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!)
Hi, this is PlumJucie, the head of Impatient Scans (and originally just an average member of Mangastream).
For a while now, you've probably noticed us posting some of our shoujo series here on Mangastream. Well, it's all thanks to Mangastream for graciously sharing their website with us! We don't have a reader, and we just post DDL links on our FB page.
This website isn't built for major floods of releases, so here is the list of series that we're bringing here:
And eventually, when we have more chapters ready:
If you didn't know already, these are the shoujo series we've already been posting here:
As for whether we'll keep up all the chapters we've done, or just do the latest 10 or so, I haven't decided yet. For now, I'm just upping whatever I have. Regardless, the DDLs will be available.
Forgot to mention, this flood is a one-time thing. We'll also be restricting our releases to just Tuesdays to avoid flooding away Jump. (Aside from our big 4.)
Hello again, DzyDzyDino here!
I wanted to talk about Furigana and some of the ways it’s used in manga.
Japanese can be written three ways. Two alphabets and kanji, which are Chinese characters (though they often have different meanings from their Chinese counterparts). Alphabets are alphabets. Collections of characters that individually mean nothing but make phonetic sounds you can put together to make words.
Kanji are “symbols” that each represent different words.
上, 下, 右, 左 = up, down, left, right.
春、夏、秋、冬 = Spring, summer, fall, winter.
赤、青、緑、黒、白 = Red, Blue, Green, Black, White.
Kanji can have multiple readings and these readings can change depending on context.
For example, 力 is read “chikara” and means power or strength.
人 is read “hito” and means person.
人力, however, is not read “hitochikara” but “jinriki” and means manpower (literally person power).
重 read “omo”, normally written out as an adjective as 重い “omoi” means heavy.
But 重力 isn’t read “omochikara”, and it isn’t read “omoriki”. It’s read “juuryoku” and means gravity (heavy power).
That’s at least three different ways to read 力 depending on context. But that’s only one of roughly 2,000 kanji that make up the most commonly used and taught ones.
With so many possible readings for so many kanji, the process of learning all (or most) of them isn’t something that happens overnight. Reading material aimed at younger audiences will almost always have “furigana” or “yomigana”. These are small characters written above (or to the right in the case of vertical oriented writing) the kanji giving the reading. This way you can start to recognize and associate the kanji with its reading and, ideally, eventually remember it.
Furigana gets used for other purposes as well, particularly in manga.
The most common and prevalent example is attack names. No manga would be complete without shouting out names of special attacks as you toss them out. For some reason, these moves always have English names, or German, or French, or Spanish, or something foreign. Sometimes, the name of the attack and the kanji used for have the same meanings.
For example, in Seven Deadly Sins, Merlin has an ability called “Perfect Cube” and it’s written,
完璧なる立方体 which is normally read “kanpeki naru rippoutai” and means “perfect cube”. In the manga, you would see 完璧なる立方体 with パーフェクトキューブ (Paafekuto Kyuubu) written next to it.
Sometimes the attack has a “cool” sounding name that gives one meaning, and then the kanji describes what the attack actually is. For example, back in Joseph Joestar’s younger days, he had a move called “Overdrive” オーバードライブ and the kanji for it was 波紋疾走 (Hamon Shissou).
The kanji literally translate to Ripple Rush or Ripple Dash, though in context of the series, Hamon would be left as Hamon as it’s a proper name of a technique. In this case, he uses this technique to project his Hamon energy out. Overdrive makes it sound like he’s overcharging his hamon energy, and then the kanji leads you to the meaning of him expelling it after charging it up. Also the “high-speed” imagery too.
Hunter X Hunter is an interesting example of all this. Togashi loooooves to have the kanji and the reading have a referential or witty connection rather than be connected by definition.
Let’s take Shalnark/Chrolo’s cellphone ability.
The ability uses a cellphone and antenna to control someone else and is called “Black Voice”, or ブラックボイス (burakku boisu).
It’s written as 携帯する他人の運命 or Keitai Suru Tanin no Unmei, which literally means Portable Someone Else’s Fate. You could probably call it something cool like Portable Fate, Mobile Phate (instead of mobile phone? No? Okay, nvm.), or slightly liberal but long-winded to match the original. “Another’s Fate in Your Hands”.
The portable/handheld part of the ability is what you call a cellphone in Japanese. 携帯電話 or Keitai Denwa: Portable/handheld phone.
