Merit in "Ouran" and "The Scarecrow of Oz," Plus, Other Fun Stuff

Here’s some bits from an e-mail discussion I had with Corgi about “Ouran” and “The Scarecrow of Oz.”  This might, also, give you some insight into the thought that goes into translation.

Black Text = Corgi
Red Text = Kuroneko003

Please feel free to add to the conversation or make you own comments.  I really like “The Scarecrow of Oz” and found a lot of meaning in it.  Furthering the discussion about “Ouran” is welcomed too :).

Page 6: ‘Merit’ – heh.  Reminds me of Haruhi’s discussion with Kyoya during his fake assault.  I keep thinking there’s implications to the word-as-translated that I’m missing ever so slightly.

Indeed, there is more packed into the words than can come through in English.   But I think the discrepancy is cultural and I feel bad that I can’t get it across in English without writing an essay.  In this case there seems to be two themes about merit – what’s useful to a person and what’s useful in the competition.  Silvy Rose in her choice of a familiar wanted a companion and in her experimentation to heal the humans.  Whereas, Lillian Berry is wholly focused on the competition to become the next chief witch.  Interestingly enough, Lillian is so conceited that she thinks Silvy too thinks of nothing but the competition.  This is classic wisdom vs. vanity ;p.  It seems that Lillian will always continue to lose to Silvy, even though Silvy isn’t actively competing.  I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THIS ASPECT OF THE STORY 🙂  This is why I think it a good story for children.  I wonder, though, about the other witch who sought power…maybe there will be a sequel???

Oh, it’s not just here – it’s how Haruhi uses it too.  It’s clear, but it also seems deeper than just ‘merit’ suggests, if that makes sense.

Ah – in the case of Haruhi in that particular situation with Kyouya, she means that there’s no upside for Kyouya in having a relationship with her or assaulting her.  At the same time, though, Haruhi is putting herself down, essentially saying that she has no value to Kyouya.   She seems to neglect the value of friendship, though Kyouya obviously values her friendship and intellect.  In this sense, Haruhi also underestimates Kyouya.  To me it feels like a throwback to social status in terms of royalty vs. commoners.  It’s a false barrier on both sides, though, I think in the case of the Ouran boys, regardless of who they associate with, their status is so high that it can’t be tarnished.

Ah, I didn’t pick up on that aspect of it from Haruhi’s side (her value) — but yes, that’s part of the character growth is all of them reaching beyond their little boxes because of Tamaki’s catalysing influence, Kyoya perhaps even more than the twins.

Nonetheless, there seems to be this ‘merit’ concept that uses the English word like being the visible part of an iceberg.  There’s a whole lot more ‘merit’ beneath the surface somewhere….

Page 14: I like the ‘patiently’ litany. 🙂  Sometimes people miss out on the music language can have.   

In the Japanese, there’s only one patiently, but when I translated the entire story, it seems important to understand the intended function of a scarecrow – not only is it the waiting, standing and watching, but it’s patience, and that seemed to be what Silvy Rose needed most.  Plus, I felt it had a nice rhythm that mirrored the Japanese used of “mo” 3 times.

Mo meaning…?

“Mo” means “also”, “and”, or “more” depending on how it’s used.  In this case it’s “and.” 

It sounds like you got the intent exactly, not the literal translation (this is a good thing, don’t mistake that).

Sometimes it’s hard for me to decide to do that.  I want to reflect the Japanese as written, but sometimes I can’t resist adding a little bit of my personality into it.

That’s why translation’s an art.  Sometimes the literal language is not the most expressive of what’s being said.
Page 17: ‘She’s a milk drinker’??

Japanese euphemism for big breasts – I guess they’re drinking the hormone filled milk from the US???  I don’t know whether I want to put in a editor’s note for that one…
I think it’s a teachable moment about the “merits” of milk for growing young ladies…I’ll add something, but I’ll keep it in line with healthy all around growth rather than spread a Japanese old wive’s tale and keep this out of the realm of bedtime stories for kids. How about the old US Dairy Farmer Association slogan , “Milk, it does a body good?”

That’d be cute
Page 34: Pulsation?  (They’re rarely born, either.)

This is tough…I think what’s trying to be expressed here is the idea of Kurou coming alive – so this would be a first “heartbeat” of sorts.  Going back to the Wizard of Oz lore – “a brain, a heart, the nerve” – all of things the scarecrow gains through the course of the story as he figures out his purpose.  The question for me, though, as the editor — should I make the leap for the reader?  It seems to me that Kurou has no concept of a “heart” so a “pulsation” seems to be a way to describe the sensation.  The alternative word is “throbbing,”  but that word seems lurid to me. There’s also the duel implication for the beginning of a feeling of love toward Silvy.

Throbbing would be overwrought, yes.  Let’s see… a new pulsation, a pulse from nowhere, a surge of feeling…?  I’ll think on it some more.  For now, I’m okay with what I’ve got.

Page 45: OK, this is a tricky bit – what’s the /implication/ intended here?  I think Kurou’s making an innocent comment, I’m not entirely sure about Silvy’s reply! 🙂  I think that’s the point – Silvy’s age isn’t clear, and I did clean it up a bit to make Silvy’s words more vague.  She says, “What if we sleep together?”  It basically has the same implication in English and Japanese, which ruins the child’s bedtime story aspect…:(.  This would definitely be a bad place to use “throbbing”…:/  I think in this case, Kurou is the innocent one – he’s happy for the request, but he’s still a young man (if you get what I mean).  I suspect, Silvy on the other hand is old and very, very lonely…
‘Scarecrow of Oz’, eh?  Hee.  Where’d the extra word go, then?  Well…Literally it’s the “Scarecrow Familiar of Oz” – but in given my epiphany and the “Oz” theme – “The Wizard of Oz” –> “The Scarecrow of Oz”  As for “kakashi tsukai” – it depends on how you look at it.  It could mean just “scarecrow” – as in a thing used as a scarecrow, or, it could be a witch’s familiar.  In this sense, the title has a lot more meaning in the Japanese, but it really sounds goofy in English, so I think “The Scarecrow of Oz” is a better “localization” of the title.
The familiar has more resonance (although I think that’s one of the book titles, not that I’ve read them in forever).

3 thoughts on “Merit in "Ouran" and "The Scarecrow of Oz," Plus, Other Fun Stuff

  1. I'm reading your scanlation of Orange Chocolate–thank you very much for that!–and I'm very impressed to see how careful you are about finding the most accurate, meaningful and beautiful way to render the English. You're doing a wonderful job, and I really appreciate it!

  2. i really enjoyed reading your discussion about finer points in the translation and some of the background of the story. it really made me enjoy and appreciate the story so much more…
    i'm saving this and 'attaching' it to the story. its great insight! and makes us readers appreciate the work that goes into translating/scanlating. thanks for scanlating this lovely story.

  3. “The Scarecrow of Oz” is the title of the 9th book in L. Frank Baum's “Oz” series. I personally have only read “The Wizard of Oz” and “Return to Oz.” The book version of “The Wizard of Oz” is far more detailed, longer, and scarier than the the movie version.

    @vesperh and yambasket — I'm glad you appreciated the notes.

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