Posts Tagged ‘Translation’

Today I’m pleased to bring you an essay version of the panel I gave with Dr. Kathryn Hemmann of Contemporary Japanese Literature on cross-dressing in anime and manga at Sakura-Con in Seattle on April 19, 2014. Because we’re no longer limited to 70 minutes and a projector, we’re able to include more notes, resources, and a proper discussion of Ôoku, which we unfortunately had to cut short at the panel. Enjoy!

Oscar Françoise de Jarjeyes: cross-dressing BAMF. Ikeda Riyoko, The Rose of Versailles, vol. 3, p. 296.

Oscar Françoise de Jarjeyes: hero, soldier, noble, woman of the people. Ikeda Riyoko, The Rose of Versailles, vol. 3, p. 296.


Gender bending is often cited as one of the defining themes of contemporary anime and manga, which are filled with examples of handsome women and beautiful men, not to mention cross-dressing characters who never fail to steal the spotlight. What is cross-dressing? How does it challenge and reinforce gender roles? What role has cross-dressing historically played in popular entertainment in Japan? Does a female character cross-dressing as a man mean something different than a male character cross-dressing as a woman? In this essay, we’re going to discuss ideas about gender, provide some terminology, and examine a few examples of how cross-dressing is used by characters in anime and manga as a means of exploring gender issues in contemporary Japanese society.

This essay is divided into seven parts in four themes. In the first part, we’re going to outline several terms and issues related to gender fluidity. In the second part, we’ll discuss Japanese theatrical traditions, specifically those of kabuki and Takarazuka, which continue to inform contemporary popular culture in Japan. In the third part, we’ll talk about cross-dressing as it appears in comedies, romantic or otherwise, to demonstrate how laughter can both undermine and bolster personal agency in choices relating to gender identity. In the final part, we’ll move on to cross-dressing in anime and manga that are more serious in tone and content in order to explore the more transgressive and more potentially transformative aspects of gender fluidity.

Content note: This essay contains minor spoilers for the anime and manga series we discuss. Although we’ll be focusing on stories and characters we love, our discussion will include issues relating to transphobia, misogyny, sexism, and bullying.

The Superpositionality of Gender

We’d like to start off our discussion with a serious topic: cats. And by “cats,” I obviously mean “quantum physics” by way of the famous thought experiment often referred to as Schrödinger’s cat. (more…)

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Ooku, Vol. 8, p. 188. Yoshimune and Hisamichi

Vol. 8, p. 188. Yoshimune and Hisamichi

I know most of my readers are familiar with Yoshinaga Fumi’s Ôoku, but in case you’re new here or would like to recommend the manga to a friend, I wrote a guest post over on Have You Nerd? introducing the English-version of the manga.

In 1716, Tokugawa Yoshimune, the great-granddaughter of the first Tokugawa shogun, become shogun herself, despite being the third daughter of a branch family and having a low-ranking concubine as a father. During her reign as Shogun, Yoshimune enacted a number of reforms, though she maintained Japan’s closed-country status for fear of a foreign invasion if anyone learned that the country was actually run by women.

Not the version of Japanese history you learned in school? Then get thee to a purveyor of fine manga, for you have much to study.

Full article: “History Lessons from the Tokugawa Matriarchy: Ôoku: The Inner Chambers” on Have You Nerd?

If you’d like to read my more in-depth analyses of the Japanese version, check out my Ôoku masterpost here on the blog.

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I just finished the original Japanese version of Otsuichi’s 「夏と花火の私の死体」and I can’t recommend it enough. Here’s a review of the English translation from a few years back:

Contemporary Japanese Literature

Title: Summer, Fireworks, and My Corpse
Japanese Title: 夏と花火と私の死体 (Natsu to hanabi to watshi no shitai)
Author: Otsuichi (乙一)
Translator: Nathan Collins
Publication Year: 2010 (America); 1996, 2001 (Japan)
Publisher: Haikasoru
Pages: 350

I don’t know why I haven’t reviewed anything by Otsuichi yet. Tokyopop has released two collections of his short stories (Calling You in 2007 and GOTH in 2008), and Haikasoru released the collection ZOO, which is a major bestseller in Japan and ended up getting its own film adaptation, around this time last year. It might be that I haven’t reviewed his work before now because, even though his stories are fun and creative, they tend to be hit or miss. Also, they fall squarely into the genre of horror, which has gradually eroded away into “Dark Fantasy” or “Thriller” in the American market (the back cover of my paperback copy of Stephen…

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In honor of Halloween, enjoy this spooky ghost story from Ishikawa (formerly 能州) on Hyakumonogatari Kadankai.

