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Alethea & Athena
Tomato tomato 
30th-Jul-2015 06:17 pm
So...I wasn't planning to talk about this at all because it's not nice to talk about people behind their backs, much less on the internet where everyone can see it, but it's affecting us a lot more than we expected and we really need some support. So here we are venting about it on the internet.

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.
30th-Jul-2015 11:29 pm (UTC)
I don't know your friend, so there may be some kind of context that I'm missing here. But based on your account above, his commenting that he probably would be a better translator than you guys "if he had the time to learn Japanese" strikes me as an incredibly arrogant and tactless thing to say even if he was supposedly joking. Especially since you had presumably told him that you were already over-conscientiously obsessing over this particular bit of the translation, which would suggest to most people that this was an especially less than ideal time for them to start speculating aloud that they would hypothetically be better at your job than you are, if they'd ever bothered to acquire the rather formidable qualifications necessary to do it. Unless this guy has some sort of expertise in translating other (presumably non-Asian) languages that leads him to believe--accurately or not--that he is especially naturally gifted at translating in general, it sounds as if this hypothetical conclusion of his is about as meaningful as saying "If my grandmother had wheels, she'd be a bus." And since his knowledge of anime is superficial enough that he dismisses the entire art form as either dark or ecchi, it sounds as if he's probably also lacking in the kind of general knowledge about Japanese cultural traditions and social conventions that plays a crucial role in choosing how to convey the nuances of any given piece of Japanese dialogue as fully and intelligibly as possible to English-speaking readers.

P.S. I've just been reading, and really enjoying, the first two volumes of "UQ Holder," which I sought out at a neighboring branch of the Queens library largely because when you talked about translating it here on your Lj you made it sound a lot more interesting than I'd originally expected. (I like Ken Akamatsu's art, but I lost interest in "Negima" after the first two or three volumes. So I figured "UQ Holder" might be similarly characterized by what had struck me as the fanservicey and quasi-harem elements that I thought were somewhat overabundant in "Negima," and was pleasantly surprised to learn otherwise.)
31st-Jul-2015 10:12 pm (UTC)
Yeah, he has a habit of saying arrogant things without thinking about it. We can be pretty haughty, too. We weren't over-conscientiously obsessing; we were over-self-importantly obsessing. But it's true; most people with good social skills would know it wasn't a good time. He does have some experience translating, but it's very small from what we can tell, and you're right, it is a non-Asian language.

Anyway, yay UQ Holder! We're glad you're enjoying it; we like it a lot! We had a hard time with the first few volumes of Negima, too (we had to read them before we could work on Negima Neo, and that helped when we took over Negima proper), but if you're interested in giving it another shot, the omnibus has a new translation which doesn't hammer on the fan service elements so much.

1st-Aug-2015 01:11 am (UTC)
Yeah, volume one of "Negima" didn't exactly need Peter David rewriting the raw translation to throw in additional jokes like the milk-and-cookies one inspired by the lady teacher's bustline that weren't even in the original script.

Maybe I will see if I can find a copy of that omnibus somewhere. I've been getting a bit curious about Yukihime's youth as Evangeline A. K. McDowell. If "youth" is the right term for a period only about one hundred years in the past of an immortal 700-year-old character who nevertheless appears to have aged physically during that time span from looking as if she's in her mid-teens to looking as if she's in her mid-twenties.
1st-Aug-2015 08:49 pm (UTC)
There were a lot more cracks about the fan service added to the script than that. Most of them were done seamlessly enough that you wouldn't know unless you compared it to something more accurate.

I think it's sort of clear in UQ Holder! that her Yukihime form isn't her "true form" but maybe that's just because we've read Negima. In the interest of full disclosure, you'll probably learn more about Evangeline's past by reading UQ Holder! than Negima--all Negima gives us is a brief summary of her origin story. But if you just like reading about her because she's a fun character, then Negima might help you get your fix.
30th-Jul-2015 11:33 pm (UTC)
Even with no other context, saying "Yeah, I could do better if I learned" is a jerk move. Like, super jerk. Also, you guys are super good at translation.
31st-Jul-2015 10:13 pm (UTC)
Agreed. Thanks for the support! *hugs*
31st-Jul-2015 12:33 am (UTC)
Awww man :( *hugs* You're great translators, I promise!

