mjj (flemmings) wrote,


Yesterday afternoon the mug of the last few days blows away in a deluge and a restrained thunderstorm; the wind ripples the leaves, the sun appears among baroque clouds, and in the returned coolness I can think sensibly again. So of course the first thing I do is very sensibly go over to Markham St and spend upwards of $40 on English translations of manga I already own in Japanese; and then take me out to dinner to read them. Cause, you know, I just want to see what they're like. Curiosity emptied the bank account, is what.

Viz's FMA 14 is as good as ever, the usual 'big brother' aside. Actually I don't have these eps in Japanese- my subscription to GFan started an ep or so later- and I'm glad to get them finally. Yes, and to be able to finish the book well before I finished my dinner of (unadvised) hamburger and sweet potato fries, because I wouldn't have got through the Japanese that fast. (Sweet potato fries and cinnamon mayonnaise may sound impossible, but they were very very good. Veggie burger next time, though.)

DelRay's Mushishi gets an A for its notes on honourifics and *especially* for pointing out that the most suggestive honourific is no honourific at all; also for telling people what that's called in Japanese (yobisute). Props too for keeping the Japanese onomatopeia and making the translations unobtrusive. Yes, manga onomatopeia is part of the *visuals* and don't you forget it, though everyone else seems to.

The translation itself suffers a bit from Bleach 'split that sentence' Syndrome. No. Just because the Japanese sentence is split between two balloons doesn't mean the English can be, or should be, or should be split in that way. And the language could be smoother, truly: a lot smoother. I'll admit to having problems with the Japanese for reasons I still can't identify. Somehow meaning seemed to slip out of the words and it was like nailing jello to the wall to get an idea of what was going on. Rather like reading Henry James, actually. Maybe that's a fault of the writing, or maybe not; but I feel the English could have been made more explicit. The editor is sometimes justified in overriding the translator.

But not, repeat not, oh so definitely *not*, in conclusion: not, to the extent the TokyoPop editor overrode the translator for Genjuu no Seiza 2. If she did. If it wasn't a case of the translator fudging hideously from the start. Because the edits are more than rewrites: they're sometimes whole cloth substitutions.

We have this mysterious little kingdom somewhere in the region of Tibet except that it seems to move around. Travellers in need have come across it and been rescued, but when they looked for it again they couldn't find it. Some time in Meiji an embassy came from the country to negotiate a non-aggression pact with the foreign powers. Now we have an embassy again negotiating with the Chinese.

I make the conversation out like this:

Chinese ambassador: So the Chinese Government will ensure the existence of Dalshar within the newly formed Uigur Independent Territory, and also its freedom of religion. We will also not spare our economic support.
Dalshar ambassador: We need no aid.
We want only an extension of the non-aggression treaty concluded a hundred years ago with us (=that recognizes us ) as an independent country.
CA: But... but at present the size of your population and even the precise location of your domain is still undetermined.
CA2: It seems you have no industry or even natural resources.
DA: Our people are scattered throughout the world.
Our domain exists on the other side of your borders.

which is rendered as
CA: ...so the Chinese government is willing to set up a new autonomous region for the people of Dhalashar. We will protect their freedom of religion and will not interfere in their economy.
DA: We don't like pandering.
We are an independent nation. Our system of government has been in place for centuries.
CA: But your nation's population has decreased substantially. Would you be able to defend your land on your own?
You've no industry either.
DA: Our citizens are scattered throughout the world.
They are our defense.

Now the sentence about the Uighur region contains a kanji that has a different meaning in Chinese than Japanese- 疆- so maybe the translator was uncertain what a 新疆 was. Or maybe the editor figured no one would know anything about the Uighur region anyway- a fair bet- and scrapped it for reasons of space. But the bit about Dhalashar having the remote definition of existing on 'the other side of your borders'-- just beyond where your country ends (領土は貴国の国境の彼岸)-- is *important*, and the translation erases it completely. Especially considering the Buddhist meaning of 彼岸: literally it's the other side of a river, the opposite shore, but in Buddhism it's a state of enlightenment, of freedom from the ills of the world. The suggestion is strong that Dhalasar exists as a spiritual state. (And I need to look over my 100 Demons but I have a vague feeling the term is used for the other world as well.) I have to wonder, meanly but unavoidably, if the translator looked the term up in a J-E dictionary, got its most common usage- 'the equinoctial week'- and gave up in despair.

But that apart, why turn 'We want only an extension of the non-aggression treaty concluded a hundred years ago with us as an independent country' into 'Our system of government has been in place for centuries'? That treaty is important too. And 'But your nation's population has decreased substantially' directly contradicts the Japanese that says that they don't *know* what the country's population is. No translator could have mistaken the meaning of those sentences. As far as I've read ahead, the question of whether Dhalashar can defend itself hasn't come up, so I'm not sure why the editor inserts this totally fictitious concern. The question of just where the hey the place *is* has come up, and matters, so I don't know why she excises it completely.

If this is the translator's doing, it's pretty bad. (Read, naturally: why isn't someone paying *me* to do this job?) If it's that the editor screwed the translator over with her choices and complete fabrications- well, me I'd have demanded my name be taken off the product, because no one would believe I could translate after seeing how what's supposed to be my handiwork diverges so widely from what the Japanese says. Maybe he did and maybe they wouldn't: I gather the final product often comes as a total surprise to the translator.

Yes, now tell me to get used to it because that's what English translations do. And I shall continue to maintain that this is why learning Japanese is still, dammit, a necessity, in spite of whole stores full of translated manga these days. Heaven is still ato mo chotto.

ETA: Oh, and another irk. In this edition Our Hero is called Fuuto Kamishina. He is, of course, Kamishina Fuuto, as any fule kno. He meets a descendant of Abe no Seimei. Descendant calls his famous ancestor Seimei Abeno. ARGH. Quite apart from ignoring entirely how classical names work, if you refrain from flipping the pages, guys, you don't need to flip the names either. Not in this frickin' day and age. Unless you're going to talk about Kaishek Chiang, Zedong Mao and Enlai Zhou. Why is this point so hard for American editors to understand and accept?
Tags: fma, food, manga, mushishi, onmyouji, rl_07, translation
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