Literal Translations vs Subtle Nuances
Sometimes translators have to make the choice between a literal translation and capturing the nuance and atmosphere of the dialogue. Literal translations give you the word-for-word dialogue in another language, but grasping the overall atmosphere of the scene is sometimes more important.
Kyouraku Shunsui of Bleach is a very charming, polite character despite how jaunty and lazy (and powerful) he can be. In Bleach 605, Shunsui adds the –san suffix on to the end of the word “Teki”（敵 which means “enemy”). He is referring to the Quincies in this context, and we can translate this a number of ways. Enemy-san, Teki-san, or Quincy-san, and so forth. But none of these fit in that well in fluid English, and this is where the overall nuance of the dialogue can take some priority. The –san suffix is added to show politeness, and despite the fact that the Quincies just came in and all but destroyed Seireitei, Shunsui has added the –san suffix on to the end of their collective term. He is trying to show cordiality and politeness when referring to them. Call it politeness or call it sarcasm, I have decided to translate “teki-san” in to “Quincy friends” in English, because this term in English seems to carry over well both the meaning, and the nuance that the original Japanese term (teki-san) had.
Shunsui also uses the word “Kureru” a lot when speaking about things that have been done, and this is also something that is extremely difficult to convey in English. There are various kinds of grammatical specificities such as “Kureru” that modify the nuance of a sentence/statement in Japanese, but for the time being I will focus on “Kureru”.
The grammar point "Kureru" is used in spoken Japanese a lot and mostly in the context of when someone has done something nice / a favour for you and you are trying to express gratefulness without having to outright state that you are extremely grateful.
For example, just so you can understand the nuance:
"Nanao-chan did all my leftover paperwork (Insert Kureru here) today".
This would express mainly the fact that Nanao-chan did indeed do the leftover paperwork, but it also shows that you are grateful for it.
Shunsui is stating that the Quincies shattered all of Seireitei -insert Kureru here-. This is perhaps more sarcasm, or just showing that Shunsui can make light of almost anything and take everything in stride – this nuance is very hard to convery – but it is important in conveying the intricacies of a character via their dialogue.
Literal Translations vs Metaphorical Expressions
Every language has some metaphorical expressions which are not to be taken literally. For instance, if I were a Samurai and I said, “I feel naked without my Katana”. What does this mean? I don’t really mean I feel like I have a distinct lack of clothing and I feel cold and embarrassed. :x In this context, it would mean I felt incomplete without my weapon of choice.
There has also been a lot of discussion about whether Ichibei told, or did not tell, Yhwach that his throat would be Crushed.
The Japanese for what Ichibei says is "Nodo ga tsubureru" (喉が潰れる).
Nodo = Throat
Tsubureru = Crush
So yes, it literally means that throats shall be crushed. But no Japanese native speaker will take it that way.
What it really means is
"You will lose your voice / your voice will go hoarse".
If you look at Bleach 605, Yhwach did lose his voice. It can then be argued, sure, that he did go and destroy his throat by plunging two fingers in to it (ouch) to regain his voice so the expression may have had some sort of a double entendre.
As mentioned above, however, no Japanese speaker would take that expression literally to mean a crushed throat. That would be akin to native English speakers reading about a grand heist at a casino in Vegas being a “close shave”, and then proceeding to conclude that the entire operation had been about the thieves using razors to intimately shave each other. Just, no.
Come on guys, some phrases shouldn't be understood literally or the true meaning is totally just gonna go over your head. (Unless nothing goes over your head because your reflexes are simply too fast…)
The vagueness of a sentence without a subject
In Japanese, when you speak you don't actually need to indicate a subject. You can just pick up a conversation without explicitly indicating what/who it is you are talking about. This can sometimes make it very hard to discern what is actually being discussed, and consequently prove difficult to translate.
In the scene when Ukitake is discussing the Quincy Invasion in to the Royal Realm, it is not actually clear who it is, that Ukitake is saying has "let" the Quincies invade the the Royal Realm. (“Let” can be otherwise understood as “failed to stop”.) Ukitake could be meaning Shunsui, or he could be the Royal Guard. Shunsui does not confirm or deny whether it is himself in the next panel, he just goes on to ask Ukitake if he has realised that this is as predicted - the "Kamikake" is *doing something/been put in to action* and seems like it's successful.
