Interview: Fan And Professional Translators Speak Out On Western Localization Issues And The Current State Of The English Manga Industry

The current saga of Seven Seas’ intentional mistranslation of I Think I Turned My Childhood Friend Into a Girl has introduced extra consideration than ever to the rising development of Western localizers erasing a Japanese artist’s authentic work in favor of pushing their very own private social and political views on readers.

Source: Azusa Banjo Twitter

RELATED: Seven Seas English Localization Of ‘I Think I Turned My Childhood Friend Into a Girl’ Changes Feminine Male Into A Transgender Girl

In mild of the rising push again in opposition to activist localizers, Bounding Into Comics spoke to manga fan scanlation group Project Vinland {and professional} Japanese-to-English translator @bansama.

Taking the time to talk with us, the 2 translators shared with us their ideas on the state of the English localization business, how publishers can begin to earn again fan belief, and what actions readers can take to enhance the standard of translations of their favourite collection.

Source: Kamen Rider SPIRITS The Legend of Masked Riders Ch. 53 “The Great Gathering of the Boys’ Kamen Rider Squad” (2001), Kodansha. Words and artwork by Kenichi Muraeda. Translated by Red Hood.

First up in our collection of interviews was Project Vinland, the scanlation group maybe greatest recognized for translating in style manga collection together with Vinland Saga, Yona of the Dawn and Yomi no Tsuga.

Source: Tomi no Tsugai Ch. 1 “Asa and Yuru!” (2022), Kodansha. Color unfold by Arakawa Hiromu. Translated by Project Vinland.

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Nerdigans Inc.: What are you ideas on the newest Seven Seas localization scandal?

Project Vinland: “As a group we always try to stay as close to the Japanese text as possible. We don’t localize series, we simply translate them. Sometimes, when a translation doesn’t necessarily make sense in English, we will see if we can fit whatever is closest. This is usually the case with slang or other colloquialisms.”

“An example of how much attention we pay to staying true to the Japanese: I recently translated a chapter of Vinland Saga where I wrote ‘we will have to wait,’ which was corrected by our main translator to ‘we will wait,’ as there is subtle difference between the two, and the latter is closer to the Japanese.”

Source: Vinland Saga Ch. 190 “Talking about Ragnarok” (2022), Kodansha. by Yukimura Makoto Translated by Project Vinland.

“It pains me to see a localization scandal like this with Seven Seas, as it reminds me of the ‘donuts’ from the English Pokémon dub (which were clearly onigiri). I’m just really wondering what the localization theme were aiming for here, as it’s fundamentally changing a story element.”

“I’d also like to know the opinion of the translator, as they usually don’t get too much input (if ant at all) in a localization process after providing a translation script. Personally, I’m absolutely not a fan of these kinds of localizations and I wish that Seven Seas would rescind this publication.”

Source: Yona of the Dawn Ch. 225 “Where our Hearts Belong” (2022), Hakusensha. by Mizuho Kusanagi Translated by Project Vinland.

Nerdigans Inc.: What are your ideas on the present state of English localization of manga and anime?

Project Vinland: “The current state of English localization seems pretty good at the moment. I usually don’t buy manga in English, but in Japanese. However, the past 5- to 10- years a lot of my favorite series have been receiving beautiful English language releases.”

“I’m a sucker for hardcovers, so series like Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, Hokuto no Ken, Vinland Saga, Berserk, Fullmetal Alchemist and other receiving hardcover editions in English is just right up my alley. It makes me really happy that companies are putting in the effort to release unique and high quality English language editions of series.”

Source: Berserk Ch. 367 “Mists Fade as Cherry Blossoms Fall” (2022), Hakusensha. Original writer Kentaro Miura, phrases and artwork by Studio Gaga.

RELATED: Seven Seas Apologizes For Intentional English Mistranslation Of I Think I Turned My Childhood Friend Into A Girl, Promises To Revise Script “To More Accurately Reflect The Author’s Original Intent”

“I’m also an enormous fan of the digital-only or digital-first publishers like Kodansha are adopting. I’m a huge fan of Shaman King, and it had always been a hopeless dream that we’d get all the new spinoffs and sequels in English. However, Kodansha is publishing everything in English digitally right now, and when the digital sales are good enough, I’m sure they will continue with the print version.”

