Hi all. It's been awhile, but we finished another batch of All Out. We've actually finished translation up to 99, lol, but please bear with us, we're rolling in exhaustion lately. We also did the earlier chapters that we skipped before! (Nothing wrong with the other scanlator's version, we were just hype on having the series here!)
I (plumjucie) originally agreed to translate it because it was a simple manga, but damn if I didn't fall in love with it, so I'll just make a quick plug for it. Ten random things I noticed about it:
Fair Warning: THIS MANGA WILL NOT TEACH YOU RUGBY.
Before reading this manga, I knew nothing about rugby (aside from people telling me people lose their ears, lol). So as I was reading, I had to look up a ton of terminology, and check up with the typesetter (who knows/plays rugby). It's basically trial by fire, with the author throwing Gion into rugby games without much explanation. (Hence why he barely knows anything aside from tackling, kek.) Explanations are incorporated in later chapters with a good progression, but if you want to know how to play the game immediately, you're gonna have to wiki it. Honestly when I first started reading, I was like, damn, there's 15 guys on the field doing who knows what at all times, what the hell am I watching!? xD Eventually I figured it out, and now I enjoy it just as much as Eyeshield and Haikyuu.
Anywho, thanks for reading! Hope you enjoy!
DzyDzyDino back again.
Was a couple weeks away, was off during the Jump Break week, and then had a busy week last week, but here again!
Finally finished playing and translating through the Yakuza 5 HD Remaster on stream! All that’s left are Isshin and Kenzan in the future at some point! Still have some more games in mind for translation playthroughs too!
Anyways, quick flashback sequence!
So to quickly review the main points I hopefully got to in the previous posts -- if you weren’t already aware, in Japanese, depending how you say something it can be honorific, polite, casual, or straight up rude… and everything in between. In manga and anime, how a character talks and what kind of language they use with whom define them.
These are “untranslatable” things in the sense that there’s no direct translation for them, but they need to be interpreted and localized to preserve the personality of the character and how they express themselves.
Literal translations fall into the trap of “X means Y always” and you end up with dry and often incorrect translations. Just because you can look up each word in a dictionary and it will equate doesn’t necessarily mean a translation is correct.
Okay, speaking of language that defines characters, I’m sure you’ve all seen characters defined by ways they end their sentences -- Like Naruto with his -dattebayo.
This whole “slapping an ending on your words and sentences” concept doesn’t really fly that well in English, we don’t end all our sentences with verbs that have a small finite amount of endings they conjugate to -- and even if we did, our verbs don’t conjugate with endings in that way.
If there’s a world where Naruto’s speech translates to --
“I’m Naruto dattebayo!”
“This is my Ninja Way dattebayo!”
“I’m gonna become the Hokage dattebayo!”
Then I seriously don’t want to be a part of that world. Let’s say we translated it to something… it’s still not much better.
“I’m Naruto, don’t you forget it!”
“This is my Ninja Way, don’t you forget it!”
“I’m gonna become the Hokage, don’t you forget it!”
Although that might work in a few situations, it definitely would get real awkward real quick, especially when it’s not used to proclaim something.
That doesn’t mean we can’t work in speech mannerisms, but forcing them onto the end of every single line the original appears will sound… well… forced.
Take the timeless high cultured interest that is… cat girls. You’ll usually always see the conversation rife with cat puns and double entendres.
“Did you wanna go right meow or later? That’s absolutely purrfect~” etc etc etc. (my soul hurt typing those out)
The Japanese end of those is almost always less interesting actually. It’s just the usual cutesy/moe dialog with a “-nya” or -nyao” tacked on at the end. Sometimes turning na sounds into nya sounds too. (In case you didn’t already know, nya/nyao is the Japanese version of “meow”)
The cat girl with cat puns everywhere comes off as corny and cute, as was meant to be, as opposed to --
“Welcome home, meow!”
“Why are you coming home so late, meow?”
“And who’s that other girl you were with, meow?”
“Oh, I’m not jealous or anything, meow.”
“But If I see her with you again, I’ll take this knife and play Kurohige Kiki Ippatsu with her body, meow.”
I mean… /could/ it work? I guess? Does it sound natural? Not really.
So what do we do about these? It’s honestly different all the time. How central is this specific mannerism to the series and the character? (Like most every character in One Piece having their own personal laugh that makes a sound representative of their ability/personality -- and now you come to expect it from everyone) Does including it add something to the translation or take something away? How else can this be conveyed?
Like in the case of the cat girl nyao endings. It’s meant to make the character sound cute and… well… like a cat. So make the character sound cute and catsy and campy by slipping puns and meows in where you can, seems like a straight-forward thought process.
In the case of Naruto, often times translations would omit it entirely, or choose a consistent phrase to use for it and include it only in really meaningful moments. Sometimes this one can come back to haunt later… like when a character says the main character’s catchphrase back to them and it’s supposed to be meaningful… but it doesn’t have the weight because it wasn’t used to define the character.
Knowing the series and knowing the context are definitely important when making these kinds of decisions.
Like if you were doing a high school slice of life series, you’d almost certainly leave the honorifics like -san, -kun, -chan, -senpai intact, along with letting people refer to people by their last names instead of substituting in first names (which happens a lot), because all of that is going to come into play at some point almost certainly. Of course, this is just my opinion, but if you’re going to do a series that takes place in a Japanese High School, it doesn’t hurt to keep a little bit of Japanese in when it’s that relevant.
Of course it can be a slippery slope down to “Just according to keikaku -- keikaku means plan” of arbitrarily leaving words in Japanese for no other reason than to do so.
There’s also an argument of “Anime fans like it this way.” that comes up a lot… and when it comes down to it, it’s for the fans… the viewers… the readers. You’ve always got to translate with your audience in mind… but I’ve definitely seen that go wrong too… since the loudest fans often represent a minority of the audience… and once you start compromising everything to try and satisfy specific people… everything kind of crashes and burns.
Gonna actually keep today’s post short.
Should be back to mostly weekly posts now!
As always, you can click on the post title to comment, and you can catch me streaming on Twitch at http://www.twitch.tv/dzydzydino
See you next week!
DzyDzyDino here again.
So we were talking about the I’s two weeks ago and how that gives insight into a character’s tone. It’s only natural we do the “you’s” now!
If you’ve ever opened a Japanese 101 textbook or tried to teach yourself any, you’ve probably at least gotten through “Watashi” means “I” and “Anata” means “You.”
And then you start learning some conversational Japanese and realize “wtf. Nobody says this. Why teach it?!”
There’s lots of ways and roundabout ways to refer to oneself and to a second party in a conversation -- It’d be awkward to never have any way to. But a direct “you” has a little more weight to it. In many other languages, you generally avoid directly saying “I” or “You” altogether -- referring to yourself by different words based on gender and age difference, social position, work position, familial relation, etc. I wouldn’t say it’s outright disrespectful (Though it can be depending how you use it), but how you choose to refer to people reflects on you and how you present yourself.
So when creating a character for a manga, obviously a lot of thought is going to be given to their speech as well. As I mentioned before, in Japanese it’s common to omit subjects and the like when they’re implied already via context. This makes leaving out “I’s” and “You’s” a lot more convenient. So when a character is actually saying a “you”, they’re often putting some oomph behind it and you can use it as an opportunity to provide some “color” into the dialog.
