Linking to…other people’s reviews!

April 18, 2009 at 4:57 pm (other people's reviews)

I actively seek out reviews of manga that I’ve worked on (although “actively” mostly involves reading MangaBlog every day, which I would do anyway), but I don’t usually link to them. Usually they’re not as relevant to my work as you might think, since very few reviewers mention the translation or adaptation. But there are exceptions, and they’re usually very nice to read.* ^_^

Anyway, this comes up because this week AnimeNewsNetwork reviewed the Genshiken Official Book, and I particularly appreciated the review–not only because Carlo Santos said good things about the readability of the book, but because he really got what fanbooks are for. I’ve worked on several fanbook-type projects now, and quite often reviews boil down to “but it’s just a collection of facts about the characters and interviews and statistics and…”, which is not, in fact, a flaw. It’s the point. Sure, some of them offer a more interesting collection of odds and ends than others, but that’s how it goes.

Here’s the most relevant-to-me passage, since I’m already blogging about it:

As a quasi-reference book that covers all the angles of modern visual culture, this is definitely a translator’s challenge when it comes to Japanese slang and otaku jargon. The American edition is sure to have its share of nitpickers, with word choices like “fanzine” for “doujinshi” (then again, it’s not like “self-published work” rolls any easier off the tongue), or “girly games” for “bishoujo games” (there is a difference between something being “girly” and something having pretty girls in it). But looking at the big picture, this translation does a remarkable job of making almost any style of writing understandable—character summaries, nonfiction articles and short-story dialogue all flow easily.

(As it happens, I read another review a while back which criticized the inconsistency of using both “fanzine” and “doujinshi” in the book. I read the series and worked on the book so long ago that I can’t absolutely swear to this without digging around, which I haven’t done, but I think that’s a holdover from the English version of the actual series using both terms at different times. There’s always a certain amount of “well, I want to do something my way, but internal consistency with the overall series is more important”, at least to my mind. We want to create the illusion that a given body of work is still coming straight from the individual author, rather than being filtered through translators and adapters.)

*Since I’m saying that much, I’ll add that Michelle Smith’s review of Shinobi Life vol. 1 included such a positive comment about my work on the book that I was a bit giddy for days. I’m totally okay with the fact that the English scripts rarely get commented on, because–as I indicated above–I believe that part of our job is to draw as little attention as possible to our existence. But it’s still a good feeling when it happens.

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