Watch Out for Kaiju No. 8! (An Exercise in Translation)

One good thing about watching manga go live ASAP is how you can examine the translation process up close.

Disclaimer: There is no such thing as a “truly correct translation”. There is only a “more correct translation” or a “less correct translation”, taking into account things like puns, references and the like.

Viz is sure that Kaiju No. 8 will be the next big thing, because they got it while the Japanese version was still only at ch. 5. Even Manga Plus, which got to it before them chronologically, only put out 3 chapters before Viz put out 5.

As someone who’s studying Japanese, noticing where the differences are and how the differences arise between these translations and the original is something I do to better my skills. For instance, the protagonist’s first name is カフカ. While Manga Plus have gone inconsistently between “Kafuka” (ch. 3, more of a transliteration) and “Kafka” (ch. 1, less of a transliteration), Viz has consistently chosen “Kafka”. My opinion on the matter is if the manga is about a character transforming into something inhuman, “Kafka” makes more sense as a reference to The Metamorphosis.

This also brings into question everything from relationships to terms. Ch. 1 of the Viz version refers to yoju (defined as “residual kaiju”), but Manga Plus for the same part refers to “remaining pieces of the monster”, which are two differing things from the same term (余獣). If you go to a third (fourth?) party on this particular term via trusty Google-sensei, you’ll see “余獣というのは倒し切れていなかった怪獣のことです。” (“Yoju are kaiju which have been defeated.”) so…it’s a matter of interpretation on that one. The implication is the kaiju which are yoju have been attacked but are not dead, though the ambiguities mean you don’t know if it’s just bits of the monster or not.

…Then you see the “background information” (Viz)/”setting introduction” (Manga Plus) page and Manga Plus calls yoju “after-beasts” after a certain point in ch. 1, while Viz consistently refers to yoju as such…I don’t want to overstep my boundaries because I am only guessing at what’s happening behind the scenes from what I can access, but it seems Viz translators learn from their Manga Plus counterparts in regards to consistency.

Furthermore, the reason I brought up relationships was because Ichikawa and Hibino’s relationship is markedly different between versions. Ichikawa (18) calls Kafka (32) senpai, which Viz took to mean a formal relationship between coworkers – up to Ichikawa calling Kafka “sir” – but Manga Plus has them on a surname-to-surname basis, making their banter seem more friendly.

Translation is a difficult process and the only way any translator can know if they’re “less correct” is when an innocuous detail becomes plot-relevant and whoops them in the butt. This is why consistency is critical and noticing small details on the regular is essential – so they minimise the creation of these errors or similar problems (like typoes – e.g. the kanji for Ichikawa are 市川, but Manga Plus sometimes calls him “Ishikawa”, which is a similar surname but one that exists…and that could prove problematic later).

I’ve linked to each translation while they last, so take a gander at them and make up your own mind for what you can understand. So do you think Kaiju No. 8 is promising? What’s your take on these differences?





6 thoughts on “Watch Out for Kaiju No. 8! (An Exercise in Translation)

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  1. Did you say kaiju? Okay, I have to read them now. Noticing little nuances between different translations like this is what originally set me off on my journey to learn Japanese. Very interesting article – more please 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I had no idea (looked it up after reading your blog) about this series, but it’s always interesting to see discussions about translations. I’m very curious how this series will progress. The choices made seem to be very reasonable, and a interesting at times? Hopefully all the people involved in the official capacities keep it consistent like you said!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I was hoping that you would write this post!

    And I think it’s somewhat promising so far. Very creative and thoughtful while also having some basic story telling elements one would expect from this series. I hope it becomes bigger but I’m fine with it for now.

    Liked by 1 person

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