Since we’re talking manga characters, I’m going to be generalizing when I say a lot of this as usual, so don’t take this as a “guide to Japanese” and instead just how these generally get interpreted via Manga. (No shortage of Japanese guides online if you’re interested!)
Though in reality, you’d probably avoid saying “you” a lot more as although not every form is “rude”, it does stand out a bit. The kind of manga series you’re reading is going to color this a lot. If it’s a present day school slice of life series, you’d kind of apply exaggerated reality rules to it. If it’s a fantasy or fighting series, expect a lot more “you”s thrown out with a lot less weight behind them. If you’ve got razor sharp fingernails to someone’s throat, whether or not you’re calling them “Gido-san” or not really isn’t going to matter.
Anyways, let’s go through a couple of the more common “you’s”!
Anata no namae wa nan desu ka? or Okaerinasai, A.na.ta~
貴方の名前はなんで何ですか？ ・ お帰りなさい あ・な・た～
What is your name? / Welcome home, Ho~ney~Pie~
The Day 1 Japanese “you.” The most common usage you’ll see this in is a wife to a husband or a lovey-dovey girlfriend playing wifey -- in place of the usual romantic pet names. In manga you’ll also see it used in impersonal situations, like an AI/Robot/Computer Prompt greeting someone. Also professional capacities where they don’t know the person’s name. “Anta” is pretty much the same but tosses any “professionalism” that might have been there.
If there’s a character that might be a little silly/light-hearted a lot of the times and is suddenly very cold and serious, they could swap to calling the person they’re talking to “anata” instead of what they normally do, and it would add some weight to the conversation.
Either way, if you don’t know someone’s name in a conversation, usually you’re trying to figure it out pretty quick because...
Someone’s Name -
Zoro no houkoukankaku wa hidoi yo.
Your sense of direction is awful, Zoro.
Calling someone by their name is the safest way and most neutral way to refer to someone. We do this a bit in English too, but usually to get someone’s attention.
“Hey, John. What are you doing later?”
“John, do you know how to get to Round One?”
But what we don’t do in English (that is done in Japanese) is…
[Speaking to John]
"What is John doing later?"
"Does John know the way to Round One?"
Reading those like that in English, you’d assume the speaker was speaking to someone /other/ than John. Though if you were to try to be overly literal with a translation, that’s what you’d end up with. “But the original doesn’t say ‘you’, it says ‘John’!” -- yeah, well… that’s Japanese, this is English.
Of course even with a name, that ties back into the suffixes with -san, -kun, -chan, or just none at all. Last name? First name? All that still ties into the character’s tone.
Kimi no na wa
This can be a nicer “you”, and still holds an intimate/romantic context as well (though not always). Just like with the I’s and the suffixes, anything not purely polite is generally reserved for someone of a higher standing (Older to younger, senpai to kouhai, higher rank, etc).
I’m sure you’ve heard this tons of times in love songs. It’s gender neutral but leans more towards effeminate (but depending on how you use it, it doesn’t have to be.)
Omae wa mou shindeiru.
You're already dead.
Sorry. Couldn’t resist. If you’ve seen an episode of any anime, there’s no way you haven’t heard this as well. If you’re studying Japanese from anime or dramas -- don’t go using this with the same frequency in your regular speech as you see it in manga (which is like… every other line sometimes.)
This is a bit more masculine and “tough” -- “Ore” is to “I” as “Omae” is to “You”... kinda. Not as gender specific as Ore, but still a bit “tough.”
If friends are talking, this might just be standard to show they’re super close, the kind of friends that’ll sling insults at each other out of fun-level of close.
If someone is talking to someone they’ve just met or aren’t close with, it’s going to be provoking/insulting or condescending normally, but in manga and anime this is often a go-to “you” for characters to use, so you really need to go off of context.
Oi, Temee. Yameta hou ga ii ja nai? Korosareruzo.
Hey, punk. I wouldn't do that if I were you. You're gonna wind up dead.
This one is almost certainly insulting and will sometimes get translated to a straight insult depending on context. If someone’s calling a friend this, it’d be like calling a friend a jerk or an ass. There are friends that’ll do that and mean nothing by it, but if you’re gonna say that to someone on the street, it’s gonna be weird as hell and insulting.
This and the next one kind of go hand in hand.
Kisama shinitee ka? Joutou da!
You got a death wish, dickhead? Bring it on then!
How common in manga and anime? Yes.
Real life? In actual serious situations, probably… never -- if you’re in that situation, you’ll hear “temee” over it.
But we’re here to talk about translations! A straight insult. Definitely derogatory, definitely looking down on someone. Depending on the character and tone it could be translated to so many different things. There are times it may end up needing to go as “You” for contextual reasons, in which case you just need to make it clear with everything around it that this is a “not nice you.”
Otherwise it will just get straight translated as in insult --
You bastard, you son of a bitch, or get creative with it and fit it into the situation.
I mentioned that Japanese doesn’t have nearly the spectrum of insults as the English language does. Make use of that rich palette and paint some profanity. Just kidding. Not really.
Some more manga/anime ones are
Onore! Ore wo nameteyagaru!
Curse you! You're underestimating me! (I hate that translation but wanted to keep it more literal here)
Not as insulting as Kisama, often gets translated to “Curse you.” Pretty lame example, since nearly all of these can stand alone as examples lol.
Kono _______ -
You little shit!!
“Kono” literally means “this” but in context can mean “You” -- most of the time will have something filling in that blank, though sometimes they’ll leave the blank implied “Kono! Kono!” while stomping someone. Otherwise the ol’ “kono baka!” or “kono boke!” “kono kusogaki!” sometimes with a “ga” after it for some emphasis. “Kono baka ga!” -- now based on context it could mean other things. I’m sure “Kono Dio da!” is running through your head somewhere -- where it’s used to make himself sound big.
This is essentially always going to be used as an expletive/insult. Throwing a "me" at the end of it also adds kind of a "damn" to it.
"Kono gaki me" - You damn brat.
Other than that, peoples’ titles/positions/familial relations.
Sensei, Oniisan, Senpai, Shachou, Oneesan, etc -- You’ll notice with all of these, people always refer to those above them with their titles. A teacher doesn’t go to a student and go “Gakusei!” to address them. An older brother doesn’t little brother and go “Otouto-san!”. They be one-way streets.
You can pluralize most of the above by adding -ra to it. Omaera. Temeera. Kisamara. If using a title, you’d add -tachi. Sensei-tachi, Onii-san-tachi, etc. Though Sensei-tachi wouldn’t necessarily mean “Teachers” (although it could), it could mean “Teacher & Other People the Teacher is With.”
As a tangent, this one is obnoxious to translate. If I’m doing Black Clover and someone says “Asta-tachi”, (obviously doesn’t mean multiple Astas), it means Asta and whoever he’s with. But if you say “Asta and his friends”, what if he’s not with friends? What if he’s only with one other person? In English we’d never say “Asta and friend”, we’d just name the other person -- so now I’ve got to go research and figure out where he is and who he’s with.
Asta’s group? What if it’s not a group, what if they coincidentally just happen to be with him? Then Asta’s team wouldn’t work either. Asta and the others? Again, still don’t know if plural or not. Just leave it out and say Asta? What if it’s a plot point that they’re referring to multiple people?
