Interview: Anna Exter

by Justin Sevakis,
Anna Exter started off as a translator for TechnoGirls fansubbing group, and has now gone professional, working for ZRO Limit group, translating projects for Manga Entertainment, AnimeVillage, and Pioneer. Anna talks to ANN about her transition and her new job.

Editor's note: This interview was conducted by e-mail. Emoticons and funky text additions are NOT added by us!

Anime News Network: How did you get introduced to anime?
Anna Exter: Robotech. But then again, I was into Robotech for 2 years before I learned it was of Japanese origin. I only found that out when I was at a large comic swap meet in Vancouver. In a small back room, they were showing (and I remember these clear as day because they were so astounding at the time) Gall Force 2, an episode of City Hunter 3, and Ranma 1/2. Gall Force 2 was subbed, but the rest were plain Japanese.

I thought the characters in Ranma (they were the first Ranma vs. Kodachi episodes) were absolutely the cutest things I had ever seen, and the action was unbelievably funny. I can't remember whether I met him at this showing or not, but Nicholas Conder of Victoria, BC is the one responsible for introducing me to anime.

I got really bad copies of Nausicaa, Laputa, Totoro, Lupin III: Albatross subbed from him, as well as Dirty Pair: Project Eden in plain Japanese. This was way back in 1990 thereabouts, and I remember the titles that clearly. Boy, was I hooked. :)

ANN: How did you learn Japanese?
Exter: For my... 18th? birthday, my dad volunteered to buy a Kenkyusha 3rd edition Japanese-English dictionary for me. It wasn't until I learned that Ranma 1/2 was also a comic book that I truly got started. (That's when I got the dictionary.)

Let's see... I copied down all of the words from a Ranma comic down on looseleaf, puzzled around with it, came up with my own translation with the use of my dictionary, memorized each line, and acted out all of the character's voice on a tape recorder I "borrowed" from my brother. :)

I still have those tapes. They're not bad.

And the learning never stops. I haven't even fully mastered English yet. :P

ANN: What was your first translation project?
Exter: Hmm... On my own, for a fanclub, or professionally?

On my own—that would be the aforementioned Ranma 1/2 comics (but my translations really sucked then. That was just practice).

For a fanclub, that would be Dancougar for William Chow (Arctic Animation), but I attempted to translate Porco Rosso for my family before that. I narrated as they watched. (They had seen it before, but wanted to know what they were saying—can you blame 'em?)

Professionally, I started off with Saber Marionette J for Upon first glance, I didn't expect to like the show as much as I did... but, MAN, did I enjoy that show! I ***love*** Hanagata! Every time he would appear, my face would grin madly. He's great...!

ANN: What was it like working for (with) Barbara Chambers?
Exter: That's an interesting question. I like working WITH her. We had a little mixup about one line that was changed in the first episode of Blue-Green Years, but after that, we came up with a compromise:

She would make a 100% Anna Exter version for me, (ick. embarrassing title!) and then her own version that she would be free to do whatever she wanted with, like add in the -chan's and - kun's and -sensei's and stuff like that. She's good at fixing up my sloppy teaching/classroom dialogue.

She's doing it for the enjoyment, you know. I want her to have fun. :) :) :)

Barbara's introduced me to some really excellent shows... like ZETSUAI! :)~
Editor's Note: Zetsuai is a shonen-ai series... i.e. really pretty (read: androgenous) boys in a homosexual relationship.

ANN: What is your favorite anime? Favorite translation project?
Exter: It's hard to say what my favorite anime is, but I would immediately recommend anything done by Hayao Miyazaki. My favorite anime changes from time to time as boredom strikes. It's kind of like loving Star Wars so much you saw it 15 times, but if you see it just once more, you're going to go insane. :)

My favorite project is usually whatever I'm working on at the time. Note the word "usually."

ANN: How did you get into the commercial translation industry?
Exter: I've been trying to break into it for 3-4 years now. I'd have to say without a doubt, that if Neil (Nadelman) hadn't recommended me to his bosses when they needed a translator NOW, I probably would still be making less than seven grand a year (that's Canadian $$$).

I dunno for sure though. Perhaps I actually made a good impression on the nice animevillage people after the big Bandai panel at Anime Expo '98 when I handed them my homemade business card with the spelling mistake on it. :)

ANN: What's it like to work for a commercial company?

ANN: Any stories to tell? Anything more you can tell me here?
Exter: Well, I don't know if I'm allowed. I'd hate to get into trouble this early in my career. Yes, I'm chicken.

ANN: What's the biggest struggle in translating?
Exter: Um... Probably lack of enthusiasm for a show I don't feel inspired to do. The hours can't be beat, though!

ANN: What is the reward?
Exter: Self-esteem and excitement, closely followed by money. ;)

ANN: Have you had much contact with the fans? Do you plan to?
Exter: Tons of contact. None from fans saying "love your work," but lots of support when I mention the new job. I'm a fan as well. (I don't really have any fans... or maybe I do. When people tell me they are my fan, it's scary)

ANN: What are your aspirations for the future?
Exter: Well, I'm probably going to hit at least 3 conventions this year, and go to Japan this summer to buy myself 120kg (265 lb. -eds.) of used shoujo manga. :D

I don't really think too far into the future. I'm too preoccupied with the "now."

ANN: What are you working on now?
Exter:At the moment, I'm waiting for my rough subbed tapes of El Hazard: The Alternate World so I can tweak them and stuff. I'm also doing Haunted Junction, but it's been postponed for some funky reason that I don't know. :)

I do have another project besides those, but I can't let it out of the bag just yet. Otanoshimi wa kore kara desu yo! Ho, ho, ho, ho!

ANN: Any parting comments?
Exter: Sure. Be good to your parent(s), especially if you live with them, and floss your teeth before going to bed. You will save much pain and money.

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