Sunday, September 30, 2007


As I hinted at in my last post, Alethea and Athena Nibley responded to my translation notes on FB vol. 1 by defending some of the translations I had criticized, both in the comments to my notes and on their own live journal, which led to brief exchanges at both places until time pressure forced me to bow out. I still think I'm right on most of the contested points, including the "itterasshai" vs. "come home safe" issue, although on that score I don't have anything to add to what I've already said. But thinking over their responses made me realize that I shouldn't have implied that they were simply mistaken. Many of our differences are due to different approaches to translation. Their translations are freer than I would like, and sometimes they make explicit what they believe is implicit in Takaya's writing, as in "come home safe." My belief is that that if the author leaves something implicit, the translation should do the same; but the Nibleys' approach to translation is a legitimate one. Even if you agree with their approach, though, I think it's useful to compare their translations with the original Japanese, so that people who wouldn't necessarily interpret the original text the same way the Nibleys do have an opportunity to decide for themselves.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007


About two weeks ago, I was handed a large chunk of work with a fairly tight deadline. As a result, I've had to pretty much withdraw from active participation on the Web, which is why I bowed out of the conversations between me and the translators of Fruits Basket below and on their live journal, and also why I haven't finished the second part of my translation notes on Fruits Basket vol. 1. I'm not completely out of the woods yet, but I do have a momentary breather, enough to allow me to post two brief items.

For free improvisation fans: two years ago I wrote in glowing terms of a live performance by Tatsuya Nakatani, Michel Doneda, and Jack Wright I had just seen. Tonight they will be playing again in C-U, at the Krannert Art Museum, 500 E. Peabody Dr., Champaign IL (same place as last time), starting at 7:30 PM. It's free, so if you're interested in free improvisation, or if you find my description intriguing, by all means come. If you don't live in C-U, they will be playing further dates in Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and Brooklyn. You can find more information about the trio, now dubbing themselves the From Between Trio, here, including details about the tour and an audio sample.

And for manga readers, this brief discussion of translations of Jules Verne reminds us that when it comes to translations, we could have it a lot worse.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007


This time I've gone back to the beginning. There's a lot of material here: so much that I'm dividing it into two parts. Since I haven't done one of these in a while, I'll go over the basics (see the sidebar for my previous translation notes).

In each entry, TP refers to the Tokyopop edition, JP refers to the Japanese edition, and the line below the JP is my own translation. I haven't included every discrepancy between the TP and JP, only ones where there's a plot or character point involved, where the TP doesn't make sense, or where a joke is lost in the TP.

My translations should not be considered as polished translations; they're intended only to present the meaning of the JP as accurately as I can. They aren't always word-for-word literal translations, but when I had to choose between preserving the overall meaning of the passage and avoiding awkwardness in the English, I've chosen the former. In this regard I should again stress that these notes aren't intended to disparage the work of the translators and adaptor. Everyone makes mistakes, and I'm sure they did much better jobs than I could have.

In this volume, unlike the others I've done, the Japanese and English page numbers are the same.

p. 6:
TP: Life in the Sohma household, pre-Tohru
JP: Shigure mo douzai nan' desu keredo.
Shigure is also guilty, though.

p. 7, panel 1:
TP: Let's get this show on the road, shall we? This is where the fun begins ...
JP: Enkai o hajimemashou. Minna to tanoshiku itsumademo
Let's start the banquet, and enjoy ourselves with everyone as long as we like/forever

I'm not entirely sure of the second half of my translation. In isolation, the TP is fine as a free translation; but "enkai" is the word used to describe the banquet to which God invites the animals, which gives these lines an extra layer of significance. A further layer will be apparent later. "Itsumademo" can mean "as long as one likes" or "forever"; both meanings are significant here.

p.8 panels 3-4:
TP: No matter what happens in life I never let it get me down. That's me -- ever the optimist!
JP: Watashi no torie wa donna toki demo megunai koto desu
My good point is that whatever happens I never lose heart

p. 15, panel 1:
TP: Stop fantasizing and get a life.
JP: Kudannee innen tsukete n' ja nee zo kuraa ...
You're inventing an absurd pretext for a quarrel

p.18, panel 6:
TP: That sucks, you having to pay all your school expenses yourself.
JP: Taihen da naa. Gakuhi wa jibun de harau tte yakusoku shite n' da kke ka
Isn't it awful that you promised to pay your school expenses by yourself? [My emphasis]

Also, Hana's second balloon in this panel is a question.

p. 19, panel 1:
TP: After I graduate, I want to be able to pay my own way.
JP: Demo sotsugyou shitara hitorigurashi o hajimetai to omotte
But when I graduate I want to start living on my own

panel 2: There's no "so selfless" in the JP.

p. 24, panel 1:
TP: My head is spinning just from being around him.
JP: Amari no kireisa ni tamashii o suwareta kibun ...
I feel like my soul is being sucked in by too much beauty ...

panel 6: The word on the cover of the book Tohru is holding is "kakeiba," which means a household accounting book.