Or what if it was just two people and you named the second person so it sounded proper in English, but later it comes out there was supposed to have been a miscommunication and the person speaking meant “Asta and Charmy” but the listener assumed when they said “Asta-tachi” they meant “Asta and Yuno”.
Anyways, different tangent, different topic, different day!
Let’s hop back onto today’s topic and take a look at some comparisons -
“Dare” means “who”
Anata wa dare desu ka? - Who are you?
You can leave out most words of this sentence and it’s still the same question.
Dare desu ka?
And though they all mean the same thing, they all have different feelings associated with them.
All these could be done so many different ways depending on context, I’m just giving one example.
Who… are you?
Hey… who are you?
(“Oi, Kimi!” “Kimi!”) is a pretty neutral way you’ll see a lot for getting someone’s attention.
Who are you?!
Someone could be shocked/scared, have lost their composure and said this. Someone could be pissed and trying to intimidate. Someone could just be maintaining their tough guy position. It could just be how that character talks to everyone. So much variance, this one is super versatile in manga and anime.
Who the hell are you?
Just a tough taunty "whodafuqizyou"
You bastard… who the hell are you?
Depending on context could be any range of insults. Or just really mean/tough.
A really common thing in manga and anime is to slap the subject at the end of the sentence for impact like --
“Dare da… Kisama?”
Who are you… bastard?
Kind of words awkwardly sometimes (a lot of the time) -- especially when they run across multiple bubbles or across pages…. Where they set up a phrase with the “punchline” on the next phrase, but the English just doesn’t work that way. (I’ve talked about this before as well.)
In manga and anime, characters tend to have pretty defined characteristics. This helps them be recognized and exaggerate their personality. They almost always have set ways that they will refer to other characters. If Yuno, Asta’s rival, 99.99% of the time is either calling him an insult or referring to him as “Kisama”, then when he’s being sincere and heartfelt in that 0.01% of the time, he’ll switch it up and call him by his name properly and it’ll be much more meaningful.
Or the classic Tsundere archetype can even switch up how they refer to people depending if they’re in Tsun or Dere mode, which also helps readers distinguish which they are at the moment. Of course there are there tsundere that keep the insults up in dere mode as well, but something about the speech is usually different. Often it’s a dialog point too, “Did you just call me ‘anta’? What happened to ‘temee’?” at which point they’ll blush and double down into tsun mode.
If it’s a possibility, I think it’s always nice to clarify and point out these interactions via translator notes, but depending on the format (Official subtitles and releases, etc), that’s not a possibility -- which I think is a shame. Nobody’s forcing you to read translator notes. Even in official releases, rather… /especially/ in official releases where so much gets trimmed and cut for brevity and localization, it’d be great to have a page or two or three or four after each chapter explaining what got changed.
There are many official releases that tend to turn every dialog box into a summary of what was said rather than a translation, and removing anything that might not be fully grasped by a Western Audience, or any references to anything outside of the series.
Oof that’s a whole other rant, and I’ve been going on way too long as usual.
Gonna call it here and go get some lunch!
We’ve got the basics out of the way so now we can get into some more fun topics without needing a primer before each point! I haven’t decided exactly to write about next week yet. If you ever have any questions or anything you’d like to hear about, you can always click the title of the post to comment!
And as always, I stream 5 days a week on twitch at
Currently playing through Yakuza 5 HD Remaster and Live Translating -- almost done though! On the Second to last chapter.
Thanks for reading my posts and thanks for reading Mangastream! Take care!
Guess what time it is? Yup! Time to get derailed from my scheduled topics and talk about other stuff!
So as I’m doing this blogs weekly and still trying to come up with a format that works and that I’m always interested in writing, I think I’ll be sticking to having a loose schedule of things I’d like to talk about (and will get to eventually), but postponing it if anything pops up interesting to talk about -- usually from either the chapters I translate weekly, the games I stream and translate while playing on the daily, or just random stuff that happens that week.
So this week I thought I’d derail our ongoing topic with a fun little thing I bumped into last night while streaming Yakuza 5 HD Remaster.
There’s a chapter where you play as an idol (which is, IMO, the best Idol Simulator in any game ever. [email protected] needs to get on this level.), living her life, rehearsals, show appearances, fan events, everything -- in addition to the main plot, ofc.
One of the side quests involves bumping into a bunch of fans on the street, and they all crowd around and ask for autographs, so you agree to sign stuff for all of them. It plays out kind of like a minigame, where each person tells you their name and gives a description of what kanji are used, and you’ve got to multiple choice select the right kanji.
This ties back in a bit to my post about names in Japanese. There’s so many readings for every kanji, and especially when it comes to names where people can be a bit creative and expressive, they can “spell” a name with whichever kanji they want that name to mean. ESPECIALLY in manga and anime, where names can try to be cool or represent the character in some way. Like a name “Touya” could be 遠矢 literally “far” and “arrow”, a far-flying arrow (and the same kanji could also be used as a name and pronounced “Enya” -- also interesting, because in Jojo, there was the old woman named Enya after the New Age band, but she’s got her special arrows that become a plot point later on, and though her name isn’t written with kanji, it could have that implication.)
Touya could also be 塔谷 for tower valley, I mean… the list goes on and on even for common ones. Or you can get into anime-ish names like 刀夜 or 十夜 (Blade Night and Ten Nights) still pronounced Touya.
Usually with names if no reading is given, you’ll probably be guessing the most “common” reading of that name, though in manga -- even in seinen manga where furigana (readings for kanji) are not commonplace or visual novels where they’re almost never present, upon introducing a character for the first time, they’ll give the reading for their name.
So, back to this quest --
The first guy comes up and says “My name is Ichirou, written with “ichi” as in the number and “rou” like the usual one you’d use for a name.” -- and among your choices, 一郎 is one of them. Though they’ll throw in at least one to trip you up, this time it was “一朗” which of course, also reads “Ichirou”.
The second was a woman who says “My name is ‘Misaki’, written with beautiful (utsukushii), bloomed (saita), and princess (ohimesama).” -- Of course, when she says what they’re written with, the game doesn’t display it in kanji, but just in hiragana.
Utsukushii is written 美しい and the 美 part is very common in female names, since it means beauty. Usually carries the reading of “mi”, though the other reading of this kanji is “bi” as in 美少女 (bishoujo) or 美少年 (bishounen). There’s no rule as to why it’s bishoujo and not mishoujo. You just learn these things. (PS. Don’t say Mishoujo. It’s not a thing.)
So her name is 美咲姫, though 美咲 by itself could already be read as “Misaki” (and Miki, and Misa.) There’s a fair amount of female names that start with 美咲 which would mean beautiful bloom by itself.
Third guy says he’s “Toshio” (meow). So when describing what kanji a name is made up with, if the kanji isn’t described like “ya as in night” or “ichi as in the number” like the above, they’ll cite an example where that kanji is used. Like in this case, Toshio says his name is written with びんかんの「びん」and おすめすの「おす」which means the “bin” from binkan (which means perceptive/aware, quick-witted, alert, etc.) and the “osu” from “osumesu”. Osu/Mesu means Male/Female, though almost always used for animals or non-human things. If you called a girl a “mesu” you almost assuredly wouldn’t be saying it in a nice way (or maybe you were calling her a scalpel… or a… mess…?) You may also see “mesu” a lot if you read… ermm… certain independently published fan-made manga… often times with characters from popular series… ummm… often in… less characteristic scenarios?... ummm… yeah, you get it. Usually in those scenarios it kinda gets used like to describe someone as being just kinda animalistic like “a b*tch in heat.” (yes, I’ve translated all kinds of things in the past…)
So “binkan” is written 敏感, and the bin part is 敏 (the latter part, kan, means feeling. As a suffix in words, it usually denotes some kind of feeling or emotion or sense). -- now, this kanji doesn’t actually have a reading of “toshi” apart from in names. Why that is? I’m not sure, I’m sure someone knows -- maybe it’s an outdated reading, or maybe someone famous had it as their name once and it stuck? There are lots of super unique readings for names out there, maybe we’ll get into that some other day.
