Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Volume 5



In celebration of how President Obama publicly declared his support for same-sex marriage this month, the cover of this volume features Sailor Venus hurling rainbows at your face.

I found this volume to be a significant improvement over the last volume.  There are less instances of weird, clunky language and no major misrepresentations of the original content.  The new translation surpasses Tokyopop's in quality much more often than not.  If future volumes continue this pattern, I think I'll be satisfied.

Nevertheless, two problems became readily apparent the day this book was released: an inexplicable lack of translation notes and some nasty printing issues where the ink looks horribly smudged on several pages.  Flanagan certainly hasn't had trouble filling up respectably-sized sections of translation notes, sometimes with entries of questionable value--writing about Tokyo Tower twice and explaining that the Crown Game Center's phone number isn't a real working number come to mind--so I'm puzzled as to why we have nothing to read at the end of this book besides the preview for the next volume.  Worsening this situation is the fact that the advertisements for volume 5 feature the same promise to deliver "incredibly detailed translation notes!"  As for the ink splotching / splattering, this only seems to have affected a small batch of books.  My copy is fine except for a couple of slightly smeared words.

For this entry, I will first talk about the improvements, then I'll talk about the problems, and then I have some thoughts to share about the story itself, irrespective of the English adaptations.

SNAZZY IMPROVEMENTS


Somebody, probably Artemis, is providing some exposition about Wiseman and Nemesis's past.  Tokyopop refers to Wiseman as "a psychic" but "still a human," which is sure to offend the likes of James Van Pragh, Sylvia Browne, and all those other folks who can tell you vague facts about your dead relative with an "M" in her name but can't find your missing child.  Tokyopop is also pretty blunt about how Neo Queen Serenity (who shall hither tho be referred to as NQS) was afraid of him but couldn't execute him.  Flanagan gives the text the more tempered shade that it requires; NQS "felt" she couldn't execute him, no one forced her hand; and she was only presumably afraid of him.

What are executions like in Crystal Tokyo, anyway?  And who gets executed, if not humans?

I was always confused about why Saphir suddenly tries to kill Usagi after asking her to convince his brother that the Black Moon Clan's plan was too dangerous.  Now I know that my confusion was a result of Tokyopop's poor translation.  Right before this moment, Usagi asks what she could do to warn everyone of the impending danger.  Saphir's response is for her to die.  Tokyopop just makes it look like Saphir wants to kill her because he's crazy, when in fact, he thinks her death will serve a greater purpose.  After all, she is a "fearsome woman" who "warps history."


Demande doesn't clarify what he means in Tokyopop, which kind of makes you want to argue with him.  The Ginzuishou itself doesn't cause any war or strife...hell, we've seen it revive a planet's worth of people at least twice by this point in the story.  What causes the war and strife is people, monsters, and formless evils trying to steal it and use it for themselves.

As an aside, I really would have liked to see this angle explored further.  In Drangonball Z, Goku decides to stay dead at one point because he knows his God-like power attracts deadly super-beings to Earth, and in The Avengers movie, the humans decide to give up the unfathomably powerful Tasseract for the same reason.  Sure, the Ginzuishou can bring about and maintain peace, but the reason why cities and whole planets have been flattened repeatedly is because such a diserable object exists.  Soooooo....


This is Queen Serenity explaining the three time-related taboos to Sailor Pluto.  Tokyopop says that time travel is the first taboo, which means Pluto must have racked up twenty life sentences by now because all anyone has been doing is traveling through time.  The Japanese literally says "move time," which is what we see in Kodansha.  I'm guessing this means speeding time up, slowing it down, and rewinding it.  We never see Pluto treat time like a DVD, so I guess she's been following this rule.

Dear Tokyopop NQS: Pluto's life is a dull and miserable Hell. Small Lady couldn't "bother" her if she tried. I'm pretty sure Pluto would welcome a badger chewing on her ankle just to break up the monotony. Kodansha NQS is saying what she's supposed to say; she's concerned about Small Lady getting herself into some kind of trouble--a valid concern, because that kid is a trouble magnet--and asks Pluto to look out for her. One of the purposes of this scene is to establish that NQS worries about her daughter, something Chibiusa doubted.
The newly transformed Chibimoon has just told her mama that she felt like she was never needed. NQS assures her that this is not the case. Chibimoon's next line gets botched in Tokyopop, but properly expressed in Kodansha. The phrase chikara ni naru 力になる means to help and support, but the key grammar here is the agerareru あげられる attached to the end of it. This indicates that Chibimoon is talking about giving her help to NQS, not receiving help from NQS. This differentiation is important because it changes how Chibimoon views her relationship with her mother; she now feels that she has something more to offer as a daughter and as a Sailor Senshi.