panel 7:
TP: Mom was always there for me.
JP: Watashi o mamotte kureta okaasan
Mom protected me

p. 25, panel 1:
TP: She was my cheerful protector.
JP: Itsu datte pawafuru de akarukute
Always powerful and bright

panel 4:
TP: Yes, yes! Good, good!
JP: Uki-uki uki-uki
Cheerfully cheerfully

p. 26, panel 2:
TP: Why don't I just start now?!
JP: Ima kara sono sabishisa ni taeru ii chansu da to omou koto ni shimashou!!
I'll think of this as an opportunity to endure that loneliness!!

p. 27, panel 1:
TP: My home is my castle. My home is my castle!
JP: Sumeba miyako. Sumeba miyako desu ... !!
There's no place like home. There's no place like home ... !! [Literally, "If you live there, it's the capital."]

p. 28, panel 1:
"Kiraku," the word translated as "progressive," actually means "easygoing, carefree, optimistic."

p. 35, panel 4:
There's no "castle" in the JP.

p. 36, panel 3:
TP: "Come home safe."
JP: ... Itterasshai

When a Japanese person leaves their house for a short time (e.g. to go to work or school) and someone else is in the house, they will automatically say "ittekimasu," which literally means "I'm going and coming [back]." The other person will just as automatically reply "itterasshai." I'm not sure of the literal meaning of this, but it might be something like "you'll be welcome when you return." If you watch anime with subtitles, you've probably heard this exchange many times. The important things here are that first, this is simply a standard phrase with no deep meaning; and second, there's no suggestion that Tohru thinks her not saying "itterasshai" had anything to do with her mother's death: she's just sorry she didn't say goodbye to her that morning.

p. 37, panel 1:
TP: I missed out on a lot of opportunities because of it.
JP: Demo yappa joshi kousei tte no mo yatte mitakatta na
But I wanted to try being a high schooler, after all

panel 3:
TP: But it's not too late! Even with my grades and my house being blown away I can still make it up to my mom.
JP: Baka desu. Akaten totte mo ie ga fukitonde mo taisetsu ni shinakya ikenai no wa okaasan datta no ni
I'm stupid. I get bad grades, and my house is blown away, and even though I should have taken good care of mom

panel 4:
TP: I can't bring her back ...
JP: Mou nido to ienai
Once again I couldn't say goodbye

panel 5:
TP: ... but I can live the life she wanted for me. She wanted me to finish high school so I'll graduate ... for her.
JP: Dakara semete gakkou wa okaasan ga nyuugaku suru koto o nozonda gakkou dake wa buji ni sotsugyou shitai desu ...
So at least I want to graduate safely from high school, which my mother wanted to enter ...

p. 41, panel 1:
TP: You don't have to push yourself so hard.
JP: Muri shite made kaji o tetsudau koto nai n' da yo
You don't have to help with the housework until you wear yourself out

panel 3:
TP: ... I'll die alone.
JP: notareji ni kettei desu ...
I'll definitely die of exposure ...

p. 44, panel 3:
TP: I'm pretty good at it, too, if I do say so.
JP: tto iu ka sore igai tokui na koto ga nai ...
That is, aside from that I have no strong points ...

p. 46, panel 1:
TP: I am at the mercy of your hospitality.
JP: Yoroshiku onegai shimasu!!

"Yoroshiku onegai shimasu," sometimes translated as "please treat me favorably," is commonly used in a variety of situations (often informally abbreviated to "yoroshiku"). Like "itterasshai," if you watch subtitled anime you've probably heard it a lot, particularly when a transfer student is being introduced. Also like "itterasshai," it shouldn't be translated as anything more than a routine polite formula.

p. 47, panel 3:
TP: It's all too good to be true. I hope my staying here doesn't cause them too much trouble.
JP: Aa demo hontou ni hontou ni ii no deshou ka. Kouun sugite fuan ni narimasu ...
Oh, but is it really, really okay? Too much good luck makes me uneasy ...

p. 51, panel 1:
TP: Is Kyo back?
JP: Moshikashite Kyou ga kita?
Did Kyou perhaps come?

The significance of this, and the final note to p. 84, panel 5, is that the TP has sometimes been taken to imply that before Kyou went off to the mountains, he had lived in Shigure's house. In the JP, there is no such implication.

p. 52, panel 1:
TP: I'm the same age as Kyo-kun ...
JP: Kyou-kun ni totte wa onaidoshi no onna no ko nan' desu ga ...
But for Kyou-kun the girls are the same age ... [And so Kyou won't be as excited at going to school with them as Shigure would be.]

p. 59, panel 4:
TP has switched the words in the two balloons.

p. 60, panel 2:
TP: I'm getting there.
JP: Daibu jijou wa nomikomete ... kimashita
There was ... quite a lot to take in

p. 61, panel 4:
There's nothing in the JP corresponding to "he's like a lovestruck fool."

