Cathy Hirano – translator of the “Mirror Sword and Shadow Prince, the second volume in Noriko Ogiwara’s Tales of the Magatama series, published by VIZ Media’s Haikasoru imprint”, is interviewed by Alexander O. Smith over at the Tokyo Translators Group site.
After graduating from ICU, I reviewed English YA books for possible Japanese publication and occasionally did J-E picture book translations as PR materials. This was a side job for Kayoko Yoneda, a friend from ICU and an editor at Fukutake Shoten. When the first Magatama book Sorairo magatama (English title: Dragon Sword and Wind Child) came out in 1988, Kayoko asked me to review it and write a summary. Farrar, Straus & Giroux read this and asked for a sample translation and then for the whole thing. It was my very first literature translation and it was very hard! There being no Internet at the time, I never heard how it fared; only that it went out of print. Years later, I was contacted by Masumi Washington at VIZ Media. She told me VIZ wanted to publish a retranslation as well as the second book in the series and asked if I would be willing to take on the task. Apparently,Dragon Sword and Wind Child, though long out of print, had acquired a solid fan following, demonstrated by the fact that the majority of library copies had been stolen and used books were listed at several hundred dollars on Amazon. It even had its own fan site developed by a teenager who loved the book and was sad it went out of print. She had the whole book typed and put online so that people could read it! You know, most publishers would shy away from a book that had already been published once and failed to survive. So I am extremely grateful to VIZ for recognizing the book’s value and for giving it a second chance and to the DSWC fans for keeping the flame alive. The knowledge that people were waiting to read Mirror Sword is what kept me going during some pretty rough patches. Readers have power!!! – read the full interview.
Haikasoru Week is over, but as an addendum, why not check out beatrice.com, who have just run an interview with two of Haikasoru’s translators, Jim Hubbert and Cathy Hirano:
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?
Another frequent dilemma in the Magatama tales arises from the styles of speech that exist in Japanese. These different styles denote the speaker’s gender, position in society, place of origin, and relationship to the other party (parent/child, commoner/nobility, peer/peer, etc.). The Magatama tales include speech styles from peasants right up to the gods—each style so distinct that there is often no need in Japanese to mention who is speaking. This degree of distinction just doesn’t exist in English so once again I have to consider other means of conveying the same information. – read the interview!