And now, back to our commemorative multi-part series!
Negima! Magister Negi Magi
This assignment is unique in that there was a lot of foreshadowing that it would happen. Negima neo doesn't really count by itself, but it does when you connect it to a subsequent request to create a style guide for both titles. We suspect it happened right around the time Del Rey was switching translators between volumes 18 and 19...or was it 19 and 20? The point is, Negima! has a lot of series lingo, and Del Rey decided it was about time somebody decided once and for all how to translate all of it and maintain consistency going forward. So they asked us to make a style guide--a list of all the people, places, spells, martial arts moves, anything that might require consistent translation in the future. It was long, and we wish we'd organized it better, but it was serviceable, and it turned out we were the main ones using it anyway, so there you go.
It wasn't long after we turned in the style guide that we got an email from Del Rey boss informing us that the then-current translator on Negima! needed to leave the project, and that by now probably the only person who knows more about the series is Ken Akamatsu himself, so do you want the assignment? We said sure, and history(?) was made.
The premise of the story is the same as for Negima!? neo. A ten-year-old boy goes to Japan to teach middle school as part of his wizard's training. The part I left out is that he's trying to find his father, a legendary wizard who supposedly disappeared ten years ago, but who Negi saw six years ago when his village was destroyed. That factors into the story a bit more in Negima! Proper, it being longer and the actual series and stuff.
I would say that this series was nearly impossible to translate. Okay, it wasn't that bad, but it presented a lot of challenges, even right at the beginning. As soon as we agreed to translate it, we were asked to translate a lexicon entry for volume 21, even though we were set to start our translations at volume 22. So the lexicon entry about al-iksir was our work. Also, the letterer seemed to be a pretty big fan of the series, so he chimed in a few times with some things that needed fixing. The first time we remember related to when Konoka used her big healing spell in volume 21, because the original translator transliterated the text, without translating it. It was the letterer's opinion that if the Japanese readers could read it and know what it means, then the English-speaking readers should be able to do the same.
We totally agree with that opinion, but the "if" part didn't really apply--the spell was all in Chinese characters, with Classical Japanese as the language spoken, so there would be a lot of Japanese readers who wouldn't actually know what it said (though they'd probably have a better idea of the gist of it). We responded with a long note including what we just wrote here, adding our opinion that if the readers really wanted to know what it said, they could refer to the lexicon in the back, and ending with a parenthetical, "This opinion only slightly comes from the fact that, as translators, we look at that spell and want to cry."
Of course, that was mainly because we had only just started Negima!, and weren't yet prepared for magnificent linguistic challenges it posed. I think we have several entries about looking up various non-Japanese languages for the sake of this series. It was really hard, but super awesome. We are total language geeks, and every different language had an exciting new aspect. Latin was fun because it so closely resembled English (English gets a lot of words from Latin) that it was easy to look at it and be like, "Oh, I see where they're going with that!" Greek was fun because the Greek alphabet is really pretty. Sanskrit was fun because...okay, Sanskrit wasn't that fun, but it was still fascinating! And also, it was fun because it wasn't that fun, so then we got to go whine to people about how can you believe we have to translate Sanskrit of all things? But we did learn some things that became helpful later, when we wanted to translate Saiyuki stuff for fun. (The Sanskrit wasn't much more fun in Saiyuki, either. I guess it's just so far from all the languages that we know stuff about. All the other languages had stuff we could relate to linguistically.)
The other fun thing about lexicons (wait, I wasn't talking about lexicons; oh well) was that we got to look up a lot of fun reference material. That was also the unfun thing about lexicons. ...Yeah, actually, in retrospect, it was the complete opposite of fun. We have always hated research. But it led to some really neat benefits, like knowing stuff about psychology and mythology and math and philosophy that we didn't know before, and more importantly, the skills we learned trying to find the English translation of the random quote from the Eddas (for example) are the same kinds of skills we need to find information on our ancestors when we do family history research. So you can see how the Lord prepares you in unexpected ways.
