I’ll Make You Eat Those Words – Sonic Adventure 2 and the Translation Check

I’m sure some people might be wondering what exactly we do here at Renta!, so I thought I’d like to talk a bit about what it’s like to work here. As it turns out, it’s a bit more complicated than sitting around reading manga every day. Although, as you might be able to imagine, the conversations around the office do tend to be a bit geekier than most…

So what exactly is the process before the manga is released in English and everyone is happy reading their perfectly translated content? Well, as it turns out, it’s not as simple as running the original Japanese through the magic translation machine and getting a perfect English copy.

Of course, the first step is stripping the text and translating the Japanese into English. Depending on the size and content of the manga, this can be a time-consuming task on its own. A slice-of-life high school romance will naturally take less time to translate than a fantasy epic with lots of weird magic spells and fancy character and place names.

Once the manga is translated, that’s not the end for our lovely new English text. Here at Renta!, we are proud of the quality of our translations, so we always make sure to have translations looked at by another professional. While all of our translators are amazing, we don’t have any magical space employees at Renta! either, so of course there are always some spelling mistakes or strange grammar, as well as the occasional mistranslation. In fact, I might even go far as to say that the check is the most important part of the translation process!

Depending on the media, it’s not hard to tell when a translation doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Sometimes there’s a deadline that has to be made. Sometimes there’s an issue that’s out of the creators’ control. Whatever the reason, sometimes you get weird or interesting translations that probably should’ve been checked a bit better. And I think that was the case for a game I really enjoy, Sonic Adventure 2. For a game that was developed over a span of only 18 months, I think it turned out mostly pretty well! Except for some weird translation quirks that I think could have benefited from a bit more polish.

But you can always pet the chao.

While Sonic Adventure 2 is well-loved for its sometimes unnatural translation, it screams to me like something that was written in a hurry and not given the the developer’s full attention. Numerous fan-retranslation projects also exist because Sonic fans have proven time and time again that they’re nothing if not passionate about their favorite blue vaguely hedgehog-resembling speed demon.

The power of angry fans literally convinced SEGA not to use this disgusting two-eyeballed monstrosity months before its major release.

Whether it’s the overuse of stilted and kind of unnatural phrases like “Long time, no see!” or dialogue where two characters bizarrely cut each other off mid-insult despite the cutscene being timed and recorded for the English dub (?), there’s a few things that really make me wonder if SEGA simply didn’t have enough time to send the text off to get that extra spit-shine.

At Renta!, we all believe in delivering the absolute best translation possible, and that’s why we really take the time and effort to deliver truly polished products to our readers. Sometimes this means that highly requested series don’t quite make it out in English at Sonic speeds, but rest assured we’re doing everything in our ultimate power to make sure English readers are as happy and fulfilled as people reading in the original Japanese. Our goal is to give you your money’s worth!

What Makes a Good Translation? Part 3 – What’s In a Name?

Localization can be handled in different ways, depending on how the translators decide to recontextualize the story.

This post is a continuation of my various and sundry musings on translation. You can find the previous part here.

Localization can be handled in different ways, depending on how the translators decide to recontextualize the story.

I love the Ace Attorney series, featuring Phoenix Wright and Miles Edgeworth, and a cast of other wacky lawyers, detectives, and witnesses. It’s also a great example of how Japanese media can be localized to English.

Every time I do it makes me laugh.

Since all the names in Japanese are puns, the localizers at CAPCOM decided to change all the names in English to different names. In Japanese, Phoenix’s last name is 成歩堂 Naruhodou, which is a play on the Japanese word naruhodo, which means “I see.” In English, changing this name to “Wright” makes the joke different from the Japanese, but keeps the author’s general intent, as it’s possible to make jokes based on the similarity between Wright and “right.” However, as last names are used more in Japanese to address others versus English, the Japanese pun probably gets more mileage. In English, first names are much more commonly used, so a name like Phoenix carries an additional context of “rising from the ashes” or coming back from the brink of destruction. This seems to happen a lot for poor Phoenix.

 The location is also moved from somewhere in Japan to somewhere in the US. As I talked about in my previous article, Keeping the Author’s Intent, all of our manga take place in the original settings. Of course, whether the localization chooses to move the location or not, each comes with their own issues. Both ways have to explain Japanese concepts to a foreign audience in a way that still makes sense. Maya Fey (in Japanese 綾里真宵 Mayoi Ayasato), Phoenix’s young spirit-channeling sidekick is obsessed with eating hamburgers in the US version, while in the original Japanese version she can’t get enough of ramen.

