Wednesday, November 02, 2005


My post on the translation of vol. 7 of FB (scroll down to Oct. 9) attracted some notice, so I thought I'd try doing something similar with vol. 8. This time, although I didn't do the whole volume, I looked at more than a single scene: I went through looking for scenes that were important, and where a wrong translation was likely to be significant. As before, page numbers refer to Tokyopop's edition; if you have the Japanese edition, you'll have to subtract two to get the Japanese page numbers. TP stands for Tokyopop; JP for the Japanese edition.

p. 33, panel 1: TP: "...he still can't help but be concerned about me." JP: "sou ieru chikara ga aru," literally "he still has the power to be able to say something like that"; more idiomatically: "he's still able to say something like that."

p. 34, panel 3: In TP, Haru says: "Besides, you don't think I get obsessed with myself, too?" In JP, Haru says: "Sore ni ore datte kihonteki ni wa jibun no koto shika kangaete nai yo," which can be translated as "Besides, fundamentally I only think about myself, you know." Here TP has watered down Haru's self-criticism.

p. 91, panel 2: TP: "...you have to keep searching for that reason" (i. e. to be alive). JP: "yappari riyuu ga hoshii desu," or "you still want/long for a reason, after all."

p. 92, panels 1 and 2: TP: "The people in my life give me something to live for. And someday, I hope I'll find that special someone to whom I can say 'You're my reason for living.' Whenever I start to feel sad, I think about my reason, and I know I have to keep doing my best." JP: "Dareka no tame ni ikirareru you na jibun ni 'Sou omotte mo ii yo' tte itte moraeru you ni megesou ni naru toki arimasu ga ... ganbatte itari shimasu."

The JP here is very difficult, owing to the complexity of the sentence, and presses against the limits of my Japanese proficiency. And it's not just me; when I asked for help on the jpnforum group, one of the respondents said: "I'm a native speaker of Japanese. This sentence was at first incomprehensible to me." Japanese, at least written Japanese, uses complex sentences with several relative clauses much more often than English does. Takaya in particular frequently uses such sentences, which is one of the things that makes Fruits Basket the most difficult manga to read that I've yet encountered.

Here's the translation supplied by Susumu Oh-ishi, the aforementioned native speaker, with a couple of slight alterations by myself: "I somehow keep doing my best, though I sometimes feel nearly discouraged, so that I will be able to become a self who lives for other people, and to have someone say to me 'It's okay for you to think that.'" Of course, if I were actually doing a translation, I would split this up into two sentences: "I want to become a self who lives for other people, and to have someone say to me 'It's okay for you to think that.' And though I sometimes feel nearly discouraged, I somehow keep doing my best."

As I said above, there are points where I can't say from my own knowledge that Oh-ishi is right and TP is wrong. But there are two places where TP is certainly wrong: first, the words Tohru envisions being said are not "You're my reason for living." Second, these words will not hopefully be said by Tohru but to Tohru: the appearance of "moraeru," a form of "morau" (one of the "verbs of giving and receiving" that bedevil beginning Japanese learners) guarantees this.

p. 92, panel 4: There's no "stay true to yourself" in JP.

p. 93, panels 2 and 3: TP: Ritsu thinks: "I want to hear those words one more time. I want you to say them one more time. In JP, both sentences are clearly in the past tense, so it should be "wanted" instead of "want": they're cl Also, the JP of panel 3 runs "Mou ichido itte hoshikatta n' da," which doesn't specify whom Ritsu wanted to say the words: a literal, but awkward translation would be "I wanted them to be said one more time."

p. 123, panel 1: TP: "I don't think it's even possible." JP is less definite: "Muri kamo na," or "It may be impossible."

p. 123, panel 5: The last words spoken by Kyou in this panel in TP are "If I'm not careful ..." JP has "Heta surya ore nanza ..." "Heta," the word translated as "not careful," does not mean this, but rather unskillful or clumsy. Presumably the translators changed it to "not careful" because that seemed to make more sense in the context of Kyou and Tohru's conversation; but in fact this line of dialogue refers to something that will be revealed in vol. 11 (see below). A better translation, taking this later revelation into account, would be "If I'm not good enough ..."

