Amateur Translation: Cross Channel – Meeting Misato on the Roof (Commentary)

I posted a reply on Frogkun’s blog here about Romeo Tanaka’s style, which also included some analyses of a scene from Cross Channel. Since I already did quite a bit of work for that I decided to go all the way and compare translation choices from the two Cross Channel translators with a commentary as below.

Surprisingly I think George Henry Shaft wins this scene’s translation, because even though his writing loves to add extra ornamentation and unneeded quirks to the prose, he still managed to be on point with some of Romeo’s own stylistic choices, and also his style is consistent. Ixrec’s just feels a lot more haphazard when it tries to capture Romeo’s light touches, but then adds large phrasing inside that breaks the flow, while GHS at least maintains a standard of prose, even though it’s still a pretty low standard. It feels as if the former didn’t view how the translation of the scene worked as a whole and tried to get it line-by-line.

One of the terms I like to use in this commentary is ‘floating the prose’. By this I mean leaving the sentence in its precise ambiguity (precise in its objects defined, ambiguous in their referents), cutting out the subjects or what it’s explicitly referring to so that everything has to be gained through a bit of inference. Romeo does that a lot, although it’s a trait of the language to be able to do that. Basically it means more or less writing like Sylvia Plath:

“Stasis in darkness
Then substanceless blue
Pour of tor and distances

God’s lionesses,
How one we grow,
Pivot of heels and knees! – The furrow” (Ariel, Sylvia Plath)

That kind of writing, where the object described is floated into an abstract space and you have to create the link by matching these fragments together. I view Romeo as a person who writes whole scenes like this before swapping out into long soliloquies about the world and human character. The result is very impressionistic, and yet none of it is ever captured in the translation. I think I also didn’t really do that for my Saihate no Ima translation, which is why I’m trying to see how it works out now, since I have more confidence in working with abstract after I tailored so much of my skill on writing poetry. You can view my whole translation of this scene here.

So let’s move on to the commentary:

(1) 風が吹いた。

A
The wind blew.

GHS
The wind blew,

Commentary
Well, that’s about that best you can get with this line.

(2) ちょうど踏み出た瞬間に。

A
It was blowing the moment I stepped outside.

GHS
On the exact instant I stepped outside

Commentary
GHS gets it relatively okay here, because the wording of the original creates a ‘step’ on the ちょうど. Amaterasu, by reusing ‘blowing’, creates the slow consonance of the ‘oooo’ once again that doesn’t have that kinesthetic effect of the thud.

“Exactly when I stepped outside”: The missing effect here is the focus on the瞬間に which seems to have a positional linger.
“On my step out, at the moment”: This one feels better. ‘Exactly’ is too long for ちょうど while leaving in as ‘on’ has a centering momentum. If I use this I have to add a comma to the last line, and a problem it also feels more poetic than grammatical which may offset.

(3) だが不思議と、晴れ晴れとした気分にさせてくれた。

A
But that mysteriously put me in a sunny mood.

GHS
But, inexplicably, that made me feel all bright and cheerful.

Commentary
Both translators put an overt link that the wind caused the mood. Both place Taichi as the passive receiver of the strange feeling. Both also leave the sunny mood part at the end rather than the middle. I wonder if it would be stronger if the cause was ‘floated’ a bit more abstractly.

“But it was strange – a sunny mood was also given to me”: When you do this, the mood can be caused by any number of variables. Also shifted it around to quite the same grammar structure as the original, which lingers at the end. I chose ‘strange’ because it has less drag than the other two choices, and ‘weird’ seems too informal here. If I wanted to float it more I would cut out the subject at the end in a Japanese way to

“But it was strange – a sunny mood was left down”

As for the aesthetic effect of the two晴, which was probably why the words were chosen as such, I took the English into consideration. Sunny is smoother, while both Bright and Cheer have a thicker punch.

(4) 目線の先、広々とした給水塔が階段とは別にあって、その土台を共有して、大きなアンテナが立っていた。

A
A massive water tower was on the other side of the stairs, but in the direction I was facing, a large antenna rose up, sharing the tower’s foundation

GHS
Ahead in my line of sight, standing apart from the large water tower on the staircase with which it shares the foundation, stood a large antenna.

