Translation Notes, Honorifics and US Manga

Something that I rarely do is buy Manga. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not because I pirate Manga, which I don’t, it’s just that I am not really a Manga reading person. If you ask me, given the choice between Anime and Manga, I’d choose Anime. Why? Because it’s a more immersive and engaging experience. You have movement, voice, audio, color, the works. However, I do understand that usually, due to budget and run-time issues, the Anime version ends up being a less-than-faithful adaptation of the much-better original Manga. Yet, knowing this, another reason I avoid reading Manga is because I fear that I would spoil myself if they were to ever make an Anime adaptation of it.

Yet, sometimes, I do buy the Manga to give it a read after I’ve finished, and loved, the Anime series.

Here’s the thing. Having not bought any US Official English Translated Manga before, I was extremely hesitant to. I have seen my fair share of liberal official US Anime subtitles and being a staunch supporter of literal-translations, I could not fathom the horrors that awaited me. But, I went ahead and bought three different volumes of Manga, Railgun, Cardcaptor Sakura and Lucky Star.

…was I in for a surprise.

What’s this? Honorifics?


Translation notes? Oh my!

It would be an understatement to say that I have gained much respect for officially translated Manga and their efforts to retain the ‘Japaneseness’ of the original.

But this leads us to a very puzzling question. If Manga can do this, why not officially licensed Anime? Is there a difference in translation policies? Do they think that Manga has far more niche audience than Anime? Or perhaps it could be the limitations of the various media themselves?

13 Responses to Translation Notes, Honorifics and US Manga

  1. VillainHana says:

    Ah, so it begins…

    I was wondering when you would be publicly addressing the things we talked about. I’m interested to see what exactly you have up your sleeve.

    Though even though I have said this somewhat before, I will say it once more because I think it bears repeating.

    I have noticed for quite a while that Official Manga translations are much more likely to keep “Cultural Terminology” than Anime is. Granted, Official Anime translation has gotten better since the dark days of the late 80s and 90s, but what gets left in and what doesn’t is still spotty and inconsistant even to this day, and as you have demonstrated even in subtitles.

    I personally think the reason that Manga is more likely to leave in such “Cultural Terminology” is two-fold. One, Manga distribution and translation is often a much more minimal endeavor, not in the amount of work to do but in the number of people who do it. Far fewer people work on the translation process than when it comes to Anime. In essence, when you have less people you have less chance of butting heads, and therefore there is a greater degree of central control. More central control means that things are often a lot more consistent. The second reason connect with that you said. You said that you felt Anime is a more immersive experience. That works into the idea that Anime is the more accessible product than Manga. I think that because Manga is more often the less accessible product, the translators feel that they can make it more inclusive and that it doesn’t have to “be as universal as possible” as OtaKing has often said. Though if you’re being more cynical, the idea of “being as universal as possible” sounds like “must appeal to the Lowest Common Denominator”. But that is a separate issue entirely.

    Though as I have said just prior, I’m looking foreward to what you got up your sleeve next (especially since I just got done with my term papers just yesterday).

  2. There are limitations for the English language to express specific Japanese word, such as “kodawari”……..there just aren’t a word in the English language to translate that….Better buy Official Japanese-Chinese translated mangas as it is better expressed with the bucket full of Chinese adjectives not to mention some Kanji derived from Chinese word characters…^.^;

  3. KaneTheMessias says:

    Jeez, these are some translation notes you heve there. I also like anime more than manga. It just gives you a better experience. But I also read the manga to see how the story goes further, or how it supposed to be. It’s really a shame that they don’t use the same translation as in the manga, that’s why I always watch them in jap dub with sub, even if they have a dub in my language. It’s like VillainHana said. It’s more accessible and even normal people watch anime sometime. If they used many of these words, I doubt they would understand a thing. For manga it’s much easier to put some TL notes beside the word, but not for anime. If I were a “normal” guy who watch anime seldom, then it would be a pain in the ass to read first which word means what, just to understand a thing.

  4. konakonaotaku says:

    Actually, they do occasionally do stuff like that in dubbed anime. I certainly don’t watch dubbed as much as I used to (Which created a pointless and very, very embarrassing bias), but I remember in Lucky Star, Konata DID call Yui “Yui nee-san”. Upon remembering that, I was like, “SQUEEEE!”

