Translation Challenges (Part 2)

Last week, I wrote about two of the most common challenges we face as editors of content translated from Japanese into English: names and phrases unique to Japanese. Looking over what I wrote, I realized that there is one more challenge with translating names I failed to mention–readings! I’d like to briefly touch on this additional challenge in this blog.

Often the same kanji are used to write names with totally different readings. For example, take the girls’ name 知香. I actually encountered this name in a series I’ve been working on. A quick search of the kanji online brings up websites with baby names. 知香 is listed with three readings: ChikaSatoka, and Tomoka. How do we know which one is the “correct” reading?

In Japanese, when a character is first introduced, there will be furigana (smaller hiragana written above or to the right of the kanji), so we know the “correct” reading.

However, sometimes there are no furigana given, so we don’t know exactly how to read their name. How do we resolve this?

Well, we have two options.

The first is to wait for a character to stutter the name in question. When stuttering in Japanese, the kanji fail to show that they’re only pronouncing a part of the name, so they will write out the stuttered part in hiragana as something like:

ちっ 知香!(Chi-chika!) / さっ 知香! (Sa-satoka!) / とっ 知香! (To-tomoka!)

If we are lucky to encounter such an instance, we can safely assume the correct reading for their name.

If this never happens (as it did in my case), we search the name online and check a series of celebrities’ or authors’ names to see which is the most common reading and go with that one. Of course, later the readings can randomly appear and be actually a reading we didn’t choose or even expect. Even so, we would continue to translate her name as it was initially translated in order to keep consistency.

So far our Chika has remained 知香 in the Japanese with no furigana or stuttering characters, but who knows–someone may stutter さっ (Sa-) or とっ (To-) in one of the chapters and solve our mystery. We’ve already gone with Chika, so she would forever remain Chika to English readers, but at least our mystery would be solved.

Translation Challenges (Part 1)

The majority of the English version of Renta!’s content comes from the Japanese website and is, therefore, originally in Japanese. Japanese is spoken primarily in Japan, but there are pockets of Japanese-speaking communities around the world. These pockets are mostly native speakers of Japanese, but include a small number of non-native speakers as well. Thus, in order to reach a larger audience overseas, our content must be translated into English. This is where our job as bilingual editors comes into play.

I’ve only been working at Renta! for seven months, but I have lived in Japan for nearly a decade and have been involved in freelance translation for most of that decade. In this blog, I’d like to outline two of the common translation challenges we face in our daily work. Perhaps many of our readers have studied or are studying Japanese and will nod their heads in understanding/agreement as they read along.

1. Names

This one is tricky for two reasons.

One of the reasons is that some characters who appear in manga are never named in the original. They may be a teacher, a boss, a coworker, a fling, or whatever else you can think of. In most of these cases, Japanese can do without naming them specifically since their professional title can be used as a form of address. For example, a teacher may be addressed simply as the Japanese equivalent, sensei.

How do we handle this? We cut sensei from the translation. This can present further problems since there are instances where the speech bubble may only have sensei in it. In this case, we would look at the rest of the sentence and split it up so that we can avoid a random, blank speech bubble. So, if the first speech bubble says “Sensei…” and the second one says something like, “What are you doing?”, we may split it as:

Speech bubble 1: What are you…
Speech bubble 2: doing?

In the lettering stage, we may find that the first bubble is too small and can only fit one or two words, so it could be split differently, as:

Speech bubble 1: What…
Speech bubble 2: are you doing?

The second reason this is so tricky is that even if we know the character’s full name, Japanese tend to address one another by their family name with the suffix -san (equivalent to Mr./Mrs./Ms./Miss). Let’s say there is a character named Taro Tanaka in a series. In the English translation, he may be called Taro by his colleague, Satoshi, but in the Japanese version, he will call him Tanaka-san. Tanaka-san and Satoshi are assigned a huge project together and have to spend countless nights together in the office alone working on it. They start to get to know one another. Their feelings start to get stronger for each other. Taro shoves him onto the desk and starts undressing him. Satoshi moans out, “Tanaka-san! Tanaka-san!” Tanaka-san leans into Satoshi whispers in his ear, “Call me by my (first) name” – in other words, “Call me Taro, not Mr. Tanaka!”

