Confessions of an Online Manga Translator

I have moved a step closer to realizing my dream to be a fansubber.  Unfortunately the world of fansubbing is quickly becoming uncomfortable as Japanese media companies start to complain.  I guess the Japanese media companies don’t recognize that the fansubbers are serving willing consumers that they themselves don’t serve.  Curious that they don’t see the opportunity or have not latched onto the idea of crowdsourcing so they don’t actually have to hire translators and the other staff needed to localize anime, drama, books, and manga.

Anyhow, I’ve begun to translate one of my current favorite manga series and I have posted the chapters online in one of my blogs.  I don’t do “scanalation”; that is taking scans of the raw manga and filling in the dialog bubbles with English.  Rather, I write a script for the manga in English, wherein I translate the dialog and verbally describe what is going on in the drawings.  There is an “Inuyasha” translation blog that does the same thing and I found reading this to be more fullfilling than reading the actual manga because my imagination creates the images, rather than being led into the vision suggested by the managka.  This is why I decided to take this approach too.  What’s interesting about this is that I feel a very strong connection to the original text and to what I’ve written.  I didn’t expect this.  It feels sort of like I’m a part of the story creation process because much of how I feel about the story and the characters comes out in the words and the phrasing I choose to translate the words to and the way I describe the action in the pictures.  I also feel that I have a greater understanding of the story because I’ve had to fully digest the Japanese words and the pictures in order to choose the proper words and phrasing.

Does it matter to me whether I accurately present the mangaka’s intent?  That’s a tough question to answer.  I really can’t say for certain what the author intended without talking to the author.  Besides when I read a manga, all that is present goes through my filter and that shapes how I percieve the story.   Therefore when translating and then scripting, what exits my filter is what goes on the screen.  I think this is very powerful and double-edged.  I endeavored to learn Japanese because I didn’t like the way the professional publishers localized manga for an American audience.  I sought purity and from this pure base I wanted to be able overlay my own interpretation.  Being on the other side of it as a translator, I’m am not offering purity to those that read my blog.  This leaves me to ask myself, who am I to offer up my interpretation of this manga to the world?  Am I providing a service or satisfying myself?  I think I am doing both.  Besides I know not to take myself too seriously since anybody that reads what I’ve written, will apply their own filter on top of my filter.

This also has been a great learning tool for me because I can compare my translation to the professional translation when it comes out to see how well I’m progressing with the language.  Plus, my vocabulary, both words and kanji, is growing quickly.   The sad thing is, with a dictionary, I can translate pretty well (I’m still quite slow, but I’m getting better daily) but I have tremendous trouble producing Japanese, so it’s difficult for me to speak spontaneously.  I experienced the same thing when I was learning Spanish.  I understood what Spanish speakers were saying to me, but I could not get out anything intelligible in response out of my mouth.  Rather in both languages, I end up spitting out a bunch of words with no syntax.  Oh well, …