The point is, if we were only working at our "real job," we would probably have started translating another volume of Sherlock Bones today. But since we had a bunch of side work building up, and it's Friday, we decided to work on side work instead. On the other hand, Sherlock Bones is also the next on the list for our 10-year anniversary commemorative multi-part series, so instead of translating it, we'll talk about it!
This assignment came as a surprise (like most of our assignments these days), and happened to come right when Kodansha USA updated their website. That's not really relevant, but both things were mentioned in the email where we got the assignment, so I mentioned it here, too.
The original title of the series is Tanteiken Sherdock, which the covers of the Japanese version translate to Sherdock the Detective Dog. We had never heard of it before, so we looked it up, and the art is so cute! And we like mysteries, so we were pretty excited about the assignment. The manga is about a boy who adopts a dog, only to find out that the dog is the reincarnation of Sherlock Holmes, and has assumed that his new owner is his assistant Watson. Then they solve murder mysteries together.
There was some discussion about the title, and consequently the name of the dog. In the Japanese version, as I mentioned, the dog's name is Sherdock. We thought it was pretty cute and wanted to keep it, our editor liked the idea of how the dog got named but decided it would be too confusing unless changed to Sherdog, and somebody with more power than any of us decided for reasons unknown that we would stick with the original plan and call the series Sherlock Bones. According to everything we see on the internet, it looks like the dog is still named Sherdog. That would have been nice to know, so we wouldn't have the dog's name wrong all throughout the translation, but it's our editor's problem now. (Only that series just got a new editor, so now it's that editor's problem. We should ask him what he wants us to do about that.)
Personally, we think Sherdock has a nicer ring to it, and has a stronger Sherlock connection, and "dock" and "dog" don't sound that different, and people who can read are probably smart enough to see the connection anyway, but we're not as passionate about it as we are about other things editors have made us change. And we like all our editors from Kodansha, so we're usually pretty happy to go along with what they want.
Anyway, the series provided us with some great opportunities to familiarize ourselves with some beloved classics--namely, Sherlock Holmes and Columbo. As soon as we got the assignment, we ordered the complete Sherlock Holmes collections, we watched an episode of Sherlock on Netflix, and we borrowed Mom's copy of the recent movie. We would have watched more Sherlock, but we wanted to read the books first because we were afraid of spoilers. That's also why we ended up not watching the movie. Eheh.
After reading Sherlock Holmes for research on this series, we kind of got the feeling that the author on this series did not do the same thing. The dog is nothing like the man. Okay, he's a little like the man, but the personality is very different. In fact, of all the detectives we've seen on TV and in other media, including the one adaptation of Sherlock Holmes and the Great Mouse Detective, the one that seems to match Holmes' personality the closest (though not 100% of course) is Jessica Fletcher from Murder, She Wrote.
And speaking of Murder, She Wrote, we got as far as the cover flap of volume one when we found out that the manga series is based more on Columbo than anything else. (Columbo and Murder, She Wrote were created by the same guys.) That being the case, Sherlock Bones is what is called an "inverted detective story," also known as a howcatchem. What that means is that each story shows you exactly who the murderer is before the detective even knows it happened, and the drama comes from seeing how the detective gets the killer. And that was the fun tidbit we learned about the detective genre.
This series has its own unique challenges. First, there's the character of Sherdock (sticking with the name I like best, because of uncertainty). He's tricky, because we want him to talk sort of like Sherlock Holmes, since he is Sherlock Holmes, but on the other hand, he's Sherlock Holmes talking out of character, so we have similar problems to what we had with certain stories in Kingdom Hearts. Usually our attempts are reduced to making sure he speaks properly, and peppering his dialogue with terms like "halloa!" and "quite so." (Those are the main things we noticed dialogue-wise in the Sherlock Holmes books.)
Second, there's the challenge that comes with all the mystery manga we've translated in the past (where by "all" I mean "the other one"), which is that...okay, so there's the investigation phase and the "let's throw all our evidence at the crook!" phase, and between the two of them, things seem to get extremely repetitive. I think it's entirely possible that they mostly seem extra repetitive because with mystery series, each episode deals with a different type of subject matter, so we have to look up all the terms that go with that subject matter. So we see the word on the page, we see it in the dictionary, we sometimes see it at Wikipedia, we see it in our script when I type it up... We see it sooo many times, and not only that, but we have to make a special effort to remember what that term means for whenever it comes up in the episode. So usually it seems less repetitive when we make our second pass over the script, but we do have to make sure it doesn't sound as repetitive that second time through.
Third, there's the challenge of there being murders that involve things we're very squeamish about. The golf episode in particular got into some medical details that had both of us feeling a little faint as we were translating it. When we're just reading something, we can skim by that really fast, but when we're translating it, we have to pay attention. It can be rough.
This series also taught us something about languages. I don't want to go into details, because I don't think that volume is out yet and I don't want to spoil it, but what it boils down to is this: when a language is not your first language, (and this may seem obvious) you don't always realize when a word is being used strangely, or when there's an unusual word choice. So it's very important to find out all the context you can, or you could mistranslate important details, just because you didn't realize that something was deliberately used in an unconventional way in the source text.
Despite all the challenges, I think I'll give it a seven on the translation difficulty scale, mostly because Takeru talks like a normal teenager. Still, it does tend to get really explainy at times, and it's always a challenge to make explainy dialogue sound natural, and not like, "So, uh, hey, I'm saying this because the writer said I had to." So maybe a 7.5.
Our favorite character is probably Takeru. There aren't really a whole lot of characters to choose from (who appear regularly). Airin and Miki are both pretty awesome, though, which just goes to show that screentime can be important. In fact, I think Miki might possibly be my favorite character if she were in it enough to do more stuff.
Today I'm thankful for the opportunity to challenge ourselves, adorable character designs, having plans to watch a new Psych (hopefully) this weekend (probably tonight), there being a girl in our complex selling chocolate for a school fundraiser (hopefully she'll still be selling tomorrow when I finally have cash), and all our bear hats having shipped.