Wait a second…

In the English Satoshi’s been calling him Taro this whole time. Wouldn’t it be strange if Mr. Tanaka suddenly asked him to start calling him Taro? How the heck do we treat this line in English?

We often encourage the translators and editors to come up with something that works with the flow in English, but doesn’t stray too far from the original idea, either. The easiest workaround for this, then, is to have Taro whisper something like, “Call me baby” and any time Satoshi calls him Taro in the Japanese after that, we would translate it as “baby.”

We sometimes encounter yet another hiccup in the translation process regarding names. Say, for example, the Taro above never has his first name mentioned in the Japanese version at all and is simply called Tanaka-san because he’s constantly surrounded by colleagues. In this case, we can either call him Mr. Tanaka or Tanaka (up to the translator/editor). This can get even more messy when it’s a series published by chapters or volumes. Mr. Tanaka shows up at work one day in volume 10 and his colleagues greet him in the morning: “Good morning, Taro!” Crap. All his colleagues have been calling him Mr. Tanaka in the English version for the past 9 volumes. If they suddenly call him Taro, won’t it be quite confusing? In order to maintain consistency and avoid confusion, they would still greet him: “Good morning, Mr. Tanaka!”

2. Phrases Unique to Japanese.

Japanese has set expressions that are used in a wide variety of situations. When they are translated for their meaning in English, they may sound extremely odd in many contexts. The list is endless, but I willy only share a few examples.

i. Yoroshiku o-negai shimasu. Literally, this would translate as, “I kindly beg you.” Students of introductory Japanese classes will know this one by heart, since it can be used when meeting someone for the first time. Typically in Japanese the dialogue would go something like this:

Hajimemashite. Tanaka to iimasu. Yoroshiku o-negai shimasu.

Rendered literally in English, it would be something like:

“For the first time. I’m called Tanaka. I kindly beg you.”

What!? Thankfully, manga is drawn, so we could infer from the visual context of the situation that Mr. Tanaka is likely introducing himself to a new business client if he’s in a suit and tie and handing his business card over to another businessman in an office. However, without any visual clues, we could probably guess that he’s introducing himself, but we’d need some more context. Even though we have visual aids, we still want the English to be as natural as possible, so the final translation would be something along the lines of:

“Hi. I’m Tanaka. Nice to meet you.”

Japanese tends to omit or abbreviate words because the context would make it clear – at least, for native (or highly proficient non-native) speakers. The hajimemashite (“for the first time”) in the introduction above is actually an abbreviation of the longer hajimemashite o-me ni kakarimasu, “This is my first time meeting you” (literally, “I’m dangling in your eyes for the first time”).

Yoroshiku o-negai shimasu can be used in countless situations – so many that it would probably fill a volume or two of books. To name just a few off the top of my head:

・Making a request to someone (equivalent to “please” or “thanks in advance”);
・Asking to speak to someone on the phone (“May I speak to…?”);
・Calling out to staff in a store when you need help/want to make an order (“Excuse me”);

ii. O-jama shimasu. Literally, this would translate as “I’m going to bother you” or “I’m going to intrude.” Often it is used when entering someone’s home.

Host: Douzo.
Guest: O-jama shimasu.

If we rendered the above dialogue as below, it would sound rather strange to English speakers:

Host: Please.
Guest: I’m going to bother you. (I’m going to intrude.)

So, we would opt for something like:

Host: Please come in.
Guest: Thank you.

Other times, we encounter phrases that have English equivalents, but are used in ways unique to Japanese. Hai means “yes,” but can sound rather strange in English if it is always translated as yes. Take the dialogue below, for example:

(There’s a knock on the door to the room where Taro and his colleague, Satoshi, are having their secret tryst.)

