Well, after almost writing about the wrong series yesterday, I think we're back on track and ready to write about more manga! (But to be honest, manga is about the only thing we have to write about right now.) So on with the series!
This assignment, as far as we can tell, came out of the blue. The subject line in the email we got says it was a rush project, and normally we'd think that was why we were asked to do it, since at TokyoPop we were the people to go to for rush jobs. But we'd only been working for Del Rey for less than a year, and more importantly, the email itself says that our boss wanted to give it to us because we're good with comedy. That part came as a real shock to us, because even though we're very good at amusing ourselves, we never really thought of ourselves as particularly witty. On top of that, we never really thought of translating comedy as being that different from translating non-comedy, and partly as a result of that, we translated it the same way we translate everything else...or so it seemed to us, anyway.
The point is, I thought our translations just sounded normal. On the other hand, I remember a time we were at a church activity, and we were having a conversation amongst ourselves that seemed pretty normal, but a girl standing next to us listening was busting up laughing. Apparently we're funny without even trying, and I'm not quite sure how I feel about that. Like, "You're funny!" "Yeah, funny-looking!"
But anyway, we like it when people are smiling, so we're cool with it. As long as they're laughing with us and not at us.
So the compliment was exciting, and the other exciting part about this assignment is that it was the perfect excuse to buy a new video game. The Ace Attorney manga, naturally, is based on the video game series of the same name, and in order to create something the fans would love, we would need to have a feel for how the games were translated. Fortunately, the manga wasn't just a manga version of the game, because that would have driven us crazy. We weren't prepared at that time to make judgment calls about what should match the game dialogue exactly and what should be tweaked, but we probably would have thought we were.
The day we got the assignment, we went somewhere to get a copy of the first game. We'd heard of the series before, and we remembered our sister and her husband speaking favorably of it (or maybe Mom mentioning it as we passed by the game at the store), so we were really excited. The first games are about Phoenix Wright, a defense attorney who is pretty much known for winning his cases by the skin of his teeth. In the games, you investigate cases and use the evidence you found to find contradictions in witnesses' testimonies so you can prove your clients' innocence.
The first set of manga we did was an anthology of short stories inspired by the games, so in other words, it was just a fun excuse to see more of the characters, who are all pretty hilarious.
... (ellipsis to indicate that that's where we got interrupted)
At the beginning, we did the same thing for this series that we did with Kingdom Hearts II. Before we started translating the series, and in fact before we even started doing the research (playing the game), we had a series of emails with our boss, asking if we should translate like we normally do (without regard for the game translation), or if we should try to match the spirit of the game as closely as possible. We were asked to do the latter, and so it became even more important to familiarize ourselves with the game. And that was a really long way of introducing the name thing.
Because Ace Attorney is a comedy, and most importantly, because that comedy involves puns, all the characters' names were changed from the Japanese version to be more relatable to an American audience. ...Well, that, and in video games, localization is a bigger deal. We've known more than a few gamers who seem to prefer not to admit that their favorite games came from another country. They've probably grown past that now that anime fans aren't shoving their otaku-ness down their throats, but the point is, they changed the names. And anyway, it was really more important to do it for this series, because the main character's name is Naruhodou, which is a play on "naruhodo," which basically means "I see" or "Oh, right." Hence the name being changed to Wright.
That being the case, for all characters original to the manga, we had to come up with names. Our favorite is a character who was named Dogezaya, which comes from "dogeza," the term for when you bow so low that your head is touching the ground. Needless to say, the character was a groveler. So we thought we were very clever (or inspired, more likely) when we came up with the name Ian Knottworthy.
Later, we got an email from our boss with a different suggestion for the name--we're not sure if people on the other end just didn't get what we were going for, or if they did and thought their idea was better. We were grateful that she asked our opinion on the matter, and we had mixed feelings because on the one hand, we were like, "Obviously ours is soooo much better!" but also like, "Is it okay for us to be so adamant? I don't know! Aaaaahhh!" (The suggestion was Sammy Sadsack, which we didn't like because it's crude and unoriginal.)
When we moved from the anthologies to the manga series, there were a lot more original characters. I think we did really well on some names--there was a landlady who we named Biddy Tenniman (or something that sounds like Tenniman), because she was an old biddy who ran a tenement. Aaah ha ha! But for some names, I think we got too carried away with staying close to the original. It was mostly the case with the spiders. Every single character in that case was named after a spider, and instead of trying to come up with spider puns, we went with names that related to the spider that character was named after in the Japanese version. Except for the two brothers, who we named Eddy and Brock, after Venom from Spider-man. But we made their last name Johnson, after the Johnson spider (maybe it was a Johnson recluse? Don't remember). Also, I know it was probably lost on the majority of the readers, but I thought it was fun to name the rich wife Therydia, after the...genus? of spider her Japanese name came from.
Anyway, in the manga series, the names weren't as punny anyway. And as a side note, we also amused ourselves immensely with the stage name Caliente del Fuego. Another side note, I'm pretty sure we have a post somewhere about how there was a character named Masayoshi "Justice" something and we couldn't name him Justice because they named Odoroki from the fourth game Apollo Justice, and we couldn't name him Miles (which also means "justice") because that was Edgeworth's first name. And there was a character somewhere we wanted to name Misty, but they'd already named a character Misty in the games. But that's one we probably could have just outright changed if we'd thought to.