Though you may know man/woman as 男(otoko) and 女(onna), Osu and Mesu are 雄 and 雌, though these kanji are not super common -- you’ll normally just see them written out as オス and メス. In this case it’s just taking 雄 with the reading of “o”.
So, Toshio is 敏雄 - an alert/aware/perceptive male. The multiple choices in this case gave other readings for Toshio like 敏男 which on top of having the same reading, has pretty much the same meaning. 利雄, 敏夫, etc. There’s a massive number of ways to write the name “Toshio” like most other names.
The next guy comes up and says his name is “Ryouma” just like /the/ Ryouma, he says. To which your character understands to be Sakamoto Ryouma -- an important historical figure during the Bakumatsu of Japan/ending of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
That’s all the info the game gives you, but his name is written as dragon and horse. 龍馬. Among your multiple choices is also 竜馬 which is read as “Ryouma” and which means… dragon and horse. Yay.
According to the dialog that follows in the game, there was a story and a drama about Sakamoto Ryouma in which the main character’s name was 竜馬 among other things. It went on to say that it can be a common mistake as to how his name is actually written because of this, but the name in actuality is 龍馬.
Yup, two ways in Japanese in write Dragon. (Simplified Chinese has another even).
The last one is a little kid who says his name is “Kirari” written with the ‘ki’ from ‘kirei’ (pretty/beautiful), the ‘ra’ from ‘Ashura’(like the mythological demigods… bruh.), and the ‘ri’ from ‘ruri’(Lapis Lazuli).
Needless to say, the last two words/kanji are much less common. I know Ashura ‘cause I’m a nerd and play tons of video games. I only vaguely if at all could recall the kanji for ‘ruri’ from doing Dr. Stone -- though the character Ruri in it doesn’t write her name with kanji, though she is named after Lapis Lazuli.
The main character literally gives the pikachu blank stare to the kid and says “Ehrm… do /you/ actually know how to write this in kanji?” (and the kid responds “duh, it’s my own name. Besides they’re not even hard.” just to make her feel bad.)
綺麗(kirei - beautiful) 綺 - ki
阿修羅(ashura/asura - mythological demigod(s)) 羅 - ra
瑠璃(ruri - Lapis Lazuli) 璃 - ri
They definitely try to be mean on the multiple choice on this one. The right answer, 綺羅璃 is right next to 綺羅瑠 (the other kanji from ruri, which I guess would end up reading Kiruru?). Just in case you only vaguely remembered how to write it.
The 羅 from Ashura by itself could mean gauze or thin silk, or relating to Rome, or arranged/spread.
So I guess this name could be beautifully arranged lapis lazuli?
Oof. It was a fun little quest we went through last night. You may be wondering -- How in the world do you translate a quest like that to localize it to an American audience? Well… you… don’t.
In the original non-remaster version of this game that did get an American localization, this quest pretty much went “Hi, could you make my autograph out to ‘John’?”
Then the multiple choice would have “Jon, John, Jhon, Jawn, Johnny” and assuming you had some semblance of short term memory, you just picked whatever they told you one second ago. Since there’s no way to write out the name in English without… well… writing it out.
There’s a handful of things throughout the Yakuza/龍が如く game series that just don’t translate at all, and they had to do some localization gymnastics to weave into the game still. It’s been a great experience playing through the whole series in Japanese and getting to see the game in its original form. As a translator, I love to see how other people have approached their translations. While I obviously don’t always agree, as long as they had intent in what they did and actually cared and put effort in, I always respect their work.
I always feel as though no matter how much you may want a translation that’s totally literal, anything translated work you read will always be through the filter and voice of the person translating it. This has been true long, long before manga and anime. Great works of literature often get multiple passes of translation, with scholars debating over how things should have been translated and what nuances were intact in the original.
Even in music, the works of many early composers, particularly in the Baroque era, were written without any phrasing present in the manuscript. You can usually find these “raw” manuscripts available, like in Bach’s case, as what are known as the Urtext editions. Otherwise every single publisher that prints Bach’s music will study the score, applying what they’ve studied and how they interpret the piece to put their own vision and understanding of everything from phrasing and dynamics to the tempo of the piece on it. Not everyone has the time to study the Baroque Era to such a degree that they could come up with a solid interpretation of a Bach piece, and maybe not everyone wants to create their own interpretation. Either way, what you get is “translated” by someone with a (presumed) understanding of the source material into something more easily communicated and understandable.
Anyways -- I could literally do endless posts about Japanese names, especially ones in manga/anime, but I’ll end this one here as I’ve once again been running on for way too long! We’ll be back on topic again next week!
Thank you as always for reading mangastream and for reading my posts! You can click on the post title to comment if you’d like to discuss anything, or you can come by and check out my streams on twitch.tv at
I’m still streaming through Yakuza 5 (龍が如く５) HD Remaster and translating on-the-fly 5 nights a week (every night except Monday and Thursday). It’s a long game, but it’s a masterpiece!
Until next week then! Take care and stay cool everyone! (ugh, heat sucks.)
DzyDzyDino back again!
Before we get started today, I’d like to take a moment for the victims of the Kyoto Animation arson and their families. Seriously tragic, seriously sad. Sending out love you!
I’m sure any segue after that will be awkward, but oh well.
Picking up from the week before last, I was talking about ways to refer to yourself and to another person.
These are really useful clues in translation as they all form the nuance of a character’s “voice.” Are they a macho guy? Are they a tomboyish girl? Are they effeminate and narcissistic? Perhaps they’re traditional and sheltered? How a character refers to themselves and others in their speech can be a very personality-defining trait in manga and anime, or anything character driven.
Though not manga, you may have heard of the big controversy when Undertale got an official Japanese translation because the way one of the main characters referred to himself in the fan translation up until that point was different than what the official translation chose to use, and thus gave an entirely different feel and image to that character in many players’ eyes.
As translators, we use all the “clues” available to us to form how we “hear” a character’s voice so that we can localize it appropriately and preserve that same “voice” in English. These are interesting because they don’t translate to English, and yet they’re used in the translation -- much like the -san, -kun, -chan, -sama, etc suffixes I went over 2 weeks ago. They’re often omitted in translations, but they’re always taken into account.
The next few weeks (unless I get distracted again), I’d like to go over a lot of the more obvious and common transparent “clues” that are present.
I’m going to go over many of the ways to refer to oneself, but keep in mind many of the examples I’m citing here are not real world ones but common manga/anime tropes, or real world stereotypes (that manga/anime would draw from). Often they overlap with reality, but clearly they’re exaggerated at times.
How a character refers to themselves.