Commentary
Admittedly I’m still quite unsure how these structures all fit together.

Amaterasu notes that the water tower was on the other side of the stairs, while antenna rose up “sharing the tower’s foundation”. I can see some people taking this as the fact that the antenna and the water tower share the same general area due to having the same ‘foundation’. The stairs in this case seems to be referring to the stairs where Taichi leaves from.

GHS notes that the water tower is on top of the staircase, and with the lack of commas or dashes clearly demarcating what fits to what, it can be read as the antenna “standing apart from the large-water-tower-on-the-staircase, which it shares the foundation” or “standing apart from the large water tower, on the staircase, with which it shares the foundation”. Also the repetition of ‘standing’, and then ‘stood’, is quuuite amateurish.

Looking at the game background, the antenna stands by itself, and there’s neither a water tower nor a staircase in sight. Also the place that the background CG comes in indicates that this background is exactly the opposite of the staircase Taichi is leaving from. From that I would guess that the water tower is somewhere to the far right out of the picture and the staircase is not the staircase that Taichi is leaving from (because it wouldn’t make sense to say he sees it in front of him).

I realize that there’s two ways to read the foundation. When you search 土台 on Google with 給水塔, you get the metal base. The sentence could also be saying that the antenna shares the same metal sort of base as the water tower. On the other hand it could also be saying that they share the same general ‘foundation’, which is the roof as a whole. I think the first one makes more sense, but it’s also quite vague. Although its ‘foundation’, 台 has the association with a stand or stage in Japanese. Plus 土 is sort of like ‘earth-stage’ or ‘earth-stand’.

Now after coming to that thought process, of course the eventual question is, does it really matter? Clearly the sentence is there to impressionistically set up the notion of a school roof, so no matter how you cut it, the reader will probably read it in such a way as to take in these elements separately, and reconstitute his idea of a school roof. What’s more important is to place these elements clearly and fitting with the style of your translation.

For me, I would try to place the elements as simply as possible, probably something like:

“In front of my eyes, besides the huge water tower and its staircase, and also sharing its foundation, a large antenna stood.

Distilling it to its elements by cutting out the foundation part.

“Before my eyes, besides the huge water tower and its staircase, stood a large antenna.

Or, swapping over to the first view of it so that I can have clearer imagery

“Before my eyes, besides a huge water tower and its staircase, and sharing the same metal frame, stood a large antenna”

Cutting down to make no connective sense, but creating a descriptive haze.

“There was a huge water tower, staircase – and besides, sharing foundations, a large antenna.”

(5) 太一「……へえ」

A
Taichi: “…ah”

GHS
Taichi: “…hmm”

Commentary
I think, being in Singapore, this expression makes a lot more sense to me, because we have “har” and “hor” and “heeee”. Amaterasu’s connotes slight surprise, and GHS connotes pondering, but it feels to me like the sentiment is more like the meme-phrase “wew”. Alternative is more like “hoh”. When dealing with expressions I also don’t really like to stretch long letters, and prefer italics. There seems to be something that shuuuuuuuts dooooooown when viewing long stretches like that.

(6) まだ未完成のアンテナ。

A
An antenna, still incomplete

GHS
A still unfinished antenna.

Commentary
Both of these feel okay.

(7) 足りない部品と知識。

A
Due to insufficient parts and knowledge

GHS
Components and knowledge both insufficient.

Commentary
I like this line because it functions as a greater metaphor, but said so curtly, like a mechanic. Both translations are okay, but I would shorten it as much as possible by cutting out connectives to have the most impact, which is more or less like Romeo’s style.

(8) それらを前向きな気持ちでもって補いながら、少しずつ形にしてきた。

A
As she compensated for that with her optimism, it had slowly taken shape.

GHS
Yet little by little it was taking shape, as that insufficiency was being supplemented by proactive feelings.

Commentary
This sentence is powerful because it adds to the previous line by supplementing the metaphor. Misato is the first character who is really shown to reach out to Taichi after all.

Incidentally I like “supplemented by proactive feelings”, though not in the context here. But GHS gets it wrong by swapping the back for the front, because the impact is stronger when the sentence end is the building-up.

Furthermore the original doesn’t exactly necessarily point to only Misato. It can also be floated to make it a general statement, which gives it a higher thrust.

