Interview #1: Lead Translator, Andrew Prowse
What we really want to do with this project is build a strong relationship with the community. To meet those ends, we're planning on three interviews for the Wish campaign. Today we're doing our first one with our translation lead on Wish -tale of the sixteenth night of lunar month- Andrew Prowse!
Andrew was kind enough to answer some of our questions about his background, some current and upcoming projects, and what it means to be a translator! Read on for some rare insight into the world of translation...
Thank you for taking the time out of your schedule for this interview! First off, could you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Andrew Prowse, and I'm a relatively new freelance translator working out of my house in New Jersey trying to make a name in the business. On most of the Internet I go by the handle Darkslime.
That's fairly modest - can you tell us what projects you've worked on so far?
My main project at the moment is the A Certain Magical Index series by Kazuma Kamachi, being published by Yen Press. It was my first major translation project, and it's had its ups and downs, but it's been a ton of fun to get paid for contributing to the English-speaking anime/light novel community.
I've also worked on various doujin games in the past and present. For Playism, I helped translate the Astebreed PS4 port, and did the translation for their upcoming game, Starchaser: Priestess of the Night Sky. Right now, I'm working on the second chapter of Higurashi: When They Cry for MangaGamer, a project I'm really excited about.
That's quite a list of works! So what motivated you to become a professional translator and how did you get your start?
I've been teaching Japanese to myself for a long time—ever since middle school, in fact. Come college, I received formal classes, and even managed to pass the N2 JLPT in my senior year. My major and passion, however, was with computer programming rather than translation. Almost as soon as I graduated, I landed a pretty good-looking programming job.
After being there for a couple of years, however, the job completely stagnated. It was then I learned that boredom is a serious source of stress. I was getting burned out by doing *nothing*. When I finally decided to look for other options, I made the daring choice to try and do something completely different. Around that time, I was really into a series called Accel World, and had all fifteen or so of the light novels that had been released up to that point. So I decided, hey, someone must be getting paid to translate these, right?
So I sent personal emails out to a few companies in the business, asking for opportunities. Eventually, Yen Press got back to me. I passed their test with flying colors, and that led to me eventually working on the A Certain Magical Index series, which I'm still doing now.
That's one of my favorites too! So what do you enjoy most about translating?
The thing I enjoy most about translating is coming out at the end of a lot of work with a finished product—viewing a Japanese work in its transformed state, able to be enjoyed by many more people. When I pick up a physical copy of an Index novel and think "I did this"...well, that's the feeling I live for.
What are some of the challenges you face during the translation process?
Translating is hard. There's no way around it. A lot of the challenge doesn't necessarily come from being able to intimately understand the Japanese, but being able to articulate it coherently and accurately in English. I've found myself reading English-language works much more often than I used to for this reason.
Some of this depends on the author's writing style. For example, Higurashi's author, ryukishi07, tends to write in a way that's easier to put in English than Index's author, Kazuma Kamachi, and professional authors such as Miyabe Miyuki seem to be even easier to translate. However, Shori's writing style, while not particularly complex, is actually the most challenging of the three. Wish has been a good experience for me in that regard.
Wow, could you tell us more about how Wish's story is written?
Wish'soverarching story is split into a few different parts, but they're all told from the point of view of the main character, Tenka. This first-person perspective is common in visual novels and physical novels alike, but this was one of my first opportunities to translate first-person prose. It presents a little more challenge because not only are you translating descriptions of what's happening, but what the character is directly feeling—and a lot of those are metaphorical.
With so many metaphors and Japanese idioms in the text, it can be pretty difficult to keep yourself from translating them literally and completely going over the head of the reader. I felt like I had to bring all of my skills to bear on this one. Higurashi is very dialogue-driven in that the reader gleans most of what he or she needs to know from what the characters say, while Index is very explicit about pretty much all of its symbolism (which, granted, presents its own problems). Wish certainly has plenty of dialogue, but there is a lot about what Tenka himself is currently feeling. The reader needs to be able to relate with him, so getting all the implicit details and metaphorical meanings across while still maintaining natural English is important. It's like a balancing act, really.
Ok, I have to ask. Which Wish character would you bring with you to Comiket and why?
Out of the whole cast, I don't think there's anyone who would want to follow me through the R-18 Touhou section, but that aside, Mutsuki seems like a fun person to bring. It gets really suffocating in there. She would be like a breath of fresh air.
...I'm sure her magical powers wouldn't hurt to have around in that situation, either.
To blast a way through the crowd?
Yes! Gotta get my hands on the new Touhou game, after all.
Haha, so then what do you do when you hit a creative roadblock while translating?
Put everything down and go for a walk to clear my mind is what I usually do. Sometimes I go and hit a tennis ball against the wall in the park. If it's raining, building Gundam models serves the same purpose. Sometimes I will even stop working for the day and come back to it the next day—never underestimate the power of a good night's sleep.
I'll second that. What kind of projects would you like to work on in the future?
I would absolutely love to be able to work on official Touhou translations, if that ever happens. I used to put in a lot of hours at my old job doing translations on the Touhou wiki, and I'm a huge fan of the series. I'd love to do the rest of the Full Metal Panic! novels, too. It's my favorite novel series. Another dream project would be to work on Super Robot Wars, but that'll never get localized!
Do you have any advice for readers who may be looking to get into translation themselves?
Beyond having an extremely good grasp on the Japanese language, the most important thing is to read. Read all the time. Read things in both languages. Read things in Japanese to keep your skills up, and really analyze the text. Read things in English to maintain a razor-sharp sense of how you "should" write things.
The second important thing is to really pay attention to constructive criticism and to be honest with yourself. It's not like I have decades of experience under my belt, but my skills have improved by leaps and bounds just by looking at my own works objectively and seeing where my weaknesses are, as well as having other people read them.
Words to live by. Any final messages for the community?
Wish is as much a pleasure to read as it is a challenge to translate well. It's my wish that I'll get to continue working on this game for everyone if the Kickstarter succeeds! And if you have the chance, give Index a look as well—the fourth volume, lost to time and completely changed in the anime, will be coming out soon!
...You know, I think I'm the only one who actually enjoyed the Aureolus arc...
Thank you very much for your time Andrew, and we look forward to seeing more of your work in the future!
That's all for this installment! Backers will receive a completely un-cut version of this interview in a couple days as well as all future interview throughout the campaign!
We hope all of our supporters are ready to get involved in the expansion of localization together! Culture Select plans to bring you more of these kinds of interviews and involvement from all over the industry in many different languages in the future if Wish can get funded! If anyone you know is interested in translation, let them know about this campaign and ask them to create this dream together!