We first heard of Gakuen Alice back when the anime was going on. A friend of ours, knowing our seiyuu obsessions, told us we might really want to watch it. She was an especially good friend in this, because she didn't tell us exactly why, but only alluded to the fact that maybe some of our favorite voice actors were in it. Turns out they were! Tadah! So we watched some of the anime, and then stopped, either because it got licensed, or that's when we stopped pirating stuff, or it just got hard to get episodes. We don't remember why we stopped watching it, just that we did.
We did not, however, stop reading the manga. Or maybe we did. I don't remember all the details on that, either, but we had five volumes of the manga by the time we got the offer to translate it. I suspect what happened was there was a short time when we thought we had lots of money. We probably used some of that money to buy up to volume five of Gakuen Alice, and then we realized we were actually very poor, so we stopped buying manga for a very long time, which is why we only had through volume five. It turned out to be pretty convenient, though, because volume five is the one we started our translations with. We also both seem to remember needing to marathon-read those volumes, so it's possible they sat on the shelf not being read for a while, while we were distracted with things like Final Fantasy X-2, but once again, the details are lost to memory.
I also seem to remember finding out that TokyoPop had licensed Gakuen Alice and thinking, "Aww, why didn't they ask us to translate it?" There are also vague memories of seeing a copy of volume one in the bookstore and having a very small negative reaction. We still don't know why they didn't assign it to us to begin with, but eventually we got it, and we're pretty sure we know why, if the original translator only gave up some translation work (as opposed to all of it) this was one of the titles she relinquished. It's Gakuen Alice. And there's text everywhere. And every time they start a new story arc, there's that much more dialogue to explain this very elaborate aspect of Alice Academy that Mikan didn't know about before.
To make matters more daunting, we picked up the series in the middle of Alice Fest. School festivals are always the worst to translate when you have detail-oriented manga artists (some artists don't care as much about the backgrounds, so we don't have to worry so much about translating all the signs telling the festival attendees what every single class is doing for their festival project), but with Gakuen Alice...oh my goodness. It's awful. Not only are there signs everywhere, but the school is gigantic and the projects are all so zany that it's a nightmare to translate. I mean, I love attention to detail, but there are a lot of times that I wish they had fewer details.
According to my notes, Gakuen Alice was the second of the Big Three (titles that can make us want to cry).
Other vague memories include a big commotion around the manga community about how TokyoPop was going to try releasing Gakuen Alice monthly, in an attempt to combat manga piracy--if the fans could get the series faster, they wouldn't need to pirate it, right? But I don't remember much else about that. It wouldn't have really affected the way we work.
Oh right, a summary. It's basically like Harry Potter meets X-Men? Kids are born with unique talents (such as telepathy, levitation, healing powers, a special talent for inventing stuff, etc.), and to keep them from being abused for the use of their powers and/or sold by human traffickers, the government created a special school to keep them safe and teach them how to use their powers and stuff. Mikan, our heroine, appears to not have any powers, but goes to the school anyway to track down her friend who recently moved away to attend the school. One of the teachers finds her and convinces the school to let her enroll, after which point it's proven that she has the power (or Alice) to nullify other Alice powers.
I had a really hard time with typos on this series. I kept typing "alive" instead of "alice" and "natsuem" instead of "natsume."
We followed the author on Twitter for a while, and we even tweeted at her! And she tweeted back! She seems pretty sociable. She would tweet about things like Cold Case and Glee, but she mostly tweeted about gardening, and frequently posted pictures of the flowers in her yard.
Sadly, TokyoPop shut down right about when the story was getting the most exciting. We got to translate most of the story about Mikan's parents, and it was all dramatic and stuff, but I don't know how much of that got published. Naturally, we kept buying the series after TokyoPop closed its doors, but then it seemed like, now that all the important plot mysteries had been solved, Higuchi-sensei wasn't quite sure how to bring the story to its conclusion (she did sometimes tweet about writers' block, too, so), because a lot of stuff happened that didn't really make sense. Or not that it didn't make sense, but that it was executed in such a way that we couldn't really agree that it should have happened that way--like there were a lot of things that could have prevented certain events, and not a lot of explanation as to why the prevention couldn't have happened. And then there was a dramatic scene that was ruined for us by the over-sexualization of eleven-year-olds, and after we read that volume, we lost all interest in buying more of the series.
On the translation difficulty scale, I think we've established that it was probably a nine or a ten. Of course some volumes were easier than others, but oh man, the one with the Valentine's Day chapter was killer. Even now, with all our talk of, "I wish I could go back and translate it again; I bet I could do a better job now," we're not so confident of that with Gakuen Alice. So yeah, ten is probably an accurate score.
Favorite character would probably be Yukihira. He's just fun. Narumi was pretty awesome, too, until he got a little too angsty about his one-sided love. Misaki-sensei is pretty great, too, being the "good friend" type of character, and Noda somehow reminds me of Lupin from Harry Potter (although he's played by the Japanese dub voice of Percy), so you gotta love that.
Today I'm thankful for making it through all the story part of Saiyuki Ibun 1, the awesomeness that is Houmei, getting the opportunity to translate Gakuen Alice, getting to watch the finale of American Ninja Warrior, and getting to play some Ace Attorney today.