Meanwhile Black Voice might give you an idea of a voice whispering sinister commands into someone’s ear, or whatever your imagination wants to do with it.
Another ability he had was called Sun and Moon (サンアンドムーン）with the kanji being 番いの破壊者 normally read Tsugai no Hakaisha and meaning Paired Destroyers or The Destroyer Pair/Couple.
Both parts together describe the ability. He places a sun symbol on one person and a moon symbol on another. When the two make contact, they explode. So, how would you translate that? Well… you don’t. Generally we call the move whatever the reading is. If it’s supposed to be read “Sun and Moon”, the move is called Sun and Moon. Our standard procedure is to put a translator note and say what the meaning of the kanji was.
Furigana can also be used to remind you of things, like again in Hunter X Hunter, the current arc has 14 Princes and remembering which is which can be a headache. Usually when they reference the princes in Hunter X Hunter, they’ll call them, for example, “First Prince” with the reading “Benjamin”. In that situation, we can just simply translate it to “First Prince Benjamin”, unless it’s like the third time it’s being said on one page, in which case I’d probably just leave it as Benjamin at that point.
Other times you’ll see it used for referential subtext, like someone saying あのバカ (ano baka, that idiot) with another character’s name given as the reading. So they’re saying “that idiot”, but we know who they’re talking about. Again, in these cases, it’s easy to translate to “that idiot, soandso”.
Sometimes you’ll even see ellipses given as a reading to insinuate something unspoken/unknown or sinister. Like if someone picks up the phone lookin’ all shady and says “I’ll get back to you about THAT INCIDENT”. With “THAT INCIDENT”, (あの事件), having ellipses for the reading. Meant to mean either “you know what incident we’re talking about and it ain’t good.” or “Whatever this is… it’s shady.”. Often, italics can get this across just adding stress to it.
Now that I’m doing these blogs regularly again, I’m doing my best to collect interesting examples. I’ll try to see if I can start embedding screenshots of panels too. I know I glossed over a lot of stuff, this already ran long as is. I wanted to talk about a lot more but I’ll save it for next week!
As always, you can click on the title of the post to leave a comment!
And I’ve finished Yakuza 3 and currently llive translating and playing through Yakuza 4/龍が如く4 HD Remaster right now - 5 nights a week at: http://www.twitch.tv/dzydzydino
Until next week!
Happy June, everyone!
It’s DzyDzyDino, back again!
Last week, I talked about some general localization scenarios. This week, I wanted to address some that are brought up because of the fundamental differences between Japanese and English, and not just “words that don’t quite translate.”
A common change made is phrase/bubble order for flow and impact, or just to make passages make sense.
I brought this up years ago in a past blog post, but since I’m starting fresh, I thought it’d be good to address it again.
I’m sure many of you already know this, but one of the core differences between Japanese and English grammar is that Japanese is Subject-Object-Verb, whereas English has a Subject-Verb-Object syntax.
Especially when it comes to dialog, this builds the conclusion or “climax” of the phrase around the Verb (in Japanese) versus the Object (in English). As an oversimplified and boring example, in English you could have a bubble that reads:
“I really hate…”
From there, there would be tension built up around “who does this person hate?” -- the object of the action being the focal point. In manga you get these cliffhanger style bubbles a lot where that bubble will continue on the next page so you get this little bit of anticipation as you turn the page to find out.
For the sake of this example, (assuming I’m translating word for word) in Japanese, a similar situation would play out as a bubble reading:
And then the tension is built around What is it you do for this person? Is it I love you? I hate you? I will protect you? I don’t want to see you anymore? Sometimes these situations can be resolved as simply as shuffling word order around. There’s a pretty common sentence structure that pops up, where they’ll put the subject at the end for dramatic effect and emphasis. In one of my current favorite Jump Series, Dr. Stone, the main character’s catchphrase is “Now /this/ excites me!” It gets worded slightly differently each time, but it’s often something like this:
唆る (Sosoru) is the infinitive form of the verb meaning “To excite”. The ぜ(ze) that comes after it adds emphasis. これ (kore) means “this” and は is a particle denoting the subject of the sentence.
Just because the bubbles are placed this way doesn’t mean we should translate each bubble independently and turn our main character, Senku, into Yoda. “Excites, this!” Normally this situation would end up with
Bubble1: Now /this/…
Bubble2: Excites me!