“The fact that I get to read English releases I’d never thought I’d be able to, even if it’s just digital, is amazing to me. So all in all I’m really happy with the current state of English localization and publication of manga.”

Source: Shaman King: The Super Star Ch. 1 “She Came in a Side Car” (2021), Kodansha. Color unfold by Hiroyukei Takei.

Nerdigans Inc.: In the final decade or so have you ever seen a shift within the Western manga localization business?

Project Vinland: “I have definitely noticed a shift in the industry. Maybe not in the last decade, more specifically the last 5 years or so. I’m seeing a lot of ‘cookie cutter’ isekai and romance manga be localized, especially from publishers like Seven Seas. Now this is simply personal bias as isekai and romcoms are just genres I rarely enjoy.”

“But whenever there’s a new licensing announcement, friends and I try to predict how many cookie cutter isekai romance manga will be announced with titles that take about 7-minutes to say out loud.”

Source: Trapped in a Dating Sim: The World of Otome Games is Tough for Mobs Ch 1 “Reincarnated into Darkness” (2021), Seven Seas. Written and Illustrated by Shiosato Jun.

“Meanwhile, fans had to fight tooth and nail to get danmei (a genre of Chinese fantasy novels) officially licensed in English, some of which were unfortunately rushed, leaving no time for the translators to go over their work again and fix some mistakes. It feels unfair when at the same time isekais seem to get unlimited resources.”

“I have to say, that for the localization itself, it currently is very good in my opinion. Long gone are the days of flipped manga with dialogue completely rewritten to be more ‘American.’ More often than not do we now get series with a much better translation that’s closer to the Japanese, with appendixes on translation and explanation of Japanese culture.”

Source: Tomi no Tsugai Ch. 7 “Asa and Yuru!” (2022), Kodansha. Color unfold by Arakawa Hiromu. Translated by Project Vinland

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Nerdigans Inc.: What are your ideas on the remedy of followers (that features scanlators) from Western publishers?

Project Vinland: “The treatment of fans is something that has grown to be better with the rise of social media. It is far easier to reach out to publishers through Twitter and Facebook, and often when you answer a question it is actually answered.”

Source: Kingdom Ch. 559 “Right Wing’s Outcome” (2018). Words and artwork by Yasuhisa Hara. Translation by Turnip Scans.

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“The treatment of scanlators seems to also have improved by miles. Where we once were shunned and taboo, not even allowed to be put on resumes when applying for an industry position, nowadays I have publishers contacting me to see if I am interested in working for them. When fans have so much passion that they devote their free time to a project, to me it always seemed like the easy choice to ask them to join the official localization.”

Source: Namaikizakari Ch. 128 (2021), Hakusensha. Color unfold by Mitsubachi Miyuki.

“Especially now that so many publishers are offering simulpubs. The only publisher that I never really heard from regarding scanlation is Kodansha, which is a shame in my opinion. Myself and other groups that work on Kodansha manga are usually able to offer simulpubs to scan readers, so why can’t they themselves?”

“I know lots of scanlators that are struggling, yet still putting their precious time into the series they love, that would jump on the opportunity to get paid for their efforts.”

Source: Tokyo Revengers Ch 247 “Hey Dude” (2022) Kodansha. Color unfold by Ken Wakui.

Nerdigans Inc.: What actions do you imagine must be taken to enhance the present high quality of English localization?

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Project Vinland: “I think the action that needs to be taken is that an editor from the original publication in Japanese needs to okay the English localization, in conclave with the author themselves, perhaps.”

“I think [in the case of it’s rather obnoxious for the editor to state they imply the MC is trans, because they don’t imply, they state it. The MC is indeed gender non conforming, but that is not the same as being trans. I’ve taken a look at the Japanese, and it’s very clear they are not trans and that they outright changed the dialogue to fit their own narrative.”

Source: Yona of the Dawn Ch. 225 “Breathe Out” (2022), Hakusensha. Color unfold by Mizuho Kusanagi Translated by Project Vinland

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Nerdigans Inc.: What is the worst mistranslation and localization that you’ve ever come throughout?

Project Vinland: “I have never seen severe translation mistakes from Kodansha, and believe they employ some of the best translators in the industry. My favorite being Stephen Paul who does the translation for Vinland Saga. All I’ve seen is inconsistencies in naming, the most prevalent being in the digital edition of Shaman King that came out last year (or even in 2020 I don’t remember).”

