Anyway, I think it's about time we got back to our commemorative multi-part series.
Missions of Love
This is a series that will always be near and dear to our hearts. In addition to several other factors that had us feeling worse and worse about life, our constant failure to be the first choice to translate new titles was really starting to get to us. We hadn't been assigned a volume one since Maybe, Maybe Not (two years before Missions), and we hadn't been assigned a volume one that actually got published since My Darling! Miss Bancho (three years before Missions). We felt like nobody really cared about the titles we were working on, and it was really disheartening whenever we said we had a new assignment, knowing the interests of our friends and that they probably wouldn't care anymore once they found out, and having them get excited anyway, and then inevitably being all, "...Oh. Well, I'm happy for you, anyway." Not that we blame anybody, just trying to explain why we needed a new series so badly. We didn't feel like we had a lot to look forward to, and things were getting so bad, we were even starting to hate going to Disneyland.
Then our editor at Kodansha emailed us with a new assignment. It was like in the movies when the characters find the thing they've been questing for, and the light shines on it from above and the choirs sing. ...Only we've learned that it's generally a good idea to do a little bit of research to find out what we're getting into before we accept and assignment, and let's face it, the Japanese title of this one is rather questionable, even considering that XX just means "fill in the blank." So we did our research and saw the covers. Our hopes started to fall. We read the reviews on Amazon Japan. They fell a little further.
Still, it was a Nakayoshi title. I mean come on, how bad could it be, right? Nakayoshi is written for, like, five-year-olds! And come on! It's shoujo! We haven't done shoujo manga in sooooo long, and we love it so much!!!
So we expressed our concern to our editor, and were eternally grateful that he offered to let us read it before we decided. He overnighted volume one, and we read it right away. Every time I turned the page, I worried that something really inappropriate was going to be on the next one, so imagine my relief when I got to the end and didn't find anything. We needed this series very, very badly, and now we knew we could accept it. The Japanese phrase "sukui no te (saving hand)" kept running across my mind.
Right, synopsis. It's about a girl who writes cell phone novels (novels in which each chapter is about as long as a text message (you can fit a lot more information into 160 Japanese characters than English ones)), and in order to give her readers what they want, she determines to write a love story. She usually bases her stories off of her observations of the students around her, but love is something she feels she can't write accurately without having experienced it herself. She figures she can just fake it, but she thinks it would be cruel to the other party, so fortunately(?) she happens across some dirt on the most popular boy in school, which also proves that he's a terrible person, so not only can she blackmail him into helping her, but she doesn't feel guilty doing it.
The series got pretty good reviews to start with, but it's not long before the inevitable shoujo-ness of the series comes through, which a lot of people found disappointing. They also got frustrated with Yukina's cluelessness about the whole "falling in love" process, which I guess I can understand, but as for us, we can relate to Yukina very well, which is another reason we love this series so much.
But let's focus on the translation side. We tend to pay a little bit (just a little bit) of extra attention to character voice in this one, especially because Shigure is specifically two-faced, and has two different ways of talking to prove it. But his two faces aren't really extreme--it's just he's either a little extra polite, or he's a typical disrespectful boy. Athena recalls a specific example when he slipped out of his nice guy persona and we had him say, "On what planet--I mean..."
Yukina is also a slight challenge because she has such a...solid? way of speaking. I don't want to say "masculine," because while it is a speech pattern that is typically male in Japanese, it's more "I'm in a position of power" kind of speech...or something...? ...Gasp! Maybe she's actually a big challenge, and we're not pulling her speech off very well! Oooohhhh noooooo!!!
...I don't know. It's been a long time since we last worked on Missions. Except we started volume eight a week ago, but we only got a bit done of the first draft, and then got bombarded with other, more pressing, things that are now filling our brain space, so of course we don't remember. Plus, first drafts don't really count. We can't really be sure how we're doing on a translation until the second draft. Actually, we've been thinking of doing a post on the importance of translators doing second drafts, but I digress.
Akira, too, has his own distinct speech pattern, so hopefully that comes across with more than just adding -chan to Yukina's name. It's really interesting to see the difference in how he talks to Yukina as opposed to how he talks to Mami. Seriously, I know the series comes across as a typical cookie-cutter shoujo manga, but the interactions between the characters are so deep and fascinating! At least, we think so, anyway. Because we identify with Yukina, who would probably feel the same way if she were observing the situation.
Missions of Love is another good example of why it's usually a good idea to use Japanese name honorifics when translating a series that takes place in a Japanese high school, especially with characters like Shigure being all two-faced. We've been over this before--it might work if Shigure called Yukina "Yukina" when he's being fake and "Yuki" when he's being himself, and if Akira calls her "Kiki," "Nana," or "Yuyu" (ew, go with Kiki), but Mami just does not lend itself to nicknames. Mama? Yeeeah, we already have enough complaints about Akira being in love with his cousin. (Cousins don't count as incest in Japan, by the way.)
Our favorite character is of course...everybody! It's really hard to decide. As I keep saying, we like Yukina because we identify with her so well, and Akira is so cute!, and Shigure is so typical shoujo manga hero, and Mami is so adorably devious. Okay, the devious part doesn't last very long, but still. She's really fun.
Oh right, translation difficulty scale. We can usually finish a first draft in a day or two, so despite the challenges, I'd give it a three at most difficult. On the other hand, I worry if our failure to take it more seriously is why more people don't like it. (No, it's totally the fact that Yukina is not the heroine they expected her to be.)
I just want to tell everybody all about this series in a way that will make them see how great it is, or how it's enjoyable even if it's not perfect (I totally agree that some of those covers really need to be toned down), but I'm afraid I wouldn't be quite coherent. All the feelings are swirling around and won't be expressed properly unless I choose something to focus on...and I've been typing long enough. (Maybe I don't want it that badly...oh no! But I do! Maybe a separate post......)
Today I'm thankful for making good progress at work again today, having more Missions of Love to look forward to when we're done with crunch weeks two and three, finally finishing our Halloween candy (except for the caramels, but those won't last long), still having chocolate to look forward to after that, and having some idea of what Page wants to eat.