Taro: Wait right here. I’ll see who it is.
Satoshi: Yes.

What would be the most natural equivalent here?

Taro: Wait right here. I’ll see who it is.
Satoshi: Okay.

We have many wonderful translators and editors who know just the right phrase to work around the above issues, so thankfully we don’t encounter them that often, but they do pop up occasionally.

I’ve only begun to scratch the surface of the myriad of challenges we face in translations, so I think I will break this up into a series of blogs. Keep an eye out for them. Thank you for reading this first installment! Please let us know what you think in the comments below!

Dare to Read Manga – Our House

Chase and I had a great time reading the lines and sound effects for a few pages of a Yaoi manga that you can find on the Renta! homepage. 

It was a lot of fun, so feel free too uh, try it at home.

Once again I have come up with a new and improved way to embarrass myself in public, so I hope you will enjoy this latest edition of our special YouTube series entitled…

Dare to Read Manga: with Renta! Staff


Link to Youtube Video:

Chase and I had a great time reading the lines and sound effects for a few pages of a Yaoi manga that you can find on the Renta! homepage.

It was a lot of fun, so feel free too uh, try it at home.


The reviews are in:

“That was both hilarious and cringey. Don’t drink anything when you watch it or you’ll choke.”

“That was amazing. I hope no one important was in the room next door.”

As promised, I would like to share with you the images for the scene that we were reading. For the full sample of pages 1-17 please check out the link to the product page below.

Title: Our House: Love Trouble
Artist: Owal
Publisher: Takeshobo co.,ltd.
Story: Young college student Nonohiko is faced with a dilemma: his super-cheap college dorm has been closed down! But, he finally finds an all-male share house. The beautiful landlady (actually a cross-dressing guy) only approves hot men as residents, but Nonohiko “somehow” manages to meet this strange requirement. Moving day brings a mix of fear and anticipation. A man in fashionable glasses, who lives in the share house, invites Nonohiko into the bath, only to mistake him for someone who provides “special services”…! An innocent rom-com that springs from the personality gap between a flirty, bespectacled CEO and a pure-hearted college student!
Includes a digital-only bonus page.



Research and… ravens!?

One of the many wonderful perks of my job is that I get to think up copy for our English website. Generally, it entails reading a portion of the manga in question, looking at the Japanese copy, and thinking of what would draw readers to that manga.

This week I have been working on copy for several titles, including A Raven That Cries But Sheds No Tears by Unohana. I will save a review for another time, but to very briefly sum it up, this passionate but bittersweet story features college student Seiji Aizawa and his reserved but sexy neighbor, Rin Ugouda, who happens to go to the same college. Seiji tries to get Rin to open up to him slowly, but it is hard going until he learns that Rin bats for the same team. Please see the item page in the link above to read more.

Anyway, as I was thinking up copy for this title, I noticed that Rin’s last name, Ugouda (烏生田), features the Chinese character for raven, 烏 (karasu). I felt inspired to work the idea of a raven into the copy and began researching ravens. I learned a lot.

For example, did you know that a group of ravens is called either a murder of raven or an unkindness of raven? I knew that we’d use murder for crows, but wasn’t aware it could be applied to raven as well. Of course, after a little more research, I learned that the major difference between ravens and crows is size, but that we tend to interchangeably call the bird either raven or crow without much thought about its size or features.

Research is a key part of our jobs as editors. I think it’s safe to say that everyone who works as an editor here at Renta! loves researching and it shows. My research on raven eventually snowballed into research on collective nouns for animals. It turns out that English is quite rich with such nouns. To name a few that stood out:

1. A shrewdness of apes
2. A destruction of cats (used mainly for feral cats)
3. A paddling of ducks (when they’re on water; also can be called a raft of ducks)
4. A flamboyance of flamingoes
5. A business of flies (apparently, this is a corruption of busyness)
6. A pride of lions
7. A watch of nightingales
8. A parliament of owls
9. A tuxedo of penguins
10. An ambush of tigers

Of course, they can be replaced with the more generic term group, but now that I’ve learned these, I can’t go back.

