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Manga Answerman - How Come Only Some Manga Use Honorifics?


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rahzel rose
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2018 1:42 pm Reply with quote
I definitely prefer to have the honorifics kept in, except in cases like Vinland Saga type stories. My biggest pet peeve however is when there are no honorifics and everyone calls each other by their first name regardless of how things are actually written in the manga. I feel like Viz was the one who did that more often than not, so I’m glad to hear they’ve changed things for Haikyuu at least.
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Akamaru_Inu



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PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2018 2:04 pm Reply with quote
I remember hearing once that they tended to leave in honoriffics if it was in a series that more hardcore anime people would be watching (thous they would be more familiar with them), and that if it was something that was really mass appeal they tended to leave them out. This was years and years ago though, and I'm not even sure where I heard it.
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myskaros



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PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2018 2:11 pm Reply with quote
JNC leaves it up to the translator/editor, but they generally skew towards removing honorifics when the story isn't based in Japan or a heavily Japanese-influence culture, and leaving them in when it is.
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configspace



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PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2018 2:14 pm Reply with quote
I think the same can be asked of anime too. I understand why you'd drop it for foreign set titles as it doesn't make sense. But I really hate it when they do that for titles set in Japan or with Japanese characters.

A good example is Mysterious Girlfriend X, both the anime and manga. Crunchyroll who did (or paid for) the original translation of the manga version and anime version kept the honorifics. It annoys me to no end that the Vertical release of Mysterious Girlfriend X manga and Sentai's release of it on home video used the exact same translation, but simply cut out the honorifics

I mean if you're going to keep the native last-name references then why drop the honorifics? The biggest irony is that while Sentai's editor saw it (wrongly) fit to drop the honorifics from the subtitles, Sentai's dub actually kept it in!
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Lord Geo



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PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2018 2:25 pm Reply with quote
I agree with the general idea that stories set in Japan, or at least involve Japanese characters, can keep the honorifics, but otherwise either use some sort of translated version or just don't include them. This actually got to me with Seven Seas' release of Saint Seiya: Saintia Sho, as the villains who fought for Eris in the first two volumes would constantly call their goddess "Okaa-san", even though "Mother" would have sufficed just fine (especially since those characters aren't actually Japanese, and therefore wouldn't use that term), and it really felt like a case where the translator & editor went a little overboard with keeping the Japanese. Luckily, Volume 3 had those same villains use "Mother", and it worked just fine, so hopefully the editor realized how silly it was.

The Saintia Sho translation also has everyone call Saori/Athena with "-sama", which I have mixed feelings about. If it's Shoko or calling her "Saori-sama", then I can understand that since they're all Japanese people talking to each other. But then you also have everyone say "Athena-sama", which just doesn't work, because only Saints & Saintia would call her that, but Saints/Saintia are multi-national, so it'd make more sense for it to be translated as "Lady Athena" or something like that. And then there's how the translator & editor are going against established tradition & using the literal constellation names for some Saints, like Monoceros Jabu & Scorpius Milo, instead of the literal names that Masami Kurumada established back in the original manga, but that's beyond the scope of this Answerman topic.

On the other hand, though, I wonder what people think of using Eastern naming order (i.e. last name first) in translations, because Seven Seas is doing that for Getter Robo Devolution, so it's Nagare Ryoma in that release, instead of Ryoma Nagare, for example. Personally, I can live with that as a stylistic choice, but it's usually a pretty petty thing, in my opinion.
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belvadeer



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PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2018 3:07 pm Reply with quote
I forgot to bring it up till now, but Turkish has a similar system with addressing others. We use the same words for referring to an older sibling and to someone more grown up than yourself as ağabey (pronounced ah-bee) for "big brother" and abla (pronounced ah-bla) for "big sister".

Incidentally, we use kardeş for referring to a younger person; it's normally used for referring to your little brother or sister (kardeşim), but it can also be used in the same sense as adding the -kun or -chan suffix in Japanese.
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Яeverse



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PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2018 4:37 pm Reply with quote
But should honorifics be in engdubs?
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#863350



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PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2018 7:19 pm Reply with quote
Appropriately enough, the 'One Piece' dub even added honorifics for the "Grand Japang" episodes.
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configspace



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PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2018 8:20 pm Reply with quote
Яeverse wrote:
But should honorifics be in engdubs?

It sounds fine in English and makes sense for Japanese characters, just as it does for other languages and settings like keeping the spanish and french honorifics such as Senor and Monsieur in English, which is the respect I noticed given to those films, but usually not for Japanese unfortunately.