When the story takes place entirely in a new location, it can make things like going to a village of Japanese spirits somewhat unrealistic, but the translators must work around this concept with their decision. Likewise, if the context is still in Japan, it still needs to be explained to a foreign audience using other methods such as a roundabout explanation or through connecting it to something familiar to the reader.

Just around the corner from the local gas station.

Other games also change names to suit their audience better. For Final Fantasy VI, while a name that sounds cool and foreign in Japanese like “Tina” may sound cool to Japanese speakers, in the West it sounds like a regular girl’s name. “Terra” has a much more foreign ring to it, don’t you think?

Final Fantasy VI is absolutely the best FF. Don’t @ me.

A Pokemon with a name that sounds cool in Japanese like “Fire” doesn’t really have the same nuance in English. Moltres captures that same coolness spirit in English, while also connecting the other two legendary Pokemon. Being able to translate a work and add a context that the author can’t express in their native language is something that every translator dreams about!

Title: Over-Cumming Writer’s Block
Author: Awaji Nae

Here at Renta! too, we’re proud of being able to sometimes get that perfect pun. Our popular title, Over-Cumming Writer’s Block, is a great example of being able to continue the author’s meaning while still being constrained in the world and the context of the original story. The original title, “Teach Me, Mr. Fujishima” would be fine in English, but as the main character is a writer, being able to include a bit of extra humor in the title is amazing!

Title: Stuck Between a Sexy Rock and a Hard Friend
Author: Ikuyasu

One more puntastic title I’d like to recommend today is “Stuck Between a Sexy Rock and a Hard Friend.” The original title, “Love Friend Triangle” doesn’t really have that same oomph. When you can write a title that sticks in the mind of your readers, that’s when you know you’ve made it.

What Makes a Good Translation? Part 2 – Keeping the Author’s Intent

Staying true to the author’s vision without compromising or sacrificing their intent is something we strive for at Renta!

In my previous article, Remembering the Audience, I talked about how the translator must think about who is reading, and whether or not it will be understood by a wider audience. However, while keeping the audience in mind is important, staying true to the author’s vision without compromising or sacrificing their intent is something we strive for at Renta! We are proud of our high standards in spelling, accuracy, and presentation compared to unofficial or pirate releases, and our decisions are in large part based on that balance of making sure the English matches the Japanese while still fitting the values and customs that will be understandable to English-speaking cultures.

I remember watching anime as a kid and seeing a character eat a “jelly doughnut” that looked suspiciously like a rice ball. While this is the subject of many parodies today, I believe that these kinds of changes take the reader out of the media to question the accuracy of the media.

I don’t care what you tell me, Brock! That is not a doughnut! IT’S NOT A DOUGHNUT AT ALL BROCK

Of course, the original manga artists are Japanese, and that means most of our stories take place in Japan, or at least see the world from a Japanese perspective. Rather than move the translated version to the US, we opt to keep our plots, characters, and character’s names in their original form. This means any jokes or puns must be localized into English or, as a last resort, removed. At Renta! we try to make the translation acceptable to worldwide readers without sacrificing the author’s intent. The work of a translator involves navigating what is familiar in both the old context of Japanese and the new context of English.

Translation requires a lot of research to make sure the author’s original meaning is not lost, while still adapting the translation to be understandable by a different audience. As I said in my previous article, it is more than just copying and pasting from one language to another. The cultural norms of Japan can be very different from the West. That means anything from what clothes are in fashion to the types of acts that are sexually acceptable may be different.

For example, while same-sex marriage is legal in many Western countries, it is still not permitted under Japanese law. Since most of our stories take place in Japan, this setting has to be explained as additional unfamiliar context, rather than implicit background knowledge. This is why in order to translate what the author wants to say, the words used in English have to be different from the literal meaning of the Japanese.

Image from Mr. Katakura’s Dirty Little Secret. The art is great, the story is touching, you should check this one out!

At Renta!, while we do try to remove all the Japanese text in order to appeal to English readers, we always try to keep the background context rooted in the original story, and that’s why we must in the end defer to the idea and the spirit of the author, even though the words and the meaning don’t match one to one.