To discern whether Ukitake is indicating whether it is Shunsui or the RG that have "let" the invasion in to the RR happen, the general path to take is to think about within whose power it is to have been to "prevent" it. I had thought it was primarily the RG who were responsible for letting Yhwach take a walk around in the RR, so I had translated it as "They". But the Chinese scanlations team has put down "you've" as the pronoun, indicating that Ukitake is speaking directly about Shunsui. This can also be correct. Note that this sentence is just plain vague, and there isn't really a way to be 100% sure unless you gave Kubo-sensei a phone call yourself.
Also, do note that this entire statement by Ukitake is a conjecture based of what Ukitake has caught wind of to bring up a point with Shunsui.
When new concepts/objects/skills are brought in to a Manga
When a new move, or a new object, place, skill, concept, or character – is brought in to the latest chapter, translators have to make a choice on whether to translate the name in to English words, or leave it in the original Japanese and add some notes. In most cases, the latter is the safer choice but even then, to try to understand the introduction of something new may take a lot of research and background knowledge.
What is a Kamikake? No one knows at this point, but most Native Japanese speakers see the word as a derivative of the word “Gankake” which is a Shinto/Buddhist prayer.
Kamikake comes from that same vein, except for fictional purposes, the "Gan" has now become "Kami".
The entire dialogue of Ukitake discussing the Kamikake, I interpreted to flow something like this:
The Quincies successfully set foot in the RR > Someone (Likely Ukitake but maybe not) predicted that the RR shall be invaded by Quincies > The Kamikake is set in motion > The Kamikake seems to be working in their (SS) favour.
In time, we shall see what the Kamikake is.
Senri Tsuutenshou 千里通天掌 (Ichibei's giant palm)
Just wanted to talk about the origins of this skill and what it's likely to be based off.
This palm is based off the palm of a buddha called "Ru lai". (and Ichibei is a monk! Ah-hah! )
It's actually extremely difficult to find English material about this Buddha in question, but in my own words, this Buddha has a palm that can extend to infinity. This skill is most famous in Journey to the West, and for all I know it probably originated from there. (Journey to the West is a Chinese Classic Novel published in the 16th century and is widely used as an inspirational source for many fictitious stories and games today)
This reference of the all-extending palm that you can never run away from is so well known amongst Chinese kids (because Journey to the West is the childhood story almost all Chinese kids grow up with) it's often used jokingly (or half jokingly) to describe one's mom.
This is an extract from the Wikipedia Article of Sun Wu Kong, which narrates Wukong's experiences with Ru Lai Buddha based on events which happened in the Journey to the west.
With all of their options exhausted, the Jade Emperor and the authorities of Heaven appealed to the Buddha, who arrived from his temple in the West. The Buddha made a bet with Sun Wukong that Sun Wukong could not escape from Buddha's palm. Sun Wukong, knowing that he could cover 108,000 li in one leap, smugly agreed. He took a great leap and then flew to the end of the world in seconds. Nothing was visible except for five pillars, and Wukong surmised that he had reached the ends of Heaven. To prove his trail, he marked the pillars with a phrase declaring himself "the great sage equal to heaven" (and in other versions, urinated on the pillar he signed on). Afterward, he leaped back and landed in the Buddha's palm. There, he was surprised to find that the five "pillars" he had found were in fact the five fingers of the Buddha's hand. When Wukong tried to escape, the Buddha turned his hand into a mountain. Before Wukong could shrug it off, the Buddha sealed him there using a paper talisman on which was written the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum in gold letters, wherein Sun Wukong remained imprisoned for five centuries.
Journey to the West has been the inspiration for many games and fictional works, the more you read about it the more you realise! Some examples are, Son Goku from Dragon Ball, Wukong from League of Legends, and the Saiyuki Manga, for starters.
I just want to say that Wu Kong is my childhood hero.
That’s about it from me, sorry it’s so long – hope it gave a little bit of insight in to what it is to translate between Japanese and English, and some of the choices translators have to make to bring out the most accurate portrayal of a story to the readers.
Timeskip 15 years later! Naruto is over!
We made it, everyone! What a ride it's been, too.
So we had a color-packed fanservice filled harry potter epilogue style final chapter to top it off.
Lots of ____ X ____ shipping dreams come true. We have Naruto's kid, Bolt. Though the feeling gets kind of lost pronouncing it like you would in English, "Bolt." Just like you would pronounce "Na-ru-to", his name is "Bo-ru-to". When said in Japanese, the names sound very similar.