p. 124, panel 1: This is an example of one of the things that make Fruits Basket difficult to read in Japanese or translate. This panel is evidently a flashback, but to a scene we haven't seen yet; in it Akito is saying in TP: "Over my dead body!" The JP has simply "Shinu made," literally "until ____ dies," where the subject is missing. In Japanese, it's perfectly grammatical to leave out the subject in this way. In fact, it's usual to do so when the subject is clear from the context. In this case, however, the context is missing: all we're given is one isolated line. But in an English translation, a subject has to be supplied. The translators made a reasonable guess, given Kyou's words on the previous page. But in vol. 11, we see the full scene from which this panel was taken, and the translators guessed wrong: The subject is Kyou, and a correct translation would be "Until you die." Takaya does this sort of thing fairly often: stick in elliptical utterances or thoughts which can't be correctly interpreted without information which will only be supplied later.

p. 124, panel 3: "With you," in TP, is absent from JP.

p. 124, panel 4: TP: "Why do people have to ask about stupid questions like 'What are you going to do when you graduate?' They just don't get it. Being possessed by the cat, it's not that easy." This is virtually all an invention on the part of the translators. JP reads: "Nekotsuki ni shinro toka shourai toka sou iu koto kikareru to sono mae ni shakai ni dete iken no ka yo toka," or "Before asking someone possessed by the cat about things like plans and the future, the question is whether they can go out into society."

p. 125, panel 3: TP: "You're probably the only one who understands how it feels." JP: "Nita you na kibun an' darou ga," or "You probably have similar feelings."

p. 125, panel 5: TP: "Those are all things that you promised your mom you'd do when she was around." The JP that corresponds to "that you promised your mom you'd do" is "hahaoya no tame ni kimeta." While TP's interpretation is a possible one, I think a more likely interpretation is "that you decided on for your mother's sake." I. e., Tohru decided to get a job and live on her own after she graduated high school so as not to be a burden on her mother (but now that her mother is dead, this reason no longer applies).

p. 154, panel 4: In TP, Shigure is saying "He's your brother Aaya!" The JP is "Kimi no namae wa." "Kimi no namae' means simply "your name," and "wa" is a particle that could mean several things here. Frankly, I don't know what this phrase means in this context, but it doesn't mean what Tokyopop says: as in the scene in volume 7 I discussed, once again the translators are making Shigure more sympathetic, in this case by having him show overt concern for young Yuki.

p. 156, panel 2: TP: "I'm not sad. I'm downright pathetic." JP: "Kanashii yo ne," which means simply "I'm sad," or possibly "I am sad."

p. 176, panel 4: In TP, in response to Momiji asking "Are you scared?" Tohru says "Well, yes! But my mother always told me that we need to face our fears, because if we stay afraid, then those fears can rule our lives, so I mustn't keep avoiding it!!" Again, most of this is invention on the translators' part. In JP, in response to Momiji's question "Nigate na no?" or "Is it a weak point?" Tohru says "Nigate ka nigate ja nai ka to kikarereba, totemo nigate kamoshiremasen ga, shintou o mekkyaku shimashitara hi mo mata suzushii wake de itsumademo sakete totte ite wa ikemasen!!" A translation might go something like "If you ask me whether it's a weak point or not, it may be a very weak point, but 'if you clear your mind, even fire becomes cool,' and I can't keep avoiding things forever!!" The translators' changes here aren't so significant for the characters; but I included this because I think the TP version is less funny.

p. 187, panel 4: In TP, Momiji says "What a nice story," Tohru says "Yes...very touching, and Haru says "And they lived happily ever after." In JP the dialogue is "Yokatta ne ..." "Yokatta desu ne ..." and "Yokatta. Yokatta." "Yokatta" literally means "it was good." It's often translated as "thank goodness" or "I'm glad." The main point is that neither Momiji or Tohru indicate here they realize that Haru's just a story, as they do in TP, creating an inconsistency with the next page.

Some people may feel I'm being too picky, and it's true that none of these changes is that important in itself. But cumulatively, they form a sort of fog blurring the English-language reader's vision of what Takaya wrote. Many of the series' emotional undercurrents are obscure even in the original, and this fog makes the task of the reader who wants to understand what's going on even harder.

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