Speaking of subjects in sentences, Japanese will often omit parts of speech altogether and let them be implied by context.
Instead of saying 「それを買うか？」 (Sore wo kau ka? Are you going to buy that?)
You might just see 「買うか？」 (kau ka?) or even just 「買う？」(kau?)
“Buy?” by itself doesn’t really work in English. You need at least a pronoun, and a subject.
“Are you going to buy that?” “Is he going to buy those?” “Is she going to buy it?”
“Is Lord Hentai gonna buy that harem?”
Most of the time if you see this by itself, it’s going to be directed to whoever they’re talking to, unless it’s a really specific context--like maybe two people are watching someone else shopping and one wants to know if that person is really gonna buy what they’re looking at.
The object however could be anything. Singular, plural, specific, whatever.
So what? Come up with some weird awkward wording like “Are you going to make a purchase?”
“Are you going to participate in a monetary transaction for goods?”
Hah! You think you’ve got it aaaaaalllllllllll figured out… then a complete curveball...
喧嘩を売る (kenka wo uru) literally means “to sell a fight”, and it’s the Japanese way of saying “to pick a fight”.
If someone picks a fight with you, and you accept and go at it, you have bought that fight. 喧嘩を買う or 喧嘩を買った。(kenka wo kau, or past-tense, kenka wo katta)
So through some freak unforseen context, 買うか？ suddenly got translated to “Are you gonna fight?”
You could also add the nuance of it being a fight someone else picked. “Are you gonna fight back?” “Are you gonna take his challenge?” “Are you gonna go through with this fight?” or that fight? Or those fights? Or these fights?!
WE NEED CONTEXT!
There’s that epic scene in One Piece in the town right before Skypiea when Bellamy is beating the crap out of Luffy and Luffy is telling Zoro to not “buy into this fight”. For me, it was one of Luffy’s most epic lines pre-New World/Time Skip and pretty iconic.
Bubble1: このケンカは (Kono kenka ha) - This Fight
Bubble2: 絶対買うな！！！ (Zettai kauna!!!) - Absolutely don’t buy it
Though of course, I would hope nobody would actually translate it like “This fight… absolutely don’t buy it.” as that rips the soul right out of the scene. The goosebump-raising epicness of that line is completely gone and kind of gets back into the literal vs. liberal I brought up last week.
It’s been a while and I don’t remember the rest of the scene verbatim, but he could just as easily repeat that second line “絶対買うな！！”
What if you had no context and saw that page or bubble all by itself? Maybe you just see him standing in front of a Tavern screaming that.
Luffy standing up from the rubble of a tavern wall, bloodied and bruised.
“Do NOT buy the food here!!!”
Hrmm… actually, yeah. I could see him saying that after all. ¯\_( ◉ 3 ◉ )_/¯
Don’t forget, you can click on the title of this post to comment and discuss!
Thanks also to everyone who stopped by my stream to say hi!
We just finished live translating the Yakuza 3 HD Remaster and probably planning to play Yakuza 4 in English before going on into 5 in Japanese again! (Though I may reconsider and do 4 in Japanese too!)
If you want to come by, say hi, chat about manga/anime/games/whatever, you can find me at http://www.twitch.tv/dzydzydino
Hey, everyone! DzyDzyDino here! It's been a while since I've done a blog post!
A little bit about me:
I’ve been with Mangastream essentially since the beginning? I currently translate Black Clover, Dr. Stone, Seven Deadly Sins, Boruto, Dragon Ball Super, and Hiatu-err Hunter X Hunter.
In the past, I did plenty of other series too~ Toriko, Fairy Tail, Bleach, Naruto, One Piece, Hitman Reborn, History's Strongest Disciple Kenichi, and who knows what else.
I used to blog regarding this, but when it comes to translation, there's always those that will argue for literal vs liberal translation. That’s what I wanted to talk about with this first post, as it’s a topic that I have to think about and make conscious decisions regarding for every single line of every single series I translate.
Some people feel as though translations should be straight up word-for-word, bubble-for-bubble, whereas others feel like translation should be more interpretative and context-sensitive.
That latter tends to fall into what we call localization.
The idea is that someone with no knowledge of the source culture/language should be able to still enjoy the material and still understand the feeling and characters in the same way that they were originally intended.
There's so many facets to this and I can't possibly cover them all in one post, but I'll go over some situations.
