Welp, time to say some words I didn’t think I’d ever say two months ago.
Wow, that was a really quite fantastic episode of Smile.
I wax lyrical an awful lot about the Mother’s Day episode of HeartCatch. It’s not a plot ep at all, and nothing really dramatic and emotional happens in it, but it’s just beautifully written, directed, and knows how to tug on just the right heartstrings at just the right time to deliver maximum emotional impact. It was an episode that made me cry no less than four times – twice while watching it, and then the same scenes got me again while I was translating it. Such was it’s impact, I like to think, that the character of the week in that episode was later instated as a secondary recurring character.
This ep is pretty much cut of the same cloth. It’s fantastically moving, offers some really nice actual character development, and just generally doesn’t try and be too much – it keeps it’s single plot thread running continuously through the ep and, excuse the pun, runs with it. And it does so to great effect, which I think is to it’s credit.
So yeah, if you’ve been getting fed up of me whining about this show constantly (sup /a/) then it seems times are getting brighter. Enjoy the episode, cause I certainly did!
~secret TL talk~
There’s a scene in this ep where we had to do a bit of funky localization to make it flow well. There’s a bizarre joke that involves no less than three languages and only works because of how Japanese innately uses them for things. Specifically, their phrase for “heave, ho!” (as in a tug-of-war) is borrowed from French: “oh, hisse!”. (Language #1!) In the Japanese pronounciation system (Language #2!) this sounds like the English letters ‘O S’, which, when the phrase is constantly repeated, causes instances of the acronym “S O S” (Language #3!)
I tend to work on the basis that translator’s notes should only be used when absolutely necessary – when a piece of culture or language is so vital to the episode, overarching plot, or thematics, that one has to leave it untranslated. While this is perhaps an extreme opinion, it’s balanced out by my team-mates, who try and impose a certain degree of common sense onto things. It’s as such that, while I’m not exactly happy with what we used to make the joke work in English (“Let’s go!” —> “Let go!”) and feel it’s not a perfect substitute for the Japanese – especially due to the cognitive dissonance of hearing one thing and reading another – the fact that we as a group kind of figured it was the best way of handling it means I’m not going to beat myself up too much, especially as I spent the best part of a day trying to think of something better before I had the sudden flash of inspiration.
I’d also like to talk about, while we’re here, translating villain names. This is a decision that seems to earn a lot of flak from people who assume we’re going to start translating Itsuki Myoudouin as Woody Brighthall or something, but what it really is is a question of thematics.
Smile, as is fairly obvious, is based on the lore and myth of fairytales. We have stories inspired by fairytales, Miyuki’s love of fairytales, and most pressingly, villains taken from fairytales. And when we think about fairytales, how many of them have villains with names? Think about it. The Big Bad Wolf. The Wicked Witch. The Queen of Hearts. Even, say, Captain Hook is named purely for his defining trait. Fairy tales love to have their villains be referred to by what they are – removing any kind of personification from them beyond the fact they are the embodiment of their chosen form of villainy.
It’s that that made me think translating the villain names was most thematically accurate, because the Japanese names also follow this trait – the wolf is named wolf, the oni is named oni, the witch is named witch. The show follows the fairytale scheme of having it’s villains be referred to and defined by, well, what they are. As such, translating these names feels right at home with the idea of fairytales being up front and honest with the reader about their world and characters – just as Schneewittchen becomes Snow White to fit in with our culture, and Snow White becomes Shirayuki-hime to fit in with Japan’s.
So, why leave oni? Well, there are plenty of words one could use to replace oni – demon, ogre, troll, devil even. But to my mind, onis are a thing unto themselves, a part of myth and legend and folklore that is innately Japanese, and one that I think lacks a good equivalent in English. The stories of onis are not really ones that have been brought over to western shores, and hence there’s very little cultural resonance for a Western viewer to have with the concept of an oni. I’m not allergic to Japanese culture despite what some might say, and the idea of allowing Redoni to teach the western viewerbase about the myths and folklore of onis – just as Wolfrun and Witchylina teach the Japanese viewerbase about our folklore and fairytales – is I think part of the attraction.
But the idea that a witch, who is clearly a witch, should not be called a witch, to me strikes with a whiff of elitism and glorification of the Japanese language, especially as the culture is still innately western.
Just my two cents.