“I’ve talked with the letterer, and they told me the work pressure for this series was so high they often had to work on a volume, sometimes two, a day, which left little room for quality control. Thankfully all these inconsistencies are fixed in the new print editions, along with more touch ups, which is really nice.”

Source: Vinland Saga Ch. 189 “Misqe’g Pi’gw’s Ritual” (2022), Kodansha. by Yukimura Makoto Translated by Project Vinland.

Next we interviewed @bansama, knowledgeable Japanese to English translator for over 15 years with credit in quite a lot of fields, each technical and inventive. One of his present roles is modifying (and infrequently translating) manga.

Unfortunately as a consequence of NDAs and the doable danger of offended twitter mobs attacking their employer, he can’t point out the specifics collection they’re at the moment engaged on.

Source: Gachiakuta Ch. 12 “Shadow of The Underworld (2022), Kodansha. Color unfold by Kei Urana.

RELATED: Western Localizer Reveals Seven Seas Always Intended To Localize Feminine Male As Transgender Female, Says Translator “Consulted Trans People” On Changing Character’s Identity

Nerdigans Inc. From knowledgeable translator’s viewpoint what’s your tackle the scenario?

bansama: Disrespectful. The revealed model of that story disrespects the writer’s intent, the unique viewers, and the interpretation career. If the writer had needed their story to be a couple of trans-gender lady, they might have written it that approach.

Source: I Think I Turned My Childhood Friend Into a Girl (2022), Seven Seas Entertainment. Volume 2 Cover Art by Azusa Banjo

The English writer, not to mention the assigned translator, had no proper to change the unique writer’s work. The solely exception can be if the writer had been consulted and had agreed the change made sense. It is evident from their response, that the writer and gave no such consent and sure wasn’t consulted within the first place.”

“The company I work for has contracts with several Japanese publishers who request English translations across a range of genres. E.g., fantasy, school romance, boys love, slice of life, science fiction, etc. Targeting male and female audiences with a variety of tastes, and this includes titles that focus on so-called alternate lifestyles and sexual identities.”

Source: Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Act 30 Infinity 4 Haruka & Michiru – Sailor Uranus & Sailor Neptune (1991), Kodansha. Words and artwork by Naoko Takeuchi

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“A major part of my editing work is to ensure at client request (e.g., the publishers) that the English translation is faithful to the intent, tone, and nuance of the Japanese work. If the English isn’t accurately reflecting the Japanese to the extent that English allows in the limited space of each text box/bubble, then it’s objectively wrong and needs replacing.”

“When there is any confusion on meaning or intent, we do our utmost to reach out to the original author for clarification. To do any less, would be doing a disservice to everyone. Had that specific translation passed my desk, it would have been rejected. Retranslated, and that translator would have been removed from the translation pool—or at least assigned a far easier title.”

Source: I Think I Turned My Childhood Friend Into a Girl Chapter 15 (2021), Ichijinsha Inc. Words and artwork by Azusa Banjo.

bansama: One of the largest issues proper now could be the dearth of accountability in English localization. Translators, editors, and the English publishers are usually not being held to job. There’s too little high quality assurance and this has allowed sure “professionals” to get away with doing subpar work to the extent that such work is now the celebrated norm—that is very true of video games.

Worse is that now really feel untouchable, and can do no matter they will to silence disagreement—even that from different skilled translators.

Source: SHY Ch 43 “Boys” (2020), Akita Shoten. Written and Illustrated by Miki Bukimi.

“I do hope the rising unhappiness amongst supposed audiences with the present state of issues will likely be a get up name. That extra Japanese publishers begin questioning whether or not their authors’ works are being respectfully and faithfully introduced to the English language viewers.

The greatest approach for audiences to assist is to politely voice their complaints and considerations to publishers. Angry, hate stuffed rants, irrespective of how deserved they could really feel, will solely cement the place of those translators as victims, and nothing will change.