百物語怪談会 Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai

Chikaramochi Yurei Mizuki Shigeru

Translated and Sourced from Mizuki Shigeru’s Mujyara and Japanese Wikipedia

Long ago in the Empou period (1670 – 1683), an unusual farmer’s wife lived in a small village called Mikoharabara, which was nestled in a remote mountain valley in the province of Noshu (modern day Ishikawa prefecture).

She was unusual for several reasons. For one, she had fish scales growing under her armpits where she should have had skin. Second, her nipples were so long that she could throw them over her shoulder and feed her baby while it was still nestled on her back. Last, she was incredibly strong—it was said this farmer’s wife could do the world of 4-5 grown men, all by herself.

However, even the strongest person is not invulnerable. One winter the farmer’s wife got sick and died.

The 17th day after her death, she came back as a yurei and haunted her husband to…

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Part 1 here.

Space ALC: my favorite general online dictionary, that treasure-trove of excellent example sentences and entirely bizarre translation possibilities, that bright spot in the depths of translation despair. (Some are a little NSFW for language.)


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…Suddenly I thought of an old friend
Separated from me by miles of mountain and rivers.
Will we ever meet again?
I gaze toward the sky,
Tears streaming down my cheeks.

-Taigu Ryôkan (1758-1831), translated by John Stevens (Dewdrops on a Lotus Leaf)

Mt. Hakusan, July 2010


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Space ALC is one of my favorite online dictionaries, especially since it uses a lot of example sentences and words in context. The dictionary also has a huge database of English-language slang terms, both historical and modern, and as the dictionary is more directed at English-to-Japanese translation (read: Japanese speakers inputing English terms, including slang), sometimes the results I get are nothing short of hilarious. My other translator friends and I like to swap screenshots of some of the weirder terms we get, and so I wanted to share some of my favorites with you all.

Just a note: none of these entries is wrong; this is not Engrish. If I had to deal with the sheer amount of slang that English has as a non-native speaker, I would be glad to have a place that could explain what buck wild means. However, going from Japanese to English turns up a lot of results that have odd slang terms listed as the first entries, which is why I find it so funny.


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Part 2: “Dancing in the Dark”

To read Part 1, click here.

To read Part 3, click here.

The second major incident of a character losing control for love is the scene in which Andre confesses to Oscar. However, this scene is not a simply a case of a character defying class and cultural conventions to tell someone of a drastically different social position that he loves her. This scene is dark and complicated and may be upsetting or triggering. The initial loss of control experienced in the verbal confession and the kiss  most definitely fits within the model Ikeda has established, but what happens next is about as subtle as the metaphor of Ikeda taking a sledgehammer to the established characterization. While I’ll mainly be discussing what this scene means within the narrative context of the manga, I’d also like to look at what this trope means in contemporary culture.


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Character, Control and Confession: A Three-Part Look at the Theme of Love in The Rose of Versailles

For summaries of the basic plot of The Rose of Versailles, see Deborah Shamoon’s article “Revolutionary Romance: The Rose of Versailles and the Transformation of Shojo Manga” in Mechademia 2 (2007): 3-18 and my article “Japanese Dramas Take on Gender Norms.”

To read Part 2, click here.

To read Part 3, click here.

Part 1: “Love Hurts”

A major theme of the Oscar-Andre love story in Ikeda Riyoko’s (1972-3) ベルサイユのバラBerusaiyu no Bara (The Rose of Versailles) is the loss of control of one’s emotions. In the events leading up to the pair’s (finally) becoming lovers, there are three major points at which one of the characters completely loses control of his or her emotions, risking everything in the process. While risking it all for love (cue the ’80s and ’90s pop ballads) is certainly not an uncommon theme in romantic stories, in BeruBara, the themes manifests in such a way that the act of being completely overrun by one’s emotions is the ultimate symbol of love. However, literary symbols do not exist in a vacuum; the idea of love driving a person to lose all logic and reason ties in very strongly into to Japanese and American cultural depictions of love.  Thus, in this series of articles, I aim to explore this trope as it functions in BeruBara and in other media.


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The headless horseman comes in the NIIIIIGHT

Today’s American 昔話 is one of my favorites. “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is a story by Washington Irving. Set in New York State in 1790, it has been the inspiration for many adaptions in film, including Disney’s 1949 The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad and Tim Burton’s 1999 Sleepy Hollow; as well as countless references, retellings, and parodies on television. The Headless Horseman has become a staple of American folklore. I’ve tried as much as possible to rewrite the story in (mostly) simple English and Japanese as a paragraph-by-paragraph bilingual story. I do recommend reading the original story if you can, as Irving’s prose is what really makes the story great.  私は日本語で書くと、時々(よく。。。)間違いますから、間違いを見れば、教えて下さい。

“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”


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