Translation Work – LA FOI 10

I’ve had the privilege of being able to translate another manga for Komugi; however, this time is a bit special — it’s a full-length fanbook that was originally published at Summer Comiket 2021 in print form before being made available for sale online. The translation of doujin works is overwhelmingly done without the consent of the original creators, so to be responsible for an official translation is a rare opportunity.

Compared to my previous translations, this one was quite an undertaking. At 25 pages it’s definitely the longest piece of manga translation I’ve done to date, though somehow I was still able to get it done in just one week (thanks in part to my new goal-tracking app, perhaps). It was also the first time I’ve attempted translating R18 material, which comes with its own set of challenges.

Something I haven’t had to deal with much in the past is the fact that Japanese uses onomatopoeic words to a much greater extent than English does. There are overlaps of course; words like “crisp” (かりかり) or “thump” (ごとん) that straightforwardly represent sounds, but also many examples of aspects that would not be expressed the same way in English; for example, クスリ to describe a giggle or ニコニコ to describe a beaming smile. In manga translation this poses a significant challenge since western comics often exclusively use sound effects to represent, well, sounds, whereas it’s an established convention in manga to use onomatopoeic words to describe not only sounds but also motions and moods, or just to expand on the art in the scene. A few examples from this project were おろおろ (which could literally be translated as “not knowing what to do”; I went with “flustered”) and びくい (literally “startle”; I went with “eek”, which blurs the line between sfx and dialogue, but I felt it worked well). Some manga translations, even officially-licensed ones like Horimiya, take the easy way out and simply transliterate the Japanese into romaji and add a description via translator’s note, but I can’t say I’m a fan of this method. Translating sound effects into idiomatic equivalents is difficult but absolutely worth the extra effort.

Komugi’s writing always conveys a deep grasp of each character’s psychology, which is a big part of what makes translating for her such a pleasure. Sumire is such an interesting character in Persona 5, but I found her romance route a little underwhelming; the process of moving beyond Kasumi, healing from her trauma, and embracing herself was something I wish they would have expanded on a bit in the game. In this book, Komugi expresses that process beautifully and I’m very grateful to have been entrusted with the task of bringing it to a wider audience.