Outsourced translators aren’t at all times vetted for high quality I assume. Especially once they’re new. And one of many distributors we work with has this annoying behavior of assign new translators lengthy, troublesome collection. They must be given shorter, simpler issues first”

Source: Shangri-La Frontier Ch 85 “Embracing your Ambitions within the Light (Part 3) (2022), Kodansha. Written by Katrina Illustrated by Ryosuke Fuji

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Nerdigans Inc.: So distributors aren’t correctly coaching their new translators earlier than assigning them to translate lengthy collection? Is it as a result of the distributors are quick handed?

bansama: “I don’t know which vendors are being used, so cannot comment with any accuracy. But I believe that there are several factors that lead to a quality problem: Japanese ability, English ability, familiarity with genre, high burnout, and high turnaround.”

Source: Tawawa on Monday Ch. 1 “Ai-Chan, Part 1” (2020), Kodansha. Words and artwork by Kiseki Himura.

“Problems with the hiring process would account for the first two factors slipping through. I can’t really say much more than that, as I don’t know the specifics of their hiring process.”

“The third factor (genre familiarity) is one that the translator would have to address themselves. Read works in that genre, gain an understanding of the general vocabulary in both Japanese and English.”

Source: Jujutsu Kaisen Ch. 181 “Tokyo Colony No 2, Part 1 (2022), Shueisha. Words and artwork by Gege Akutami.

“The last two are a problem with the industry as a whole. Short deadlines with little or no downtime between and low pay—some companies reportedly pay in the low tens of yen per page for translation (and likely even less for editing) doesn’t exactly attract a well trained translator or one that’s willing to stay for long. Other companies pay slightly better in low hundreds of yen per page (but, again, less for editing).”

“But even on the higher end, it’s not a sustainable living wage. And a given schedule could see you working 6 or 7 days straight (or more). So most translators and editors likely do this as a side-gig. Meaning it’s not getting their full attention and is definitely being rushed.”

Source: Jujutsu Kaisen Ch 181 “Tokyo Colony No 2, Part 1 (2022), Shueisha. Written and Illustrated by Gege Akutami

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Nerdigans Inc. In regard to questionable translators and translations, ought to skilled translators start voicing their considerations to the Japanese publishers?

bansama: This is one other tough one. Depending on many elements, they could not have the ability to. They additionally, sadly, wouldn’t carry a lot weight outdoors of any social following they could have.”

Source: Goddess Café Terrace Ch 62 “The End of a Bad Dream” (2022), Kodansha. Written and Illustrated by Seo Kouji

“However, it would certainly be welcomed if more professional translators did speak out. But know that doing so will likely make getting future work difficult—especially when it comes to games.”

“This isn’t so much a problem with publishers, but with a certain group of translators who enforce their own stranglehold on the industry, keeping out anyone they find undesirable.”

Source: The Rising of the Shield Hero Ch. 84 “Kyo’s Laboratory” (2022), Media Factory. Written and Illustrated by Aiya Kyu.

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Nerdigans Inc.: What can followers do to assist enhance the localizations of their favourite Japanese properties?

bansama: “My first advice is, don’t involve the author. Unless they’ve self published and have handled the localization (or licensing) themselves, they cannot do anything. Legally, they can’t. Their publisher owns the rights to their work and the rights to license that work to others. And as such, are the ones who could, in theory, raise concerns about quality with the licensee.”

Source: Jujutsu Kaisen Ch 181 “Tokyo Colony No 2, Part 1 (2022), Shueisha. Written and Illustrated by Gege Akutami.

“Here’s the downside though. Japanese publishers are likely lacking a decent route for overseas fans to voice their concerns. Japanese companies aren’t known for engaging customers (even Japanese customers) on social media. Many will only accept feedback in Japanese, too.”

“I wouldn’t give up, though. Seek like-minded fans, if needed, who can help form a Japanese language comment voicing concerns. Be polite. Don’t demand, ask. As much as possible mention the specific issue, but don’t directly call out any individuals.”

Source: Kamen Rider SPIRITS The Legend of Masked Riders Ch. 3 “One Man Battle (Part II)” (2001), Kodansha. Words and artwork by Kenichi Muraeda.

“Privacy is a big deal in Japan, and overly personal allegations, however true, can be cause for legal problems. So any such personal allegations would likely have to end up in the bin to save the publisher from potential unwanted problems.”

“So just a polite comment speaking about how BOOK published by WESTERN PUBLISHER has THESE problems, and how that has affected your enjoyment of the BOOK, would likely be a good starting point.” 

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