Sporadic Sequential
Friday, March 28, 2008
"You let yourselves get spanked by a freshman!"

As a follow-up to an earlier post, here are some specific examples of how Viz's translation for Slam Dunk differs from Gutsoon's. [Viz's version appears on the left while Gutsoon's is on the right; click for larger, more legible images]

Comparison #1: In the above scene, our hero Hanamichi Sakuragi has just met Haruko Akagi, the girl of his dreams, who assumes he's an athlete due to his physique. Earlier that day, Hanamichi was rejected (for the 50th time) by a girl who had a crush on a basketball player, which led Hanamichi to react violently whenever someone mentioned (or whenever he thought someone mentioned) basketball.

I prefer the Gutsoon version of this scene for several reasons:
  1. Having Haruko say "I think athletic guys are cool" sounds less creepy than "I just love athletes."
  2. The line "All of us athletes do!" is funnier and more over-the-top than Viz's line; it makes it seem like Hanamichi envisions some grand brotherhood of athletes and already views himself as a lifelong member.
  3. "He's recovered!" strikes me as funnier than "He's over it!" plus it also has evokes more sports connotations ("He's recovered the fumble!"; "He's recovering well from his injury!"; "The team is recovering well from their losing streak of 50 straight defeats!")

Comparison #2: The setup for this scene is that Haruko has just asked Hanamichi if he knows what a "dunk" is. Gutsoon's translation does a better job of finding English words that (1) sound somewhat like "dunk" and (2) match Hanamichi's attempts at charades in the panels. (Carpentry? How would anyone confuse "dunk" for "carpentry"?) Also, Haruko's statement that dunks can be so powerful "that the backboard seems like it might shatter" is odd. Isn't it more impressive to tell Hanamichi that slam dunks occasionally do shatter the backboard, as she does in Gutsoon's version?

Comparison #3: The first difference of interest in this scene is that Viz has translated sound effects in the artwork whereas Gutsoon left them untranslated. As someone completely unversed in Japanese, I have to admit that the scenes with the translated SFX do have more impact for me, if for no other reason that the "BAM!" and the "POW!" bring to mind memories of the old Batman TV show. And while I find the line "You let yourselves get spanked by a freshman!" unintentionally amusing, I wonder if it's something a tough-guy 12th-grader would really say. "You let a freshman make a fool out of you!" sounds more natural.

Comparison #4: Finally, here's another example of translated vs. untranslated SFX. I found this one interesting because whoever did the touch-ups did a good job of making the English "CRASH" sound fit the space where the original Japanese SFX was. I did think it was amusing that the one horizontal line was left in so the SFX becomes "CRA-SH" -- I'm guessing the letterer didn't want to remove that line and then have to go back in and redraw the cords of the basketball net.

Again, as I sad before, both translations are perfectly readable: They both convey the same basic information, and there's nothing really clunky or awkward about either translation. And I should point out that I have no idea which translation is more literal or faithful to the original Japanese. So for me the comparison between the two different versions of Slam Dunk highlights how even subtle word choices can impact the overall appeal of a translation. Manga translators around the world, I salute you for your efforts! (I'm now becoming much more conscious of good translations. Last night I read School Rumble Vol.1 from Del Rey and was impressed by the effort the translator put in to remain faithful to the original Japanese while still matching up jokes and references to equivalent English phrasings. Of course, I didn't realize any of that when I was reading the story, but Del Rey's endnotes are very through and informative!)

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