Rumors on the internets

PocyomkinLet’s start with the latest anonymous rumor to hit the internets, shall we? Someone going by the handle of Cthulhu, who claims to be an industry insider, posted this comment on Comics212 last night:

Kodansha is forming their own manga publishing biz over here and says they will no longer be licensing to Del Rey or Dark Horse or anyone else. In fact, they are aggressively cutting off the existing contracts and at least one company had to make a panicked phone call to their printer to cancel several dozen reprints.

“Cthulhu” further claims that this was announced at BEA but no one noticed, and that the company will open its doors in September in LA, “sharing space and staff with a multimedia division.” Keep reading that thread, and check out this one at The Beat, for some discussion. An interestingly wide range of people have heard nothing about this, although some are not surprised. Anyone who can shed light on this is welcome to post in the comments or e-mail me directly at the address on the upper right. (Cover of Pocyomkin, just cuz I liked it, from the Kodanclub website.)

At The Beat, Heidi lists the Tokyopop folks who lost their jobs this week, including Rob Tokar, Tim Beedle, Hope Donovan, and Paul Morrissey. That’s a lot of talent to be leaving the room all at once. Lissa Pattillo quotes a BLU editor who is upset at losing a colleague, and Gia hears from some former employees (in comments) that they weren’t given any warning, just brought to the conference room first thing and given the bad news.

Meanwhile, Rivkah Greulich must have negotiated a good contract, because she says Tokyopop has to pay her for Steady Beat whether or not it sees print—and that she is determined to issue a print edition one way or another. And then she posts some of the pencils, so we’ll see why.

In other news, ICv2 posts the Bookscan top 20 graphic novels list for May. In case you were thinking the manga world was imploding, 17 of the 20 are manga, and only 3 are Naruto.

The MangaCast team goes over this week’s new manga, and Ed posts his Big List of Spanish releases.

Chloe Ferguson’s discusses light novels in her latest Panelosophy column at ComiPress.

Review: Orange Skirt reviews the Ouran High School Host Club manga and anime at Sleep Is For the Weak. Lissa Pattillo reads vol. 1 of Croquis Pop at Kuri-ousity, and by the end she still isn’t sure whether she likes it or not. FWIW, I just finished it and had a similar reaction. At Active Anime, Scott Campbell reviews vol. 11 of Claymore, Rachel Bentham checks out vol. 30 of Boys Over Flowers, and Holly Ellingwood gets an advance look at The Devil’s Secret. There’s a trio of new reviews up at Comics Village: John Thomas on Haridama: Magic Cram School, Charles Tan on vol. 6 of Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, and Lori Henderson on vol. 8 of Inubaka. Julie checks out vols. 1 and 2 of Magic Lover’s Tower at the Manga Maniac Cafe. Tiamat’s Disciple is a bit disappointed by vol. 2 of Legend. At Slightly Biased Manga, Connie reads Museum of Terror 3: The Long Hair in the Attic, vol. 1 of Selfish Mr. Mermaid, and vol. 1 of Kingdom of the Winds. Deb Aoki looks at an unusual 4-koma release from Yen Press, vol. 1 of Shoulder-a-Coffin Kuro. Erica Friedman doesn’t find much yuri in vol. 2 of Gakuen Alice, but she’ll keep reading it anyway.

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  1. TorenSmith says:

    I’ve gotten a bunch of emails about this situation, and thought I might respond.
    Yes, I worked with Kodansha for almost 20 years, but I handed over regular operations to Dark Horse back about 2005. So it’s not like I can shed a lot of light on the current situation. However, the idea of Kodansha running things like Viz had been a regular topic of conversation in Tokyo for some years. The front-line folks were for it, but the upper-levels (bucho, kacho, etc) didn’t want to bother, largely because control of Kodansha licensing was heavily fragmented across several divisions.
    These days, all it would take is one mover and shaker with clout in the new Licensing Division to make the decision and it could very well happen. They are certainly capable of doing this, although I can see mistakes being made in adapting to the US model, much as Viz did in the early days.
    Anyway, if it’s really happening, we’ll all know soon enough, I suspect.

  2. From Chloe Ferguson’s article on light novels:

    “Accordingly, the translations in light novels are often hampered by both the translator’s ability and the original material itself: the books aren’t exactly masterful prose even in Japanese, something that is apt to come out in a less than inspired English translation. ”

    I got to stick up for the translators out there and say publishers aren’t amateurs when it comes to hiring qualified translators. There’s too much competition for inadequate translators to get published. I’ll admit, I’ve not read a ton of light novels but of the handful I have read (both in English and in Japanese) I would say clunkiness more often than not comes from the source, and not the translation. In an effort to satisfy the fan need for accuracy and sometimes Japanese publisher demands, or sometimes other reasons, those spots which should be cleaned up aren’t.

  3. Granted, the original material can be pretty bad- I recall reading a Lupin light novel that was, ehem, uninspired to say the least- but light novels seem to accrue a higher number of wince-worthy lines depending upon the treatment. For example, I read the Pevear and Volokhonsky translation of Crime and Punishment because, upon reading the Gibian edition, I discovered I didn’t like the jarring flow of the prose. There are multiple translations out on the market, and they all sound and flow a bit different- but consumers have a choice. This doesn’t mean I’m advocating for multiple editions of light novels- rather, it would be good for companies to settle upon translator[s] who produce a seemingly appropriate and well-reading translation, then stick with them for a kind of prosaic consistency. Additionally, I feel like occasionally a more single-liner kind of translation that’s more appropriate for manga creeps in, which is something that needs to be watched for, as it doesn’t work in block text as well.

