Speaking of Kodansha, it looks like the next series we translated was for them! Or actually for Del Rey Manga, which has always been the same entity to us as Kodansha USA. So let's talk about it!
My Heavenly Hockey Club
I think I've told the embarrassing story of when we first got assigned My Heavenly Hockey Club, but let's tell it again. Back in 2005, we were realizing that TokyoPop wasn't paying us nearly enough to make a decent living, and that we needed to start looking for more clients. We talked to Del Rey that year at Anime Expo, and said we would like to translate manga for them (or something like that), and the woman at their booth asked (rather gruffly, we felt), "Are you fluent in Japanese?" Well heck, I'm not comfortable saying I'm fluent in Japanese now, so of course we couldn't say it then. (When people ask us these days, "Are you fluent?" our answer tends to be, "I hope so!") So that scared us off...
...until 2006 when we started to get desperate. We were relying on the Church for food and rent money, and we knew we needed to start supporting ourselves. So when Anime Expo came around (too expensive for us at the time, definitely, but the best way to make connections), we had to screw up our courage and Talk to People. I don't remember if it was the last day of the convention or not (Athena thinks it was the second to last day), but I do remember we were wearing our Haruka: Beyond the Stream of Time costumes (Eisen and Yasuaki). Fortunately, we'd had a confidence boost from someone who saw our con badges and recognized our names as the translators of Saiyuki. She said that's the only manga she could stand reading in English.
Del Rey was still too scary for us, so we tried CMX instead. That went very well, so we figured, "Yay, one new client! We're done doing scary things!" After that, we talked to a TokyoPop editor (she was in Artists' Alley, critiquing portfolios), and we mentioned the looking for more work thing, and how we'd talked to CMX. She seemed to smirk at that, which made us nervous again. We realize now there might have been a different reason, but since we're not psychic, all we could do was guess, and our guess was that it meant, "Ha! Like CMX is going to help you make a living." So we screwed up our courage again and talked to the guy at the Del Rey booth. He told us who we could email, and when we got back from the convention, we emailed her.
The thing about applying for translation work is that the people who could use your services couldn't always use them right away, and that was the case here. The key is to make sure they don't forget you when they do have work, so we emailed about every month or so, basically just to check in. Finally, in September...there was an embarrassing situation that I don't remember exactly. It's here on LJ somewhere, with the tag "durrrr". But after the confusion was cleared up, Del Rey boss said, "Okay, that was really weird, but anyway now I have work for you."
That work was Gokuraku Seishun Hockey-bu, or what would soon be known as My Heavenly Hockey Club...or as we called it, My Heavenly
Before we could get started translating this series, it had to be determined whether or not we were competent enough to do our own adaptations. If we couldn't, no worries, we'd still translate it, but they'd send it to an adapter. If we could, sweet! we get paid double. I actually don't remember knowing about the "getting paid double" part, though (we seem to remember a great deal of incredulity when we were filling out our first invoice); our main motivation came from unfavorable experience with adapters changing our work (see: DN Angel).
So we turned in a test translation of the first ten pages (I think), and waited for our new boss to get back to us with the results. We passed!, and thus Hockey Club became the first series that we officially adapted. (TokyoPop published some of our translations without sending them to an adapter, but we never knew about it, and I think later volumes of those same titles were adapted...or something.) And we gained a reputation for being good with comedy, which has made us feel extra special in recent years after we learned that a lot of translators think that comedy is very difficult to translate.
This was also the first series for which we officially wrote "translators' notes," although we'd been writing them for TokyoPop since the very beginning. But now that it was official, there was a little more pressure to get it right, and to add to that, this series required a lot of notes. Seriously, it probably would have been worth our while to buy a collection of travel guides. We probably didn't have to write so many notes about the food, but since we're pretty much the opposite of foodies, we had no way of knowing whether the readers would have heard of something or not. So, in the spirit of "better safe than sorry," we wrote notes. It's actually been a learning process--figuring out when to write a note also involved figuring out when to leave a term in Japanese. It was a long time before we realized we could adapt a translation so it would make sense without having to read the note, then leave a note for all the purists (and people who might want to learn a little more about stuff). I don't think we started doing that until Negima...Athena thinks maybe not until the Negima! omnibuses, and I think she's right.
That being the case, the difficulty level on this series is higher, not because it was hard to translate, but because of all the extra, non-translation-specific research. (Although there certainly were things that were difficult to translate. Athena remembers asking a friend of ours if she could come up with a good way to translate "binbou-kusai (literally "stinking of poverty")," and the friend being like, "You're sure this isn't Host Club?") I think it was volume eight that took us twice as long to research as it did to translate.
I think we're agreed that Natsuki is our favorite character. We've always liked the type of characters who know what's going on, but don't always share that knowledge. We'd like to like the Ayuharas, but they're so obviously just gimmicky twins and not twins with real personalities like the Hitachiin brothers.
We had translated ten volumes of the series before Del Rey canceled it, after releasing only eight. Very recently, J-Manga picked up the rights to Hockey Club, and we got in touch with them to see if they'd let us finish it. They were very agreeable to the idea--we signed a contract and everything! But alas, it was not to be. J-Manga went under before they even managed to publish the two "hidden" volumes. It's just as well--volume ten was a little extra raunchy. But we're still a little sad that we never got to see the end of it.
Today I'm thankful for getting the internet back before that boss ran away in Kingdom Hearts [chi], having Reese's cupcake mix, getting to do some reading today, fond memories of Hockey Club, and getting to watch American Ninja Warrior last night.