New Special Issue – TranscUlturAl: A J. of Translation and Cultural Studies

As I’ve noted a number of times, some academic journals certainly seem to be “more welcoming” to publications on anime/manga than others. 78 articles on anime/manga that have been published since 1993 appeared in the International Journal of Comic Art, 22 in Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 19 in Japan Forum, 15 in the Journal of Popular Culture, and so on. But, overall, more than 460 individual journals have now published an article on anime/manga – and a majority of them only published one or two. This means that as I track publication trends in anime/manga studies, I am constantly discovering not just new articles, but new journals that I have never come across before.

One such journal is open-access TranscUlturAl: A Journal of Translation and Cultural Studies, which publishes “essays, translations and creative pieces that explore interrelationships between translations and cultures, past and present, in global and local contexts.” Its latest issue focuses specifically on “translation and comics”, and contains two articles on manga – as follows, with my thoughts/comments.

Fabbretti, Matteo. The use of translation notes in manga scanlation. TranscUlturAl: A Journal of Translation and Cultural Studies, 8(2), 86-104.

Abstract:

“This article investigates the use of translation notes to deal with translation problems. In Translation Studies, the presence of translation notes in a translation is considered particularly significant because they clearly indicate what features of the source text the translator considered important for the comprehension of the text and therefore necessary to retain or explain. In the field of comics in translation, the use of T/N is rather uncommon, and can be considered the main translation strategy that distinguishes scanlation from other types of translations.

In the first part of this article, the structure of the English-language manga scanlation communities is examined; following this, the way culture-specific items are dealt with by manga scanlators is analysed; and finally, an explanatory hypothesis linking the broader structure of participation to individual translation strategies is presented. The argument put forward in this article is that translation notes are used in scanlation both to solve translation problems and as a way for scanlators to communicate directly with their readers, thereby foregrounding their mediating presence directly on the pages of scanlated manga.”

Thoughts/Comments:

As per the article’s rather straight-forward title, the author’s focus is on a particular element of manga translation – how scanlators use translation notes, drawing on examples from two different manga. Specifically, he demonstrates how scanlators use notes to approach “extralinguistic references” (i.e., terms for specific objects that do not have adequate English equivalents or call for an explanation), “intralinguistic references” (slang, jargon, specialized vocabularies/word choices in characters’ speech), “borderline features” (combinations of both, such as proverbs/folk sayings), and “purely visual cultural references” – objects or situations that are actually directly depicted in the manga, without the need for explanations in the original. The question he asks, then, is “why [translation notes] are considered a suitable translation solution in scanlation, and what consequences result from the use of this strategy.” His answer, supported by responses he received from both scanlators and scanlation readers, is that translation notes act to emphasize that manga are not merely comics, but specifically Japanese comics – a product of a different culture. As such, they are actively welcomed by an audience that is specifically looking to experience a “different” product, one that is coming from outside of the U.S./English-language comics tradition. In this way, his claim is similar to the one made by Cathy Sell, in Manga translation and interculture, that “[i]n Japanese manga translation there has been an increasing preference for the use of foreignization strategies, which preserve elements of the source culture, over domestication” – though both him and Sell refer back to James Rampant’s 2010 essay “The manga polysystem: What fans want, fans get”, which appeared in the essay collection Manga: An Anthology of Global and Cultural Perspectives.

Overall, manga translation in general and scanlation and scanlators in particular have already attracted a deal of attention in the English-language manga studies literature – in addition to the sources I already mentioned, consider, for example, “Translating manga” (Heike Jungst, in Comics in Translation), The task of manga translation: Akira in the West, (Martin de la Iglezia, The Comics Grid, Journal of Comics Scholarship) Strategy and style in English and French translations of Japanese comic books (Peter Howell, Edinburgh Working Papers in Applied Linguistics) Fluidity of modes in the translation of manga: The case of Kishimoto’s Naruto (Cheng-Wen Huan & Alrene Archer, Visual Communication, which compares that manga’s fan and official translations), Hye-Kyung Lee’s studies of manga scanlators specifically, such as Between fan culture and copyright infringement: Manga scanlation, and Cultural consumers as “new cultural intermediaries”: Manga scanlators, and the author’s own PhD thesis and an article, “The translation practices of manga scanlators, likely based on it, which he published last year in the International Journal of Comic Art. But, again, it is precisely the iterative nature of scholarship that makes this essay – which is aware of the previous ones, and builds on them – possible! And, in a way, this article also can serve as an excellent launching point for a follow-up study that would examine how the use of translation notes has evolved in “professional” English-language translations of manga in different countries and by different companies.

Jones, Jason Christopher, & Normand-Marconnet, Nadine. From West to East to West: A case study on Japanese manga translated into French. TranscUlturAl: A Journal of Translation and Cultural Studies, 8(2), 154-173.

Abstract:

“Author of a dozen reputable works on wine, M. Dovaz composed the foreword for the French translation of the Japanese graphic novel, Kami no Shizuku (2005), released in France as Les Gouttes de Dieu (2008). This manga has become a best-seller in its genre in France while the Japanese television adaptation has also reached a French audience through fansubs, allowing a new generation to gain access to that which had hitherto been seen as its own cultural patrimony.

Integral to this wine culture is the ability to ‘talk about’ its central object, in spite of linguistic or geographical separation. The central challenge being to efficiently associate words to a fleeting sensation provoked by visual, olfactory and gustative experience, a specific linguistic knowledge is necessary for those who wish to claim proficiency in wine. The critical narrative arc and didacticism of wine manga rests in the mastery of lexical sophistication as well as cultural knowledge, a posture also shared by most French experts.

The language of wine, the power center of which once resided in France, has been brought into Japan through the act of translation. This very act has allowed for a shift in power – and thus the potential to represent the wine world – from France to Japan. We will show in this paper that there is an interplay occurring between French and Japanese media, producing a cultural space bridged through wine lexicon used in two series of manga recently translated into French (Sommelier in 2004 and Les Gouttes de Dieu in 2008).

For this purpose, we will proceed to a comparative analysis of the Japanese source text with the French target text, highlighting metaphors used in wine culture. Through the analysis of the texts, we will demonstrate that the Japanese-French translations of these metaphors allow a new way for the French to see their culture through a lense (sic) provided by the Japanese sommelier.”

Thoughts/Comments:

With this paper, the first thing that comes to mind is how different it is from the previous one. The authors’ goal is not to highlight or provide examples of individual translation instances and translation practices. Rather, it is to address “translation” as a more abstract process of introducing one country’s culture into another. And, although they do compare both the original Japanese versions of the two manga that they are studying, and their French translations, talking about how accurate or inaccurate the translations are is simply not something that they are interested in. In fact, in this way, the article is perhaps a closer fit to the journal’s goal of “exploring interrelationships between translations and cultures”.

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