BETTER?  WORSE?  HARD TO SAY


Rubeus and and Saphir are talking about how "The Room of Darkness" that they use for a prison freaks them the eff out.  I'm in agreement with them; this room is seriously creepy and almost out-of-place in the Sailor Moon universe.  If you recall, Mars, Mercury, and Jupiter are stuck down there with a chained and rotting corpse that occasionally knocks them out with a blast of Malefic Black B.O.  Tokyopop leaves out some evocative details, but more accurately translates the first chunk about the "person in that cell."  You can tell that the text is referring to a death / transformation that has already happened mainly because of the phrase tokku ni とっくに.  I'm also inclined to think that the word corpse (shikabane 屍) is meant to be interpreted singularly, not as a plural, because we only ever see one corpse.  This is how I would translate this panel: "I know that the prisoner within those inescapable stone walls became something not of this world a long time ago, but it's disturbing that the corpse remains intact.  I feel like anything could happen there and it wouldn't be strange."



Diana is telling Pluto to leave her post and go help the others during the climactic battle.  Tokyopop's translation is exact, but Flanagan's takes some creative liberties.  Honestly, I do like the sentiment expressed in Kodansha more, but it isn't really accurate.  The statement, "you must go when you want to" has bigger implications about Pluto's future.  Is Diana the kitten officially releasing her from her boring, pointless duties?  Maybe, because after Pluto comes back to life, she takes a job as a school nurse instead of one as a space time doorman.

GRAMMAR GRIPES

The subject of the first speech bubble is "fathoms," so the verb should be "lie" not "lies."  The second speech bubble should say something like, "where there lies an even more profound darkness and even more powerful storms than here."  "Where" can't act as an existential subject, and "even more" modifies only "profound," not "powerful storms."  Honestly, though, this bit is redundant, so I'd probably finagle this to say, "Over there lie the deep fathoms of space-time, where a darkness more profound and storms more powerful than here await."


There are two things mentioned, so "isn't" needs to be "aren't."  I didn't include a picture of Tokyopop's translation, but I really love it:  "Holding you close and giving you kisses aren't the only symbols of love, Small Lady."


I don't think this is necessarily a grammar flub, but it's weird.  Small Lady has never been referred to as "the Small Lady" except by Pluto in this re-release.  I thought this was the first time, but I found more instances of it in the previous volume.  Adding "the" makes it sound like Pluto is talking about a particular lady who happens to be small.  I just don't understand the justification for it, because the Japanese doesn't change from one instance to another.  Even Luna-P is emitting a "JRRT" of disapproval.

REGRETTABLE ERRORS



This panel was going great until Saphir lost his train of thought.  "And this invincible stone that warps time and space.." just begs for a conclusion, but we get none.  Instead, we get the start of a new comment that doesn't go anywhere, either.  The next panel does not continue the thought.  This is another example--face it, we get several every volume--of Flanagan translating the Japanese grammar too literally and leaving us hanging on a fragmented thought.



I laughed a little when I read "God is so mean!"  Usagi throwing a childish fit and saying something like this isn't outside the realm of possibility, but it's not appropriate in this context.  The surrounding language is more mature and heart-rending as Usagi sheds tears and realizes how much Mamoru cares for their child, Chibiusa.  The Japanese doesn't say anything about God's "plans," but I think everyone will agree that Tokyopop's renditions fits the tone much better.



I also had a laugh at this scene.  In Kodansha, Usagi's mom is absolutely baffled, shocked, and awed that her daughter is pretty, even though that can't possibly be true!  The point of this scene is that Usagi looks beautiful when she acts with courage and conviction, and Ikuko was stunned to see such maturity radiate from her little girl.  This is just not captured in Flanagan's translation, mainly because of his unfortunate omission of any words that indicate this is a momentary state (the Japanese uses "suddenly" kyuu ni and Tokyopop uses "just now."  Both use "look" instead of "is.")  Instead, I'm given the impression that Ikuko has been mulling over Usagi's physical appearance for a long time and has finally concluded, against all evidence to the contrary, that her daughter "seems like she's really pretty."  Nice.


Another scene rendered hilarious and confusing thanks to sloppy translating.  Wiseman has grown to the size of a planet and threatens to crush the Sailor Senshi in the palm of his hand.  Prince Demande wants the pleasure of killing Sailor Moon and attacks her before Wiseman can make a move.  We understand this in Tokyopop, but in Kodansha, Demande firmly declares that before Wiseman kills him, he will kill himself!  Haha, that'll show him!  But wait, then he attacks Sailor Moon.  Huh?  Didn't he just say he was going to "do it himself" with the "it" referring to "I'm going to be killed by Wiseman?"  Yeah, he did.  Maybe attacking Sailor Moon was a crafty way to kill himself while sidestepping any afterlife punishments for committing suicide.  Or maybe he just needs to do some worksheets about referential it.



