お前な...

Anime fans are known to often spout off Japanese they don’t know because they think it’s cool. Okay, sometimes they do know Japanese, and still spout off Japanese words. I do this, too. For instance, when I was in Japan, I’d often comment on how takai (expensive) everything was. While I did it half-jokingly, running Japanese words into your English speech becomes a habit once you spend enough time in Japan. So–as awful as this may sound to some–I think in certain contexts it’s okay to run Japanese words into English sentences. For instance, I think it’s fine to do this amongst other people who know the language while talking about concepts with no 100% direct translation. It’s almost fine in blog posts (though I think footnotes would have worked better).

However, when Jake Adelstein quotes his buddy as saying, “Omae, I’ve never seen anyone do that before and live to tell the tale.” in his book Tokyo Vice, I think something is wrong. Yes, he explains what omae means and its connotations (it’s a rude/familiar way to say “you”), and I can see the kind of tone he’s trying to convey with his translation, but this just shouldn’t be done in a professionally published book for mainstream readers. It would have been far better just to use “you” then note that in Japanese, the guy was using omae, and what omae means. People who don’t know Japanese won’t ever fully grasp the tone the man was taking whether or not omae was used in the translation, and those of us who know Japanese will be able to imagine said tone if “you” was used instead, and a note about the use of omae followed afterwords.

The book also uses fansubber favourites like senpai, kohai, as well as the infamous gaijin. I don’t think gaijin is even explained–it doesn’t really need to be, considering the book’s target audience–but it doesn’t hurt to be safe, right?

That said, about a fourth of the way in, Tokyo Vice is a pretty interesting look into a side of Japan that I don’t see talked about much, so to that end it’s a pretty good read. And it’s not like it’s badly written either, it’s just Adelstein’s use of Japanese puts me off, especially when he uses “comic book” as opposed to manga.

I’m sure he appreciates some guy on a blog that has a “Lolita Appreciation” category getting on his case over something so trivial!!

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17 Responses to お前な...

  1. Jake Adelstein says:

    Jake Adelstein here.

    Wildarms, I appreciate your blog opinion *BROFIST

  2. Cool monogatari, bro.

  3. Kulag says:

    On the other hand, the Japanese like to use random English due to the Rule Of Cool as well, so it goes both ways.

  4. It seems I have a double, since I don’t remember commenting on the site before. Yes, perhaps I could have worked Japanese into the book a little better. I just wanted to convey the way the language works on how even the word for “you” can mean so much depending upon which word you choose. I hope I conveyed that well.
    I think to have done it as a footnote would have been distracting but your approach might have been better. I couldn’t say.

    Yes, I do disapprove of your Lolita Appreciation category but that comes from knowledge that anime and pornographic comic books are often used by pedophiles to indoctrinate children and then rape them. However, certainly it’s not as horrific as real child pornography. Maybe some people can keep that in their fantasy life and it’s cathartic and prevents them from acting it out in real life. I don’t know. I’m not saying I think you’re a perv, by the way. What you posted in that category seems relatively benign–but I wouldn’t be myself if I didn’t point out some problematic aspects of the stuff.

    Nice blog, other than that, I’m way behind on the anime scene. The last thing I watched all the way from start to finish was DEATH NOTE–which was excellent. God knows I wish I had one. I can think of several names I’d write down as fast as I could move a pen.

  5. Ryoko says:

    >>”Yes, I do disapprove of your Lolita Appreciation category but that comes from knowledge that anime and pornographic comic books are often used by pedophiles to indoctrinate children and then rape them.”

    You got a source to back up that claim?

    About using random Japanese: sometimes I like to say “kawaii”, “sugoi”, “oishi”, “okasan”, “otosan”, “obasan”, “neko”, etc. I know what all of those mean, though, and I won’t use a word that I don’t know the meaning of.

  6. roast-beefy says:

    >I’m not saying I think you’re a perv

    Oh, he’s a perv.

  7. 2DT says:

    This happens in the novel “Life of Pi” as well: The Japanese characters who appear at the end use -san, which is understandable thanks to The Karate Kid, but also -kun, with no translation. Either the author assumed we’d get it from context, or he knew a great deal of us have flipped through that first page of every Del Rey manga enough times to know it by heart.

  8. Sean says:

    There’s a big difference between translation for subtitles and using foreign words as flavor for prose, so I don’t think there’s much of a comparison.

    But hey, you got him to comment on your blog! That’s pretty cool.

  9. Alex Leavitt says:

    Is it bad that the one set of Japanese words I constantly use (and can’t UNuse) is うん and ううん? I can’t just use Yes and No anymore; it’s too weird.

  10. schneider says:

    Who are you, kisama?

  11. VZ says:

    Why’d you delete my comment wah? ;_;

    Don’t let the moral prudes shame your love of lolicon.

  12. Actar says:

    Question, can ‘Omae’ be used to convey the meaning of ‘you’ in a non-rude manner if one does not use a vehement tone? I might have used ‘Omae’ instead of ‘Anta/Anata’ in Japan. (^.^;)

  13. wah says:

    >>Jake
    What you did is fine, I just have a personal issue when it comes to running Japanese into English, that’s all.

    Anyway, I have to say that it’s weird how certain parts of your book hit home–I too went to Sophia (as an exchange student, though) and lived in Saitama.

  14. Wah-
    Wow. I lived in Tokyo when I was at Sophia and Saitama later. It must have been a hellish commute. I’m having lunch with Professor Gardner today.

  15. wah says:

    An hour’s commute wasn’t so bad… I lived in Warabi, right near Nishi-Kawaguchi.