When I was looking at Neji's gravestone, I got really confused. For some reason, this had never clicked in my head before. Maybe because I wasn't really translating Naruto during any major arcs with Neji or Hinata, but Hinata's name is always written in Katakana, just like Neji. Their family name, "Hyuuga" is written in kanji as so 日向 which means "in the sun" or "a sunny place" and is read... as "Hinata". So if you didn't know that the family name was actually read as "Hyuuga", you'd look at Hinata's name and think, "Hinata Hinata?". Coincidentally, 日向く would be what sunflowers or "Himawari" do, "face the sun". Okay, pretty dumb and not all that interesting, I know, but I thought it was funny just 'cause I never noticed it. Chances are you all probably did.
So, as you probably know, Japanese sentence structure is Subject Object Verb, different from the general norm of Subject Verb Object. In Japanese, you wouldn't say, "I go to the store." It would be more like "I to the store go." In other words, everyone talks like Yoda.
What I find funny about that, is that the way Yoda talks in The Empire Strikes Back, he adds dramatic pauses to his sentences via phrasing only possible with a Subject Object Verb language, as so often happens in manga. Imagine: "A powerful jedi... you will become." - "A powerful jedi... you are not."
There's a pause after the subject/object in the sentence. You're thinking "A powerful jedi! A powerful jedi what?! Will I be one? Won't I?"
Instead of "You will become... a powerful jedi." "You are not.... a powerful jedi." where you think "I will become what? I am not what?"
The feeling is completely different in the two, and the emphasis and suspense gets placed on the verb, in other words, what will happen/is happening.
A common cliche that pops up in high school romance and shojo manga is the heartthrob boy coming up to the tsundere girl who secretly likes him, and he says "Ore wa... Makoto-chan no koto... ... ..." and then gets interrupted or says something completely opposite of what she was expecting. The expected "cliche" completion of that sentence would be "suki desu.". This would be the equivalent of "I... really love... ... ..." the girl's heart starts beating faster. "Yes?" "I... really love... cashews." followed by the fall take, and some raging anime eyes and smashing heads and such. But the feeling is slightly different. You know the sentence involves him and her. He... something... her. and what that something is is the focus of the suspense and ambiguity. As opposed to the action being clear and to whom or what he is acting upon being the suspensful part of the phrasing.
So when people trail off in sentences, or intentionally leave them incomplete, depending on what it is, it takes some interpretation to convert it to English in a meaningful way. You can't have Naruto say to Sasuke, "Someday... I *mumble cough* you...". Perhaps from the conversation it's implied, he'll see him again one day, he'll save him, he'll bring him back, they'll be together again, whatever. But it could just as easily be, I'll defeat you, I'll kill you, I'll knock your teeth out, I'll bitch slap you for every single time you've said the word "revenge" over these last 15 years, etc. Context is so important.
Which is why it's really important for a translator to kind of be caught up on a series and have a general idea of what's going on and who's who. It can also be very hard sometimes to translate just one bubble by itself with no given context around it for the same reasons. Even being familiar with a series, we'll miss things.
As intended for a reader in Japan, they're expected to see some things as vague or alluding to something they're not sure what, or referencing something they kind of remember from before... well, the hardcore readers will know all the references... and translating, we have to be at that level as well, so that we can properly translate the references and the inside jokes and all that -- because just being a word for word translate bot definitely isn't going to cut it.
None of us claim to be all-knowing oracles of knowledge on the series we translate, but we have an awesome team of great people here at mangastream, and between all of us and the actual all-knowing oracle that is google, we often come up with the answers we need.
Okay. Little boring today, but we've got something pretty interesting and exciting up our sleeves. Expect a hefty interesting blog post when we release that. Otanoshimi ne~!
Hello there everyone, voxanimus again. You were all so kind in your comments on my last blog post that I thought I'd do another one. Well, that and this week's One Piece chapter has yet again a lot of stuff I want to talk about. I think.
