Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ahem, let's start the first annual JManga gripe fest.

JManga has finally landed. It being relevant to my interests, I took a look at the site, where there are currently about a hundred fifty volumes available, give or take. Their aim is an eye-popping 10k titles by 2013, which is a lofty goal indeed, and one I wish them luck with. It hardly seems possible to do so much in such a short amount of time without cutting some corners.

Their current seinen selection is somewhat odd; not exactly low-hanging fruit when it comes to popularity. There are some things that make sense (SoreMachi, Crayon Shin-chan), even if I don't like them personally (Asu no Yoichi, Crime & Punishment), and other ones that are kinda out of left field (Anesthesiologist Hana, wat?). One notes the heavy presence of Futabasha titles (Manga Action, Comic High); presumably they were more on the ball than the other publishers. I suppose it might be a good sign that a wide range of obscure manga is present.

Anyway, I decided to take a look at their preview for Fumiyo Kouno's Town of Evening Calm, Country of Cherry Blossoms. (I own both the English and Japanese editions, so it's something I'm familiar with.) I wondered if they had just gotten the rights to Last Gasp's version, but right away, one can see that this something completely new. There are no redraws in the front matter, and the English text for the table of contents is somewhat jarringly placed. Further in, the typesetting shows too-tight letterspacing, and the translation could use some editing ("We should make the pattern paper a little thinner for you." The pattern, or the paper?). Also, the folksy twang of the original dialogue is lost here. But what the translation needs most would appear to be translation checking.
This panel here is from page 8 of the preview.  If you rush through it, it seems fine: "Can I buy this bamboo skin?" But wait, why would you buy, from a friend no less, something they wrap their lunch in? And why would they answer "sure" without discussing the price? Something isn't quite right here.

Thankfully, JManga has a convenient button that magically switches the language, so we can look at the original Japanese.

It immediately becomes clear what has transpired here. The translator appears to have misread 貰う (morau) as 買う (kau). The latter means "to buy", and the former is a term used for receiving things (to put it simply). The original line should be, "Mind if I take this bamboo skin?"

To recap, we have a translation error right out the gate, on page 8. And in my mind, it's a rather critical error because it undermines the characterization of the protagonist and the impact of the poverty she lives in. I can live with mediocre typesetting and maybe even the occasional awkwardly-translated line, but errors are something else altogether. This does not build my confidence in JManga.

You might say, okay, that's one error out of how many volumes. It's true that I haven't looked at a broad swath of the website and found this situation to be endemic. But this is a basic error that should not have slipped through the editing process. It raises the question of who exactly is doing the translating and whether there's actually anyone checking the final product. I would love to see JManga succeed, but for $8.99, I think they can do better.

Anyway, I left them a note and we'll see what happens.

Edit 8/25/2011: no response. Let's try again. And now that I look at it again, the lower bubble is whack; you don't say "hey there" when you're getting off work.

Edit March 14, 2013: Today JManga announced that it was shutting down its services, so I checked to see if they had fixed this error. Surprisingly enough, at some point they had.

Unfortunately they left the nonsensical "hey there" in the lower panel. Well, as the internet says: RIP in peace, JManga.

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