  4. For the most part, I think publishers do stick with a stable of translators they can rely on. For the consumer, the most important thing is a smooth and accurate translation (sometimes both aren’t possible, but that is the goal). For the publisher they want a translator that can deliver a smooth and accurate translation AND in keep a deadline AND is reliable. When an editor finds that person, they tend to try and keep them employed.

    I think one of the problems is that we live in time where consumers want the most accurate, true to the original, translation possible.

    At least they think they do. Without pulling the curtain too far back, I would say I don’t know a translator that hasn’t “fixed” translations to make them work better. Sometimes its a bad sentence. Sometimes it’s something that isn’t PC.
    Japanese tends to have a lot of run-on sentences that are a big no-no in English. I have broken sentences apart many times. Also, using the same word over and over again isn’t a big deal in Japanese. But in English we don’t want to see the same nouns over and over, so we throw in “our hero” instead of his name every sentence, or “beast”, “demon” and “creature” instead of “monster” every sentence.

    Like you said, I think if people “really” wanted accuracy, they might not always like what they get. So I think it is alright for a translator and editor to fix problem passages, but sometimes you only want to go so for before you are rewriting the author’s words. Translators try and stay invisible, and the ultimate goal is for the reader to not be able to tell they are reading a translated work. Sometimes with light novels, that is hard.

    You mention the “single-liner” approach, and it’s funny, the light novels I have read in Japanese are written that way. Lots of one line paragraphs, dialogue heavy.

  5. John, as a fellow translator, I concur with all your points.

    The clunkiness of a raw translation should be smoothed out by rewriters and editors, not the translators. After all, we’re only paid to translate and stay as true to the original as possible, not rewrite the whole thing.

    On a side note, from a reader’s perspective, I believe the area between rewriters and translators fall into a big gray zone. A lot of criticism about adaptations/editing errors are misdirected at translators, and vice versa.

    Many readers assume that translators are also rewriters, due to the recent trend of some publishers cutting out rewriters entirely (for cost reductions, I suppose?) Technically, I don’t mind rewriting if the project calls for it, but I hate taking a job away from a great pool of writers if I can avoid it.

    I’m glad that “invisible” translators are being recognized by people, but let’s not forget another “invisible” staff—the rewriters—and their crucial role in making a literal but accurate translation into a polished, appropriate and well-reading story.

  6. TorenSmith says:

    Translation is about understanding the story and characters, and communicating those as best as possible using the literal Japanese as your connection to the ur-meaning. Transliteration, as preferred by far too many fans, is poor translation and often an outright insult to the original creator.

  7. That is a good point, TorenSmith. Translators translate sentence by sentence, but what we are delivering is an experience, an adventure. Like you said…a story and characters. If a translator can’t catch the sublte nuances of a story, then there is little hope the reader will.

    I think it is more art than science…

  8. How did I miss your post, Ana?

    You bring up a very good point. A lot of people don’t know how many hands touch a title before it makes it to readers.

    As a translator after me it goes to the editor (the ring-leader of the whole affair) then to a proofer/rewriter then oftentimes back to the licensor for approval then back.

    It’s funny, the only person’s name on most light novels regarding the translation is the translator’s, when really he or she is only one part of the process.

  9. John, it just took a while for my post to go through, that’s all. (^_^)

    Yes, I always found it funny that others weren’t listed in the credits. Anime credits list every little person who touched the title, so why don’t books do the same? No space, maybe?

  10. I’ve always felt that the best mix for translation is a translator who is fluent in both languages, but has the original language as their first language and an adaption/rewriter who is fluent in both languages but has the destination language as their first. It gives a chance for things to be smoothed out in the most natural way possible.

    That having been said, I’m on the side of the translators here – I’ve read many a light novel in the original Japanese and frankly, its not the translators’ fault that the lines are cringe-worthy. Really.

    LN writers are usually write-for-hire, and often don’t have anything at all to do with the source story. In many cases, editorial privelege is stamped all over the content and the writer has little to no chance to make a good story of it, even if they have the talent to do so.

    As a result LNs frequently read like the scifi movie-adaptation novels of the 80s – stilted, forced and cringe- or laugh-worthy.

    In any case, asking for “good” LNs is a little unreasonable – these are quite often derivative works on what are often forgettable series. They are meant to extend a franchise, not create great literature. I dare anyone to read the Mai HiME novels and tell me otherwise. :-)

    It is true that there are some exceptional Light Novel series – no one will be surprised when I say that “Maria-sama ga Miteru” is an exceptional series in every way. But those novels are not being translated here, except by fans. Instead, what companies are picking up are not original series that may or may not have anime or manga based off them, instead they are getting LNs based on pre-existing anime. manga or games. Is it really that much of a surprise that these are second-rate as stories?



    Hungry for Yuri? Have some Okazu!

  11. Erica you describe what makes a terrific translation team. However, sometimes I think time, costs and resources can be a barrier to that always happening. As a native-English speaker, sometimes I am the “bilingual proofreader” adapting the translation done by an English speaking Japanese living in Japan, for an American audience, or I am the translator from J to E, and am basically working solo. Indeed, most light novels are not written by the original creators, but that doesn’t mean they are all bad. The Blood+ series is very close to the anime, but expands the story in a way only a novel can do, which make it more than just another piece of candy, but actually adds to the experience of the anime. I wish more light novels did that.

    As a reviewer, it’s hard because light novels take so much longer to read than a manga. I don’t mind reading a manga I am not into for the sake of writing a review, but a novel is a different kind of commitment, so that’s another strike against the LN in terms of exposure.

    I am not sure if asking for good LN is unreasonable…and I can understand bringing over everything Naruto possible, as they will sell like hotcakes. Even Naruto hotcakes would sell like hotcakes. But does Psycho Busters merit an LN?


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