Anyway, let's get the more lighthearted stuff out of the way. Several characters' full names were revealed this week, and I wanted to give some background on the references contained therein. Corazon's real name is Rocinante, or the name of Don Quixote's horse in the eponymous book. Law's name contains two references to the Napoleonic Wars: the Battle of Trafalgar is a naval engagement in which British forces led by Horatio Lord Nelson sunk 22 French ships without losing a single of their own. "Water Law" is a transliteration of the Japanese pronunciation of "Waterloo," the name of the battle in which Napoleon was defeated once and for all. Japanese has a habit of using the native pronunciation of a word when adopting it into Japanese; the Belgian pronunciation of Waterloo is closer to "Water Law." This means that transcriptions of the name as "Watel" and the like are clearly wrong. On the heels of this fact, I would like to make a request to all of you readers. Please refrain from commenting other scanlation groups' translations—be it of names, attacks, or dialogue—in the Mangastream comments section. I find it disrespectful to not only my work but that of our other translators. We spend no small amount of time and effort trying to come up with the most faithful and appropriate renderings we can of these manga, and to ignore that work is not very nice, to say the least.
Now, let's talk a little about the main underlying reference of this week's chapter. Again, though, to understand it, we need a bit of historical background.
Following Japan's defeat in World War II, the Allied Forces insisted, as part of the war reparations, that Japan move away from its imperial government and towards a more democratic one. Pursuant to this goal, Emperor Hirohito was required to issue a statement officially renouncing his status as living god, which would thereby decrease his monarchical right to sovereignty and pave the way for the writing of a new Japanese Constitution that would formally enshrine democratic power as the de facto arbiter of Japanese politics. The Emperor and the Japanese royal family would remain as mere symbols of the Japanese government, with little real power. The name of this declaration was 人間宣言 (にんげんせんげん, ningen sengen), which means "declaration of humanity." Sound familiar?
It is certainly very evident that Doflamingo's father's descent from the Holy Land and attendant renunciation of holy status is at least superficially similar to that performed by Emperor Hirohito following World War II. But the similarities do not run as deep as they did last week. Doffy's father's reverse apotheosis, if you will, caused his family to fall into ruin, as they were preyed upon by those they used to rule. Yet, on the other hand, Hirohito's renunciation of divinity was, at least in the long run, a very good thing for Japan. It allowed for the appointment of a Japanese Prime Minister and governance power to rest almost wholly in the hands of the three branches of the Japanese government.
In truth, though, Japan was actually occupied by Allied forces (in effect, the United States) and the majority of the governmental and economic reforms implemented following the war were done so at the behest or even command of the occupying forces. While it is probably not disputable that the long-term consequences of Allied occupation of Japan were beneficial, the attitude of the average Japanese citizen towards the occupation itself is less clear-cut. Some believed that the somewhat ham-fisted occupation's use of power hearkened back to the pre-Meiji days of the shogunate.
Ultimately, I cannot say whether or not Oda is trying to critique, using Doflamingo's family as a foil, the treatment of Japan at the hands of America following the Japanese emperor's renunciation of holiness. I was neither alive during the occupation period nor have I been to Japan and had a chance to talk with Japanese people about this. In addition, attitudes toward these sort of political issues vary from generation to generation, and I know not which generation's reaction Oda is calling upon. What do you think? Leave your opinion, or any suggestions or feedback, in the comments below.
Stay frosty, friends.
So, it really is happening, and sooner than most of us thought. November 10th (officially, as usual we'll get it a few days earlier), or in other words, 5 more chapters to go.
This 'thread' here is for you to post your feelings and thoughts about Naruto coming to an end.
Also very welcome are any and all kinds of predictions on how you see the final 5 chapters going - what will happen? Will Naruto and Sasuke even fight at all, considering how little time is left for that? Will Kishimoto solve this final conflict that we've been all waiting for with another 'Talk no Jutsu'?
Finally - what are your wishes for the future? Would you all be into a continuation of some sort? Naruto GT, with their kids or grandkids taking over? Or just let it end and rest in peace - we did have a great ride after all, especially in the early beginning, pre-shippuuden - in my opinion, anyway.
Anyway, any and all thoughts are welcome.
Hello everyone, voxanimus here. This week's One Piece was rather sui generis as far as One Piece chapters go, and I thought I'd write up a little blurb explaining, at least in part, the references and allusions Oda-sensei was making, some of which are not immediately apparent to non-Japanese audiences. (Of course, the real reason I'm writing this is that dino has done more than a few of these sort of things by now and I can't let myself be bested by the likes of him.)
