- Shaoren Zhang
- Started their translation career as a freelancer in 2010, and has been translating mainly manga and light novels for Tong Li Publishing since 2013. Their translation works include Jujutsu Kaisen, Cells at Work!, and Naruto - Kakashi Hiden: Lightning in the Icy Sky.
Article by: Ichibo Harada＠HEW
A translator's challenge: from Japanese pro wrestlers, to the Yamanote Line game, to Okinawan fishermen
── Why did you decide to pursue a career as a translator?
── Right now, you're working on the translation of the incredibly popular Jujutsu Kaisen.
── Jujutsu Kaisen revolves around the theme of curses. Culturally speaking, are curses a thing in Taiwan?
── For example, do Taiwanese fans understand that Nobara Kugisaki's straw dolls are used to cast a curse?
── What sort of Easter eggs do you mean?
── I see! To the eye of many Japanese readers, these small details may go unnoticed.
The Yamanote Line game in episode 32 and the Mushiken (old-fashioned rock-paper-scissors) in episode 118 are not familiar concepts to Taiwanese readers, so I added notes. Also, while 憲倫 and 憲紀 are both read as Noritoshi in Japanese, making for an interesting play on words, the same wordplay is inevitably lost in the Taiwanese version since Taiwanese reads differently from Japanese. So I added a note there as well.
── So there are going to be quite a lot of translator's notes, right? Do you ever replace puns or wordplay with something equivalent in Taiwanese to make things easier for the readers?
── Which scenes were particularly tricky when translating Jujutsu Kaisen?
── How long does it take to translate each episode?
── Only two hours!? That must take some pro skills...
In Taiwan, "To Love-Ru" is rated R18
── There must be a lot of hard work that goes into the translation process.
── Are there any expressions that are actually difficult for Taiwanese people to grasp the meaning of because of cultural differences with Japan?
── Let's talk about kanji. Does it ever happen that the same word written in kanji has a totally different meaning in Japanese and Taiwanese? Do you ever change these words a little in your translations?
── In Japan, shonen manga often feature gore scenes. How are such depictions perceived in Taiwan?
── When translating Japanese manga into English, sentences almost always get longer, which makes it hard to adjust them to the page layout. Do you encounter the same issue when translating manga into traditional Chinese?
── Of all the projects that you've been in charge of, what is something that you're particularly proud of?
* In Japanese, “Neji” can be translated to mean “screw” and “Boruto” can be roughly translated to mean "bolt."
You just need to understand 80% of a manga to enjoy it
── The company you work for, Tong Li publishing, publishes many works from the Weekly Shonen Jump. Are these works published simultaneously in Japanese and Taiwanese magazines?
── How are these titles decided? Does Shueisha recommend these works to you?
── Are there any works that have been welcomed differently in Taiwan in comparison to Japan?
── Chibi Maruko-chan depicts Japan's customs and household scenes dating back to the Showa era, so I have a feeling it might be a bit difficult for Taiwanese readers to identify with.
I wish there were more works distributed simultaneously worldwide!
── What are the most interesting parts of working as a translator, and what are the hardest?
── Are there any unique sides of translating a work into traditional Chinese that aren't found in Western language translations?
── What do you think is needed to make Japanese manga more accessible to readers around the world?
── There are many manga artists in Taiwan. What is special about Japanese manga?
── Thank you very much!