We had a brief discussion on which lexicon entry was the hardest, and we couldn't decide. There were a lot of really hard ones. As the series got closer and closer to its end, the lexicon entries stopped coming, which was nice as far as our stress levels generally, but the opposite of nice when, for example, Evangeline used a brand new, super long spell in Ancient Greek, and we had to figure out how to spell it in Greek and Roman letters.
Another one of the challenges of Negima! is the millions of characters. It's kind of ridiculous. And of course all the talking (caused in part by the millions of characters). And the world-building. Oh my goodness, Akamatsu-sensei and his team did a pretty amazing job of building an elaborate yet consistent world full of magic and science and whathaveyou; it was really quite brilliant. The only problem is that makes for a lot of exposition and explanations, which makes for a lot of less interesting translation--the type of translation that involves stopping every other word to look something up. We much prefer snappy dialogue. But thinking about it, maybe it's been a good exercise in developing our prose-translation skills? I don't know.
Right, speaking of characters, all the different character voices! Once again, Akamatsu-sensei and his team worked really hard to create a bunch of individual, unique personalities, and they did a pretty good job with that, too. Fortunately for us, a lot of character voice shows through the content of what each character says. Unfortunately for us, uuuuuugggghh with the quirky speech patterns! We like them, though♥ The precedent had already been set for the characters that spoke in dialects other than Tokyo to just not bother with it, so we didn't have to worry about Konoka and Ako too much, but it might have made it a little less obvious when, for example, there'd be a picture of a background and a bunch of speech bubbles all over it, each one representing something said by a different character. Usually you could tell Konoka or Ako right away because of the dialect, but obviously that wouldn't have come across in the English version. Yue's speech quirk was lost, too--she had a habit of "desu" overuse.
Anyway, in dealing with character voice, it usually helps to just stick to the Japanese. So we had another comment from the letterer somewhere around volume 26? Jack Rakan was telling Negi how he could get powerful really fast, and he suggests something. Okay, we just checked and it was volume 24. We had Rakan say, "You might could do it." We didn't even think about it--it just came out that way, I think. Sometimes that happens, and when it does, the translations usually sound pretty awesome. But they sound less awesome when people aren't familiar with the turn of phrase, and the letterer was not. Fortunately, Del Rey Boss really liked our translation, so she compromised--she'd go with "might could" IF the original Japanese was also incorrect grammar or a dialect. (She referred to "might could" as a Southern regionalism, and we didn't even realize. We were like, "It is?" Our first guess is to say we got the phrase from our mom, who is from the South, but come to think of it, I don't think we hear her say it that much...except that Athena says she did take note of Mom using "might could" recently, so there you go.) Anyway, Rakan had used incorrect Japanese grammar (kamo da, instead of kamo shirenai), so we won the match! Ding ding ding!
This series had a few unforeseen challenges...emotional ones. They were really just a little petty, I think. We had the same problem with Fruits Basket. Ken Akamatsu is a brilliant storyteller, so whenever there was a cool plot twist, we'd be like, "This is so awesome, the fans are gonna love this!" And then we'd realize that the fans already read it weeks ago--maybe even months ago!--and we would be sad. Then we'd be like, "What's even the point anymore!?" But we'd get over that fast enough, because we like to earn a paycheck. And we tell ourselves that it's important for there to be an official domestic release so that the artist can at least get something for their awesomeness.
On the translation difficulty scale this series definitely gets a ten. Like whoa. I don't think it quite gets an eleven, because that would just be wussy talk, and eventually there weren't any lexicons anymore.
It is so hard to choose a favorite character, because there are so many good ones! In that case, the tendency is to just go with Negi. And I have to give a shout-out to Chisame, because I think she's probably the one we're most like. Obsessed with cosplay, bitter at the world, usually wanting to stay out of it but having to get involved when she sees that everyone is doing it ALL WRONG!!! Yeah, I like Chisame. And I feel like for this series, we should mention our favorite 'ship. Probably Natsumi and Kotaro. They are just too cute.
We still have a lot more to say about this series re:Omnibuses, but I think we've said enough for one entry. I guess we'll just give this entry a Part 2.
Today I'm thankful for getting to watch another great General Conference, the super cute family choir that sang for the second session, the unexpected Google skills we learned from Negima!, having a cool new app to learn German with, and having candy corn M&Ms to munch on.