First, though, I'd like to discuss the name of the "amber lead" substance introduced in the chapter. I was rather conflicted on how to translate this. The Japanese word used by Oda is 珀鉛, one that, as far as I know, does not exist anywhere else in Japanese literature. It is not a known Japanese word and has only really been used this one time in One Piece. The first kanji in the word means "amber," as in crystalline tree sap. The second kanji is a common one and means "lead," as in the poisonous heavy metal. The problem is that the kanji for "amber" contains the radical 白, which means white, an obvious nod to the actual whiteness of the substance. Translating 珀 into English as amber causes it to lose that nuance. Secondly, the pronunciation of 珀鉛 is hakuen (はくえん), which is actually a real Japanese word when written with different kanji (白煙) one that means "white smoke." Again, this is a reference to the whiteness of the substance and the whitening it causes in those poisoned by it. Ultimately, I was unable to find a word that could capture both the "amber" and the "white" nuances simultaneously and resorted to a literal translation, along with the resolution to explain the subtleties of the name separately.
Alright, let's move on to the actual content of the chapter. I—and, looking at the comments, several of our readers—was taken quite aback by the graphic, frankly gory content of this week's chapter. This is not the first time Oda-sensei has given a central character a tragic past but it is perhaps the first time he has done so so gruesomely. His reasoning behind this grisly portrayal is, however, probably more understandable once one realizes the references underlying it.
Characters and entities in the world of One Piece are often purposefully juxtaposed against one another by Oda-sensei in an effort to critique or call to attention aspects of the real world. The Tenryuubito are a classic example of the ills of a class system and feudalism; the World Government is the archetypical example of a despotic military tyrant, etc. Despite the seemingly childish superficial appearance of the manga, One Piece is surprisingly mature in the themes and motifs it chooses to tackle. This week's chapter brought to light a similar theme, one I daresay is close to the heart of many Japanese.
First, a little historical background. Compared to the rest of the world, Japan's industrial revolution came very late and very rushed. The Tokugawa Shogunate, a feudal government complete with daimyo and shogun and samurai, continued uninterrupted from the early 1600s up until several years after the arrival of Commodore Perry's Black Ships in 1853. Japan only began its Industrial Revolution in 1870; most of the world's nations had finished theirs by 1820. Japanese conquests of Northern Asia including China and Russia in the early 1900s further increased the need for modern technology and the industrial infrastructure required to produce it. Japan was able to meet this demand, but at significant cost.
Pollution, particularly from mining operations, went virtually unchecked as the need for metal for the production of weaponry was paramount. Cadmium runoff from the mines contaminated nearby rivers, and water from the rivers was used to irrigate nearby rice fields. The rice absorbed the heavy metal and it began to accumulate in and poison the people that were eating it. Two of the most prominent symptoms of cadmium poisoning are calcium depletion, which causes softening of the bones—so much so that the entire body begins to hurt—and anemia, which causes paleness of the skin because of lack of blood. The pain all over the body was severe enough that cadmium poisoning was named "itai-itai byou" (イタイイタイ病) in Japanese, which literally translates to "ow-ow disease."
At this point this should all sound rather familiar. It's no coincidence that the genesis and symptoms of amber lead poisoning in One Piece pretty much exactly mirror those of the real-life cadmium poisoning that occurred in Japan in the early 20th century. I cannot be certain, but I would venture a fair guess that this historical incident was what Oda-sensei was referencing in this week's chapter. In fact, itai-itai disease is just one of the Four Big Pollution Diseases (四大公害病, yondai kougaibyou) that plagued Japan in the first half of the twentieth century as a result of mismanagement of toxic industrial waste. The first, itai-itai disease, predates the other three, which occurred in the late 50s and early 60s, by 40 or so years. Those interested in reading further should check out the Wikipedia article on the topic.
Well, that ended up being less of a blurb and more of an essay, so for those of you that have made it this far, I thank you for your patience. Feel free to ask any questions you may have on this issue or other things relating to One Piece and its translation in the comments, I'll be around to answer them. Also, if you liked this, and would be interested in reading more blog posts like it, do let me know.
And thus yet another amazing series comes to an end. Thank you for reading along with us all these years!
Claymore was one of my favorite manga series since long before I joined Mangastream several years ago, and it’s been a pleasure to translate it for the better portion of the past two years. Wikipedia tells me that Claymore debuted in 2001, and I guess Yagi-sensei deserves a break after all these years. Let’s look forward to his next work!
