It started out a couple of days ago, when it was just one of those days where it felt like everybody was a critic. They weren't, really, at least not all of them, but we were miffed and we just wanted to talk about it. And it also just so happened that we got a phone call from a friend, so we thought, "Aha! Someone to talk to about it!"
Here's what happened. You guys know that we're translating My Monster Secret for Seven Seas, right? You probably also are aware that there's an anime of it going around under the English title "Actually, I Am...". And there's a character in it who has earned himself a reputation as the ana no aita zaru, or anazaru for short. As tends to be the case when different translators work on the same project, it got translated differently for the anime than we had it in the manga. We even saw the anime after we had turned in our translation of the manga, and disagreed with their version of it, as we usually do because we're snobs.
The adaptation writer was doing her job properly and decided to get more information--trying to figure out if zaru is supposed to be a sieve or a basket or a bag (based on the wiki for the series) or maybe something else entirely. The matter was quickly resolved with a trip to Amazon Japan--look up zaru and you'll get a bunch of items that strongly resemble what we call sieves--and the rewriter even liked our version best before we sent more information, so really there wasn't any problem.
Except for the problem in ourselves (dramatic). We were kind of like, "Hey, why don't these people just trust us?" and kind of like, "What's the big idea with this other translator anyway, translating it as basket and making other people doubt us when we're doing a better job!?" It wasn't pretty. But we just wanted to tell a friend about it and laugh over it and then we'd get over it and move on with our lives.
And this is where I risk losing the support that we so vitally need. I already explained why it's a sieve and not anything else, but the problem is the modifier, which means, roughly, "with a hole in it." I admit, even we were pretty confused when we first came across it, because we were like, "Aren't holes the whole point of sieves?" But there are other lines in the manga that make it clear that yes, they did mean a sieve with a hole--like a chunk was taken out of it. So before I could explain the trouble between sieves and baskets, I told our friend that the other translator had rendered it as "leaky basket," so when I got to the sieve part, he solved the problem himself by making it "leaky sieve," before we could say that we had it as "holey sieve." For some reason, he had to argue why his was better. Our story wasn't about holey versus leaky, so we said it was just a stylistic choice, but he said holey is bad because it's a homophone and we said no it's good because it's a homophone but it doesn't matter because as long as the idea gets across it should be fine. (And the idea should get across because of other dialogue in the series, as long as we don't misspell holey, but he doesn't think the idea will get across because sieves are naturally holey but not naturally leaky (which is debatable).)
So this is where I would like to say that this is not the point of the story, and if you prefer "leaky," that's fine but we think "holey" is okay even if it is a little confusing at first and I don't want to argue that with you. (Besides, it's out of our hands.)
Even that would have been another thing we'd just rant about among ourselves until we'd watched enough anime or played enough Ace Attorney that we forgot mostly about it, but somehow the subject of translation came up again later. I don't even remember what we were talking about, which is driving me crazy because I NEED context, but the point is we were talking about translation. (Ana literally means hole, not leak, by the way. Not really relevant here, but our thoughts are disjointed right now. And we're not arguing that!)
So, since this same friend had earlier expressed the opinion that all anime is either really dark or really ecchi (can't quite remember the word he used, but that's what he meant), and we were getting a little indignant about his telling us he knows more about our area of expertise than we do, Athena said something along the lines of, "But I'm sure you're a much better translator than we are." And his (for all we could tell) sincere response was, "I probably would be, if I had the time to learn Japanese."
We were stunned. Like complete ceasing of mental function. I mean, that's kind of the normal flow for that kind of argument, but usually it's more yelly, like, "I'm sure I could!" But he was calm about it, and he went on to say that he would like to learn Japanese but Chinese would be better. Athena meant to sound sarcastic, but maybe she didn't? She did say something like, "I'd love to see you try," but we were so stunned that the details are kind of blurry and we don't know where or how that fit into the conversation.
So of course when we were left to ourselves we started telling each other why no, he wouldn't be a better translator, but it seems so silly because why does it even matter? Even if, for the sake of argument, he did turn out to be a better translator, that doesn't mean we're bad translators. It's not "you're the best or you're worthless." It's not even a competition! As long as we're doing our best and having a good time and he's not taking all our work away, there's not really a problem.
But there is a problem, and it's about validation. Translating manga is like the one thing we're pretty darn sure we're good at, and even though he didn't say we're bad at it, it felt like he was completely devaluing us. And to be fair, we get that all the time from know-it-all fans (there are a lot of fans who think they know better than translators, whether or not said fans have any working knowledge of Japanese), but this is our friend! Someone who's opinion we respect and who, we thought, respected our opinions.
So we thought about it and I decided to write him a letter explaining very briefly that we felt invalidated, so here's our solution: write a list of all the things we acknowledge him as being more expert on, and a list of all the things we hope he will acknowledge us as being more expert on (which would pretty much be "manga, anime, translation of those things (and video games), and the Japanese language). His list will be much longer, so we think it's a fair solution.
But it doesn't end there, first because I haven't written the letter yet, and second because today we started the edit of My Monster Secret volume two. It's really wordy and hard to work with as it is, and our motivation levels have already plummeted because we're still recovering from the emotional blow. But on top of that, now we're thinking about the holey sieve all over again, and it occurs to me that maybe it was the whole holey sieve thing that convinced our friend that he'd be better at this job than us. Before, it was slightly easier to give him the benefit of the doubt that maybe it was a joke or just spoken in the heat of the moment, but the holey sieve thing makes it harder to tell myself he wasn't sincere at all. So now I have to spend a long time, while editing, convincing myself to stop second guessing myself. It's hard to describe my mental state at the time because I feel like it's all tangled up, but the point is, I was afraid that nothing sounded good enough, and even if I did think maybe it sounded okay, clearly my judgment is in question...even though I've done a really good job of convincing myself that this guy would actually be a much worse translator than us.
I think I did finally manage to stop second guessing myself, but it's just been very, very draining, and we wanted to just toss it all aside and take a long weekend, but this stupid script is due tomorrow! (You're not stupid, script; I'm just stressed out.) (Technically the script is due on Sunday. We got the deadline and we said, "That might be a little tight," so our editor said, "Is the 2nd okay?" and we thought, "Hey, two days is better than nothing," and then we realized those two days were the weekend. So basically the deadline didn't change at all. Le sigh. So we might be working on Saturday.)
And I just want to hide in a cave and play Ace Attorney and watch Yamada-kun and the Seven Witches.
Today I'm thankful for having lots of ice cream in our time of dire need, reminders that Ken Akamatsu sought us out to translate UQ Holder!, that picture of Kaji-kun still being easy to find on Mamoru Miyano's blog, making enough progress on work that there's still a (small?) possibility that we'll finish the script tomorrow without working overtime, and Teddy Grahams.