You Be the Judge in JManga’s Translation Battle

Do you like honorifics or hate them? What about slang? Now you have a chance to check out some manga translations and vote for your favorites in the JManga Translation Battle, which is going on until December 2.

Since most of us who read manga don’t read Japanese, it’s easy to forget that there’s someone in between the reader and the manga-ka: The translator, whose work is as much art as science. This is especially true for a language like Japanese, which has a lot of nuance and doesn’t map directly to English.

That’s why it’s so interesting to see how the different translators in the JManga competition handled the same material. The finalists’ page features six different translations of an excerpt from Tominori Inoue’s “Coppelion” and three translations each of parts of Nana Haruta’s “Chocolate Cosmos” and Akira Saso’s “Shindo.”

Just look at the difference in tone between these translations of a snippet of dialogue from “Coppelion.” A group of schoolgirls are walking down the road in what looks like a post-apocalyptic landscape; their leader is urging them on.

And here, from three translations of “Shindo,” are three different ways to insult the girl you just met:

Each manga has a different tone, a different “voice,” which may be pleasing to some readers and annoying to others.

The judges for this contest include two experienced translators, William Flanagan (“A Bride’s Story,” “Fairy Tail”) and Jonathan Tarbox (“Fist of the North Star,” “Slam Dunk”), as well as blogger Deb Aoki and MIT professor Ian Condry. And you: Readers are invited to vote for their favorite translation of all three manga. One winner will be chosen for each series, and one of those three will be the grand prize winner and will get a trip to Japan next February and will be invited to a symposium at the Japan Media Arts Festival. (The two runners-up will get iPads.)

So make your preferences known! Tell JManga which translation you like best, and then stay tuned—the winners will be announced later in December.

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