The Society for the Study of Ogiue Dialogue 2: “Come Here, My Dear”

Though my first experience with Genshiken came as a result of watching the first series fansubbed, my first impression of Ogiue comes from the Japanese version of the manga. And in the original Japanese language version, Ogiue speaks in a way that I can only describe as “polite bluntness.” In a normal situation where she is not flustered to the point of switching back to her native dialect, Ogiue uses a standard polite form of Japanese, but does so in a very terse manner, like she’s telling people to back off, or that she wants to say as little as possible and end the conversation quickly. The content of her words also speaks towards this, as exemplified in her legendary introduction, translated officially as “My name is Ogiue and I hate otaku.”

When you look at the original Japanese however, the structure of the sentence is different. To clarify what I mean, I’m providing not only the original image along with the original Japanese, but also the romanization of the Japanese, as well as a more literal translation.

「オタクが嫌いな荻上です。」

“Otaku ga kirai na Ogiue desu.”

“I am the otaku-hating Ogiue.”

You can sort of see how much is changed here. Now, keep in mind that the official translation, the “My name is Ogiue and I hate otaku,” is very much how I prefer to translate that very line. The overly literal translation doesn’t sound like good English, and the grammatical differences between English and Japanese, let alone the cultural ones, mean that you cannot achieve the same effect through a strict translation. But at the same time, I began to wonder just how much Ogiue’s manner of speaking was able to translate from the original releases in Monthly Afternoon to the Del Rey Manga English versions. I’ve read a good deal of the English version, and often times I felt like the many of the subtleties of the dialogue were being lost in translation. There was a problem, however.  The Del Rey version was not designed for people who knew Japanese, and I was in a sense “tainted” by my exposure to the original Japanese.

This potential problem with dialogue didn’t apply to just Ogiue, and in fact I noticed it possibly moreso with the rest of the cast, but I decided to use Ogiue as a metric. So a week ago, I asked people via this blog, what do you think of Ogiue’s dialogue? I asked it without explaining my experiment, as I was worried that I would influence the people responding with my own doubts, though looking back, I think by asking them specifically about the “English” version, I already planted that seed. In spite of that, however, I managed to get some good responses which had me re-evaluate my own thoughts on the accuracy of the “spirit” of the translation.

Chaostangent felt that Ogiue’s dialogue “never seems too polite or too brash,” which in a way is how Ogiue talks, or is at least a compromise. Paul said that Ogiue “always sounded angry when she talked,” which is also quite accurate. And digital boy even claims that in reading the English version, he could “hear” the Japanese voices in his head. So, at least according to people who weren’t looking at it from the perspective of having read it in its original language, Ogiue’s character comes across in her dialogue. Though it might not be to the extent that it captures 100% of everything there, it still works and works well, enough to turn people into fans of Ogiue.

And I also think I focused too much on the dialogue itself. Ogiue as well as all the other characters don’t show their personality just through their usage of Japanese, but through their facial expressions, their mannerisms, and not just how they speak but when they choose to speak and why.

So, I know I’m going to regret explaining the background on this, but I am once again going to ask people how they feel about not just Ogiue’s, but the dialogue in Genshiken in general. Let’s not even limit it to the manga translation, but the anime as well. For those of you who’ve seen the dub, how does the translation fare? I found it unusually stilted, but again, maybe I’m just biased.

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7 thoughts on “The Society for the Study of Ogiue Dialogue 2: “Come Here, My Dear”

  1. Oooh, awesome!!

    I agree w/ digital boy that I could hear the Japanese voices in my head, for ALL of Genshiken. I said before, this is the first manga I’ve been able to read in English. In my comment, I said I couldn’t remember if I read it in JP or English. It surpassed language in a sense.

    I think you have a good point that the characters have more than just their dialog to convey their character. Given that single frame, the details of the JP version are lost, but Genshiken has more than that frame to tell Ogiue’s story.

    I’ve never read the JP version (good god I would love to) so I’m curious if they will seem any different to me.

    Translations in general? I tend to dislike them. I just can’t relate to most subs.. I’m like: that’s not how people talk.

    I find it super interesting that the more modern the setting, the translations get easier to take in. GITS for example doesn’t really touch on JP culture itself, so translations are 100% good to me.

    BTW, I watched Ghost in the shell 2nd gig with BAD English subs made by a Chinese company, and it made the show seem VERY bad. Translations are so important.

