Was it worth the two-year wait?
Have I ever told you about my impeccable taste in light novels?
Have I ever told you about how impeccably I choose the light novels that I read?
In the wise words of Wataru Watari: “The illustrations count for everything.”
Who gives a shit about the author, the plot, the reviews, or any other indicator of good writing? I always pick my light novels based on how cute the pictures look, and this method has never once failed me.
To celebrate the 38th anniversary of the original Mobile Suit Gundam series, Crunchyroll has recently added some classic Gundam titles to its catalog. Let’s take this opportunity to look back on Mobile Suit Gundam Wing, the show that ignited the West’s love affair with Gundam. You may be surprised at how many convenient factors lined up in both the original Japanese context and the international distribution process that helped pave the way for Wing’s success.
My flight is tomorrow so I’m gonna keep this short, but I’m going to Crunchyroll Expo! I’ll be attending as a member of the press, but I fully intend to enjoy myself there. If you’re going to be attending the convention too (or if you just happen to be in the area), come and say hi!
It’ll be my first time visiting the United States, so I’m really looking forward to it. I wish that I could stay longer and see more of the country, but I’ll be back in Tokyo by August 29th to resume my regular work.
I’ll have a longer update when I’m back, but that’s all for now. Take care, everybody!
A Certain Magical Index is based off one of the most popular light novel series in Japan ever. If you count the side story volumes and the New Testament sequel currently being published in Japan, the Index series has over 40 volumes in print—and this isn’t even counting the A Certain Scientific Railgun manga spinoff which has its own sprawling continuity. If you’re even vaguely familiar with anime and light novels, you’ve probably heard of the Index franchise.
People sure like to romanticise piracy. This was something that occurred to me after I published an article a few days ago called Explaining the English Light Novel Boom with Bookwalker Global, which didn’t mention piracy at all and yet sparked controversy on the subject anyway. As many of the comments argued, fan translations have played a part in popularizing light novels in English translation. Why didn’t I mention their existence?
In truth, I didn’t set out to snub fan translation in that piece. It was simply the case that the people I spoke to at Bookwalker Global did not mention it. The article was not intended as a comprehensive overview of the light novel industry; it was meant to showcase Bookwalker Global’s perspective on the subject. I thought that their views would be interesting because a) They’ve recently jumped onto the English light novel bandwagon with a clear rationale for doing so, and b) They are deeply connected to the Japanese light novel market.
Fan translations were clearly not relevant with Bookwalker Global’s choice of exclusive titles. Neither The Combat Baker nor The Ryuo’s Work is Never Done! had English fan translations when these releases were being decided, nor was there much hype for them on English-language social media. However, people still wanted me to talk about fan translation anyway. I suspect that they wanted me to romanticise their place in history.
So, as I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m now living in Japan and starting a new job. Specifically, I’m now a Tokyo Correspondent for Anime News Network, covering events in the area as well as the odd film review. You may have seen my writing on the site!
As you can imagine, life has been pretty hectic these past few weeks, so I haven’t found any time for blogging or even translating. This is why I’ve started republishing some of my old columns from Crunchyroll to ensure that this blog does not completely die. I’m quite attached to frogkun dot com, and I want a place where I can talk about personal things. And boy have these past few weeks given me a lot to talk about.
Take note: this article is not about “subs versus dubs.” It’s not a competition. I’m sure that everyone has their own preferences, but in the end it’s like comparing apples and oranges. Dubbing involves a different set of skills, resources, and priorities than subtitling does. Even the scriptwriting process for a dub is very different from writing a subtitle script. (I’ll write more about this in a future column, perhaps.)
It’s a pity that conversations around the subject tend to revolve around how the voices sound rather than the translation issues involved. From the perspective of a translator, what’s interesting about subs and dubs is that they strive in different ways to bring the viewer as close to the experience of watching a Japanese anime as possible. With a subtitled anime, the original audio is retained. On the surface, this seems like a preferable format for language purists. On the other hand, Japanese speakers don’t need to read subtitles to understand the audio, so a dub might actually come closer to capturing the experience of watching anime as a native Japanese speaker.
As we’ll see in today’s column, however, “the experience of watching anime as a native speaker” is an extremely difficult thing to quantify, let alone replicate. When you look at the matter in perspective, the “subs versus dubs” debate misses the point.
Otaku is a word that seems deceptively straightforward at first glance. Adopted into the Oxford English Dictionary in 2007, it is defined as follows:
(In Japan) a young person who is obsessed with computers or particular aspects of popular culture to the detriment of their social skills.
It is notable that the dictionary definition includes the negative perceptions surrounding the word. According to the OED, the otaku is “obsessed” and lacks “social skills.” This description is essentially no different from the columnist Akio Nakamori’s use of the word “bizarre” (異様) when he defined otaku as a label in 1983. While it has become more socially acceptable to identify as an otaku these days, it still retains an air of eccentricity.
One could argue that this is very much the point of adopting it as a loan word—otaku captures a nuance that “geek” or “fan” can’t quite muster. But adopting loan words from another culture is not a simple copy-and-paste process. Otaku has transformed significantly on its Journey to the West (ahem), a sure indication that the meaning of the word was contentious to begin with.
And that’s the theme of this week’s Found in Translation column. Translation is not a simple additive or subtractive process. By its very nature it is both transformative and elusive, a constant reminder that words may not always mean what we assume they mean at first glance.
I first read the My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU novels soon after the first season of the anime hit the airwaves, and it’s been one of my favorite light novel series since then. It’s hard to describe exactly what makes the series so appealing to me, but it essentially comes down to this: it’s the most true-to-life representation of the high school experience that I’ve encountered through fiction.