Real Interviews: Olliver Kirby

N: So, could you explain who you are and what your job is for people that don’t already know?

OK: Well I’m Olliver Kirby. I’ve been him for as long as I can remember. I’ve been working various odd jobs in the entertainment industry for maybe five or six years now. I’m currently working as a junior editor for a Japanese manga licenser.

N: What are some of the titles you’ve translated?

OK: I don’t actually work as a translator since I know about as much Japanese as a squirrel would Klingon. I edit the horrible language from the translations so that it sounds more natural and actually like something that a human being would say. Normally this is a job that wouldn’t be required since it’s expected of the translators to be able to chose which wording would best fit the translation. The titles I work on though are not translated by English fluent translators and they give me the scripts which basically feel like they are ran through Google Translate. It is from that I build upon to change the broken English into a more fitting tone for the story.

N: What should be the ultimate goal of a translator: translating it exactly, or changing it enough to make clear the intent?

OK: Some translators will go word for word, but there’s always problems with that. When translating word for word most times you’ll end up with something (mostly with the older stuff) along the lines of “change your direction, that person in front of you is holding a firearm!” Now that might seem like a mouthful to us and definitely not something that would be said in a split second reaction, but in Japanese sometimes a sentence can be said in just a few single characters. Since we keep the original word balloons, we must fit this almost paragraph of dialogue into the same space that just a sentence would take up. So I’ll just put “move, he’s got a gun” instead. I’m a fan of clarity, I want everything to be as clear and direct as possible

N: Has there been instances where you’ve just had to completely scrap a line of dialogue because of cultural disparity?

OK: Absolutely. Almost every day there’s a drastic change that is made to the dialogue because it doesn’t make sense in an American context. One of the stories I’ve worked on actually took place in Detroit and there was a line about kids eating squid from a street vendor, a lot of kids who had t shirts which made no sense, and there was even dialogue about taking subway trains. Now the original author I’m assuming has never been to Detroit, because anyone can tell you that Detroit not only doesn’t have an abundance of squid selling street vendors but also distinctly lacks an underground subway system. So of course, all references of “squid” were changed to “hot dog” and “subway/train” to “bus.” A lot of people don’t like when we make these changes… but… yeah….

N: What’s the most difficult part of your job?

OK:The waiting game, definitely. We work in volumes so we get several issues at once. Once we finish these bulks of issues there’s that awkward waiting period. Waiting to see what the next project is, if there’s a next project, just overall when the next project is… it can be stressful and also very annoying.

N: Can you talk a little bit about how and where you started?

OK: Well, when a mommy and a daddy love each other very much….

N: Does translating dialogue give you a better feel for what sounds genuine in other comics you don’t translate? Have there been times when someone else’s work has really bugged you in the translation?

N: I’ve always felt that I was good with dialogue especially children’s dialogue. Nothing bugs me more than annoying kids or translators giving kids dialogue that no ten year old child would ever say. Unless it’s a character trait such as “the child genius” or a joke for the story, the average child doesn’t say half the things people think they say. Along with adding some fake kind of “jive” to how they talk by trying to make up some “kid lingo” that just comes across extremely forced, I’d have to say those are my two biggest pet peeves.

Ziah Grace

Ziah works at a comic shop and has seen Space Jam. You can contact Ziah at zbg333 [at] gmail [dot] com