mjj (flemmings) wrote,

Hmph. I have finished vol 9 of Bleach. That only took me since May. I think I can see what people see in it, and I might too--

--except for the fricking translation.

Oh but Viz's translation is bad. It's as bad as my first manga translations a dozen years ago, and it reads exactly the same as them. The editor should have stepped in and rephrased or cleaned up or done something to avoid the clunkiness of expressing Japanese phrases verbatim in English. It's all there, all the worst linguistic tropes of shounen manga- the 'cold chills', the 'what are you saying?!', the 'You-', the 'Why' 'did you come here?'

Cold chills of delight or worry are a Japanese peculiarity, along with 'quivering with courage.' We don't do that. Cold chills go up our spines in the presence of the supernatural or the eerie and that's about it. We can go cold all over in a wider variety of situations, but I never see people going cold all over. No, people who zokuzoku or zottosuru always have cold chills.

What are you saying? is dicier, but my NAmerican ear wants to hear What do you mean! instead. At least make it What are you saying! to get the tone of voice right.

The yous. Ohh, the yous. The untranslatable glory that is the Japanese pronoun. Yes, it means something when a character says 'Omae---' to another character, but we don't say that. In moments of emotion we say the person's name instead. 'You---' is usually 'You--!!!!' and the emotion involved isn't a positive one.

And yes, Japanese manga break up Japanese sentences, and because their word order is the reverse of ours, break them in a way that's hard to express in English, where the operative word that comes triumphantly at the end in Japanese must must /must/ come near the beginning. Me, I don't care any more where the break comes in Japanese. Rewrite the flipping sentence so that the break, if it must come, comes where it would in English.

Worse, Japanese gives sentence fragments without the verbs that are absolutely necessary in English. A Japanese character saying in bewilderment Yukihiro ga--? posits a situation in which Yukihiro has done something and the character is wondering did Yukihiro *really* do that thing, *could* he have done that thing, blah blah blah. In English, 'Yukihiro--?' implies 'Is that Yukihiro?' The workaround is to translate it as 'Did Yukihiro--??' but that's not what we say. You really have to expand it in English, and if it doesn't fit the dialogue bubble, make the bubble larger.

I'm not au courant of what Viz's reputation is in the translation field. The Death Note translation read elegantly to me, without any of the quirks that make reading Bleach so annoying. That may be because the editor was on the ball, or because Obata likes literate scripts that avoid the cliches of shounen manga Japanese. Dunno. All I can say is that reading Bleach is a chore. And I must look at HnG again to see how they managed to make the sound effects so much less irritating there than here.
Tags: bleach, translation
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