p. 62, panel 2:
"Bugaisha," which TP translates as "outcast," means simply "outsider."

p. 63, panel 4:
TP: Just this once I'll overlook your stupidity
JP: Sono bakasa kagen ni menjite
Out of respect for the extent of that stupidity

p. 64, panel 4:
In the JP Tohru's thought is a question.

p. 71, panel 4:
There's no "I'm a liability, aren't I?!" in the JP.

p. 81, panel 2:
TP: Yuki does have good instincts, but still ... proceed with caution.
JP: Demo Yuki wa kan ga ii kara ki o tsukete ne
But Yuki is [mentally] sharp, so be careful

panel 5:
TP: I am at your mercy.
JP: Yoroshiku onegai shimasu
See the note to p. 46, panel 1.

p. 82, panel 1:
TP: Our mercy ...
JP: Yoroshiku ...
This is difficult to translate, but "yoroshiku" on its own can mean "well," "suitably," or "as one thinks fit," and Yuki is probably thinking ironically of one (or more) of these senses.

panel 2:
TP: I am in debt to you, too, Kyo-san."
JP: Yo- yoroshiku onegai shimasu eto ... Kyou-kun
See the note to p. 46, panel 1 ("eto" is just an interjection indicating hesitation, like "um" in English).

panel 3:
TP: Why should I be nice to anyone in this ...
JP: Dare ga yoroshiku suru ka konna ie ...
Who behaves well [or "suitably"] in a house like this ...

(I'm not really sure here, but that's my best guess.)

panel 5:
TP: Fix it again!
JP: Fuman ga aru nara dete ike
If you're dissatisfied, get out

panel 5:
TP: Maybe I will!
JP: Dete ... konna ... [ellipses mine]
The text is cut off by the panel border, and I can't tell what Kyou is supposed to be saying.

panel 5:
TP: We gave away your room.
JP: Omae no heya nanka nai zo
You have no room

See p. 51, panel 1.

p. 85, panel 1:
TP: It's a great setup -- I own them so much.
JP: Arigatasugite atama ga agarimasen
I'm so grateful [or "obliged"] that I can't hold my head up

p. 88, panel 2:
TP: You look like a talk show host.
JP: Hosuto mitai.
You look like a host.

"Host" here doesn't mean "talk show host." Those who have read or watched Ouran High School Host Club or watched Nerima Daikon Brothers will know what a "host" is. For those who don't, a host works at a "host club": a commercial establishment were women pay (quite a lot) for the company of young men. A host will flirt with his customer, and cater to her romantic or sexual fantasies, but ordinarily will not have sex with her. This may sound like something dreamt up by a shoujo mangaka, but host clubs are real: for more information see here. Shigure in this scene is, in fact, dressed similarly to a typical host as described in that article, or to Ichiro, the host character from Nerima Daikon Brothers.

Since "hosts" do not exist in the U.S. and the concept is unfamiliar, producing a translation that makes sense to American readers is problematic. If it were me, I might go with "You look like a gigolo," even though that only approximates the original meaning.

p. 93, panel 1:
TP: Hana-chan is very powerful to sense things no one else can, but I have to admit, I never understand her wave report!
JP: Yappari Hana-chan no denwa jouhou wa anadoremasen ... !!
You can't take the information Hana-chan gets from waves lightly, after all ... !!

p. 94, panel 4:
TP: Special? He's a freak!
JP: Sou iu mondai?
Is that the problem? [Emphasis mine]

p. 100, panel 2:
At the end of Tohru's thought balloon in the JP is the phrase "Watashi baka desu ..."
which means "I'm stupid" or "I'm an idiot." TP leaves this out.

p. 102, panel 3:
TP: People aren't born social. Sure it comes easier to some people[,] but most people, like you, need to work at it. Some more than others. You're just inexperienced.
JP: --... naka ni wa sou iu hito mo iru kedo ne. Kimi no baai wa tan ni keiken ga tarinai dake da yo.
There is a person [or people] like that on the inside. But in your case you're just inexperienced.

An alternate translation of the first half would be "there are people who are like that inside."

p. 103, panel 2:
TP: you'll never be able to care about anyone but yourself.
JP: honto no imi de tanin o omoiyareru you na ningen ni wa narenai yo
You won't be able to become a person who can enter into another's feelings [or "be considerate with others"] in the true sense of the words

p. 111, panel 1:
TP: Someone sincere who speaks from the heart.
JP: Gomen nasai no kimochi o shiteru ... hito [ellipsis mine]
A person who knows what it's like to feel sorry

p. 112, panel 4:
TP: And so Kyo and I became friends ...
JP: Koushite nakanaori mo dekimashita
That's how we were able to make up our quarrel

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Sunday, September 02, 2007


The Sept. 3, 2007 issue of Newsweek describes an upcoming sitcom, "Samantha Who?" as being about "a woman who wakes up from a coma with amnesia and gradually discovers that she's actually a pretty rotten person." Hmm, where have I seen something like that before?

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