If you’ve taken Japanese I, loaded up a minute of a language learning app, seen a website about Japanese, listened along to the Japanese while reading subtitles, anything… you’ve probably heard or learned “Watashi” 「私/わたし」for “I”.
This is your standard “I” and generally not gender-specific, though leans towards feminine. If you were a guy “hanging out with the guys” -- other male friends that you were close with -- it might seem somewhat effeminate, but safe.
In manga, you generally don’t have people speaking politely to each other. “Pardon me, kind sir. You were responsible for my older brother slaughtering my entire family and extended family. That was quite rude. Please hold still while I poke you with a stick until you cease to breathe.” -- it’s not happening.
In a situation like that, if a male character referred to himself as “watashi”, it would be a conscious decision by the writer and thus probably be some clue into how that character thinks and what his speech should sound like.
Another way to say “I” is “Boku” 「僕/ぼく/ボク」(as in Boku no Hero Academia). This is more casual than “watashi” and much more gender specific -- 99% of the time you hear it, it’ll be a guy saying it. This is, of course, historically how it’s been. Nowadays with gender norms being a lot more free, you could hear a girl saying it -- though even then it would probably give the impression of someone a little more tomboyish or “stronger-willed.”
There’s a handful of female singers that refer to themselves as “boku” in their lyrics as well
Younger boys will often use this. Middle-aged mama’s boy NEET will almost always use this, too (giving that immature vibe, as younger kids would also commonly use it).
Again, the stereotypes and common perceptions these words invoke are important as translators because not only is that how most readers would interpret the character, but it’s generally the author’s intent when making those choices. It’s not black or white, and you have to take the sum of all the parts to really get at the nuances. “This girl said ‘boku’ so she’s instantly so-and-so” -- you’d have to look at everything.
Moving down the politeness ladder and into casual, you’ve got the decidedly masculine “ore” 「俺/おれ/オレ」which is also pretty decidedly “not polite.” -- not “rude”, just “casual”. Though if you use this one in the wrong situation, it certainly can be rude. If you walked into work and said “I’m takin’ tomorrow off” and referred to yourself as “ore”, probably wouldn’t be a very pretty scene.
Again, it’s much more masculine. Though using it inappropriately kinda summons the image of a delinquent or a thug. Like strolling up on the street to a random person and referring to yourself as “ore.”
So on a super simple level, whether a male character refers to himself among friends as “boku” or “ore” would give indications about his tone. Talking to a superior, if he still used “ore” that would give even more indications. If talking to a girl or someone he likes, he suddenly changes and refers to himself as “boku” that could mean something else as well.
Watashi to dokka tabe ni ikou ka? - 私とどっか食べに行こうか？
Would you like to go somewhere and get something to eat [with me]?
Boku to dokka tabe ni ikou ka? - 僕とどっか食べに行こうか？
Do you want to get something to eat somewhere [with me]?
Ore to dokka tabe ni ikou ka? - 俺とどっか食べに行こうか？
How about grabbin’ a bite somewhere [with me]?
The way the rest is worded in Japanese would probably change slightly in each of those too, but I left it strictly the same just to give an exaggerated example. Also, if this phrase was actually dialog, I’d probably omit the “with me” if it was someone talking just to someone else -- unless of course they were trying to invite this person out on a date or flirt with them, in which case I’d leave the “somewhere” out and include the “with me.” Having both in the phrase makes it sound a bit unwieldy and kind of awkward. Even the “somewhere” is a little awkward as is, but again… just trying to make a point with it.
Just a simple phrase like this could be changed depending on a simple word and how the character talks.
Those are probably the most common ways to say “I” you’ll see, but that’s nowhere near a complete list.
Watakushi (also written as 「私」- you’ll only know which by the reading given) is a more formal “I” -- public announcements, job interviews, etc… -- in manga it’s often people of higher social/power standing trying to speak humbly but respectfully -- though you get the characters that use it and talk in a humble bragging way too.
Uchi 「うち」-- this one is kind of common too. Depending on how you’re using it, much more effeminate. It can mean we/us/our (company), but girls will also use it as “I” -- I think this one might be Kansai dialect though. (uchi means other things too, but just sticking to the pronouns for now)
Atashi 「あたし」- The “cuter” female version of “watashi.” -- Everything from a girly girl, to a cutesy moe monster might use this. Though it’s pretty common in manga for the cuter or more unique characters to come up with their own ways to refer to themselves. Like “Achishi” and so on...
There’s weird ones that you’ll take into account sometimes.
Washi 「わし」is Watashi again but usually only old characters say it.
Ware/wareware 「我/我々」for some reason this always pops up with some incarnation, spirit, or alien introducing themselves and talking like they’re some greater being.
If a character refers to themselves as "Ore-sama" - it means they’re a cocky bastard.
You don’t refer to yourself with suffixes like -san, -kun… unless I guess you’re going for that Big D Energy… and the girls that refer to themselves in third person might sometimes tag the -chan on it too because why be a little extra when you can just be completely extra.
The “Ore-sama” can actually be pretty hard to translate if it’s in a bubble by itself. If you don’t have any other words to try and play up how cocky and arrogant of a jerk someone is being apart from “Me” sometimes that’s all you can do and hope the mood and art carries it. What else can you do? “It me, muddafukka.” “Guess who? Me, bitch!” “Whodat, whodat, whodat? It’s ya boi!!!!” ugh… why...
There’s still a ton more, but my point was to focus on the translation aspect of it and not the language. I’m sure there’s no shortage of study resources out there if you’re interested though.
Before I end for today, now that we broached the subject of politeness in speech, something I didn’t talk about when I talked about suffixes like -san, -kun, and -chan was the concept of “yobisute” (呼び捨て).
If you’ve just met someone, just been introduced, whatever -- you’re expected to speak politely and appropriately according to your station/position, be it rank, power, grade, age, whatever’s relevant.
Though the act of getting to know someone happens naturally (ideally), you’ll all too often see a scene in manga (especially shojo) where it’ll usually get translated to “Do you mind if I refer to you informally?” or “Can you refer to me by my (first) name?” - which usually implies that “we’re more than just regular acquaintances now, I’m now among this person’s closer friends who can speak to them casually!” which makes it a kind of teenage romantic moment in those series that can get overlooked easily - there’s no real good way to sum up everything that comes with that, and saying “Can I refer to you informally?” doesn’t carry that weight.
That concept of dropping the suffixes which also usually implies speaking informally is “呼び捨て”
There will be characters in manga that just speak casually to everyone, even their superiors -- and as a comedic point will constantly get chewed out for it. Or maybe in the heat of a panicked moment, one character will forget and refer to someone casually. The other character will chew them out for it even though they’re in a life-or-death situation, which usually goes along with the “follows all the rules to an obsessive fault” archetype. Or the “demands respect and won't take any crap” archetype.
Ooof, that ran on long! Next week I’d like to get into ways to refer to “you” and also how that reflects on the translation of characters’ speech.
As always, you can click on the title of the post to leave a comment! If you enjoy these posts or this topic, or want to chime in, please comment and let me know!
You can also drop by my stream at http://www.twitch.tv/dzydzydino -- Currently playing through the Yakuza 5 HD Remaster in Japanese and translating on the fly. Started working on some piano covers of video game/anime music, and also playing some Auto Chess recently as well, and a bunch of other random roguelikes/lites and indies.
Until next week! Take care and thanks for reading mangastream!
It is Wednesday, my dudes.