1. (numbering these because I know it's gonna get long and each one is kind of its own point that came to mind as I was reading your post.) I like holey sieve because it's a homophone that's already funny (like holey socks, etc) because it sounds like something amazing but it's totally the opposite of amazing. Also a sieve already has holes, but it's a holey one, so it's like the holes have holes!! Where does it end?! Ahhh!!! And a hole has more BAM effect than a leak. A leaky sieve might be confusing because sieves are supposed to leak (let liquid out slowly). I wouldn't go so far as to say the other translator or your friend were outright/blatantly wrong but I like the choice you made. (as for basket vs sieve, I wonder if there's some merit to using a simpler idea in an anime translation subtitle, so that viewers can keep up without going "sieve, wha?" whereas in manga you can take that moment to get it. but otherwise I do think that it's better to use the more accurate term to get the right idea across.)

2. I do think (as one guilty of the act...) that people who ask questions for clarification with good intentions are a valuable addition to a manga localizing team, because any chance to make things clearer or better is a good one for the final product. Of course no one wants to feel second-guessed all the time either (and when I ask questions myself, I try to always keep that in mind and not convey a "you did this wrong" message). Maybe it wasn't just this adapter (who, if I know her, always has the very best intentions and aims), but other reviews, fans, readers, etc with their constant (less-well-intentioned) second-guessing and assumptions based on details they don't know all piling up and bringing you down. For that I can only say I'm sorry it's so. I got a taste of something like it myself today... (people making wildly wrong assumptions based on details they don't know). It's a different situation, for sure, but I'm feeling right now with you how crummy it is to feel unvalued.

3. Your friend was absolutely wrong to say he "probably would be" a better translator. Even if it were true (which is a pointless path to go down because it has no basis in real life), it's rude and disrespectful and and no way to talk to friends about their very career, for goodness sake. If he was joking, I think he needs to be told that kind of joke is hurtful (you don't go up to a professional artist and say "I could do that better than you," do you?? probably some silly people do that to abstract/conceptual artists, but I can't imagine a situation where a person would tell a friend who had devoted her life to abstract paintings, "I could probably be a better artist than you if I tried.") It dismisses the years of study and experience and and diligent regular practice and familiarity that you have with the material...

4. What I needed to tell myself this afternoon (and now, having just unwisely dug up fragments on twitter of the drama I inadvertently created, need to keep reminding myself of) is that as much as I love love love my work, and as confident as I feel about the quality, and importance, of what I do, my work is not me, and there is a whole lot more value to me as a person than me as a [job]er (even when it feels like [job] consumes so much of my time and effort most days). I am a precious child in God's family, He's given me so much to enjoy in life, experiences and skills and interests to pursue, a place in this world that I was put here to fill and no other person, and He loves me. ...And also, lest I get carried away with pride in that—it's all a gift from Him for this time and place, and it's not me (even though I work hard to improve my skill in some areas), and it's not the basis of my identity. It shouldn't be the basis of my identity, when I have so much more value AND responsibility to live as an eternal daughter of God. Sometimes I need that awe-striking, humbling reminder.

5. People love and respect and admire you. And your work. And you (to reiterate). I'm one of them!!

(icon selected for no other reason than that it's cute and makes me happy and I hope it makes you happy too :) )
31st-Jul-2015 12:59 am (UTC)
Also in case I didn't stress it enough, you really truly do excellent work and I am so thankful you are translators contributing your talents and skills to this industry♥
31st-Jul-2015 10:24 pm (UTC)
Manga industry perfectionist high five!

Edited at 2015-08-01 01:24 am (UTC)
31st-Jul-2015 10:23 pm (UTC)
Aww, thanks, lys! You make so many good and comforting points! (Also, the numbering helps!)

1. We're so glad you like holey sieve! We like it, too, for many of the reasons you listed, and you listed some that we hadn't even thought of! Our friend's complaint about "holey" is that a sieve is supposed to have holes, so the main argument against either one works both ways, which is why we tried to dismiss it as a stylistic choice. We did eventually get him to admit that holey works when I pointed out (for the second or third time) that it would be obvious that it's not "holy" because in text people can see the E.

2. Agreed 100%. The rewriter did exactly what she should have done: she found conflicting information, so instead of just forcing her own uninformed views on it, she looked for more information. She even said she liked ours better, so we weren't even really second-guessed in the sense of, "Uh...I don't think so." It was just a minor annoyance and we were being petty, which is why we wouldn't have said anything about it here if it hadn't led into greater angst.

3. Your response is so mature and validating and we thank you very much for it. We always knew our friend had some difficulty in the humility department, and you're right; we need to tell him we were hurt. I think we'll be writing the letter this weekend (in dialogue or email, it would be too easy to respond before processing).

4. This, of course, is the most important point of all. Thanks for the reminder! And it was something I reminded myself as I was brooding over the whole matter, but sometimes it really helps to have a friend reconfirm it. Sometimes, you just need to hear things from someone else. So we really appreciate it.