It also gets around having to awkwardly rewrite lines that relies on puns or situational issues around honorifics. I mean if you're going to address your friends and colleagues by their last name in most relationships and make a big deal between using first vs last, which is the case for every title set in Japan, then you might as well go all the way.
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Sakagami Tomoyo



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PostPosted: Fri Sep 28, 2018 10:34 pm Reply with quote
My preferred general approach is to keep honorifics and names as originally presented, exceptions to be made when the series is set in England or whatever other clearly real-world non-Japanese setting. And as actually presented; I've seen it happen more than once in subtitled anime where a character speaks a Japanese name in Western order, clearly meant to have some significance since all other Japanese names are being given in Japanese order, and the subtitles just change it to Japanese order. Still, name order is much less of an issue than honorifics, generally. (Though it does still look really odd to me when they keep honorifics but change name order.)

belvadeer wrote:
I forgot to bring it up till now, but Turkish has a similar system with addressing others. We use the same words for referring to an older sibling and to someone more grown up than yourself as ağabey (pronounced ah-bee) for "big brother" and abla (pronounced ah-bla) for "big sister".

Incidentally, we use kardeş for referring to a younger person; it's normally used for referring to your little brother or sister (kardeşim), but it can also be used in the same sense as adding the -kun or -chan suffix in Japanese.

Interesting. Thanks for the info. From time to time when I'm watching other foreign content subtitled, I do notice subtitles saying a character's name when the character speaking is clearly not saying that name; I'd always wondered if it was a case of some other languages having something not unlike the onii-chan/onee-san/sempai/etc/etc that Japanese has. Good to have a definitive answer on at least one language.
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belvadeer



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PostPosted: Sat Sep 29, 2018 12:16 am Reply with quote
Sakagami Tomoyo wrote:
Interesting. Thanks for the info. From time to time when I'm watching other foreign content subtitled, I do notice subtitles saying a character's name when the character speaking is clearly not saying that name; I'd always wondered if it was a case of some other languages having something not unlike the onii-chan/onee-san/sempai/etc/etc that Japanese has. Good to have a definitive answer on at least one language.


You're welcome. It's the kind of thing that makes me wish Altair would have gotten an English dub and possibly even an authentic Turkish dub, as it would fit with the setting more than anything else. Sadly, it's still only in Japanese and the VAs mispronounced a lot of Turkish words as I watched the entire thing, so a dub would be more effective in conveying the language correctly.
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Kadmos1



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PostPosted: Sat Sep 29, 2018 2:05 am Reply with quote
Article said "The general rule of thumb that seems to work best is to omit the Japanese honorifics if the story is set OUTSIDE of Japan (like Vinland Saga, and Emma), and to keep the honorifics if the story is set IN Japan, and there are Japanese characters whose relationships (and changes in relationship) are a significant part of the story".

At times a Western-set (for the purposes of clarification, I would use "Old Western" to describe the cowboy-type stories) anime has honorifics. If the story lacks what I highlighted for the second point, I think honorifics should be excluded entirely for such a show.
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positronic



Joined: 29 Sep 2018
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 29, 2018 2:17 am Reply with quote
Different companies localizing manga in English each have their own policies, and that is the problem. There's no overriding authority dictating what is the proper form to follow. Some manga (particularly earlier translations from the 1980s and 1990s) even flopped the images of the pages to read left-to-right as is the traditional English-language custom. That even applies to the Romanization of kanji and katakana characters. Some people even get all bent out of shape if you write "shojo" instead of "shoujo" in English, but there's no real hard-and-fast authority to say one is wrong or right. It's more a matter of "prevailing custom".

I think part of the problem is, in order to make the localization of a manga accessible to the widest English-speaking audience, how much familiarity is it reasonable to assume on the audience's part, or how many pages of a book is the publisher willing to devote to explaining things for neophytes?

Depending on the subject manga in question, how much of the story contains specific references to Japanese culture without which the story becomes harder to understand when transliterated into English?

I have seen what seem to be bad translations, or translations where I could guess what the original intent of the Japanese text was, where the translators did not value conveying a specific idea over preserving the specific words. For example in Jiro Kuwata's Batman manga, there is a character (Lord Death Man) who (not once, but several times) uses a metaphor to tell another character that he will "make them into a beehive". I puzzled over that for a bit, until I realized that the Japanese word transliterated as "beehive" might just as well have meant "honeycomb". Remembering that a honeycomb is full of hexagonal cells (in essence, it's full of holes, sponge-like or Swiss cheese-like), it dawned on me that the metaphor that Lord Death Man was invoking was "I'll fill you full of holes" or "I'll make Swiss cheese out of you" (referring to his henchmen, armed with machineguns). That should have been the form the Americanized English text took, to preserve the intent of the idea of the metaphor, not to slavishly stick to attempting to transliterate the words.

