It seems I’m updating about once a year now. :( I haven’t left the fandom, but I guess I lost interest in blogging at some point. Maybe I’ll resume soon. I’ve done a lot of things in the meantime though, including visiting Japan twice, so I definitely have stuff to share.
Anyway, with the sudden announcement that Saki is graduating from S/mileage, I’ve now experienced for the second time the sudden graduation of my favorite member from H!P. Saki wasn’t originally my favorite in H!P, much less S/mileage, nor was S/mileage my favorite group, but she gradually became more interesting and I even decided to get a haircut like hers when “Short Cut” came out. I’m glad I got the chance to meet her briefly at the mini-live and handshake event at Sunshine City in Ikebukuro last December.
But what inspired me to post now was a couple of lines in a comment by Tsunku♂ posted on the official Hello! Project site:
This was originally translated by takamaruyo as
Also, she is still an immature student.
A working adult would understand that abandoning work half way is an inexcusable act, but please consider her straight and strong feelings, and watch over her with your warm and love.
When I read this, my immediate reaction was Who would write such a rude thing?! The remarks came off as an overly harsh criticism of Saki’s decision in the middle of a comment apologizing for the sudden announcement and change in lineup. It seemed really out of place.
So I read the original in Japanese, and though I’m not completely fluent, I thought it wasn’t nearly so harsh. It didn’t directly criticize her for her maturity nor expect her to understand such a decision to be irresponsible. Rather, it seemed that Tsunku♂ was defending Saki from people who might criticize her for being immature and irresponsible and that he was explaining that since she was still in school and a minor, what one would expect of her would not be the same as what one would expect of a working adult. Sure, he’s upset about it and it most likely ruined plans he had for S/mileage, but this wasn’t the place to say that. I pointed this out, and offered my own translation, which has since been incorporated into takamaruyo’s. But since I wrote that in a hurry, it’s not terribly great, so I point you instead to Pure Idol Heart’s version:
Again, Ogawa is still an inexperienced student and a minor.
For a working adult, it would be unacceptable to give up their job halfway.
However, please consider her straightforward feelings, and watch over her warmly.
There’s still some implied criticism but it isn’t directly calling her out for being immature and irresponsible.
Unfortunately it seems the original translation had been reposted all over the place, and a number of people in the community have been outraged at Tsunku♂ for something he didn’t quite say, and others have taken the rude comments to be revealing something about Saki’s relationship with Tsunku♂ and H!P, though it really isn’t. And of course, if you read Tsunku♂’s defense of Saki against accusations of irresponsibility as exactly such an accusation itself, it puts Saki herself in a bad light too.
Something so small as the choice of a few words here and there to translate a statement can really skew an audience’s reaction in extreme ways. I’m not criticizing the original translator though, as no translation is perfect, especially on such a short notice.
I’m struggling with how to render things properly myself as I undertake my current project of translating Koharu’s autobiography/self-help book 17sai no Tenshoku. I decided to work on this just a few days ago, and though it’s certainly going to be quite a time-consuming project, especially since I have to look up unfamiliar words and expressions all the time, I think it’s worth the effort. It’s certainly helping me improve my Japanese, even more than just reading it as I had been before I decided to translate it. And since it’s my first translation project, it’s giving me some experience in choosing the right words and structures in English to express a text written in a completely different language. Certainly a lot of nuance will be lost in translation, and some will be gained that wasn’t in the original, but at least by the end of it, I’ll have a text that others in the English-speaking fan community can enjoy. I don’t believe anyone else is working on a fan translation, and there’s no way Up-Front Books is publishing an official one (though that would be awesome).
I’m currently up to page 35 of the book, though this looks like more than it actually is, since the page numbering starts with the eight pages of color photographs Koha included at the front (adorable baby Koha! awwwww <3) and includes the lengthy table of contents that lists every chapter, section, and subsection, each with its own title. Koha's writing is very Kohaesque, if you're familiar at all with her personality. It jumps around a lot and frequently gives brief impressions of one scene before jumping to the next. The text within each subsection is divided into parts separated by a blank line, and these parts are divided into paragraphs. Sometimes just a few words make up such a part by itself. A single page can have up to five distinct parts. On top of that, about half the book is dialogue in script form.
This style of chunking text into short sections may be characteristic of contemporary literature in general, when most people read stuff on cell phones and have trouble with text that isn't conveniently arranged for reading on a tiny phone screen. This article by Yoko Tawada is an interesting read on the subject. It seems a newer translation of Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov in Japanese has been selling way better than anyone would expect, and likely for the main reason that the translator has intentionally broken up Dostoevsky’s gigantic walls of text into bite-size pieces.
Koha, though, goes a bit beyond such expectations. It might be suggested that this book is ghostwritten, which may be standard for celebrity autobiographies, but Koha says in the preface that she wrote it all herself and was involved in the editing process. As I read it, I’m having trouble imagining anyone besides Koharu writing this. More than just the short sections, the writing is very much in her style.
So hopefully this will be finished in a couple months or so. I’m certainly having fun reading it and trying to find the right balance between readability and faithfulness to Koha’s style as I take her words and express them in a form more accessible to many of us.