Viz’s Novel Imprint Translators Talk About Translating Japanese Books

By Ishaan . March 26, 2011 . 3:00pm

If you follow Viz, you might recall that they have a fantasy/sci-fi novel imprint under which they publish Japanese books such as All You Need is Kill and Brave Story. Titled “Haikasoru,” the imprint also publishes digitally on the Apple Bookstore.


Recently, got in touch with two translators from Haikasoru, Jim Hubbert and Cathy Hirano, to discuss the ins and outs of translating Japanese novels.


Since we cover a lot of Japanese games on Siliconera, I thought this might be of interest to some of our readers. Here’s a short excerpt:


“To give just one example, the word miya, which is used in both books, means “palace” according to the Japanese-English dictionary. That seems simple enough—but what image does the word palace conjure up in an English reader’s mind? It is much more likely to be the huge ornate stone palaces seen in Europe or Walt Disney’s version of Aladdin’s palace than the Japanese image of multiple single storied wooden buildings surrounded by walled gardens. As the translator, I have to consider how important this concept is to the story. Is it something English readers can just gloss over and still get maximum enjoyment out of the story or do I need to use a different word or even the Japanese word, or perhaps add description in suitable places?”


There’s a lot more to read in Beatrice’s interview, and it’s interesting because it highlights just how different translating a novel is from localizing a manga or anime or game, due to the depth and amount of text.

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  • It seems so difficult. I could never be a translator.

  • Zero_Destiny

    Always appreciate the hard work. Now if we can get all three MegaTen novels out I’d be even happier. As it stands now a guy can dream right. :)
    EDIT: I’m still really excited for the Ico Novels though. :D

    • 3 megaTen novels !? I didn’t know about that !! Tell me moreeee please ^^

      • Zero_Destiny

        The MegaTen games were originally based off of a series of three novels by Aya Nishitani. The first game in the series Megami Tensei way back on the NES follows the story of the first novel pretty closely but since then Atlus has written their own stories but have kept many of the themes like technology to summon demons and the demons themselves from the original three novels. None of the novels have come out in English but the first one has been translated by fans and you can it read it here.
        It’s pretty interesting really. And anyone familiar with the MegaTen games should feel right at home reading it. Thank Ishaan by the way since he pointed out where the translation was. Before that I never knew someone translated it. I’m glad to of finally read at least one of the novels. :) So far the novels been pretty good.

  • Very interesting ;) A shame Brave Story was not translated in Europe, I loved the movie, I bought the PSP RPG so I think I will buy the novel too :)

  • Caligula

    I remember seeing the Brave Story book in a store once. I hope it was more interesting than the yawn-inducing game was…

    • It’s definitely much more interesting. It might be a little too preachy for some people though.

  • Rol

    I LOVED Slum Online. I can’t imagine what a pain it was to translate fighting game moves from Japanese to English and yet still make the story flow. It makes me wonder if the translator actually was a fighting game player….

  • I have Dragon Sword and Wind Child. Dude, I didn’t realize it was one of Viz’s novel translations when I bought it XD I enjoyed it quite a bit though.

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