In my previous article, Remembering the Audience, I talked about how the translator must think about who is reading, and whether or not it will be understood by a wider audience. However, while keeping the audience in mind is important, staying true to the author’s vision without compromising or sacrificing their intent is something we strive for at Renta! We are proud of our high standards in spelling, accuracy, and presentation compared to unofficial or pirate releases, and our decisions are in large part based on that balance of making sure the English matches the Japanese while still fitting the values and customs that will be understandable to English-speaking cultures.
I remember watching anime as a kid and seeing a character eat a “jelly doughnut” that looked suspiciously like a rice ball. While this is the subject of many parodies today, I believe that these kinds of changes take the reader out of the media to question the accuracy of the media.
Of course, the original manga artists are Japanese, and that means most of our stories take place in Japan, or at least see the world from a Japanese perspective. Rather than move the translated version to the US, we opt to keep our plots, characters, and character’s names in their original form. This means any jokes or puns must be localized into English or, as a last resort, removed. At Renta! we try to make the translation acceptable to worldwide readers without sacrificing the author’s intent. The work of a translator involves navigating what is familiar in both the old context of Japanese and the new context of English.
Translation requires a lot of research to make sure the author’s original meaning is not lost, while still adapting the translation to be understandable by a different audience. As I said in my previous article, it is more than just copying and pasting from one language to another. The cultural norms of Japan can be very different from the West. That means anything from what clothes are in fashion to the types of acts that are sexually acceptable may be different.
For example, while same-sex marriage is legal in many Western countries, it is still not permitted under Japanese law. Since most of our stories take place in Japan, this setting has to be explained as additional unfamiliar context, rather than implicit background knowledge. This is why in order to translate what the author wants to say, the words used in English have to be different from the literal meaning of the Japanese.
At Renta!, while we do try to remove all the Japanese text in order to appeal to English readers, we always try to keep the background context rooted in the original story, and that’s why we must in the end defer to the idea and the spirit of the author, even though the words and the meaning don’t match one to one.