(9) たった一人の少女が。

A
Just one girl.

GHS
Those of a single solitary girl

Commentary
Functional.

(10) その、たった一人の少女は。

A
(shifts translation below)

GHS
And that single solitary girl, right now,

Commentary
I have no idea why Amaterasu would tamper the pacing by shifting one sentence forward, when the effect is to cut the scene to pieces and create a slow drifting.

(11) 今、風に抱かれてアンテナと立っている。

A
And right now, that one girl was standing with the antenna, cradled in the wind.

GHS
Stands with the antenna, cradled in the wind.

Commentary
On the other hand, I would shift the ‘now’ back one step, probably. ‘Cradled’ also feels a bit too strong here, while ‘wrap’ on the other hand has alliteration.

(12) 嫉妬するほどに、憧れる。

A
I admired her enough to feel envious

GHS
Admiration, so much it becomes jealousy.

Commentary
The admiration behind the jealousy ends on a high beat, while both translators swap the terms. I don’t know whether you can float this part though, or it has to be linked to Taichi as subject.

(13) 宮澄見里。

A
Miyasumi Misato

GHS
It’s Miyasumi Misato

(14) 見里先輩、だ。

A
Misato-Sempai.

GHS
Misato-Senpai

Commentary
I support the leaving out honorifics camp except in dialogue that has voice acting, because you’re able to get away with more leeway there.

(15) 太一「せんぱーい!」

A
Taichi: “Sempaaai”

GHS
Taichi: “Senpaaai”

Commentary
Likewise, I would leave this as ‘Hey’ or something.

(16) 呼びかけると、吹き巻く風に膜状になった黒髪が、大きくうねる。

A
As I called out to her, her brown hair became filmy and undulated in the swirling wind

GHS
I called out to her, and the black hair that the cradling wind had made so membranous twisted about grandiosely.

Commentary
Both of these descriptions come off as super purple. When seeing multiple elongated and swirling adjectives stacked into a long and meandering series of overblown descriptors, the mind also tends to shut off, unless it’s done in Gothic prose or something. Here it’s very inconsistent and we have no Kanji shortness to pull it off well. Thus, one method is to cut the components up into separate terms in order to make it more palatable:

“I called out. The wind blew into coils. Her black hair became filmy, making large wavelets.”

(17) こっちを向く。

A
She turned in my direction

GHS
Turning this way,

(18) よい風が、つやめく長髪を激流のようにする。

A
The strong wind turned her glossy hair into rapids

GHS
The strong wind made her glossy long hair as if a raging stream

Commentary
Another method is to use a ‘verb’ to supplement the noun. To quicken the words. So I would rather use a combination like “raged into a stream” than “raging stream”. Furthermore I think if you use ‘stream’, the length of the hair is already held within, so that can be cut out.

The problem is that the verb method can only be used in metaphor.

(19) 見里先輩は苦労しつつ髪の流れを手で割って、顔をのぞかせた。

A
Misato-sempai made an effort to part the flow of her hair with one hand, allowing me to see her face.

GHS
With difficulty, Misato-senpai parted the flow of her hair with a hand, so her face would peek out.

(20) 見里「……」

(21) 早くも強みを増しつつある陽光のもと、惚けた表情が張りつく。

A
Under the rapidly strengthening sunlight, her expression had become senile

GHS
An expression of engrossment clings to her face, under the sunlight already growing in strength.

Commentary
The ‘senile’ makes me want to murder a kitten as one of the most horrible-tastic word choices to ever grace translation. Other than that GHS definitely wins out here because he floats the effect in the corresponding sentences.

I would straightforwardly use ‘blank’ or ‘dulled’.

(22) 夏日のうすらいとなって。

A
Just as the summer days were fading

GHS
The date of Summer’s lease is coming to an end,

Commentary
One of the main problems about GHS are these sort of ornate translation quirks.

(23) だからそれは、一瞬でとけおちるのだと知っていた。

A
That’s why I knew that her expression would melt away in a single moment

GHS
And therefore I know how that would melt off in an instant.

Commentary
GHS gets it right to leave it ambiguous as to what Taichi is referring to, create the airy sensation.