    PS: Why would you regret explaining the background? These are the posts I love!

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  2. You bring up an interesting case about the tone of her dialogue, especially post-translation, but I’m a bit confused about why you bother translating 嫌いな荻上 if it doesn’t actually play into your discussion at all. I understand that it must have been an initial point-of-entry for your thoughts, especially a matter that you could have argued about given more citations, but I feel like it takes away from the above discussion because ultimately the proper contextual translation is (just as you prefer as well) what they put into the Del Rey version.

    [[ I mainly bring this up because I had done a similar thing with my writing recently: putting in an introductory idea that didn’t help my argument/discussion at all (possibly even detracted), but in the end I left it in the text, even though I questioned the move as an instance of not-quite-so-great writing. ]]

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  3. I should clarify somewhat what I mean by hearing the Japanese voices. The reason is that I have watched something like 800 subbed anime, and I’ve gotten very, very good at connecting Japanese phrases to the way that they are translated. That’s not my way of saying that I read those Japanese phrases as that translation. I understand the way that the Japanese language is spoken and what kind of things change when translating to English. So, when I read a manga and I see phrases that sound exactly like the phrases I often see in subtitles, then I can hear the original Japanese phrase in my head and get a better sense of the meaning.

    I was having fun with that this morning, actually, because my little brother was getting up and Bakugan Battle Brawlers was on Cartoon Network. This show has one of the most poorly written dubs I’ve ever heard, because they didn’t account for mouth movement when they wrote it, so the actors are trying to sync the words to the mouth movements, but they have to stop mid-word to do it. However, by watching the rhythm of the characters’ phrasing and hearing what was said, I could always tell what the original would have sounded like.

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    • Btw, that’s pretty much how I read your comment. I mean, this manga has hyper exaggerated expressions, so it conveys quite specifically what a character is feeling/saying.

      That last chapter with no text is a perfect example. As long as the translation doesn’t absolutely suck and get in the way of your interpretation : )

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  4. The dubbed version of the Genshiken anime had some of the best casting IMO. Granted, I saw the dub before the sub (which does affect my judgement) and some of the translations were slightly awkward at times (it’s like that for all dubs), but I still prefer to watch the dub.

    I haven’t seen the second season of Genshiken dubbed yet, but I did watch a couple of clips of Ogiue dubbed and I’m not sure what to make of it. Thoughts?

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  5. I love your posts, especially about Genshiken since it’s by far my favorite manga/anime and who can’t love Ogiue? haha

    I’m sorry “TheAndySan” but I just can’t agree with you about the dub. I know it’s a matter of preference but the English dub of Genshiken gives me chills down my spine. Not good chills as well. One or two of the voice actors/actresses were ok but for the most part it sounded like they just got regular people off the street.

    My view is also severely altered by the fact I saw the sub version for about 2 years, watched entire series 3 or 4 times, before ever seeing the Dub. I just couldn’t enjoy the show without hearing the Japanese seiyu for Madarame, saki, or Kuga-P. :) Just my 2 cents.

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  6. I gave the first three volumes of Genshiken in Japanese to my (non-otaku) girlfriend. I can’t comment on Ogiue’s dialogue in particular but I remember when I was reading it on the train together with her I was struck with just how natural the dialogue read in Japanese. In particular, there was a scene with Kasukabe leaving an ex-lover and the dialogue handled their interactions so gracefully that it was, as Yuji says above, kind of transcendant of language.

    It just the interplay of expressions, where Shimoku left pauses, where how he has the characters phrase certain words that it was very easy to understand the character even when I’m not getting 100% of the vocabulary. We are left with a very human break-up with none of the over-the-top emotions that make up drama so often in manga. Likewise with the passion of Madarame or the soft-spoken nerdiness of Kosuka. You can almost hear the appropriate voices for them.

    The English version, in contrast, while an excellent translation and one I enjoyed reading very much, doesn’t always have quite the same sense of voice often. It’s partially because, as you said in your piece, a lot of it depends on the idiosyncracies of Japanese language – a particle here, a swapped vowel there – that just don’t translate into English without making it a lot of gobbledygook.

    Finally, I think that dub is servicable for those who don’t want to read, but seriously, a show about Japanese otaku has no reason to be watched with English voices.

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