DzyDzyDino here again!
I had originally wanted to continue last week's topic of referring to oneself and others, and how that affects dialog, but this week’s chapter of Dr. Stone was… oof. So let's talk about that and related topics instead! Wheee!
This week's chapter revolved around deciphering a message written in pictures, which meant it was going to be Japanese-word-specific.
So, unless I wanted to make up my own story and dialog for 4-5 pages (which might end up having repercussions down the road if any future chapter references this), the only way to translate this was with gratuitous translator notes and just leaving it as is.
They have to figure out different possibilities for what each picture could be and then how them together into a message, which involves taking the first or first few “characters”/syllables of each word.
Semi-spoiler ahead (If you follow Dr. Stone, read this week's chapter first before reading this!)
The first picture was of plastic, and in Japanese, that’s “purasuchikku” -- easy enough. I thought there was some hope. They’re taking the “Pura” from Japanese, so we could take the “Pla” from English.
Second was a blood splat. “Chi” in Japanese. They even give an explanation about the blood and tie it into the deduction, so I couldn’t just substitute another word for blood.
Next was a guy with a long spear, and they discuss all the possibilities in Japanese too, which means I’d have to omit that all if I wanted to fake an English version of this. The word ends up as “long”, or “nagai”.
Then an engine that was used as a furnace for “warm” or “attakai.”
The final deduction ends at “Pura Chi Naga Atta” or “Purachina ga atta" which means "Platinum found.", or "We Found Platinum.", "The Platnium is Here", anything along those lines. I thought I could get away with maybe having it just be "Platinum", but there was no way I was going to warp the rest of the pictures into that without writing an entire narrative about how those images meant these words.
The plastic can stay "plastic", the blood splat could be a splattered "tick"?, and the guy holding the spear was standing still so long he went... "numb"?... and then the engine... instead of warm, "hot"? so "PlaTiNum, Ho!"
I mean, yeah... but no. Especially cause they described a lot of why these images were exactly what they were.
This wasn’t the topic I intended for today, but it was so immediate I thought I’d write about it.
There are times when things are specifically Japanese language based, usually word game stuff (for some reason, series love to have a shiritori word game part -- the No Game No Life one was great!) which can be really difficult or impossible to do unless you take a lot of liberties.
Wordplay is always a handful, especially if a character misunderstands something because of a Japanese homonym that doesn’t exist in English. Even if a word just sounds similar in Japanese, you’re left looking for something similar.
Sometimes you get really lucky with wordplay, as there are a lot of English loanwords in Japanese (like the aforementioned "Plastic").
I’m going through the Yakuza game series right now (I’m on the HD Remaster of 5), and there’s a character, Saejima Taiga (冴島 大河) and the motif for the tattoo on his back is a tiger. Taiga, Tiger. Don’t really have to do anything there. Meanwhile, the main character Kazuma Kiryu (一馬 桐生) has a Dragon on his back, and that doesn’t translate so well. Although he doesn’t have 竜 or 龍 (Dragon) as the reading for the “ryuu” in his name, the homonym is there.
Another game series that had a never-ending legion of wordplay names was the Phoenix Wright aka Ace Attorney aka 逆転裁判 series. The translation team for that game decided to go hard on localizing it and make all the places, names, jokes and references English ones. They made their stylistic choice and put in a lot of hard work to make it come together, and in my opinion, they did a great job. The dialog has the same vibe as the original even if the lines are different.
As an example, there’s a character in the first game by the name of Konaka Masaru, and the writing for his name is 小中大 which is small, medium, large. They localized him to Redd White (in charge of a company called Bluecorp -- incidentally, the company he’s in charge of in the Japanese game is called Konakaruchaa, a spoonerism of Konaka and Culture)
Jokes, especially pop culture references, are another one that can be difficult to translate. You can leave them intact in which case it’s not funny, or you can localize it to something equivalent in English. There’s definitely no right or wrong to that decision and it’s on a per-situation basis, in my opinion.
If someone says “Man, he slammed that guy like Antonio Inoki!” -- is it better to swap in something like The Rock or Hulk Hogan or another wrestler? It’s not that people might not know who he is, it’s wanting the reference to have the same impact and scale as the original. If you follow wrestling or Japanese wrestling, sure, you might know who Inoki is, but your average reader would miss what was meant to be just a quick, light little joke.
Obviously if it’s a wrestling or fighting manga, and they’re talking about specific fighters for a reason, then you shouldn’t change it straight up (in my opinion, of course.) -- probably not the greatest example, but hopefully you get the idea.
Number play, or Goro-awase, is another one that really just doesn’t translate. It’s writing out words and messages using numbers. A super easy one would be “39” (san kyuu - thank you). These pop up a lot in manga and games, sometimes as cheeky little references and easter eggs - be it a character’s ID number, or maybe someone’s stats in an RPG, phone number in a dating sim… they pop up relatively often.
At the little omake section of Danganronpa V3, the prices of things at the student store were all goro-awase in some form or another. I can’t remember all of them completely, but I think one that had to do with Monokuma ended with “4696” 4=shi 6=ro 9=ku 6=ro, for white/black (or innocent/guilty).
In Yakuza 0 you have a pager and regular get messages via goro-awase. The first one you get is 724106 which translates to 7 = na, 2 = ni, 4 = shi, 10 = ten, 6 = の (no), or “nani shiten no?” - w’sup? Whatcha doin? What’re you up to?
As you'd expect, these don't get translated often, and especially not directly. These cute little asides and Easter Eggs remain lost to most Western audiences, unfortunately. Even if a translator means to translate them all, not every last Japanese reader will catch them, so there's always the chance the translator misses one too.
Anyways, got steered off-topic this week. Got a busy day today, so I'll leave it at that for now! We’ll get back to what I wanted to talk about next week! Thanks as always for reading our scans!
You can catch my twitch channel as usual at
Streaming Puzzle & Dragons daily, along with live translating through the Yakuza 5 HD Remaster. If you’d like to chat manga/anime/Japanese/whatever, feel free to stop by!
PS: I also had a rant about Netflix I was going to post, but really didn’t want to just slap it on the front page. I’m posting it as a sticky in the comment section to this. If you want to read it or comment, you can just click on the title of the post as usual! -- trying to post but the comment section is acting up for me. I'll post it later, or maybe next week I suppose. Just ranting about badly done subtitles on Netflix/CR, and some examples. Nothing too exciting.
See you all next week!
Happy Independence Day to all our American Readers, and Happy Belated Canada Day to our Canadian Readers! (And just Happy Days in general to the rest of you!)
DzyDzyDino back again!
Anime Expo (in California) is this weekend! Originally I planned to be there the whole time, but likely I’ll only make it out a day or so. Any new series or releases you’re all excited for?
I'm gonna keep this week's post a bit shorter as it's a holiday week (I always say that, never ends up short though...)
There's a lot of ways to refer to oneself, as well as someone else in Japanese. These are normally transparent in translations, though ideally none of the meaning or nuance that it implied would be lost. I wanted to dedicate a few posts to this topic, as I think sometimes it can be pretty important.
We'll start with a point that a lot of people are really divided on. Keeping honorifics like -san, -kun, -chan, -sama, and the like intact versus cutting them.
I would say the majority of people and the majority of series do cut them, though there are some translators that are partial to keeping them in. As a reader, how do you feel about this?
