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Old 2008-12-20, 20:00
Posts: n/a

I haven't had the time to go back to the original to compare line-for-line or to confirm aspects of my very shaky memories of it, but these are my impressions of May Sky, with apologies Irene for saying "the translator" instead of your name below.

One thing that hit me right from the go was that this was definitely a translation, and not just a conversion from Japanese to English. Every effort has been made to adapt and adjust words, sentences and paragraphs to a Western-equivalent context. In the literal vs liberal debate my personal preference is for the literal side of translation, but objectively I can find few faults and a lot of praise for how the changes were made. As the articles on the altogether allude to, the handling of phrases and sayings related to May was a particular point of interest because of its difficulty, and it looks like a lot of creativity went into their adaptations, with several different methods used for the various words.

The most obvious example of this was a word like "urusai," for example, used in the second chapter. The kanji for it is basically "May fly" (fly being the insect rather than the verb), with its use in this particular instance both for its literal meaning and for the fact May is part of the kanji, but this is clearly something that can't be conveyed in English with a direct translation, and likewise pulling out the words May fly out of nowhere would lead to great confusion. So what has been done has been to use the word May flies, but with the addition of preceding lines to build it up into a pun by utilising the verb meaning of "flies" with "time flies like an arrow" and "fruit flies like a banana," the latter phrase of which carries its own pun because fruit flies can both refer to the insect and to the fruit flying.

Freshman blues, on the other hand, was translated completely, and it was reliant on the rest of the text to provide a link to the May period which the original word in Japanese was able to do just by its visuals. There was an attempt to connect it to May with the adding of the line "Talk about mayday, mayday, mayday," later on when freshman blues appeared again, but for all intents and purposes the May aspect of freshman blues didn't seem to something that could be deducted from the translated piece alone.

Somewhere in between lied the title of the 3rd chapter, "Mayweather," which is neither a literal translation nor takes out the visual May link completely. In a sense the translation benefited from the subtitle beneath it which explained the original intent of the word so the translator could concentrate on what looks and sounds right in English without worrying over explaining the meaning. Similarly compromises and creative decisions were made for other words, and where May is concerned, I definitely think that a great job was done considering the difficulty involved.

On a related note, creativity is something that was a consistent feature of the entire translation. The poem-like endings to each chapter, the frequent use of CAPITAL WORDS especially in gag sequences to accentuate tone of voice/thoughts, the wide range of vocabulary in the translator's repertoire, the stuttering. To be honest, I'm not sold on the poetry. While the endings of each chapter does take on a more narrative tone and some of them have a flowery flavour to the language, it's not something that doesn't exist in the main body of the text and so it feels unnecessary and out of place. Translator preference, mayhaps, but I am of the belief that this is where the translator's individualistic style has worked to the detriment of the translation.

In fact, for lack of a better word, this "strong" translation was evident throughout the entire translation as well. The frequent use of colloquisms, local references, the words "epic fail," the part-archaic speech with the thous, Sound of Music. They were often appropriate, sometimes not, but all in all the significant point is that the voice of the translator can shine through the text on occasions. Epic fail was in particular a grating point for me, while on the other hand I really loved the substitution of a basketball analogy for what must have been a baseball analogy in the original, baseball being an important sport in Japan but not the rest of the world, even if the translator got the analogy slightly wrong: someone who comes in off the bench must be the sixth man, not the fifth man.

I find the translator is often at her best with the more narrative passages rather than the conversational passages of text. Not to say that the conversational passages can't also be good, and the "what's correct" bit by Minori stands out to me as being very well translated, it's just that I find the narrative parts much more consistent in their quality. On the whole my sense is that the translation got better and better as the piece progressed, perhaps as familiarity kicked in with translating these particular characters?

There was a section nearing the middle-end of August Snow where the translation suddenly felt a bit weird, and there were some lines that I thought were mistranslated, like the two times "bittersweet" appeared, and there was even a rough translation left in that was obviously meant to be reviewed later ([path that I couldn't set a foot on]). My guess was that this part was translated under time pressure, and that the translator was plumping for an emotional translation rather than an accurate translation at this point of proceedings.

Otherwise there were some small mistakes with spelling and grammar scattered throughout, as well as some interesting choice of words which I'd never thought would be used in normal conversation, like demarcated, ginormous. And who the heck is Michael Bolton? Special mention to the nice font used for the title menu, BGM titles etc and for translating everything and making the presentation very professional including the webpage. Oh, if only Hoshinono had a Nscripter version, because I rate that even higher than May Sky, alas it was not to be.

Overall this was a good translation, and a fun translation, one which mixes creativity and faithfulness in equal measure. The story itself is a good one which can be recommended for most people, and I look forward to more translations from Irene in the future. Thanks Irene!
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