Week 9: Rough Idea of a Vague Inkling of a Paper Topic

For my paper, I’m going to enlarge on a topic I looked at in week 3: reading manga in translation and scanlation. For those who didn’t read my scintillating post, scanlations are fan-made translations, written on top of scans of the Japanese originals.

Kali made a really interesting comment on that post, raising the question of fan interpretations coming out in the scanlations. This made me think about how authority works in this type of situation. All translations are essentially interpretations. So, whose interpretations are the “right” ones? Are there right ones?

Translations made by licensed publishers are authoritative in that they own the copyright to the works. But, manga fan communities have their own spheres of influence and authority, sometimes to the point of eclipsing the corporate. For instance, a Google search of “sailor moon manga” comes up with two free reading sites that host scanlations, a link to Miss Dream, the main source for Sailor Moon scanlations, and a Sailor Moon themed fan wiki. Only after that does the first Amazon listing appear.

Besides that, interpretations can be problematic. A number of years ago, the publisher Tokyopop did a controversial licensed translation of the series Wish by Clamp. Some characters in the manga were referred to by gender-neutral pronouns in Japanese. Tokyopop decided to change these to gender-specific pronouns in the translation. While they explained their reasonings in the introduction, it was still a questionable change. The application of gendered-pronouns was often inconsistent with what they stated in their introduction. As well, the use of these pronouns had a huge effect on the reading of the series and the characters. It could be argued that a fan translation of the manga might be more authoritative, or a more “correct” reading.

This tension between fan communities and companies, and the issue of translation and interpretation, is very interesting to me.

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