Flanagan has a knack for messing up emotional scenes.  People may argue this is a matter of taste, but I wholeheartedly believe that Pluto's monologue is much more emotive and beautiful with Tokyopop's wording.  The panel that leads into this is the one I posted above in the grammar gripes section where the subject-verb agreement is wrong, so this piece suffers as a consequence of that, too.

Let's compare the whole chunk:
Tokyopop:  "Holding you close and giving you kisses aren't the only symbols of love, Small Lady.  Quietly watching someone from afar is a kind of love, too."
Kodansha:  "Hugging you and kissing you *isn't the only proof of love, Small Lady.  There's another type of love where one just quietly watches over you from afar."


No contest for me.  This is one of my favorite scenes in the manga, so I'm not pleased with how it's been rendered in this new release.

OTHER THOUGHTS

The following are some other thoughts I had regarding the manga that are not necessarily criticisms of the new translation.


Oh, you!  Getting a concussion!  What a klutz!  How many concussions is that now?  Five in the past week?  Honestly, Usagi, you are just something else!  Hmm?  Go to the hospital?  Teehee, you silly goose, people don't go to the hospital for concussions!  They just remain unconscious at home for a few hours, drink some of Mama's tea, and get back to business!  God made Advil Extra Strength for a reason, Honey!

The Japanese really does use the word for concussion, noushintou 脳震盪。


NQS grants everyone new powers, and refers to them by their full titles.  Why is Sailor Moon the Guardian of Mystery?  I was certain that Flanagan messed this up, but lo and behold, there's the Japanese word for mystery, shinpi 神秘.  Even though I like Tokyopop's use of the word sanctity, it's dead wrong.  I understand that the moon is regarded as mysterious in almost every culture, and that the Ginzuishou supposedly has mysterious powers (I say supposedly because I don't find anything mysterious about it; it just does what the plot needs it to do,) but is this really the best title for Sailor Moon?  If someone asked you sum up Sailor Moon in one word, would you say "mysterious?"  I sure wouldn't.

This is also an instance when using guardian as the translation for senshi kind of backfires.  My brain's first interpretation of "Guardian of Mystery" is someone who is protecting a mystery.  Same goes for for the other senshi's titles: Guardian of War, Love, Wisdom, and Protection (that one sounds particularly redundant--the protector of protection!)

This volume concludes the Black Moon story arc.  I'd like to voice one major complaint I have about this story arc in general: Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, and Venus do noooooottthhiinnnnggg.  "The other senshi are just cannon fodder" is an old and well-documented complaint in the fandom, but you really see its origins in the Black Moon arc.  Sure, we start off with a short story focusing on each of the girls, but every story (except Venus's) ends the same way--with that girl being kidnapped by the Black Moon.  Mercury gets defeated by and taken away in sewer water; how embarrassing is that?  The three spend the better half of the story locked in a room with a stinky corpse, too pathetic to act as agents of their own escape.  Meanwhile, Sailor Moon gets more and more superpowers, including the ability to shatter a floor with the palm of her hand and pull her three useless teammates out of the basement. 

Venus gets to tag along with the elite Moon Kingdom crew, but it's not long before she gets relegated to staring at computer screens and...well, I was about to say delivering exposition, but usually the cats take care of that.

Reunited, the Sailor Team continues to do absolutely nothing besides make Takeuchi's assistant artists tired.  They don't even fire off a single attack.  Really, go check for yourself; you'll find not a single "sparkling wide pressure," "shine aqua illusion," or any other non-Moon family attack after the rescue from Nemesis.  When you see the Sailor Team in the panel, they're usually gawking, falling down, or filling up squares on one of those EVERYBODY IS SHOCKED or EVERYBODY IS INCAPACITATED super panels.  They are deliberately excluded from the final battle.  NQS flat-out tells them to sit their asses down and wait for Sailor Moon, Chibimoon, and Tuxedo Mask to return in a flourish of glory.  Yet the greatest insult has to be when NQS grants them new powers after Death Phantom has been defeated.  It's like she's saying, "here's some new powers so you might actually be able to accomplish something in the next story arc.  Now GTFO."  We know that Sailor Moon meeting her future self is a big deal because Takeuchi devotes six pages to it--a third of that represented as a dramatic two page spread--but do you think any of the other senshi get to say hi or even wave to their future selves?  Nope.

