The Bronze Devil: Interview with a Translator, Part III

The Bronze Devil

3. Edogawa often breaks the fourth wall (Dear Reader). This is common to a great deal of manga, in which even a somewhat self-contained story will include a tiny note from the mangaka, off to the side in a panel, about how the character feels about being a character in a manga. Of course, these types of asides are also fairly typical of a certain era and genre, such as E. Nesbit’s children’s fiction. Do Japanese authors break the fourth wall more often than western authors? Is it an ongoing staple of the fiction? Or does its popularity rise and fall as it does in the West?

Serialized fiction like manga and light novels are still popular in Japan. By its very nature, serialized fiction creates an ongoing relationship between the writer and the reader. In the manga and anime Bakuman, about the creation and publication of a manga series, the manga artists constantly receive feedback from their readers, on whom their careers depend. I think this encourages the manga artist to engage in ongoing interactions with the audience. Social media long before the Internet.

Though in terms of Japanese authors in general, I don’t know if they break the fourth wall more often than western authors. 

 4. The chapter title for Chapter 6 is “Strange, Weird, and Bizarre.” The words have similar meanings in English but different connotations. That is, each word evokes different emotions and imagery. How important is connotation in Japanese? Connotation can rely heavily on cultural “insider” status, so a word like “slob” can mean something very different (and negative) to Greg’s mother in Dharma and Greg as opposed to Dharma’s parents. Does connotation carry such impact in Japanese fiction? Non-fiction? 

The Japanese expression in the chapter title is kiki-kaikai (愇々æ€Ș々), which is defined in the dictionary as: “very strange, fantastic, amazing, bizarre, freakish.” I covered all the bases. Though I think “strange, weird, and bizarre” is a good way of summing up the sense of the phrase.

Broadly speaking, I’d say there is more denotation in English and more connotation in Japanese (although there’s plenty of both in both). So much meaning in Japanese rides on the social context and the social status of the speaker relative to the setting and to the audience. 

Consider all the consternation that occurs in romances about whether to attach an honorific to a name. Or to address someone using a first or a last name. And when it comes to expletives, the same exact word can be translated quite differently depending on whether a child or adult is speaking and who they are speaking to and whether honorifics are involved. 

5. Is another Edogawa translation coming? 

For now, I’m working on Hills of Silver Ruins, a Pitch Black Moon. At over 1600 pages, it’s going to take a while. I may return to Edogawa after that. 

Thanks for the interview! Explore The Bronze Devil more here and here 

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