Bakemonogatari Light Novel Translation Project

Almost all the light novel translations I’ve tried to read were essentially unreadable due terrible translation style, bad English, and horrible formatting, so I’ve decided to try my own hand at this.

Now, I’m not saying that my translation doesn’t have terrible style, bad English, or horrible formatting, but I can say that it’s better than what’s available at the moment.

Below is the PDF I’ve typesetted it with LaTeX so it should look pretty good on mobile devices.

Click here for part 1 of chapter 1 of part 1 of Bakemonogatari. [There’s a more recent version. Scroll up – rsy]

Just in case someone actually reads this, I’m interested in looking for:

  1. An editor: Basically, you’re Hemmingway, assuming Hemmingway was a fat, dirty otaku. You turn crappily translated Japanese into fantastic sounding English. I am NOT looking for someone to fix spelling and punctuation. Though, you can do that too.
  2. Some kind of graphics wizard: Either make the original cover acceptable, or make a new English cover.
  3. EPub guy: Simple. Make a EPub version for download. You’ll be working from the original tex file.

Also, feedback on anything would be appreciated. Post in the comments.

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10 Comments to “Bakemonogatari Light Novel Translation Project”

  1. This is awesome (especially the LaTeX part), and it would be great if you continue (up until the new novels, perhaps?).

  2. Do you have reasonably a high res image of the cover? If you are mostly just looking for a bit of cleanup and replacement of the Japanese text I may be able to help out.

    [This is what I have I know next to nothing about image editing, but it would seem like it’d be hard to make it not look so scanned-ish – rsy]

  3. I wish you the best in this endevour.

  4. I did a quick cleanup of the cover: http://radicalwhale.net/coal/cov.png

    Is that kind of what you are looking for? If so I will go through and clean up some more of the artifacts.

  5. Version without the japanese title: http://radicalwhale.net/coal/cover-text.png

    By the way, what is your preferred method of contact? I am pretty much always in that channel if I am online, but what works best for you?

  6. Very nice looking with LaTeX. The chapter’s flow seems OK to me. If the original’s flow seemed to be conversational to you, I’d say that you’ve hit it on the mark.

  7. Never having bothered to read any translation of the light novels, I first assumed this was just an update on what’s available at Baka-Tsuki, but curiosity eventually brought me here. Long story short, I think highly of you now. Not that I know you or anything, I’m just unusually obsessed with this particular series, and I commend your efforts.

    Anyways, for the sake of making a meaningful review, I read yours’ and Baka-Tsuki’s versions twice each. Then yours a third time. Ignoring the accuracy of the former’s translation, I found it much easier to read. Whether it was the way the sentences were spread around the page, the sheer length of the paragraphs, or the simple use of smaller words, I don’t know. A bit of this, a little of that.

    And yet, after reading your version, I could tell they were missing certain bits that I wished they hadn’t skipped. I could go into detail on each individual instance, but that’s not where I want to go with this. What I’m basically trying to say here is that when it comes to sheer enjoyment value, I’d take a half-assed translation that gets the point across in few words over a faithful, long-winded one. Again, I’m not addressing the entire pdf file with that comment. If I get down to it, I’d say about 70% of your version was more pleasant to read. But the fact that I had to go over several sentences twice or even three times because I subconsciously avoided making sense of them the first time around can’t possibly be a good thing.

    If, by any chance, you are aware of this and intended to make that sacrifice from the start, then ignore all I’ve said. You’re doing just fine.

    I’m going to visit this place regularly, because I’ve decided that I want the first translation of this novel that I read to come from here. Please don’t drop this project. I know I’m just one guy, but you have my full support. I mean that. I know I’m most definitely not Hemingway, except maybe for the fact that I triple check everything I really care about, but I’m offering you a hand if you think I can help and if noone else will.

    [Thanks for your comment Athos. I believe I know where you’re coming from when you say that the translation is long-winded, and you guessed correctly it was intentional. Isin’s (or Koyomi’s rather) narration is verbose to the extreme where it’s normal for a single sentence to extend into its own paragraph. Keeping this sense of style, this style which basically defines the narration took precedence over “ease of reading.” I could have divided up sentences into simpler ones, and used more basic vocabulary – as a matter of fact this would have been way easier to do – but doing so would be essentially changing Koyomi’s voice.

    Of course, long-windedness and ease of reading aren’t always mutually exclusive, and in no way am I saying that none of my sentences need fixing. Feel free to point out all the sentences that you think could use tweaking. – rsy]

  8. I’ve already said what I think about flexibility and faithfulness to the source material, and I can tell it somehow clashes with your impression of Nisio Isin’s way of narrative. I will not complain about the length of the paragraphs, the actual content of the sentences, or any facts they convey that I think could be ignored or summarized. Hell, this is probably what I like most about your translation. I don’t have a whole lot to say about that.