(24) 見里「…………?」

(25) ふっくらと色づく唇が、言葉を形作ってほころびる。

A
Her plump reddened lips bloomed as they formed words.

GHS
Her plump reddening lips begin to part as words begin to be formed.

Commentary
As a caveat, overpoeticism can also be distracting. Sometimes you have to cut it down to get the tone right. When you use plump reddened lips, then ‘blooms’ is overdone. Once again there’s quite a bit of leeway in terms of the original because the Japanese tones always tampers the words to become smoother. Romeo also probably stuck it out into hiragana at the last part because he wanted to give a sense of the unravelling vs Kanji.

I also don’t think that the term 色づく seems to necessarily only apply to red. Two connotations here are natural blooming and the later words unravelling.

I wonder if ‘autumn-colored’ is too gaudy?

(26) びょう、と耳元に怒鳴りつける突風が、しかし呟きをかき消した。

A
The wind ringing in my ears drowned out her whispers.

GHS
A gust of wind near my ears drowned out what was but a murmur with its roar.

Commentary
There feels like a bit of aesthetic effect with びょうto parallel with the wind blowing. GHS seems to have picked up a bit of that and used ‘gust’ at the start. With怒鳴, it feels like a stronger effect than ‘ringing’.

Once again, this continues the communication theme.

(27) 唇の動きで、なにを言っているのかはわかる。

A
But, by the movement of her lips, I could understand what she was saying.

GHS
By the movement of her lips I knew what she had said.

(28) にっこり笑って、応じた。

A
I smiled in response.

GHS
Grinning broadly, I replied,

Commentary
A trait of Romeo with character interactions is to state only the most distilled movements. This is something that many writers have yet to learn properly. It works even more in his jokes because it focuses on the most slapstick movements and makes the timing and rhythm impeccable. Cutting out the subject from the movement seems to create all focus on the movement itself. It can actually work quite well in English and yet no one really does it because it probably feels a bit comic-bookish.

(29) 太一「来ちゃいましたー!」

A
Taichi: “Here I am~~!”

GHS
Taichi: “I have cooooome!”

(30) 見里「ぺけくん……」

A
Misato: “Peke-kun…”

GHS
Misato: “Peke-kun…”

Commentary
Once again, it’s up to the translator on whether to keep the full nickname or change it to an equivalent.

(31) 両手を突き上げて叫ぶ。

A
I screamed while thrusting both hands in the air.

GHS
I thrust both hands to the sky and shout,

Commentary
This feels like a strictly anime pose, which is why it seems a bit strange to describe. Normally you’d think of something like two hands cupped in a bellow.

(32) と、先輩の目尻が下がる。

A
The corners of Sempai’s eyes fell.

GHS
And, the corners of Senpai’s eyes fell.

Commentary
This, to me, doesn’t really make sense. It makes more sense over there because I think subject doesn’t necessarily indicate that it follows the movement, but that there is a movement constituting it.

(33) コマ落としのフィルムを見るように、柔和な面持ちに移ろっていく。

A
Like a film in slow motion, I watched her face settle into a gentle expression.

GHS
As if watching time-lapse film, a look of gentleness fades in.

Commentary
This moment somehow makes me recall a small scene in Chris Marker’s San Soleil where he films the face of a woman in Africa, and then comments on the slight 24-frame look she gives him briefly.

(34) 見里「どーもー!」

A
Misato: “Hellooo”

GHS
Misato: “Hellloooooo!”

(35) 応じてきた。

A
She answered.

GHS
So came the answer.

(36) いつもの彼女。

A
She was her usual self.

GHS
The girl that she is always.

(37) 見里「どうしましたかー、ぺけくーん?」

A
Misato: “How are things going, Peke-kun?”

GHS
Misato: “What can I help you with, Peke-kuuun?”

(38) 太一「パンツ見えてますよー!」

A
Taichi “I can see your pantiiieees!”

GHS
Taichi: “I can see your pantieeees!”

Commentary
I don’t exactly know how the vulgarity levels transfer from country to country, but to localize maybe ‘crotch’ is another option. ‘Panties’, in English, feels to much like childish teasing.

(39) なんてことを言ってみたり。

A
I said that for no reason

GHS
Why do I keep saying this stuff…

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