I had planned to plug another upcoming work by Unohana featuring Jaguars in this post, but it turns out that they tend to be solitary animals, so unfortunately they have no collective noun. Sob.

Have you learned anything new or interesting recently in your research? Share it with us in the comments below!


A Capricious Kitten’s Melancholy

My top recommendation for the week is this gorgeous one-volume manga by Tsuna Kamokawa called “A Capricious Kitten’s Melancholy”.


Happy Wednesday, everyone!

This week we’ve got tons of chapter updates for ongoing series, and two brand new full volumes that you won’t want to miss.

My top recommendation for the week is this gorgeous one-volume manga by Tsuna Kamokawa called “A Capricious Kitten’s Melancholy“.

capricious kitten

It has all the elements of a great Yaoi manga that I love. It’s outrageously erotic in every chapter, and yet not obscenely so. It’s gorgeous to look at and the character designs are beautiful for both the seme and the uke. The story itself is deeper than the average Yaoi but is also endearing and sweet. Sigh. Go read it! Go go go!

Please enjoy and share the link below!

Link to Capricious Kitties via our homepage:

Kimagure Neko no Melancholy

Premium Wednesday

Hello from the Renta! HQ in Tokyo, Japan! We hope you are enjoying another week filled with manga!

Every Wednesday we run a special promotion called Premium Wednesday. If you purchase any points on these days, you can receive extra bonus points to spend on renting or purchasing eligible manga.

Here’s how the promotion works:

・Purchase 1000 points and pay a discounted price of $9.72.
・Purchase 3000 points and receive 200 Bonus Points.
・Purchase 5000 points and receive 400 Bonus Points.
・Purchase 10000 points and receive 900 Bonus Points.

To purchase points or learn more about Premium Wednesday, please click here.

Please check back regularly for special promotions besides Premium Wednesday!



Yaoi Muscle Boy Special

My very talented kouhai created this very special collection of muscular men for you, so please peruse these gorgeous titles and treat yourself to some eye candy.

After some deep analysis and research, we’d like to present three unique categories of muscular men:

My very talented kouhai created this very special collection of muscular men for you, so please peruse these gorgeous titles and treat yourself to some eye candy.

After some deep analysis and research, we’d like to present three unique categories of muscular men:



These guys have very nice bodies indeed, but still maintain their slim physique. How do they do it? Especially those two in Nipple Bingo… They may be two of the toughest guys I’ve ever seen in a manga, so I wouldn’t recommend trying to pick a fight.

Tatsuyuki (artist: Scarlet Beriko) can be seen here modeling his thin yet definitively sensual body.

In Japanese we call this body type hoso-macho (細マッチョ) which means “slender but macho/buff”.



When you think of buff bods, which manga artist comes to mind? I hope you went straight to Ikuyasu Sensei, who is also featured in this category. It was hard to choose which title to preview for you, but I went with Kaname here from Wacoco Waco’s “Our After-Hours XXX“.

If you don’t know why, please immediately drop what you’re doing and check this one out. Waco Sensei has a very special and unique… fetish? for creating really buff and manly UKE characters getting slammed (in the most romantic sense possible) by the most adorable, cute, and innocent-looking SEME characters you’ve ever seen.

Need more proof before you give in to this very addictive and highly advanced-level fujo-fetish? Go check out this new release Cherry-Poppin’ Pop Star!! and thank me later.



Ripped enough to render you speechless, I hope. At least, that’s the excuse I’m going with because I don’t think this needs any more explanation.

Our featured artists include Asia Watanabe, Hyogo Kijima, and Uki Ogasawara.

These are god-level bodies. I just… I can’t.

Which type can’t you?