Just in case you were unaware, unless you’re quite familiar and casual with someone, you’ll usually be referring to them with some kind of honorific on their name. Also depending on your familiarity with them, you’d be referring to them by last name and not first.
As a broad generalization, -san usually gets equated to “Mr. or Ms./Mrs.” and is a pretty general formal way to greet someone new.
“Pleased to meet you, Smith-san.”
“Go sit somewhere else, Uzumaki-san.”
“Hello, totally-not-Urameshi-San, Kurosaki-san.”
The “kun” ending is more friendly and familiar. You’d use it with (male) friends, people you’re more familiar with, younger colleagues, all kinds of situations.
“-chan” is similar to “kun” but usually for girls. It can get used outside of girls, though it’s somewhat “cutesy” and somewhat diminutive, akin to putting an -ie or -y at the end of a name sometimes. It’ll get used for nicknames and the like even with males. Hachi from One Piece was Hacchan (Sometimes romanized as Hatchan). It’s much more common to have a female refer to a male this way as opposed to males amongst themselves, not that there would be anything “wrong” language-wise with it, but that’s just the norm.
“-sama” is used for someone of a higher standing to respect or honor them. Kings, lords, masters, gods, owners, and anyone you’re putting up on that pedestal. So you’ll see fandoms refer to their idol with a -sama quite commonly. There’s the classic maid referring to their master with a “Goshuujin-sama”. Though not to be confused with “Kisama” which… would be the opposite of honoring someone. :3
There’s a handful of other endings, like “-dono” which is a dated one you’ll see in period pieces a lot and much more like “Sir” in the medieval context. Sometimes you’ll have an eccentric character that uses this, along with other period-specific language which almost always gets translated into a series of “I art” “Thou hast” “Dost thou love me, but thou must!” “Dost thou love me, then I am happy!”
What’s the point of bringing these up? Well, obviously we don’t use these in English. Sure, we sometimes refer to people as Mr. ____ or Ms. _____, but if you had two classmates and one turned to the other like “Mr. Smith, can I borrow a pencil?” it would stand out as completely odd.
Leaving them out entirely is generally the normal practice, as leaving them intact doesn’t really offer too much and can be distracting to some readers. Leaving things intact for the sake of having them there is a slippery slope that ends with “All according to Keikaku (Keikaku means plan)”.
Ideally you would understand how comfortable or respectful someone is towards someone else based on the tone of their speech, and so the translator should put effort into the dialog to illustrate that.
Sometimes it does become a specific point of drama or character development how someone refers to someone else. Whether it’s a shy girl that refuses to address even her closest friends by anything except their last name + -san and finally after months and months of chapters, drops the -san -- that would have massive impact and it would be hard to illustrate it in the same way if the honorific had been omitted the whole time.
A little sister that refers to her brother as "Onii-san" instead of "Onii-chan" would have different nuances in how she spoke to him. Same with a boy referring to his mom as "Kaa-san" versus "Okaa-san" versus "Kaa-chan". Sometimes there are also character-specific traits that a reader would attribute to that person. "Ahh, he's the kind of guy that has a really close and casual friendly relationship with his mom and always calls her "Kaa-chan".
I’m a bit on the fence about omitting honorifics entirely. If they play a huge constant part in a specific series, then of course, I think they should be left in. Otherwise, I believe it’s the translators job to read into any meaning or nuance that may be carried by the honorifics and make sure that meaning isn’t lost when omitting.
If someone speaks to someone in a more belittling way, and that would be illustrated by the honorific or lack of, then that should be shown in the language they use. It’s “more work” and is something that wouldn’t work with a word-for-word translation, but that’s kind of the point IMO.
Keep in mind, you would not use these to refer to yourself in 99.99% of cases. Of course, you’ve got obnoxiously cute characters that will refer to themselves in the third person and often with the -chan attached. You’ve also got the hyper-alpha-cocky-jerkface who will refer to himself as “Kono Dio-Sama Ga” or the classic “Ore-sama”.
I keep meaning to keep these posts shorter and more concise. So I’ll leave this here for this week. Next week, I’d like to continue this topic and talk about the different ways to refer to oneself and someone else. It’s something that is transparent in translations, because that concept doesn’t exist in English, and yet it’s something that is taken into account in determining how a character speaks.
I’ll try to have some examples prepared for the next post, as I think it’s a pretty interesting topic and has more of an effect on the end-result of a translation than you may realize. Different than “How to translate this one word that doesn’t exist in English” as it colors the entire dialog.
Anyways, I recently finished Iga’s new game, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night and am currently playing through the Yakuza 5 / Ryu Ga Gotoku 5 HD Remaster in Japanese and live translating on my stream 5 nights a week. If you’re interested in checking it out or just want to drop by and say hi, you can find me at:
Thanks again for reading, and as always, you can click the title of the post above to comment and discuss! I always read through them, so thanks to everyone that takes the time to say anything!
Enjoy your holiday (if you have one) and see you next week!
Your friendly neighborhood translator DzyDzyDino is here again.
Anime Expo is coming up in 2 weeks - are any of you lovely mangastream readers going to be there? Click the title of the blog post and let us(me?) know in the comments!
Also, Dr. Stone’s anime adaptation begins next month! I love this manga series right now, so I’m hoping it’ll be great!
I just got finished playing through Yakuza 3 and 4’s HD Remasters (龍が如く３ and ４) and live translating through them on stream and it’s all pretty fresh in my head (it’s all I can think about recently).
Apart from a lot of organizational hierarchy, crime, cop, and nightlife/seedy vocabulary coming up regularly, people rarely miss an opportunity to taunt people and talk trash in these games.
So let’s talk about taunts, trash talk, and “cursing” - particularly about translating them.
As always - context, context, context. Most of the time, cursing isn’t cut and dry, and insults are really awkward to literally translate if you’re not reading the situation (or reading the air, as it were :3).
You can probably tell by reading these posts that I tend to favor translations that more accurately convey the “meaning” behind what is said, even if it departs from a literal word-for-word translation. I’ve noticed this topic popping up again this last week with the new dubs and subs for Evangelion out now. Though I haven’t had a chance to watch them myself yet so I can’t make a personal comment, the consensus I’m seeing seems to be it’s a more “literal” translation -- though I’ve seen people also note that it somehow makes it more “accurate”.
The new subs could very well be more accurate, but if they were, it wouldn’t be simply because they were more literal. I’ll have to watch it and see! For those of you that have seen it, what are your thoughts?
Onto the topic!
I'm exagerrating slightly to make a point here, but bear with me.
You may have heard arguments over whether or not curse words exist in Japanese.
Sure, they do. Kinda. Not in the sense that they do in English. There are certainly offensive words, but the vulgarity of *most* of these words can vary depending on its context. It's often not as black and white, though there's certainly words you'll rarely ever hear on daytime TV and words you probably wouldn't say over the dinner table at home. (Or maybe you would. I don't judge.)
The usual argument is that “kuso” means “sh*t”.
It’s an ugly way to say “poop” that can also be used as an expletive and also as a superlative, like how English would use “f**k” and “f**king”.
But it will also pop up in situations and things for younger audiences that you wouldn’t dream of “sh*t” appearing in. If “kuso” were to get translated to “sh*t” unconditionally every single time it appeared, you’d have a lot of really jarringly weird lines out there.