What Makes a Good Translation? Part 1 – Remembering the Audience

Translation is more than just the direct copying of text from one language to another, and just knowing two languages doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be a good translator.

[Continued from my introductory post last week – What Makes a Good Translation? – Introduction]

When translating one language into another, as with any form of writing, there are many things to keep in mind, but in my opinion, one of the most important is audience. Obviously, a translation of a printer manual will look very different from a marketing document, and a work of literature such as a novel or manga translation also has to take different things into account. Of course, people are reading these documents for very different purposes, so the challenges faced by the translators are very different. For written documentation like a printer manual or dissertation, you want to have a translation that is very consistent and formal, and you want to avoid casual terms and slang. But, with manga and other media translations, there are other factors that translators have to keep in mind to make a really good translation. A formal translation in a manga without the use of contractions may sound overly strange or robotic, and so a translator might want to intentionally omit them to show that something is different from usual. “I’ll miss you” or “I’m gonna miss you” is something that sounds natural in conversation, while “I will miss you” or “I am going to miss you” are a bit too verbose to be used in standard conversation.

Translation is more than just the direct copying of text from one language to another, and just knowing two languages doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be a good translator. As I mentioned in my previous article, every translator has their own unique style. While some translators work on a wide variety of material, many focus on certain individual categories: law, medical, yaoi, etc. These translators have done the research and are confident that what they say matches what the author wants to say, and also how to present that content to their intended audience, whether that be doctors, lawyers, or yaoi connoisseurs.

While translating, it is necessary to keep in mind not only what the audience knows, but also what they don’t know. Renta! has a wide audience of readers, and of course while most of our manga takes place in Japan and the characters are Japanese, it would be unrealistic to expect all of our readers to know every piece of information about Japanese culture. For example, let’s take a Japanese festival staple, takoyaki. A Japanese reader will know all about these delicious round balls of octopus and yum.

Image taken from Wikipedia.

These are some things that are culturally obvious to Japanese people: where they’re sold (usually at some kind of festival); how much they cost (usually about 400-600 yen, or about $4-6); what happens when you stick them in your mouth when they’re still hot (pain). However, readers from abroad who have never been to Japan might be confused if the word takoyaki is used on its own without knowing that implicit context. “What is that ball?” “I thought they were at a festival, why do they suddenly have them?” “Why are they blowing on it?” “What is inside?” These are all questions that an uninformed reader might ask while just looking at the picture. Just leaving the Japanese as-is will be sure to leave some readers confused, so it is necessary to change the text to something more understood by general audiences, even though it is not literally what the author is saying.

Naturally, the text bubble is only so big, so it’s not possible or even really probable to give an overly-detailed explanation either. The result is that we end up with something kind of strange, like “octopus balls,” which is really the best thing we can come up with without sacrificing the author’s intent. Of course, many people from abroad who are interested in Japan happen to be interested in Japanese manga as well (funny how that works, huh?). But, just because some readers are familiar with Japanese cultural norms like wearing a yukata in summer, eating oden in winter, or visiting a shrine, it doesn’t mean every worldwide reader will understand these things.

Man in a Yukata (Utagawa Kuniyoshi)
Typical oden toppings
Meiji Shrine, in Tokyo

In these situations, a good translation must localize the text in a way that is faithful to what the author is trying to say while still being understandable to a general audience. We don’t expect all of our international readers to know some of these detailed points, which is why we change non-essential things like currency into USD, clocks from 24-hour into 12-hour, and measurements into imperial systems. These are really small changes that are made to reach a wide audience without sacrificing the author’s original intent.

Update: Check out Part 2 right here: https://rentastaffblog.com/2019/06/17/what-makes-a-good-translation-part-2-keeping-the-authors-intent/

What Makes a Good Translation? – Introduction

Is a good translation one that follows the original text to the letter? Or is it something more than that? Just how much work goes into producing a translation that sounds not only good, but is appropriate to be released to the public? In the coming weeks I want to continue tackling issues that translators face which may not be obvious to the average reader.

Language is not like a math problem. To those who study language, there is no one solution that works out neatly and perfectly. No two translators’ final products will look the same, which as a checker and editor can make things really fun sometimes. Looking at a Japanese sentence and then seeing what turns of phrase our talented translators come up with is really incredible and makes me proud to work at Renta!

