Friday, February 04, 2005


Judging from my limited experience, I'd say that the most difficult type of manga to read in Japanese is shoujo: I've found it more difficult, not just than shounen (boys'), but than manga written for adults, either men or women. This is not just because shoujo manga has more dialogue, but because the characters tend to analyze their emotions a lot, and they do so using complex or difficult grammatical structures, which is the most difficult part of reading Japanese for me. Of all the manga I've read so far, the most difficult one has been Fruits Basket. There've been a number of places where, though I knew what the individual words meant, I didn't understand the sentence as a whole until I looked at Tokyopop's English-language version, translated by Alethea Nibley and Athena Nibley.

This doesn't mean that Tokyopop's translation is completely trustworthy. I recently checked out vols. 2-4 from my local public library, hoping to polish my Japanese comprehension by checking it against the English. I didn't compare the two line-by-line, but I did notice a number of places where the translation seemed clearly wrong. Most of these errors weren't all that important, but a few did seem important, primarily for what they reflected on the characters. I've listed the ones that I think are, or may be, important. In each case I'll present Tokyopop's translation, the original Japanese, and my best attempt at a literal translation (page numbers refer to Tokyopop's editions):

Vol. 2, p. 40, panel 2
Tokyopop: "I am well aware of when my glass is half empty."
Japanese: "Doose boku wa naimononedarisa."
Literal translation: "At any rate, I'm asking for the unobtainable."

Vol. 2, p. 174, panel 5
Tokyopop: "They say that being with another person can make you feel so much more alive. I realized then what people those meant [sic].
Japanese: "Hito wa kanshou de ikurademo tanin o bika suru koto ga dekiru. Dekiru keredo..."
Literal translation: "It's possible for a person to idealize another person out of sentimentality to any extent. It's possible, but..."

Vol. 3, p. 114, panel 4
English: "You and Akito are doing a fine job of using Honda-kun as your pawn for your own selfish reasons."
Japanese (phrase corresponding to final five words): "... sorezore no mokuteki to ritoku no tame ni."
Literal translation: "...for your respective goals and benefits." Tokyopop's translation here seems to imply that Shigure and Akito are collaborating to use Tohru, whereas the Japanese makes clear that this is not the case.

Vol. 3, p. 152, panel 1
English: "lucky"
Japanese: "itoshii"
Literal translation: "dear" or "beloved" (alternatively, "pitiful," but "dear seems to fit the context better).

Vol. 3, p. 173, panel 3
Tokyopop: "I thought it might endanger my son and the others even more."
Japanese: "Watakushi no kodomo ya botchantachi no kokoro no kizu ga sara ni fukamaru n' ja nai ka ... tte." (Ellipsis in original)
Literal translation: "Wouldn't it deepen the wounds in the hearts of my child, Yuki and Kyou, and the others even more, I thought."

vol. 4, p. 59, panel 1
Tokyopop: "The thing I want to understand the most is why Akito-san would hate me!"
Japanese: "Demo ima ichiban taisetsu ni shitai no wa naze Akito-san ni kirawarete iru no ka de wa naku."
Literal translation: "But the most important thing now isn't why I'm hated by Akito-san." (Emphasis mine.)

vol. 4, p. 92, panels 1-2
Tokyopop: "You start to understand rather than regret. It may be closer to repentance."
Japanese: "Iro-iro wakatte kuru. Kore wa koukai to iu yori zange ni chikai kamoshirenai."
Literal translation: "You start to understand various things. This may be nearer to repentance than regret."

vol. 4, p. 142, panel 1
Tokyopop: "... I wonder if I'd be able to smile again."
Japanese: "onaji you ni ichinengo waraeru kashira."
Literal translation: "would I be able to smile after a year like her, I wonder." Uotani isn't saying that she'd never be able to smile again if Tohru died.

I don't mean to single out the Nibleys. Mistakes are inevitable; and on the Anime on DVD Manga Forum I've seen several Tokyopop series singled out for complaints about the quality of translation, but Fruits Basket hasn't been one of them. The only other manga for which I've done this sort of comparison was Kare Kano vol. 9. I found a lot more mistakes there, but none as significant as those above, which is largely a reflection of that volume's subject matter.

(The title of this post is a bit of a private joke. Every month, I get a few hits from searches looking for "Fruits Basket translations," or something equivalent. In my naivete, it took me a while to realize that these people probably weren't looking for opinions on the quality of Tokyopop's translation, but for free online translations. Until now, my blog didn't contain either. Now it has the former. I did see a scanlation of Fruits Basket once, and it was riddled with errors, far more so than Tokyopop's translation.)

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