    What does bother me, however, and probably the only thing I feel that I want to discuss, is your vocabulary. The words you use are not particularly roundabout, but several times I honestly found it pointless to avoid using an easier-to-read alternative. This is easily the main problem I have with your translation, and what prevented me from automatically processing many of the sentences the first time I read them.

    It really troubles me to say this because you’ve made it clear that you put a lot of effort in creating an accurate english version of Koyomi’s way of narrating. This is also really not something I can preach about, because, well, I’m not a translator. I can’t tell whether the character called Koyomi would really talk like this or not, except maybe from my own impression of the anime, but I doubt the way he speaks and the way he narrates are necessarily the same. To be honest, I’m actually very curious about the details on this matter, and I’d love to hear what you have to say about it, but it’s complicated to hold a conversation like this, and besides, I don’t want to take up your time.

    Anyways, you asked me to point out sentences, and I will. All I’m doing here is listing the ones that felt awkward to me as a reader. It has nothing to do with the words you used or the content, just the way they are structured.

    “Nonetheless, even if she was sickly, the impression she left
    one with was not insubstantial. Slender in the likeness of
    fine thread, as if she would break just with the slightest touch,
    ephemeral — possibly for that reason some of the boys would
    murmur, half in seriousness, half in jest, that she was a sheltered
    heiress of a wealthy family.”

    –>Slightly disjointed, I guess.

    “There were times when she would
    be reading an impenetrable looking hardcover tome; and there
    were times when she would be reading a comic book with a
    cover designed in such a way that seemed like reading the
    contents of said comic book would lower one’s intelligence.”

    –>The last part of the sentence dragged a little

    “If one were to be keen on details, it might have been that Senjogahara
    who was always reading some book — and from that very act
    of reading — had erected a wall around herself that forbade
    anyone to start conversation with her.”

    –>Can’t quite put my finger on it… the first half doesn’t feel right

    “Whenever she was called on by the teacher, she would always
    mechanically reply with a faint “I do not know,” and in this
    regard, she was the same as me. (But, whether she did in fact
    know the answer or not, she would only reply with “I do not
    know.”)”

    –> I didn’t realize this was a joke the first time I read this. I still find it a little hard to follow.

    I can’t really think of anything else. I pray this was of any use to you.

    [Thanks for the suggestions. I’ll talk them over with my potential editor once he’s free to work. Once I translated some more, I’ll fix up the Bakemonogatari page with some more information regarding Isin’s style and my (poor) attempt at emulating it that you might find interesting.

    You also mentioned that your biggest problem was my vocabulary choice. Can you point out some examples for those as well? – rsy]

  9. What follows is as subjective as it gets. It’s nothing more than the opinion of a random reader. No, it’s below that. I’m not even a native speaker. I’m only going to list the examples I felt most uncomfortable with. I’ll also avoid hinting my own opinion on what the “right” way of saying these lines is, because I can tell it’ll come off as being rude. I’ll just point them out.

    “[…] ephemeral — possibly for that reason some of the boys would
    murmur, half in seriousness, half in jest, that she was a sheltered
    heiress of a wealthy family.”

    “Undoubtedly, our brains were constructed differently at birth.”

    “Only, it had since become a matter of course that Senjogahara
    would be in the corner of the classroom, reading her books,
    with the wall she had built surrounding her.”

    “Only by some strange fortune I ended up in the same class as a
    certain other for three years consecutively, and although not a
    single word had been exchanged between the us, I did not think
    that it was the least bit lonely.”

    “It would be fundamentally erroneous to think such a thing deserved any melancholy.”

    These are probably the ones I had the most trouble with. This was actually a little hard to do because, by now, I have read this chapter so many times that I’ve already forgotten what my first impression was. There are other smaller, isolated examples in there, but they are even more subjective than what I’ve already given you. Best of luck.

  10. I looked for a translation of Bakemonogatari and I found your sight (i read about the different translators and I appreciate you clarifying some things. I want to learn Japanese, and will one day, when I have the money and can handle some failed attempts.)
    You stated that they are armatures, witch means that this is a form of practice. I love it when they use the real slang word (or grouping of words) and give you the meaning. I’ve been watching Bakemonogatari on crunchyroll now and since its a site thats legal and by some English graduates, that get their translations from the new owner in America to host the translated versions on their site, I think they should be close, not sure though. I prefer getting it s accurate, but where it makes scene in natural American English. I could handle the Queens English as well. I know that in a different anime that the English dub is more accurate than the English subbed. The anime was “When the cascadas cry” or in the English version “higrishi: when they cry” (most likely spelt wrong, I have bad spelling)

    I would appreciate a reply while you have the time. Hopefully I’ll read the message and not mark it as spam ><

    I can not access the pdf or any of the translations I'm unsure what I'm doing wrong. Thank you for the help 🙂

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