard during dramatic scenes. We've definitely gotten used to Kazuya Minekura's style.
Well, that's all I can think of to say on Saiyuki right now, except to point out that the translators' notes in volume 1 are word-for-word the notes we gave Jake. Except for the sound effects ones. I remember looking up the information on the Heart Sutra on the day we went to see Pirates of the Caribbean in theaters (which, sadly, was not July 9th like it should have been).
I think I would also like to add that Saiyuki is probably the first series where we started being confident in our ability to determine character voice in Japanese. There was a part somewhere--I can't remember exactly where, but we think it was before they tried to cross the river in the Against the Stream arc of Saiyuki Reload--where Goku said something. All the characters were out of the frame, so it was impossible to tell who was talking based on speech bubble placement. Based on how it was said, we knew it had to be Goku, but based on the content of what was said, we thought, "But it sounds like Sanzo." Then Gojyo said something about how Sanzo's been a bad influence on Goku, and we were like, "Oh yeah!"
Saiyuki is another one that we think we'd like to go over and redo, only better. Actually, the fansubs taught us something about translating, too. There was a part in volume four where Hakkai asks Sanzo if he can ask him a question, and Sanzo replies that if it's a stupid question, he'd kill him. We'll always remember that in the anime, the fansub for that line said, "Waste my time and I'll waste you." We thought it was brilliant, because it means the same thing, and it has the same impact, and it's a clever use of English language, as opposed to just using the standard dictionary translations of those words. I don't know if we were able to apply that lesson to our Saiyuki translations, but as we grew as translators, it's always been helpful to remember.
I think that's it for Saiyuki, off the top of our heads. As usual, we welcome more conversation about it!
Today I'm thankful for finishing the thing we've been working on, getting to reminisce about Saiyuki, having a copy of Saiyuki Ibun to read someday when we have free time (ha, ha, ha), having the pipe on our water heater fixed (we didn't even know it was broken! but the maintenance guys came by for a routine AC filter change and found it), and finishing Durarara!! volume three (now we can read on to see what happens after the anime!).