There have been a few series that made us think really hard about the "localization" thing--like, would it be better to be more creative with our translations? Obviously, this was one of them. It was always such a vague, abstract concept. ...And I've started several attempts to explain it better, but it really is so vague and abstract that I can't figure out what I want to say. But anyway, here's an example.
In one of the four-panel comics featured throughout the Phoenix Wright anthology, Phoenix (Wright) shows a sign to another popular character, Godot. Godot replies that the blood-red letters are invisible to him, and Phoenix says, "Uh, no, they're omoikkiri black." "Omoikkiri" is one that you generally have to get creative with if you don't want it to sound too translaty--when you look it up in the dictionary you get things like "with all one's strength," which usually does not help at all. The letters are black with all their might. What does that even mean?
So, partially out of necessity, and partially because we were trying to think "what would this sound like in the game?", we ended up with, "They're black as black can be." Which, in retrospect, is pretty much a perfect way to translate that--the letters are as black as they possibly can be, or they're black with all their might. On the other hand, if "omoikkiri" is a word that sounds a little unusual in that context even to a native Japanese speaker, maybe something a little odder would have been better. We don't think it is, since most of the time omoikkiri comes up, the dictionary definition is unhelpful. And besides, that wasn't the joke, which brings us to the next obstacle we had in translating this.
As far as we knew from researching GameStop's website, there were two Ace Attorney games. So we played through the first one, realized that that cute little girl on the cover of the manga hadn't been in the game, and called our home teacher at the time for a ride to Target to get the second one. We played through that...and realized that we still hadn't seen all the characters on the cover of that manga. But we had a deadline, so we just dealt with it and translated to the best of our ability without having met those characters.
Then there were licensing issues and the whole project was put on hold for several months. During that time, the third game was released in North America, so all the jokes involving those characters made so much more sense when we went through and edited our scripts before turning them in for real. Then that four-panel was much funnier, because we found out that Godot's red visor thingie makes it so everything's red...except for red, which is invisible to him. Looking at his character design, maybe that should have been obvious (y'know, physics), but who knows what fancy sci-fi visors are supposed to do?
Fortunately, the manga didn't give away anything from the games, because the plot twists in the series are pretty incredible. There was one thing it gave away, but the rest of that case was so intense that it only mattered a little.
Despite the difficulty involved in having to match someone else's translation style, this one turned out not to be too hard. (We were actually more worried about legal terms, forensics terms, etc.) It probably helped that we like the game translators' translation style pretty well, and it also helped that they resorted to a few cheap tricks to give the characters their unique flavor. For example, Detective Gumshoe, who ends all his sentences with "ssu," a contracted form of "desu," was translated as constantly saying, "pal." I'm trying to think of an example, but it's really hard, pal. Like that. Of course, when you do stuff like that, you have to use discretion so as not to overdo it, because that can get annoying pretty fast. So Gumshoe says "pal" a lot less in English than he says "ssu" in Japanese. So maybe I'll give it a five on the translation difficulty scale.
Favorite character by a landslide, even though they're all incredibly awesome, is Miles Edgeworth. He really won us over in the first game, when Phoenix just wasn't figuring out why something he just presented to the court made the case look better for his client, and despite being on opposite sides, he was like, "You idiot, obviously it means...!" It showed that, despite where he ended up in life, he still loved the truth. Everything about his story from that point on seemed to revolve around that theme, and that's why we love him. Well, that, and despite his Very Serious Attitude, you can tell he's a Steel Samurai fan who still believes in Santa.
But we liked the Phoenix Wright anthology better. I think the Edgeworth fans who write manga just aren't as silly as a rule, so the manga anthology stories about Edgeworth aren't as silly, and therefore aren't as fun. Oh man, I barely remember any of the stories, but I remember they were hilarious. I want to go back and read them again, but all our books are packed.
I think I'd better stop, because the post is degenerating in to incomprehensible fangirl ravings, so...yeah. Stopping now. Oh man, I just realized I didn't mention not being assigned the Ace Attorney Investigations manga! That was kind of annoying, especially because that's the manga about Edgeworth, who, as previously stated, is totally our favorite character. I was actually a little worried about it, because I wondered if Kodansha and/or Capcom decided they hated our translations or we were too weird about the names or something. But on the other hand, we weren't too broken up about it, because to be honest, the manga series isn't nearly as good as the games. Or the anthologies. Oh right, that reminds me that my other theory was that maybe our manga series translations weren't funny enough, and it's possible that we could have done something to change that, but the manga wasn't that funny in the Japanese version, either. Unless we understand Japanese comedy a lot less than we think we do, which is entirely possible, but we're busting up over the newest Ace Attorney game, so that seems unlikely.
Anyway, this is why we were supposed to stop. Okay, for real this time.
Today I'm thankful once again for being introduced to the amazing series that is Ace Attorney, still having more Ace Attorney to look forward to, the new emotion-packed pose of Apollo's, finally having time to get started translating Saiyuki Ibun today (also hilarious), and getting our hair clips in the mail.