SOMETHING’S UP WITH THIS MANGA TRANSLATION–SAYONARA ZETSUBOU SENSEI VOLUME 1

If I was in a more dismissive mood, I’d leave the blog post at that picture. But no–there are things to be said.

It’s been out for a while–I know, don’t get on my case–but having just finished reading the first translated volume of the Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei  manga a few weeks ago, I have some things to say about it, most of it revolving around its translation into English.

By the time the existence of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei was known to the English-speaking world, those keen in the ways of Japanese (and those not, even) knew the material was difficult to translate well. Further more, a commercial release of such a work would be a disaster if not done properly. However, despite seemingly insurmountable linguistic and cultural barriers, amateur translators managed to put out great, high quality localizations of the franchise’s TV anime counterpart. Why is it, then, that professionals can’t handle the manga part of the deal better?

While I can’t speak entirely for accuracy, Del-Rey’s translation of Zetsubou Sensei generally reads decently. It does feel stiff in places, but on the whole it comes off fine. However, at some point in the book–and this is a very specific point–things go all wrong. Once Kaere’s chapter rolls along, it seems as if the guy in charge of quality control just gives up. “Oh no!” is followed by its romanized Japanese equivalent “yada!”, and the translator for some reason feels “eki-in” (駅員) needs a translation note, when it simply means nothing more than “station attendant.” C’mon, guys. Even the fansubs translated that. I can understand them leaving the joke about Kaere’s name to a translation note, but I honestly expect more creativity and smarts out of  professional translators and editors.

Another big issue is the incorrect romanization of character names, and I’m not talking about trivial Shaa/Char shit. That said, this only really effects Sekiutsu, who is first introduced as Sekiuchi, then referred to as Sekiutsu, then is later on in the book referred to as Sekiuchi once more. Guys, I know the 内 in 関内 is typically read as “uchi”, but Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei has furigana for god sakes. This stuff is spelled out for you, quite literally, in conveniently placed bits of hiragana. To add insult to injury, they get her name right not once, but twice after the initial mess up. Then, in the next chapter, our lovable Maria becomes Sekiuchi again. Also, later on in the “Current Charges From This Issue” section–a section detailing the people Kaere sued–Nozomu’s name is rendered as “Noboru”, which is just utterly stupid.

I really feel sorry for any newcomer to the series reading this translation. While it reads decently in other sections, I’m afraid these bits will throw people off and confuse them, if they’re not already confused by all the Japan-specific cultural gags. I do commend Del-Rey for throwing in a glossary at the back, but it’s still missing some painfully obvious things. I haven’t read further volumes, so I don’t know if they improve or not, but this one gets pretty dire.

As for the manga itself, it’s pretty good. Kumeta’s work is still in infant stages here, so these early chapters feel a bit awkwardly paced and somewhat random, but they work well to deliver the franchise’s celebrated dark comedy and social satire. However, I do think the anime did a better job of streamlining these early chapters into something that flowed a bit easier. The art is also still developing, and hasn’t yet reached the point where SHAFT can just trace it panel to panel for their anime adaptation.

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11 Responses to SOMETHING’S UP WITH THIS MANGA TRANSLATION–SAYONARA ZETSUBOU SENSEI VOLUME 1

  1. Jeff says:

    This is some Tokyopop-level shit. C’mon, Del-Rey, you’re supposed to be better than that!

  2. digitalboy says:

    When this volume first came out and I heard the translation was poor, I immediately went to Andrew Cunningham about it. He said that he ‘wasn’t surprised’ because “Del Ray has shitty quality control”

  3. moritheil says:

    Yet another instance where professionals do not do professional-quality work.

  4. as says:

    shut up

    stop the anison

  5. Seinime says:

    “Oh no! Yada!”
    …Oh come on.

  6. sarahvait says:

    Well, between this and Gintama, I better crack out all my old japanese books and learn the language better so I can read the originals.

  7. wah says:

    I tried to read one page of the Zetsubou Sensei manga in Japanese then gave up.

  8. BlueGenome says:

    There seems to be a really weird trend of professional translators getting the shit kicked out of them by amateur fans. Of course, this might just be because only the crap ones get blogged about.

  9. Laika says:

    Almost want to read this for hilarity’s sake. Those kisamas, they should take their eiyakus more majime. Right?

  10. wah says:

    ですよねぇ!

  11. chrisl says:

    the problem is, people use the word “professional” as someone getting paid, and “amateur” as someone who is not.
    people should understand professional is someone who does a high quality job, getting paid for it or not.