Scene from A Windflower Embroidery (Anemone no Shishuu)
Author: mm

Despite the name, it’s not even like a programming language, where you type in exactly what you want and the computer will do exactly what you input. It’s fluid. It’s alive. It’s weird and ambiguous and magic. Language is like a very strange jigsaw puzzle, where you have all the same starting pieces, but anyone can put them together to make a very different result.  Every translator has their own strengths and weaknesses, making the final product blurry in some configurations and clearer in others. That’s why there’s value in having multiple translations of the same source, and why we have a policy of having the translation go through multiple pairs of eyes before it goes live. Everyone has a different approach, and the combination of different people with different styles working together will lead to a stronger final product.

That’s what makes language so interesting for me to use, and so fun to talk about. I look forward to sharing more of my thoughts soon!

Update: Check out the next part here! What Makes a Good Translation? Part 1 – Remembering the Audience

Interview with Owal-Sensei (Translation)

To celebrate the release of “Our House Love Trouble” and the accompanying “drama CD”, Marine Entertainment has shared a special follow-up interview with Owal-Sensei.

In it, Owal-Sensei discusses character names, her favorite type of characters to draw, and how they came up with some of the more shockingly sexy and fun moments in the bedroom scenes for “Our House Love Trouble” (Available now in English at Renta! Manga Store ❤ )

I took a moment this weekend to give it a quickie translation from Japanese to English. I hope you find it as interesting as I did! 

To celebrate the release of “Our House Love Trouble” and the accompanying “drama CD”, Marine Entertainment has shared a special follow-up interview with Owal-Sensei.

 

In it, Owal-Sensei discusses character names, her favorite type of characters to draw, and how they came up with some of the more shockingly sexy and fun moments in the bedroom scenes for “Our House Love Trouble” Available now in English at Renta! Manga Store ❤

 

I took a moment this weekend to give it a quickie translation from Japanese to English. I hope you find it as interesting as I did! 

 

 

★☆★☆★☆★☆★☆★☆★☆★☆★
■Do you find it difficult to decide on character names?
  What is your thought process when coming up with names?

 

Deciding on character names is one of my favorite things! The only problem is, it’s really hard for me to come up with them lol.

 

With Our House, Nonohiko was the first character to receive a name.

 

I think names that have two repeating syllables are cute, and was considering a 4-syllable name for the main uke, and so that’s how 『のの彦』 Nonohiko got his name.

 

I wanted to give all the seme characters 1-kanji names across the board, and so that’s how I decided on 『響・要・馨』 Hibiki, Kaname, and Kaoru. Only later when I was writing notes on the manuscript did I realize that the kanji for Hibiki and Kaoru’s names look really similar, so when I had to write really small it caused a lot of confusion later on lol.

 

―――Were there any characters you had difficulty naming?

 

I think it’s difficult to decide on names for all my characters, but Hibiki was the most challenging this time.

 

I had already decided to make Nonohiko’s full name “Nonohiko Nojima”, so I thought I’d make Hibiki’s last name “Minami” so that when you put them together it’d read “Minami no Shima” (which means Southern Islands – Sarah).

 

But then I wanted Hibiki to have a name that fit better with his “Super Darling” character type (a dashing, handsome, confident, warm, manly man who openly loves and accepts his uke, usually tall, educated, and rich), so I ended up giving him the name “Hibiki Kaidou”. (Ocean Way)

 

Sometimes I also decide on a theme and give characters names accordingly.

 

In Hangout Crisis, I decided to give everyone “flower” last names, which is how I came up with 『椿』Tsubaki (camellia) and 『桜井』Sakurai (cherry-blossom well)!

 

It makes me really happy when people remember my characters’ names out of all the many characters out there.

 

 

 

■What kind of character personalities do you like the most?

 

I love characters who are a pleasure to tease!

 

When I’m drawing ukes, in my mind I’m usually biting my lip thinking “Ah, I want to tease him so bad!” I’m not saying I don’t genuinely like the uke characters, but I think I have a tendency to fall into the seme’s emotional point of view lol.

 

Actually, this time I packed a ton of my favorite character personality traits into Nonohiko!

 

A big chest (lit. oppai, lol), an almost unconditionally accepting and gentle heart, and the type that’ll wrap you up in warm comfort when you need it.