We are told that the reason for why Tuxedo Mask favors protecting Chibiusa over Usagi is because Usagi has her four guardians to protect her.  Yeeeaaaahhhno.  Based on their performance in this story arc, I'd say that the only way the four of them could protect Sailor Moon is if they accidentally wandered into the trajectory of an enemy attack.

And on that note, I conclude this entry.  Stay tuned for another entry about why it sucks to be Sailor Pluto.  I promise you don't want to miss it.

13 comments:

  1. Great as always. The last bit about how the sailor senshi are useless made me LOL.

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  2. Bravo, so in general an improvement all around then.

    To be honest if that is the way Flannigan feels then his mood matches his translations: a little uninspired. Still we must continue to believe he will improve and only send the people involved positive encouragement.

    Has anyone emailed Kodansha directly about this, so no individuals get in trouble or recieve hate mail.

    Great review, might skip straight to volume 5.

    SnowWolf

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    1. Thanks!

      Many people have emailed Kodansha using the only address listed on their official site. No one ever receives a reply. I get the feeling that a secretary just goes through the email and the messages never reach the people in power. Kodansha also does not respond on their Twitter or Facebook. It's frustrating, to say the least.

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  3. The rainbow volume came out at the perfect time! <3

    Lol awesome work as usual. I hadn't heard of any issues aside from the lack of TN and the printing mistakes, but I still waited with baited breathe until this post came along. But I'm glad to read that it really was true. Now hopefully they can keep it up, and just work on getting that little bit better and fixing the printing issues.

    I must say, with how big of an improvement this volume is it makes me wonder if they're finally starting to listen to us. I know they finished these volumes months ago, but it's weird for there to be such a sudden improvement after everything happened. Especially since they said it would take a few volumes to really start showing up...

    Also, I loved your review at the end about the uselessness of the soldiers. I would love to hear more of your thoughts on all the other arcs!

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  4. Wow I never realized just HOW bad the Tokyopop translations were until I read this... It's like they didn't even try LOL !!!

    Oh and I found your rant at the end about the uselessness of the inner senshi besides moon VERY INTERESTING and hilarious because usually the reason I hear from people that they DISLIKE sailor moon both as a story and as hero is that she always needs saved.... You bring up an interesting point that in the manga that's not true at all, and she's actually a very capable and sound leader, and her fellow senshi are the ones in need of saving all the time.

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    1. The thing with Sailor Moon "always needing to be saved" may be more of an anime thing, and in very particular arcs, too. In the manga, she's not only more mature, but she's WAY the heck more powerful.

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  5. Oh Dear, did you see the errors that Moonkitty found? Chibiusa being called "Rabbit" and Wiseman telling Demande that the world will soon be in his "gasp". Suddenly feeling less confident about volume 5.

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    1. Rabbit is the Black Moon clan's nickname for Chibiusa actually. It's used in the original Japanese manga, as well as the anime and musicals I believe. As for the 'gasp' thing, I'm pretty sure that's the only spelling error I noticed in the entire volume. Hell, I didn't even notice the missing 'r' until Moonkitty pointed it out.

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  6. Omg, you are hilarious as well as intelligent; which is a great combination.

    One thing I wanted to say was that in the Tokyopop panel with Chibimoon's face and the word bubble saying, "So from now on...can you help me out from time to time?" I always assumed that was NQS speaking and that Naoko was just showing Chibimoon's facial reaction to hearing her mom ask for her help. I mean, there are millions of instances throughout the manga where the person shown is not the one speaking in the panel. Just something I thought I would point out. Of course when I read the rerelease, I was like, "Oh...they changed it to Chibimoon talking."

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    1. Hey! Sorry, I don't think I ever got notified of your comment, so I only saw it just now. ^^; Thanks for the compliments!

      I thought the same thing as you when I read Tokyopop's version, and actually debated for a minute about who's talking when I looked at Kodansha and the original Japanese. I decided that the conversation seems to have the most logical flow when Chibiusa is the one saying, "can I help you out?" I don't think NQS would ask about her own ability to help Chibiusa, anyway.

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  7. I been reading your reviews for a while now, and I must say, kudos for noticing those errors! :D

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  8. A person who would think a lack of "translation notes" in a book is somehow the direct result of a decision on the translator's part is not qualified to comment on these types of issues.

    If someone's child grows up to be a pompous, arrogant know-it-all with a very bad attitude who enjoys vindictively deriding people they've never met, one might make the assumption that it was their parents' fault. That doesn't mean it is.

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