  5. Tron says:




    (一)因發現、命名、使用而取得的「原始權利」 (Inchoate Title)。

    (二)根據「大陸架公約」第二條規定: 「海岸國有行使發掘大陸架與利用其天然資源之主權權利 (Sovereign Rights)」 而取得的「主權權利」。


    第一步,收回原始權利 (Inchoate Title)。 釣魚台最早是由中國人發現、命名和使用的。據史籍記載,自從一四0三年至一九六九年這五百年間,中國人自由來往釣魚台,視為家常便飯,並且留下大量文字紀錄。近三十多年來,日本政府突然宣佈釣魚台為其治下領土,不許中國人自由往來釣魚台,剝奪了中國人五百年來自由來往釣魚台的權利,這不但違反國際法理,而且違背人類公理。


    第二步,積極行使主權權利 (Sovereign Rights)。美國總統杜魯門於一九四五年九月二十八日發表的有關大陸架的一項聲明指出:「美國政府認為大陸架之底土及海床所有天然資源,由土地連接國家行使管轄權,是合理及公正的。」根據該項聲明精神,聯合國於一九五八年簽訂了《大陸架公約》(Continental Shelf),其中第二條規定:「海岸國有行使發掘大陸架、與利用其天然資源之主權權利。」


  6. skittyzfreak says:

    I’ve seen a few anime where they have kept the honorifics , but its usually lesser known anime the kind of stuff u’d never see on national television. I would say they don’t do it because most ppl at least in the us would have no idea what they meant. Let’s say that adult swim added the honorifics to the show FMA:B. A lot of people who watch just watch it cause it is on adult swim not that they know much about anime. It would confuse them. When I’m confused I usually stop doing whatever confuses me. I think they would lose viewers:/

  7. Actar says:

    @ skittyzfreak: Isn’t the Anime in Adult Swim dubbed?

    Anyways, I never really understood the whole ‘being confused by honorifics’ argument. Honorifics literally don’t change anything at all if you don’t understand them as they just attach themselves to a character’s name. After all, we always hear English speaking Japanese characters in US cartoons and movies addressing everyone with -san, Japanese or not, and I have never heard anyone freaking out over it.

  8. It’s really nice if the translator kept the ‘Japanese’ in a manga intact. I have the Dark Horse edition of Cardcaptor Sakura and it was a good thing that they didn’t remove the honorifics. I don’t know if the older Tokyopop edition of Cardcaptor Sakura has honorifics too, but I do have some other Tokyopop manga titles which did great with the translations (because of the presence of Japanese honorifics, and some Japanese that can’t be directly translated).

    However, some English-translated manga don’t bother to keep the ‘Japaneseness’ of the original. Chobits for example. I have seen the US Tokyopop edition of Chobits and they changed Sumomo’s name to ‘Plum’. I was also bothered by the fact that they used ‘Miss Hibiya’ rather than ‘Hibiya-san’. Some (I’m not sure if ALL, so I’m using ‘some’ instead) in the Shojo Beat manga line of Viz Media also don’t keep the honorifics in the translations. And what bothers me more is that they didn’t even follow the ‘address by first name’ or ‘address by last name’ rule. So as a result, some parts of the story (that has something to do with the ‘address by first/last name stuff) were edited in the English translation manga.

    By the way, I’m more into manga :) Of course, the anime really is a different experience considering the motion, sounds, and all, but I look more of the ‘original’ — the MANGA-KA’s original view of the story. And reading manga takes less time than watching anime :)

  9. Sengoku_Kronos says:

    My name is Kronos and I get the whole lost in translation argument, but I also look at it this way most American broadcasted anime is aimed towards kids (excluding adult content). But because of people not wanting children introduced to certain elements in the anime they americanize it by putting in American, names taking out honorifics, whole scenes, and stuff like that because they want it to seem more American and therefor have transformations from the original dub. But manta on the other hand is less mainstream and thus easily able to put in things that animes lack. Unless it is a more popular manga or company do not expect notes unless they are bolder than others. Look at me I’m 13 going on 14 in America typing in coherent sentences take that racist stereotype, who says southern black kids aren’t educated. As I was saying, look at what they did to Kamen Rider Ryuki they totally butchered a great show and storyline. So what they kept the Kamen in Kamen Rider. Ok I am going to stop here before I start trolling. Have a great day mina-san sayonara

  10. Sengoku_Kronos says:

    Oh and before anyone gets started I know how Chronos is spelled it just looked more cool (dosen’t know the romanjii for cool in Japanese

  11. Sengoku_Kronos says:

    P.S. again sorry but what I said is only valid to some companies not all mostly kids Tv though sumimasen

  12. Sengoku_Kronos says:

    P.P.Sorry. translation notes are rare

  13. japanese characters…

    […]Translation Notes, Honorifics and US Manga « Actar’s Reviews – The Blog[…]…

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