I’ve always wanted to get into translation since I started learning Japanese, but I wasn’t quite sure how. Two days ago, I translated a short comic on a whim (please be warned, it’s slightly NSFW). And then I translated another one just yesterday. If I’m not ready to tackle big projects just yet (which I am not, or so I believe), this seems to be my break-in. This will be a bit long-winded for simply choosing words to go on a picture, so apologies in advance. (Both of these are fan-made Granblue Fantasy comics found on Twitter.)
The general process is similar across all forms of media: first comes translation, then editing of said translation, work on the visuals, and last but not least, a final quality check.
Translation: The base translation of which the final script comes from. Is usually rough and in need of a touch-up.
Editing: Making the dialogue flow smoothly so that everything sounds in-character. Problems arise when communicating from one language to another—this is where we fix them.
Visuals: Different mediums will have different visuals to work on (anime = subtitles; manga = dialogue and sound effect fonts), but the general idea is the same—make the work look presentable.
Quality Check: The final stage, where one person or a group of people look through the work to make sure there are no issues before the final product is presented.
This is going to detail the entire process of a single-page comic translation. Too many words on a screen regarding word choice and phrasing incoming. Also, if the content is... unsavory, I do apologize. This is what I chose to translate, however.
Before I started putting words in, I had to do first things first: clean the speech bubbles (get rid of the text). This can be done using image editing software (I’ve been using paint.net). I use a selection tool to cover the text I want gone, then cut it and fill the speech bubble with the same color (usually white, occasionally black). The ellipses at the bottom were left as-is because they’re contained in a very long speech bubble.
Read the dialogue from right to left, as with any manga. The following sections will be formatted as follows:
Bubble #.) Literal translation.
Thought processes behind translation.
1.) “Captain-chan, do you want to eat (a) peach(es)?”
I originally translated this as “Captain, do you want a peach?”, but due to a later panel, I redid the translation to indicate a plural noun (some peaches). There’s also the issue with Captain-chan, where I debated on whether to have Naru (horned girl; race called Draph in-game) give Djeeta (said captain) a nickname or not. I looked through official in-game translations to see if she had a nickname for the player/captain, but didn’t find any. I assumed familiarity and dropped the honorific because (most of) the crew members do live together on a daily basis. And, uh... Do we honestly use Japanese honorifics in a fantasy/non-Japanese setting? If so, that’s dumb. There are proper English titles out there for positions, rank, and whatnot.
2.) “Yahoo!” / An expression of joy.
Here’s a simple one. I felt that “Yahoo!” would be a stock translation, so I went with something a little more uncommon.
If I went with these literal translations, would you understand why she said this? Probably not, right? This one required a little backtracking to figure out. Djeeta gave an odd answer due to her excitement, instead of a simple yes or no. “Which?” implied Naru had given her multiple choices.
4.) “I’ll eat (them)!”
Yet another simple line. Djeeta was overbearingly enthusiastic about getting some of them peaches, so I ended up rewriting the line to something that would indicate the same meaning in her current mood.
1.) “I’m not sure which is/are the peach(es).”
Was looking for more flavor in the dialogue. Belial is the name of a mythological demon and is one in Granblue as well. Coupled with that pose of his, he gave off an aura of “I have been enlightened to this new discovery.” Thought it’d be humorous to have a demon be “enlightened”.
2.) “Leave! / Get out!”
Djeeta says this very flippantly, so I changed the wording accordingly. My other alternative was “Get out already!”, but I thought “get lost” matched the flippant attitude quite nicely.
3.) “Now, now.”
Belial says this as to avoid conflict. I could have stuck with that literal translation and been done, but that didn’t happen. The only alternative I found was “Come now”, which had a better ring to my ears. I added Captain at the end of the sentence to fill in the speech bubble some more.
1.) “Do you want a / some peach(es), too, Belial-chan?”
Again with debating to nickname or not. I originally dropped the honorific and just went with Belial, but this was changed to Bel for more clarity in a future panel. I also kept the noun, peach, as singular. This was changed due to the next line.
2.) “I want to peel your peaches, but... I wonder if that’s okay?”
The most difficult line and a crux to multiple other lines. You see, Belial in the game is, quite frankly, a very horny man and openly sexual. Innuendo pops up in his game dialogue multiple times because that’s just how horny he is. I originally made this line a little too wordy for my own good: “I’d be delighted. I’ll peel off the layers of those peaches of yours myself, if you don’t mind.”
Your peaches = multiple peaches = Naru’s butt. This was when I realized, “Oh god, I have to edit multiple lines now.”
After some QC-ing with one of my Granblue crewmates, it was shortened. This is why you QC. If you don’t find anything off, then maybe somebody else will. In turn, you create a better product. In addition, I took some liberty to add “I’d be delighted” because of his openly sexual attitude.
3.) “Ah! No fair!”
Another case of possibly stock translation. Belial goes for the peaches first even though Naru asked Djeeta before him—playing unfairly in the game of waiting.
1.) “This peach tastes good.”
Simply adding a few words to spice up the line a bit. Nothing too major.
2.) “Doesn’t that hurt?”
This was probably the first line that had space limitations for me. Official manga translations use word breaks to fit more into the speech bubble. This (at least to my knowledge) is split by syllables. (Does / n’t). I could change this by making the font smaller, but I ended up rewriting it a bit so it fits neatly.
3.) “It hurts.”
Very short, but the answer seems predictable enough that I thought even if I gave a more vague response, it would still work with context.
As if it weren’t obvious enough. The real challenge was simply finding a matching font. Has some sharpness, but looks hand-written. Going through a list of fonts to test was an exhausting task.
Ellipses. What else was I supposed to put in here?
2.) “Belial, you eat the seeds?”
Straightforward. Just moved the name to the end instead for differentiation.
3.) “Belial-chan, you can eat the seeds!? Amazing!”
If you remember my debacle on the very first line of the fourth panel, I expressed doubt about giving Belial a nickname. Originally, the line was the same, except “Bel” was “Belial”. My crewmate was slightly confused by this as he thought Djeeta was saying the same line twice. Naru’s line is very ecstatic, while Djeeta’s is more mellow. I thought the wording would be enough to differentiate, but I took his view into consideration and shortened Belial’s name to use as his nickname.
4.) “My stomach is now hurting.”
Relatively similar. Just contracted a word and made changes to another to make it flow better. After I published this, I realized I could have used “My stomach is starting to ache, but it was already too late.
Japanese doesn’t have a hard limit on ellipses—they just indicate length of extension or silence. English uses three as a limit, and I’m glad it does, because too many ellipses looks very stupid to me.
This was probably too many needless words on choosing words and phrasing them. The translation may not be perfect in the eyes of others, but I believe I put out some quality work for someone who just recently started. I do hope you enjoyed it, even if it was long-winded. Thank you for reading, and have a great day.
In addition, if you are interested in playing Granblue Fantasy, you can do so by clicking here. A great beginner’s guide for the game can be found here. Note that you need a Chromium-based browser to play (Chrome, Vivaldi—Safari should work, too.) You can also play on iOS or Android through mobile browsers as well. Yes, there is an English-language option.