Puns and wordplay is always a pain to localize, versus just word-for-wording it. An example that jumps to mind is from the Kill La Kill anime.
The main character, Matoi Ryuuko's "signature finishing move" is 繊維喪失 pronounced "Sen'i Soushitsu". It literally translates to Fiber (繊維) Loss/Lost (喪失), which would be a pretty clunky translation, but that's exactly what the studio decided to run with.
Clunkiness aside, it has a missed meaning as well. "Sen'i Soushitsu" is a synonym for a real term and is written 戦意喪失 which means Morale/Fighting Spirit (戦意) Loss (喪失).
It means to break someone's morale or to lose the will to fight. So the idea is that she removes the enhanced "fiber" from their clothing and simultaneously makes them lose the will to fight.
In the anime she says "Sen'i Soushitsu" out loud and slashes her opponent, dropping them to their knees.
You think, "Okay, she slashed them and made them lose their will to fight."
Then the kanji for the move flashes huge on the screen, "Ahh, making them lose their power source fiber... cute pun."
Given some time and creativity, I'm sure someone could have come up with a cute play on words in English that also carried some kind of double meaning.
There's a lot of similar incidents in manga where they'll have an alternate reading for a kanji written to give it a different implied meaning, though I'll save that topic for another post. :3
Common Japanese sayings are another localization decision. Some people like to have them included and like to hear or read characters say things like:
"Just wash your neck and wait!" or "You're 10 years too early!"
If you've read a lot of manga, this is probably normal enough that you probably don't think anything of it. But if it's the first time you're reading them, you at least pause for a second.
The meaning is still clear enough, but they sound off - not a normal thing to say.
In fact if anything, they're saying cliche and incredible normal expressions, but someone reading that for the first time wouldn't pick up on that.
Is the right call to leave them as is, or to "localize" them a bit?
"You're 10 years too early to..." vs "You've got a long way to go before..." essentially mean the same thing but the latter sounds normal in English.
There's tons of other ways to localize it depending on context, how condescending it's supposed to be, the character's tone, etc.
Properly localizing also requires a lot more work as well, as you need to have some working knowledge of the subject matter being dealt with.
A while ago, I translated a one-shot that had to do with mobile gacha games.
The term 基本無料 doesn't make a lot of sense being literally translated. Literally it would be Fundamental/Basic Free. In the gaming world, it would be f2p or Free-to-Play.
There's also a term in the world of mobile gacha games known as リセマラ (risemara), which is short for Reset Marathon.
Most of these games offer a free "roll" after you complete the tutorial, and a reset marathon is to just keep reinstalling and taking that free roll over and over until you get something good to start with.
We don't use the term reset marathon in English though. For all the mobile game communities I've been a part of, it's simply known as "rerolling".
That would be an instance of localizing based on context as well. Just because the character said the word "Reset Marathon" it's not like they've made up some quirky term that nobody else uses. They're using the standard understood term for that concept, so to "localize" it appropriately, you'd translate it to the standard understood term as well.
I've been translating for around 15 years now. Back when I first started, I was a lot more concerned about making sure the phrasing matched how it was in the original, and making sure word choice matched too - even if it ended up in something that read awkwardly in English and didn't carry the same meaning.
Nowadays, it's a lot more important to me that it reads smoothly in English and that the meaning and tone are consistent with the original. It's a lot more work to localize but I think the result is a lot more meaningful, and something I'm much (and hopefully you're much) happier with.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, but I'd love to share more of what goes on behind the scenes and what decisions get made during the translation process with you!
If this is at all interesting to you, let me know and I'll keep updating!
Speaking of gaming (shameless plug) --
I also have a Twitch Channel that I stream all kinds of games on, and often do live translation of Japanese games as well!
I'm currently playing through the HD Remaster of Yakuza 3 (龍が如く3) in Japanese (as it's not out in English yet) and live translating as I play. Incidentally, the title of the game is originally Like a Dragon, or As a Dragon. The English language version translates it simply to - Yakuza.
If you're interested in the game series (It's a Yakuza-oriented GTAish game with a great plot that takes place in Japan), interested in translation, or just wanna stop by, you can find my stream at:
I stream nearly every night except Mondays and Thursdays, starting around 8PM PST streaming some mobile games, and then usually get to whatever other game I’m streaming by around 10PM PST. I hope to see you there, and hope to blog more regularly!