The Eureka Seven manga was released by Bandai Entertainment alongside their anime release. For those of you who haven’t read the manga but have seen the anime, it’s a different take on things with I think less solid storytelling but still has its good points. However, the dialogue in the English language version was often very awkward-sounding. It didn’t sound like people actually talking. Lines which were supposed to be “cool” or “dramatic” ended up landing with wet thuds. I had read a bit of the manga in Japanese prior, but as I finished it up with the English release, the flow of language in it continued to bother me. I had to wonder then, was it the translation, or was the original writing simply that stilted and it was my lack of complete Japanese fluency that didn’t notice it originally?
Whenever I read a translated manga where the dialogue seems off or unusually poor, I have to wonder where the blame lies, seeing as how there are so many people and factors involved. You have the original writer, writing in their native language, coming from their own culture, and then you have the translator, adapting to their own native language, keeping their own culture and readership in mind for just how much they change or allow to remain “as is.”
Is it that the translation is bad? Or is it that the writing wasn’t so great in the first place? And if the writing is bad, do you massage it until it becomes fine and readable English prose? It sort of goes beyond the literal accuracy vs spiritual accuracy argument when you have to factor in a source which may not be regarded as the pinnacle of literary talent. And it’s something that without proper research can be difficult to detect, aside from a few obvious examples where you can just tell the translator was struggling with a very Japanese-sounding sentence. “The burning passionately me now challenges you to a duel!” That sort of thing.
And then you throw money into the mix.
Let’s say that you’re a translator (and who knows, maybe you are!), and you’re giving the script to some work with achingly bad dialogue, like say, Government Crime Investigation Agent Zaizen Jotaro, and as much as you think there are definitely better works out there, you’ve been handed this and your company’s supposed to make a profit off of it. Do you try your best to salvage the bad writing and make it presentable? Or do you show it for what it is? And if so, are you prepared for idiots like me to accuse you of doing a poor translation?