5. Thank you. We love and respect and admire you, too! Thanks for being our friend!
31st-Jul-2015 12:51 am (UTC)
There is not much more disheartening than to have your work disparaged. It's hard enough when it's done by a co-worker, but worse when done by a friend. And since I'm a person who is frequently criticized as being "oversensitive" (which I don't personally think is a bad thing), I think I understand how upset this all must have made you - especially when you know that you're right.

Your feelings are valid. Your friend, I'm sorry to say, was acting like an insensitive jerk. (I don't know your friend, or how close you are to him, so I hesitate to label him an "all-the-time jerk", but in this case, he certainly acted like one.) I am appalled at his comment. How conceited! How hurtful.

As far as the sieve thing goes, I might point out that all sieves are, indeed, leaky, because that's the point of a sieve. However, some sieves have sort of a mesh and not holes, so if someone said to me, "A holey sieve" I'd picture a sieve with a large chunk, or several chunks, taken out of it.

I think the only translating work of yours that I'm familiar with is Fruits Basket, mainly because I have not been buying much, if any, manga for quite a while because of financial constraints. Even before I knew you, I knew your names and your work, and I thought you did a wonderful job. As I became more familiar and friendly with you, I learned how much work and time and research you put into your work as translators, which speaks to the quality of your work.

Long story short, I'm validating your feelings on this matter. I am really sorry that you have to deal with stuff like this. *hugs*
31st-Jul-2015 10:27 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for your support and understanding. To be honest, one of the reasons we wanted to post about this on LJ was that we knew you would say just the right thing because you always do.

Yes! More support for holey! It's heartening to know there are plenty of people who won't think it's bad.

Thank you very much for the validation. It's appreciated more than we can say.
31st-Jul-2015 02:18 pm (UTC)
Nothing to add except to say that I'm here to listen and I agree with everyone else's comments above that you're very good translators. I'm always glad to know that you're translating the series that I'm interested in reading and enjoy reading the books that you worked on. In fact, I wouldn't have read Noragami except for the fact that you translate it and Lys letters it :) and I like it more and more.
31st-Jul-2015 10:28 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for the support. And we're glad you like our work! And we're also glad that you like Noragami! Everyone should read it! ...But we really are glad you like it, because we'd feel bad if we were so adamant about people reading it and it turned out they didn't enjoy it.
31st-Jul-2015 04:11 pm (UTC)
What everyone else said. :/ That was a really crappy thing that he said to you, and totally uncalled for.

I don't know if it comes from a similar place, but anecdotally, I hear a LOT of stories from writers about other people being dismissive of their skill--not necessarily in the sense of disparaging, but in the sense that it seems like plenty of people who've never written a word in their life seem to genuinely believe that there's nothing to it, and that they themselves could totally write a bestseller or ten if they ever bothered to try. I wonder if your friend's response might be rooted in something subconscious like that; working with words is so undervalued. :/

(Which is in no way meant to excuse what he said to you, even if it's a remotely accurate correlation! Every time I hear/hear about someone talking to writers that way, all I can think is how obnoxious and arrogant it sounds. >.< "This thing you do, that you work hard at and have cultivated a knack for? I could TOTALLY do that if I wanted. Pssh!" Yuck.)
31st-Jul-2015 10:29 pm (UTC)
Thanks. I think you're right about it being a subconscious thing. It's funny, because people like that think they're different and special and better than everyone else...all the while acting exactly the same way as everybody else.
31st-Jul-2015 07:18 pm (UTC) - Your sieve word choice was perfect...
I agree with the others, it was a jerk move to say. Unnecessary, arrogant, weird and wholly uncalled for. I hope you don't let that stupid comment affect you after today. You are talented, dedicated and fun people who certainly don't deserve that kind of negativity.
31st-Jul-2015 10:30 pm (UTC) - Re: Your sieve word choice was perfect...
Thanks for the support.
31st-Jul-2015 07:26 pm (UTC)
This reminds me of when a certain member of the family said something along the lines of "If I liked steak, I think I would really like your steak."

But he is probably right. I bet if he learned to braid hair, he would be better than you too. He would probably be a better woman, if he took the time to learn how. (Just because you can't hear my voice I want to be totally clear that I am being sarcastic.)

Also, He is stinky. I almost called you so that I could be emotional earlier today. I would have let you return the favor. I really think we should get in a better habit of calling each other.
31st-Jul-2015 10:31 pm (UTC)
Was that us? We really just don't like steak...

I know, right! I was thinking, "How convenient that if you learned how to do something you'd be able to do it!" Sigh. Some people.

Thanks for calling, by the way! It was fun talking.
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