Honorifics are only important when it helps us understand the characters and their relationships to each other; things of significance which they say to each other or actions they perform which would otherwise seem mysterious if merely viewed through the POV of a Westerner. If it's already clear what the relationships are by the general dialogue or the characters' actions, then the formality of honorifics can be dispensed with in favor of a more straighforward translation that skips those things. I would totally expect the honorifics to be maintained in a manga which is a historical saga, and maybe when it needs to be clear what sort of status or respect a character has in relation to another (might be important in a family story, or a martial-arts story). It's not ALWAYS important though, particularly if the story is more fantasy or science-fiction based. Sometimes a story (depending on the subject matter) reads just fine, and more straightforwardly, in English without them.
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Sakagami Tomoyo



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PostPosted: Sat Sep 29, 2018 2:49 am Reply with quote
#887780 wrote:
Some people even get all bent out of shape if you write "shojo" instead of "shoujo" in English, but there's no real hard-and-fast authority to say one is wrong or right.

Part of the reason people get 'bent out of shape' about things like that is that it does matter; whether something has a short or long O sound does actually change the meaning of the word. In this case, it's the difference between "virgin" and "girl". There are different standards around how to show that it's a long O sound (o with an accent or ou, for instance), but by and large it is correct to make the distinction and incorrect not to. And it's not just O, but this is the example at hand.
#887780 wrote:
If it's already clear what the relationships are by the general dialogue or the characters' actions, then the formality of honorifics can be dispensed with in favor of a more straighforward translation that skips those things.

This isn't in itself a terrible idea, but there are enough instances where suddenly it does make a difference when it didn't really before that keeping them (or 'translating' to some rough equivalent, though that usually winds up more awkward than just keeping them) is generally a safer default. For instance, in Gunbuster, Noriko typically addresses Kazumi as 'onee-sama', which the translation changed to 'Lieutenant Amano'. All good, perfectly reasonable... until in dialogue Noriko calls her Lieutenant Amano, and Kazumi tells her that feels weird and to call her Big Sister like she always does.
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positronic



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PostPosted: Sat Sep 29, 2018 3:27 am Reply with quote
Sakagami Tomoyo wrote:
#887780 wrote:
Some people even get all bent out of shape if you write "shojo" instead of "shoujo" in English, but there's no real hard-and-fast authority to say one is wrong or right.

Part of the reason people get 'bent out of shape' about things like that is that it does matter; whether something has a short or long O sound does actually change the meaning of the word. In this case, it's the difference between "virgin" and "girl". There are different standards around how to show that it's a long O sound (o with an accent or ou, for instance), but by and large it is correct to make the distinction and incorrect not to. And it's not just O, but this is the example at hand.


I knew that comment was bound to draw the ire of the hard-headed formalists out there. Okay, it's true that technically what I should be typing is shōjo, not "shojo" -- but on a practical level, very few people are going to go to the trouble of selecting the technically correct character "ō". And this is a perfect example of what I mean. There IS no overriding authoritative rule, because it's all in how the word is perceived in the mind of the English-speaking reader. The ultimate question is, did you convey the intended meaning to the reader? It's a good example, because if you say "No, is IS a rule - if you're not going to use the technically correct character "ō", then the regular Romanization should be shoujo". Okay, then if it's a RULE, it should apply to all Romanizations of "ō" -- regardless. However, not only was that NOT the "prevailing convention" for years and years -- if I read somewhere "shojo manga", I know exactly what is being referred to -- but if "shoujo" is correct, then "shounen" should also be correct. Except that it's not, according to the prevailing Romanization convention of Shueisha, the publisher of Weekly Shōnen Jump. Just try to get the rest of the world to go along with the idea of replacing 'Weekly Shōnen Jump" with typing it as "Weekly Shounen Jump". It's not going to happen, no matter how hard-headed you feel about it. Worse than that is the fact that English-speakers will be pronouncing the "ou" in the title as "Shoe"-nen Jump, not "Show"-nen Jump.

And I guess here I should make the distinction that I'm not talking about learning Japanese for native English speakers in a classroom. I'm talking about the millions of English readers whose only encounter with Romanized Japanese words will be by way of becoming familiar with their favorite manga and anime.

I guess my basic argument overall is, let practicality and an overriding concern for making manga accessible to the greatest number of people with the least amount of effort on their part be the guiding motivations in translations. People just want to read stories, and not all of them want to immerse themselves deeper into the culture giving birth to those stories. To the degree that the culture is important to the overall story, or adds nuances which justify a reasonable effort on the part of the reader to understand, go for it. But requiring too much effort is going alienate at least part of the audience, so don't assume everyone is going to want to immerse themselves as deeply in the language and culture, just because some do. Maybe if you don't alienate them when their interest is more superficial, they'll be drawn in and later want to involve themselves on a deeper level at some point as their interest grows.

I feel like the "ou" Romanization of "ō" is just an unfortunate choice on someone's part, because without some deeper immersion in Japanese phonetics and pronunciation, 9 out of 10 English readers seeing a word Romanized in that way are going to be mentally reading it as "oo" or just "u", (as in you or boutique) not "ohh", as it's intended. Therefore it isn't practical for casual usage -- it needs to be part of a deeper language-learning experience.


Last edited by positronic on Sat Sep 29, 2018 4:36 am; edited 2 times in total
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