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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Editorial: Uber-colloquialisms are for lazy writers, and Nyoro~n

Preface: I just wanna say that there'll be no weekly stockmarket update this week.. sickness got to me, and I just really don't feel like straining myself to be funny. Nor do I feel like dealing with hundreds of screencaps. So yeah, hopefully things will return to normal next week.

Readers: "This has nothing to do with the post!"
Me: "Nyoro~n"

So I'm reading about Del "Southern Master" Rey's translation of AIR GEAR (dunno why, since you only need to look at the pictures) and I spot this little gem:

Japanese: "Here Pochi. (It can't be helped.)"
Del Rey: "Eat my shorts- it's what you get."

Oh hell naw, I know you didn't just write that!

This is why I think you should be required to have a licence to use colloquialisms, and if you do some wack adaptations, you get put on probation; no localization for a month for you. (this should apply to puns as well.. in fact, no; they should be banned and treated as a deadly weapon, and only with special authorization from HQ can you use them)

I don't mind a bit of usage here and there when it works (y'know, the minor stuff), but with some manga I've read it seems as though some people just go nuts with it.

Here's some guidelines I've drafted up. Failure to adhere to any of these will see one's licence revoked so fast you'll think Doc and Marty in the Delorian are cruising 20.


1a. Think about your characters.

Does what you're writing fit in with the character you're trying to portray? Ask yourself: would an upstanding samurai really say "ain't gon' be" or "snakes on a muthafuckin' plane nigga?" If not, you may be in violation of wackness.

1b. What sort of person is using these phrases, and how does the average person view them?

While the dialogue you may be putting in the lead character's mouth may sound authentic, does it also make them sound like any other tryhard tool saying this stuff? If the answer is yes, you may be in violation of wackness.

2. Don't be afraid of writing normal.

Many people in real life speak quite normally (Contrary to popular translating belief, not all teenagers speak crazy fresh slang for dat ass) and it's a weak writer who can't make dialogue sound interesting and dynamic without relying on flashy colloquialisms (source: me).

If you are worried that by giving a literal translation you're not leaving enough of your mark on the adaptation, you may be in violation of wackness.

3. Don't be obvious.

You know how talented writers in film and television and comic books manage to keep their dialogue from not feeling instantly dated? They use less mainstream slang and phrases in their work. The average consumer may not be familiar with it, but it still works because it just sounds right. And when they do go for the mainstream, they go for timeless references.

If you're thinking of mentioning George W. Bush in your next adaptation, you may be in violation of wackness.


Take a long hard look in the mirror and ask yourself: do I actually have any fucking clue what young people are saying nowdays? Do I actually know why something sounds cool? If you're a writer in his/her mid-thirties and think that "if you smell what The Rock is cooking" and "eat my shorts" is hip and edgy, there is no doubt in hell... that you are in violation of wackness.

Aww, so cute.

I know this all really means jack shit, and there's plenty of good writers out there not doing this.. but I just had to get it off my chest. I'm sick and tired of seeing half-assed writing efforts made on licenced manga just because people don't seem to give enough of a shit (on either side).

I'm not asking for the world or a translation so literal that the original kanji pokes me in the eye. I just want to be able to read manga without groaning or feeling embarressed by the prose I'm getting assaulted with. I'm just asking for the adapters to have a little bit of self-pride really, because I can't imagine that any of these shoddy lines I see here and there and wherever are a product of some guy patting himself on the back and saying "ooh yeah, that's money work."

I take in a lot of disposable media, but the only thing that seems on the level with some of the manga issues would be kids television. But y'know, at least they're consistant with it (always wack.. whereas you can read several chapters of a manga with no problems and then suddenly WHAM, what the hell was that?) and the demograph is clear from the get-go.

I dunno, maybe that's just the difference between being someone who writes original tales, and someone who just filters those tales out to another audience.

I think that's enough complaining for one day. This ain't swiss cheese porn.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of my part-time jobs at the moment is basically "j-proofing" anime subtitles (and also translating, but that's another thing), and I'm sick of people totally not giving a shit - not just the translators, but pretty much everyone involved in the process. I guess it's partly because anime is not big enough in my country for non-fans to actually give a damn about quality, but that's no excuse for the absolutely shitty work some people do. It took me MONTHS to persuade the translators to conform to the BASIC RULES of our language, their boss to accept that what his people were doing was not acceptable, and my boss to actually give a damn. It kind of frightens me that were I not proofing the subs, they'd go on TV as they are.

As a translator, though, I must say that a translator doesn't just "filter" the tales to another audience, at least if s/he's doing a good job. Translating usually means practically rewriting the whole thing in another language, so a (good) translator still needs l33t language skillz. Translating is no less important or inferior to writing, especially since the majority of the audience will know only the translated version of the story (of course in case of anime/manga this doesn't mean as much as in case of literature, but still).


2:00 AM

Blogger Crayotic Rockwell said...

Thanks for your comment, good to hear from someone in the know.

I guess what I meant with that filter remark is that when you're the original author of a work, you've got a lot more motivation and story insight for everything written to remain consistant and spot-on. As someone who's translating, the drive isn't neccessarily there.

I agree that translating is no small job... in fact, I have no idea of what requirements are needed to get a gig as a translator, but I think they should be pretty damn steep (and most likely higher than they are right now) because not only do you firstly have to get the essence of the story out, but then you've actually got to make it sound good, which requires a good knowledge of the English language AND the human mind.

Some people have enough trouble with the first task, and the second? That takes a hell of a lot of dilligence to even become "ehh it's alright" at.

But yeah, someone's writing prowess can always be argued as personal taste to a point, but lazy editing, bad grammar, errors, and all that stuff? There's really no excuse for that.

When you're printing thousands of these things and asking people to pay for them, make sure they're right before going to print.

Doesn't seem like a big ask. They do it with all other forms of media. I wouldn't expect to order a Fullmetal Alchemist DVD and have Edward call Winry "Alphonse." Likewise I wouldn't expect to buy an Stephen King book and find a paragraph of missing text because someone forgot to set it right.

Ahh, and I've gone ranting again :)

10:08 PM

Anonymous Lupus said...


*I did read the rest of the post but since I don't read any English manga apart from scanlation I can't really comment on the issue, except that yes, it's really disconcerting to read a comment that feels completely out of character.

7:40 PM


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