With the end of this series, I would be remiss in not acknowledging the work of my fellow staff members, as well as the incredible translation work of my now-retired Mangastream senpai gernot, who was translating Claymore with the highest quality years before I came on the scene, and is responsible for much of the definitive Claymore scanlation out there today. I have strived to follow through in kind. It’s been an honor to carry this series, one of my personal favorites, through to the end (and hopefully in a worthy fashion).
Thanks again to all of my fellow staffers for seeing us through, and thanks again to all the MS readers!
So although HSDK has had an abrupt finale, Matsuena Shun-Sensei is by no means done. He'll be releasing three one-shots, each featuring some color pages and all ranging around 44-46 pages. They'll be coming out in consecutive weeks, in consecutive issues starting in mid-November.
The first one, coming out on 11/12, is titled "Kanata"
The second, coming out on 11/19, is "Haruka"
And the third, releasing on 11/26, is "DemIII"
Check out the raw page we uploaded at the end of the final chapter to get a tiny preview of 'em.
We will be releasing all three of the one-shots. The above dates are when they hit the shelves in Japan. We're not sure exactly when we'll be getting RAWs, but as soon as we do, we'll be working these out.
Anyways, thanks for reading HSDK with us for all these years!
Make sure to check back for the three one-shots!
I don't know where this began -- I'm sure it stems from all the martial arts oriented fiction from China with warriors with long-winded names (Iron Crane Atop the Waterfall) and their trademark weapons or techniques. That probably echoes the martial arts which also has these names for their postures. The names are metaphors, both descriptive and inspirational. "Young Maiden plucks the Shuttle from the Ocean Floor" in Tai Chi, as a descriptive name but also an image to help meditate upon the move and its meaning.
Regardless, nowadays it's just a given in manga and anime. A lot of times they even have injokes or break the fourth wall to joke about it -- they name their techniques. It's a thing. It's geeky. We love it, kids love it. Nothing more badass than a guy with an awesome name for the move he throws at you.
This also is a large point of contention among fans. Those that prefer the Japanese, and those that prefer a translation of the Japanese. A lot goes into deciding which to use, there's no real right or wrong answer for this and sometimes the fans just prefer one over the other. Many times when trying to figure out exactly what the spelling of an attack is supposed to be, the "meaning" of the attack helps to figure it out.
The Hissatsu or Ougi that characters utter before attacks sometimes is just them declaring they're about to use a special technique.
Hissatsu (必殺) literally translates to "certain kill."
Usually a Hissatsuwaza (必殺技) or "certain kill technique" usually is accepted as "special move" -- the definition of which, I'll leave up to you.
Ougi (奥義) is also another one. The general definition of this is "Hidden attack" or "secret attack." Usually it's not so secret, but usually it's pumped up in storyline as the secret techinques of some clan passed down or something.
In reality, these terms are used interchangably along with some other ones and whatever the author feels like creating. Video games like fighting games may use the two to differentiate between a "Special Attack" and a "Super" or something like that.
Other times, the person will have a fighting style or type of magic or something they use and they'll call that out before every attack. "Okama Kenpo!!" (Transvestite Fist Way) "Santouryuu" (Three Sword Style) whatever, followed by the specific move.
As for a reason, I suppose it's just kinda badass. A point of pride maybe, "You know it was ____ badass attack that gotcha." Even in the western world, this is kind of echoed in Pro Wrestling, although they dont really (or do they?) shout out the names of their attacks. They're "representing" their styles, I suppose -- though usually in manga/anime, there's almost this unspoken rule that it's almost like an incantation, like the attack wouldn't work if this wasn't declared before it. (Come on, how many of you as a kid thought by shouting "Kamehameha" loud enough... just loud enough... ah, nevermind.)
Once getting into the naming of the attack, this is where authors get a lot of language play.
One thing they do is create combinations of kanji. The kanji they use to name the attack aren't always official combinations, but creative combinations with an implied meaning. Just like in English, if a villain used a "hyper-electro-flashbolt" you'd kind of know it was some fast electric projectile or something, even though that's not a real word.
But because the compounds aren't official, they don't always have official readings either. Here, authors often use furigana to their advantage. I talked a bit about furigana before, but essentially it's the small characters printed next to kanji in some publications that gives the pronunciation or reading of that kanji (in order to help the reader).
