< Piro >
Thursday - June 2, 2005
I often say that Megatokyo is just one big experiment that i'm bound to totally screw up one of these days. There have been many arguments that this has already happened, some as long ago as the Rail Card incident, and some as recent as Monday's comic. Yet, somehow, like a crazy out of control bus, it keeps puttering along.
You could also say that by claiming this is all a big experiment, i can justify major cokcups by saying a particular experiment had just not worked out. I don't actually ever do that. A lot of my little experiments come off ok, some work really well, others fall flat. When an 'experiment' doesn't go well, sure, i take some comfort in the fact that i was taking a chance and i learned something by doing it. Art and writing have nothing to do with doing it right the first time, its how good you are at fixing things :) When i screw up something that is solidly not in 'experimental' territory, there is little to be gained by trying to blame it as an experiment. Goof ups and failures are common enough, and require little experimentation to discover :)
In monday's comic, Kimiko has managed to stop Largo from getting away (i hadn't planned for her to go face down splat like she did in the first panel, but thats how it came out as i was drawing it, and it is so perfectly kimiko :), and she's desperately trying to get him to calm down. Since she doesn't speak english, all she can do is plead with him in Japanese. I actually planned for this to happen, and i fully intended to have this page where Kimiko is rattling on to Largo in untranslated japanese. This is a view from Largo's world, and we don't have the benefit of understanding that we get from having Piro in understanding range.
Is she saying something important? Yeah, sure she is. It's not gibberish. I wrote what i wanted Kimiko to say, and my friend Kaki (who lives and works in japan and is fluent) translated it into Japanese. I specifically wanted her to sound like Kimiko would in Japanese. I think she does. that's why it's in Romaji - I wanted people to be able to read the sounds of what she was saying, to hear it - even if most you couldn't understand it.
I'm well aware that a most readers don't understand japanese anywhere near well enough understand what kimiko is saying. Contrary to popular belief, and i try to correct this every chance i get, MY japanese is VERY poor. Even i can't understand the japanese in monday's comic without the help of a translation.
Which is exactly the effect i was hoping for.
I expected to get a lot of emails and inquiries begging for me to post a translation of what she is saying. I knew that it wouldn't be long before translations were posted in the forums. I also expected emails from people telling me that we had gaffed the Japanese (i made a few typos which were soon fixed). What i didn't expect was some rather harsh feedback by some people who were quite irritated by the "excessive amount" of japanese in the comic.
It seems that some people felt that I was showing off, that i was rubbing my l33t japanese skillz in their faces. First off, as i just explained, that's bunk. I understand what is in monday's comic about as well as most people who have been into anime for a number of years and picked up a smidgen here and there. The most surprising complaints were from people who were incensed that I had the nerve to put in something that they couldn't understand, and how i should have immediately posted a translation, either in a rant or as subtitles. It seems that these readers couldn't deal with the fact that part of what they were reading they couldn't understand.
But that was kind of the point.
Y'know, one of the things that i think is most interesting about the obsession that many of us have with anime is that most of us actually prefer to listen to it the original japanese. We are very spoiled these days because most of us can immerse ourselves in anime from dawn to dusk, and never have to watch anything that isnt subtitled or dubbed. In fact, there is so much *dubbed* anime out now that you can be an anime fan and never hear a drop of Japanese if you don't want to.
There is nothing wrong with understanding things. No one knows the frustration more than i do of having something in front of you that you wish you could just magically understand (i have shelves of it), of having to wait for someone to translate it for you - if anyone ever does (most dating sim games are never translated). That desire to understand is what created the anime and manga craze in this country. It was the hard work of fan translators, fan subbers, scan translators, obsessed language-challenged fans doing whatever they could do to get things translated and subtitled... the desire to understand is a strong one.
But i think we sometimes forget that even without translations, there is a lot that gets communicated in anime and manga just by the sounds of the voices, the expressions of the characters, the mood of the story. if the only way that any of this emotive content could be communicated was via perfect translations, no one who didn't understand japanese would ever feel the desire to find out what was being said. You don't see a big movement to translated all of the japanese novels out there, do you? (not that there aren't a few i'd like to see translated, but i digress.)
I wanted to show what it is like to be in a foreign country where you cannot understand what people are saying, to feel lost and out of your element, confused, and then to have someone try to get through to you with kindness and understanding. People may speak different languages around the world, but there are other ways of communicating. Kimiko is trying to get through to Largo in the only way she can, and she is doing it not by what she is saying, but by how she is saying it.
Is this an experiment? Sure it is. I think it works. Is it frustrating to not know exactly what she is saying? Sure it is, but i still think that most people got the basic human emotional content that Kimiko was trying to get across to Largo. If you absolutely require that you must understand exactly what she is saying to get it... i think you are missing the point.
I'm not big on explaining why i do things, but i felt that it was worth prattling on a little about this. I am not going to give you an official translation of what was said, mainly because it would be contrary to the point i was trying to make. Besides, fans and readers have already done what they do best, and worked it out for themselves.
That, i think, is the true spirit of trying to understand others. The more that big companies take the work out of enjoying this bizzare little hobby by translating and dubbing everything for us, the more we loose some of what makes it special in the first place. What will never change, of course, is that in the real world you will almost always be able to go somewhere in the world where you will not understand a word people are saying, but still manage to understand what they are feeling. That, i think, is the point.