 

It’s the type of guy you just wanna trick/bully/fool/tease. Naturally, the Super Darling will want to spoil and take care of him, try to make him jealous, etc… I tried to stuff it full of that flavor of romance lol.

 

That’s another thing that blows me away in the audio-drama adaptation for this manga. No matter how many times I listen to it, my heart is purified every single time by how accurately they portrayed this lol.

 

In all the comments and reviews, I was also really moved by everyone who wrote in saying how much they adored Nonohiko.

 

I think I have my editor to thank for making him such a beloved character, since they’re the one who gave me the suggestion “Make him dumber.” If I’d written him a little smarter, I don’t think it would have turned out quite the same lol. The story depends on his slightly ditsy, warm fuzzy kind of “wait, what?” clueless personality lol.

 

■When you’re creating manga, what matters to you the most?

 

It’s gotta be “sexy, easy on the eyes, and engaging/interesting/funny”!

 

―――In all the feedback from questionnaires, the fans have spoken, and they all agree that Owal-Sensei’s fetish and action in the bedroom scenes deserve only the highest of praise!!

 

I’m so happy to hear that. Thank you so much!!

 

My editor gives me incredibly great ideas and suggestions. When we discuss concepts and stories together, they’ll just casually drop the best ideas like a bomb, no hesitation at all lol.

 

That’s how we ended up with Nonohiko squatting over Hibiki’s face on the hotel bed.

 

Not to mention the “How about a shoulder-blade-job?” suggestion… that idea was so good, we got a little over-excited lol.

 

We went from starting with Hibiki making a sudden move to rub himself between Nonohiko’s shoulder blades, all the way to Nonohiko fwipping his face around to get an eye-full (so to speak lol).

 

During that conversation it was like the whole scene was crystal clear in my mind. Then when actually drawing that scene, it was so much fun. I was also really happy when I saw that they included that scene on the back of the book’s “obi”, too.

 

I also try to be really careful about dividing up the content in each panel. I say that but then I have a bad habit of cramming as much as I can into one page, too lol.

 

I try to fill each and every panel with at least one thing that will catch the reader’s eye. It would make me happy if when someone flips through and sees something interesting, they then flip back to page one to enjoy the story from the beginning.

 

―――Thank you very much!

 

-Special Thanks to Marine Entertainment and Owal-Sensei. Please visit their website at the link above and check out the English translation of Our House Love Trouble, available now. ❤

 

our-house-cover

The Difference Between Good Enough and Good

I feel like translation is quite subjective, with no “perfect” translation out there.

Manga is unique because it’s a combination of written and spoken English, but almost always focuses on conversation above all other types of language.

Localization in particular can make the difference between a translation that is, technically speaking, “correct”… and a translation that FEELS right.

Today I was thrown off by a perfectly correct translation of  [ 人間 健康が一番 / ningen — kenkou ga ichiban ] which was a piece of some thought-dialog in a manga I was browsing through.

It was submitted as “Health is the most important thing for humans.”

While there is nothing grammatically inappropriate here and it is, arguably, natural speech in English, I couldn’t help but think “Oh, but not for apes or cats.”

The way we throw words together in normal conversations happens with very little conscious thought at all, but we still manage to express much more than what is being said by the way we choose to phrase our words.

I know it says ningen (humans) in Japanese, but saying it in English adds unnecessary emphasis, and makes it feel slightly off, even though nothing is technically wrong.

Maybe it’s the cold medicine I’m taking, or maybe I just have special issues, but I find that listening to the voices in your head is the best way to get a natural translation out of something that feels weird when you can’t quite put your finger on WHY it feels weird.

The voices in my head told me to write it as:

“Nothing is more important than your health.”

Assuming, of course, that the person reading that inner thought dialog is a human. But the nice thing about this is that it works for other species, too. Even aliens will not feel left out now.

Isn’t that nice?

It feels right to me.

I also feel guilty for not taking better care of my health now. Oops.

 

This blog was brought to you by cold medicine, ecchi localization contemplations, and my sincere apologies for not updating the blog more often recently. I’ve been out of the office a lot and I’m catching up on my to do list of delicious manga for your reading pleasure, so hopefully things will settle down soon and I’ll update you with all the wonderful things that have been happening around here.