Authors use this at times to imply meaning or give the reading they want. The same is true with attacks. When that happens, it becomes a pain in the ass to translate at times -- especially when the reading either has nothing to do with the kanji or is in a foreign language. Usually, we take the meanings of the kanji as a clue on where to start. Sometimes it's easy, sometimes it's way out there.
For example, in the recent issues of Toriko, the Horse King used an attack known as "Destroy Breathe." The furigana was written as "desutoroiburiizu." So, why not "Destroy Breeze"? -- Well, apart from that being pretty stupid (as if a manga never did anything stupid...) "ahh run away from the destroy breeze!!" etc... apart from that... we take a look at the kanji (the chinese characters) that the attack is written with.
Now, normally that would be read as "zetsumetsu no kokyuu" which translates to "breath of destruction." The author, however, gave it a different reading -- the name that he wanted for the attack, with the kanji to provide its meaning. Hence, we go with "Destroy Breathe."
The kanji and the reading don't always line up so nicely, and sometimes the intent is pretty damn obscure.
And of course, you get the times where they don't give a foreign language name to the attack, and leave the kanji as Japanese. In those cases, we (at mangastream) almost always give the Japanese name for the attack, followed by its translation in a note. For some series though, the fans have accepted an English name for a technique.
Kage Bunshin or Shadow Clones? Haoshoku, Kenbunshoku, and Busoshoku Haki or their many other accepted translations?
Also, because the Authors take freedom in naming their attacks, often with katakana for using words from another language, sometimes deciphering their names and how to spell them in English can be a nightmare.
As many of you do know, katakana is a phonetic alphabet "a e i o u ka ki ke ko ku ta chi te to tsu sa shi se so su etc etc etc..." so to spell out certain words in Japanese, they have to approximate. Sometimes it works out very easy with minimal changes. Point = po-i-n-to. band = ba-n-do.
Sometimes it's a little bit of a stretch. party - pa-a-ti. hamburger - ha-n-ba-a-gu.
Sometimes it's way out there, like the ever infamous McDonalds = ma-ku-do-na-ru-do. Anything with a th is always fun. Three = su-ri-. Earth = a-a-su.
Shove it up your Earth.
So, when the possible word can be any language at all, the kanji (that is, when it's there) is the only thing we've got to cling to for any clues.
In One Piece recently, someone used an attack called "Za-n Te-gu-ju-pe-ri"
I remember being stuck on that for a very long time, with no idea what I could do with it. Xantac Jubilee? I was really lost. The kanji was my only real hint.
斬・星屑王子 (Zan - Hoshikuzu Ouji) (Slash/Behading - Stardust Prince)
Okay. The Zan means "beheading" or "slash", but the reading was left intact as "zan" even though the rest of the characters aren't even close to the same. Why?
This was in One Piece, and Oda loves to use puns and plays on words. Therefore, I assume the Zan is going to be just that. He wanted it to be a kind of slash, but it's possible the word is San and not Zan and he's just making a play on words.
The first thing that came to mind, admittedly, when I saw Stardust Prince was Katamari Damacy. After I abruptly gave up on that avenue, I also thought of what's known in Japan as "Hoshi no Ouji-sama" lit - "Star Prince" a.k.a. The Little Prince (Le Petit Prince). If you've never read it for some reason, it's a classic.
It's written by Antoine De Saint-Exupery... and a quick google in japan's wiki confirms it. Saint-Exupery is written as "sa-n-te-gu-ju-pe-ri"
Oda replaced the San with a Zan to fit make it a play on the name, but the name of the attack would be spelled "Saint-Exupery".
Other times kanji could be like "Spinning scythes of bloody murder" and the reading could be "corn on the cob" or something completely unrelated to it.
A lot of time, there's subtelty in the word play that can't be translated in any way, so more often than not new attacks are accompanied in our translations with a translator note explaining it. We try to be complete to make sure you're not missing anything, but in the end we still have to decide what goes in the bubble.
Translations are just that. They're never going to be a perfect equivalent of the language, but we strive to bring you translations of a high quality that read naturally in English and that are enjoyable. By learning a little bit about Japanese, it helps you better understand the context and content a bit more. Though a lot of this, you probably pick up on gradually as you read manga on your own, there's always so much I wish I could add with each chapter.
I had a lot more to say, but this is already pretty damn long already. Till next time!