So, not long ago, when I was asked which American manga company was my favorite, I would have said Go Comi and Del Rey. Without a doubt. The books they put out looked good and read well. The release of Genshiken? Pretty sweet. Sure, there were issues (especially with the later volumes), but over all very informative and well-done. But now...? (Er, this is not towards Go Comi, it's just that they were, and still are, one of my favorite publishers, even when I liked Del Rey so much.)
Del Rey has really gone downhill. I noticed towards the end of Genshiken that some of the Japanese aside text not cleaned up. Mistakes, okay. I can deal. But then they started doing strange things. There is a part when Oguie is breathing hard out of nervousness, and all her speech bubbles read "Haa." So, I think they translate it as "Haa." Okay. But then they decide to put the text to the lower right side of the speech bubbles and not take the Japanese out of the speech bubbles. Are they trying to make it like a sound effect? It doesn't look like it, because they use their text font for it. The way they place the text just makes it look like a layer containing all the "haa" translations was shifted over and down. Honestly, it looked ugly. Still, not so monumental that I threw the book at the wall or something.
Now, let's move to Pumpkin Scissors. I don't talk about it much anymore, but I am a huge, huge Pumpkin Scissors fan (omg, I need to fangirl on here about volume 9 soon). I have all the volumes in Japanese, but I'm all for supporting an English release, so I've been picking up the English volumes too (and I can actually read all of these! Huzzah!). What do I see when I start reading volume 1? Name translations like "whoa, what?" and superbly ugly sound effect translations.
Okay, okay, Let me say this first. When it comes to translating sound effects, I think I like the Go Comi style the best: Completely replace sound effects when it doesn't interfere with art, translate them when it does. It makes sense to me and looks pretty nice. I don't mind the "translation next to sfx" either. Viz's "replace everything with english equivalents" works sometime, doesn't other times. Sometimes it's amazing (The early volumes of Ranma 1/2? GORGEOUS.), other times not so much. I think it really depends on the series. Tokyopop's "let's not really translate any of the sfx maybe" angers me. I was reading Junjou Romantica yesterday, and part of a scene was COMPLETELY lost, because the sound effects were not translated. Not cool.
SIDE NOTE OVER.
So Pumpkin Scissors, volume one. Every sound effect's translation is what looks to be the font Badaboom (you can find it easily online). I could see using this for big heavy sound effects... maybe explosions or the rumbling of a tank or something, but when the sound effect is for someone tossing in the bed, it looks really, really strange. I mean, why use the same heavy font for someone giggling as someone firing a canon? It just doesn't seem right. It's like font overkill, I guess. You wouldn't use a torch to light a birthday candle, and you shouldn't use heavy fonts for light sound effects. And then there is the naming issue! I'm used to the fansub versions of names for the characters, but I'm ready to admit those aren't always correct. Yes, I prefer "Orland" to "Oland," but yeah, his name is probably actually "Oland." But now I have no idea which names are the right ones. ADV brought out the Pumpkin Scissors anime around the time Del Rey brought out the manga. The names don't all match up. You would have thought that someone would have done the (probably pretty simple) work to figure out the official english spellings of the names. Now I'm left with, for some characters, three versions of their name: the fansub version, the Del Rey version, and the ADV version. And, would it have killed Del Rey or ADV to ask each other about the names? Even if they were somehow different from what they are supposed to be, at least they would be consistent!!
Next, we have Mushishi. A gorgeous series. I like the font they chose for the text, but their text placement is all over the place. Sometimes it's up at the top of speech bubbles, sometimes it's a the bottom. What happened to putting it in the middle? I don't think they're copying the Japanese version, either. I think they must be on something when it's time to letter. And another thing, what is with the font shrinking and expanding? I know I'm guilty of this too, but I think that text font size should be changed when the manner of speech is changed (like yelling or whispering), and sometimes when the speech bubble is way too big for the text. If that happens, I'll make it a little bigger. I generally try to follow what the Japanese volume does. Del Rey, why do you have to do this to Mushishi, of all series? Mushishi is on this pedestal for me... a beautiful, intriguing work with a light touch that needs to be worked on lightly. It shouldn't be a hard series to work with at all. I feel like Del Rey, or the letterers at least, have little to no respect for these series. It hurts me as a fan and as a graphic communication (almost) graduate that these pages are put together in what seems to be such a haphazard way.
Finally, let me talk about Nodame Cantabile. I finally picked up the first eight volumes at Fanime and greatly enjoyed reading them. I had issues with the lettering, but most of those seem to be general things that upset me (please clean up an area after you white out text!!). What the heck is up with the spelling errors? "Moztart?" Try Mozart. Aren't these things usually checked over before going to print? The real problem with Del Rey's version of Nodame is the translation. Okay everyone. A harisen. It is a paper fan. It is often used for comedy routines. Harisenbon can mean porcupine/puffer fish. There is a character that hits students with a paper fan. So what do they translate "harisen-sensei" as? Pufferfish. Huh. Huuuuuuh. He hits his students with a paper fan. He's not hitting them with a pufferfish. Don't you think they were talking about a paper fan when they called him "harisen-sensei," not a pufferfish? Now, I thought that maybe the students were using the similarities between "harisen" and "harisenbon" to actually call him a pufferfish, but as far as I can tell with the raw volume, that's not the case (please tell me if I'm wrong though!). It seems to just be ignorance on the translator's part. They also talk about Koshien. You know, the stadium where high school baseball teams come to have the finals of their tournament. Pretty much every high school baseball manga/anime series has the goal of Koshien. What does Del Rey have to say about Koshien? "Koshien is an amateur baseball team that she apparently likes. The soil is a keepsake." Wait... what? Was this translator paid? With my very limited knowledge of the Japanese language and Japanese culture, I could have done a better job, at least with these two parts. Koshien is also not an amature baseball team at all! The stadium is where the Hanshin Tigers play. If the translator gets these things horribly wrong, what about all the stuff that I don't know about? Should I trust the translator with all the music information in the series? Even if I wanted too, I don't know if I could anymore.
Now, I don't think that all Del Rey series have problems. I buy a lot more Japanese manga than English-translated manga, so I may just be picking the problem children. The Del Rey series I read a Genshiken (now finished), Pumpkin Scissors, Mushishi, Nodame, Fairy Tail, and Parasyte. I've complained about most of those, but I think the Parastye release is quite nice. For sound effects, it seems like they use the text font. Which (okay, call me a hypocrite) looks alright. It doesn't stand out and it doesn't cover up a lot, but it still does it's job. The text is bolded and englarged at appropriate spots and the books overall are done quite nicely. It seems like this book is lettered by a different company than some of the others I've checked, so maybe that has something to do with it.
All in all, it really bugs me that these series are being treated so poorly. I'm not expecting everyone who works on these series to be fans of them, but it would be nice if the final products showed a little more respect for the original. Now if I am asked which manga company is my favorite, it's quite the toss-up. I still believe Go Comi does nice work. I like Dark Horse's release quite a lot (although the print quality on some is pretty funky...), Yen Press seems like a company to look forward to, Broccoli has nice releases, and Viz does some nice work and has the nice price range for their releases. Sorry Del Rey. You've lost your spot.