Vegeta to everyone ever: “You drippy sh*t motherf*cking bastard sh*thead b*tch!!”
Not weird to hear someone say something is "kuso umai" or "kuso mazui" in describing how good or bad something tastes.
Hanakuso means booger, but we're not gonna be weird literal and call it "nose sh*t" are we?
What about Mr. 5 from One Piece with his booger cannon? If kuso got translated to sh*t every time it was said in those chapters, it could compete with South Park - though some characters in OP can be a bit vulgar anyways, so maybe not the best example. :3
(Fun random fact: Mr. 5's trademark attack was the Nose Fancy Cannon, written as 鼻空想砲 which means 鼻 Nose (Hana) 空想 Fancy/Fantasy (Kuusou) 砲 Cannon (Hou) which sounds like "hanakuso".)
How about every single time someone refers to some tough love father figure as a “kusojiji”?
“Kusogaki” kinda works as “little sh*t” but depending on the (broken record) series and context, it would be jarring to just toss it out there as well.
People tend to feel very divided about profanity in translations anyways. Different people also interpret profanity at different levels of offensive and jarring. Is it better to just always literally translate what could possibly be a vulgarity as such, even if it's not fitting for the series and will alienate readers?
You can have a character say, "I hope your family dies of cancer and chokes up blackened lungs which you then choke on before tumbling head-first into traffic." but if a character says "Fu*k!" then suddenly it's vulgar.
Okay steering back on topic -
Now, in Japanese there's not really that much a variety of 悪口 (sh*t talk). If you listed like 100 different ways to call someone an idiot and asked someone to translate them to Japanese, they'd all end up as the same two or three words.
Fiddlesticks! -> Kuso!
Damnit! -> Kuso!
Crap! -> Kuso!
Sh*t! -> Kuso!
Holy fu*kb*lls! -> Kuso!
D*ckspankingmotherf*ckingweaselr**ingchasmsphincter! -> Kuso!
(That's not to say people don't get really creative sometimes. At game centers, I've heard people being called nuclear waste and mold juice and all kinds of weird things -- gotta keep them insults fresh.)
But because of this, when we translate insults and exclamations back to English, we need to add character and individuality back to them, otherwise they come off as extra stale and awkward.
Let’s just look at something super simple everyone knows: 馬鹿 or バカ or baka.
Here’s a couple tropes with an example cliche line using baka. I’ll give put the usual translation and possible (boring) alternatives (which may not be better, but just as an example of possible alternatives.).
A girl playfully calling out her SO for teasing her「もう～バカ ♥」(mou~ baka <3)
Literal: Jeez~ stupid <3 vs. You’re such a dummy <3 or You big bully <3
Assuming the purpose here is just to express the flirty frustration, it's better to fill in a line that conveys the same thing. Flirting takes different forms in different languages - depending on the line, literally translating could lose some of that.
A top ten anime betrayal in the midst of a battle [このバカがぁ！！」(kono baka gaa!!)
Literal: You idiot!! Vs. How could you?! Or Have you lost your mind?!
An example of how you could spin it differently. Again, really hard to back it up without context, but just throwing an example out there. There’s always that cliche scene where the character is so disappointed and calls them out for being stupid out of love like “Do you have any idea what you’ve done?!” or “You can’t possibly be so stupid that you would do this!”
The ol’ “where did he go? behind you!” taunt [こっちだよ バ～カ」(Kocchi da yo, baaaka!)
Literal: Over here, Stuuupid!! Vs Where ya lookin’, slowpoke? Or Looking for me, s#*t-for-brains?
Yeah, the last one was extra silly. But the line itself is silly. It’s the kind of thing a cartoon character would say or someone just over the top and eccentric. The line should stand out a bit for being over-the-top, but not simply because it sounds awkwardly worded.
The deadpan response after an idiotic statement [お前バカだね。」 (Omae, baka da ne.)
Literal: You’re a fool, right? Vs. You. Are. An. Idiot. Or You complete, utter moron.
If it was a manzai duo, the boke/gag man would say something completely off the wall, and then the tsukkomi/straight man (if they weren’t smacking them on the head) would probably pause and make a straight-faced assessment like this. If it’s supposed to be funny, make it funny. A lot of the humor in Japanese comedy comes from the timing and delivery, but it doesn’t always translate directly - so make it funny in English. (probably a topic for another post)
Or the classic tsundere little sister upset at her older brother for not understanding her feelings 「お兄ちゃんのバカ！」 (Onii-chan no baka!)
Literal: Older brother is such a fool! Vs. I hate you! Or You suck! Or You big dummy!!
This one is such a manga/anime trope, it’s hard to transfer the situation to anything resembling reality. Would really depend on the situation and the character. Addressing someone directly as Brother or Sister in place of “you” is awkward in English, leave alone Older/Younger Brother or Sister. There’s really no way to make that not awkward. English just doesn’t work that way.
Obviously some of these were extra liberal and done to kind of make a point, though they could all be possible given the right situation.
One of the issues is in English (and most other languages), there is a veritable smorgasbord of words we can use to insult someone. With so many to choose from, each carries different nuances with them.
For example, If a character called someone a “punk,” you might picture someone a bit rougher and tougher.
If they said, “imbecile”, you might picture some arrogant intellectual-type.
If someone said something like “No, silly!” you might picture a playful girl.
These instances could very well pop up with just “baka”, but the character saying the line and the context in which it’s being said would change the translation.
Another one that pops up all the time is やばい “yabai”.
If you ever see a line in a manga or anime get translated to, “This is bad.” it is almost certainly “yabai” being lazily translated (I’ve been guilty of this myself as well.)
It can be used as an expletive like “oh, crap” but could also mean “awesome!” or “insane!”. It could mean dangerous, like a tough 6’4” guy tatted up, missing a pinky, scars on his face, whatever comes sauntering down the street -- that dude looks seriously yabai.
Or maybe you’re playing a fighting game, and some character has a move with just way too much priority and damage that’s just totally imbalanced. That move would be straight up yabai.
We have words like that a bit in English too:
Bad meaning bad or bad meaning good.
Sick meaning ill or sick meaning bad (meaning good).
Busted meaning broken or hideous, or busted meaning overpowered (meaning sick meaning bad meaning good :3)
And even though “yabai” is not technically a “curse word”, there are times it could definitely be translated to f**k or s#*t if the context called for it. Making that moment and intent mean the same thing in English (or whatever language you’re translating to) is the key.
With words like these that are a bit “slang” and still in use, depending on who’s saying it and the situation and setting, it could change from a cliche line, to profanity, to straight up memes.
If you’re going to really translate the nuances of a line and a character, it really does come back to context is. Translating word-for-word in a vacuum just doesn’t work. That’s why we end up with google translate messes.
In addition to cliche one-liners and taunts that get translated awkwardly, I was gonna do a post about cursing altogether, as translating curse words into manga is often a point people get divided over.
Anyways, this has already run on longer than I expected - I’d like to start breaking this up into slightly shorter posts so that I can get more concrete examples out of manga of each. I’d eventually like to get more specific examples of how more difficult lines were translated and discuss them a bit too.
As always, thanks for reading! I do check the comment section on these posts if you have questions or want to discuss anything ever!
You can always find me on http://www.twitch.tv/dzydzydino (Been running through and love Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night recently, and still playing Cadence of Hyrule - planning to start Yakuza 5 after Anime Expo!)