Viz’s Novel Imprint Translators Talk About Translating Japanese Books

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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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Image of Ishaan Sahdev
Ishaan Sahdev
Ishaan specializes in game design/sales analysis. He's the former managing editor of Siliconera and wrote the book "The Legend of Zelda - A Complete Development History". He also used to moonlight as a professional manga editor. These days, his day job has nothing to do with games, but the two inform each other nonetheless.