Become a Manga Translator! An Interview with a Manga Translation Battle Winner (Part 2)

Today, Japanese manga is extensively known all over the world, but, surprisingly, little credit is given to the manga translators who support it.

The Manga Translation Battle is the first official manga translation contest that puts the spotlight on the translators. This year will be the third time the contest is held. The contest is the only official manga translation contest sponsored by the Digital Comic Association, which is comprised of Japanese publishers, and its goal is to find and promote manga translators. Tokyo Otaku Mode has been invited to manage the event again this year for the second year in a row.

In this interview series, we talk with previous winners of the contest about their past and what lies ahead for them as manga translators.

Part 2: Rieko Shimizu (2012’s Contest Winner)

Born to Japanese parents, Rieko Shimizu was born and raised in Canada. It’s been roughly a year and a half since Rieko won the 1st Manga Translation Battle. We caught up with Rieko, who’s back in Canada, to find out how she became a manga translator and what she’s up to now.

––How did you become interested in Japanese manga?

Rieko: In order to expose my siblings and I who were born and raised in Canada to Japanese, my parents would always bring Shogaku 1 Nensei into the house, so since childhood I have been fond of Japanese manga. Even when I attended Japanese language classes, I used to take turns reading shoujo manga magazines like Ribon. When I advanced to middle and high school, my reading horizons broadened from shoujo manga to shonen manga, gag manga, and more.

––Did you attend Japanese school in Canada?

Rieko: No. Other than regular school, I attended “supplementary lessons” along with other Japanese children who lived in Canada every Saturday from elementary school until the second year of middle school. We learned about language, society, and other subjects at the same pace as in Japan and we held events like athletic meets, so I was able to experience every facet of things that are typically Japanese.

––How did you come to realize that you wanted to make translating manga into a career?

Rieko: I wanted to be able to talk to my English-speaking friends about Japanese manga, but I was irritated that the amount of translated works was few. That’s when I thought that I’d try translating. My decision to make that into a career came from my guidance counselor in my second year of high school. Looking at my strong points, I was skilled in Japanese and English, and I thought that it would be nice to use that while doing work related to manga, which I love.

––What spurred you to participate in the Manga Translation Battle?

Rieko: At the time, I had just graduated from university so I was looking for a job, but I had already decided that I wanted to work in manga translation. I happened upon an advertisement for the Manga Translation Battle as I was searching for job postings at manga-related publishers.

––The work you translated for the Manga Translation Battle was Chocolate Cosmos (Nana Haruta / Shueisha). Were there any passages that were difficult to translate?

Rieko: At first, I thought my translation was good, but when I re-read it, I was too conscious of the judges and kept asking myself over and over again, “Is this translation really good enough?” It was difficult to translate in a way that stayed true to myself and wasn’t forced.

––What kind of effect did participating have on your life afterwards?

Rieko: I have been given a lot of manga translation work by the agent who participated as a judge in the contest. I have also indirectly gotten other translation work including novels, and I have been able to widen my skills as a translator.

––What are you up to now?

Rieko: I do freelance manga and novel translations. So far, I have done 14 Harlequin comics including Nerawareta Muku and Yuwaku no Chess Game and several of Mariko Hinohara’s novels including Roppongi Night Clinic and All My Love. However, only doing freelance work leads to an unstable income, so I also have a part-time job at a manga company. What I translate there includes everything from contracts to personal letters.

––Since you have experience translating both manga and novels, can you tell us what the differences between them are?

Rieko: Because the space of speech bubbles in manga is limited, this also limited how long the translation can be. Because Japanese speech bubbles are long vertically, words that are long horizontally won’t fit. Therefore, I make the English as concise as possible and keep in mind how enjoyable it is when it is read rapidly. The length limitations in novels are almost non-existent, and I’m able to choose the words that best describe the entire atmosphere and scenery. Also, in manga, the quickness of the momentum and tempo is controlled largely by the drawings, but in novels this is all done through words. Because of this, I’m able to preserve the rhythm of the original work while translating in a way that stays cautious to precisely transmit to the readers the atmosphere of the story, as well as the culture and values unique to Japan.

––Lastly, are you glad you entered the Manga Translation Battle?

Rieko: Yes. I like how everyone doesn’t translation the same thing, they are able to pick a work that suits them from among different genres. A winner is crowned for each work, so it was interesting to be able to see the characteristics of each translation. My world has expanded due to winning, and I’ve been able to meet many manga artists and editors whom I definitely wouldn’t have been able to meet otherwise, so it has definitely been a good experience. To everyone aiming to become a manga translator, this may be a good way to get your foot in the door.

This year’s Manga Translation Battle is on now!

Four works have been chosen for this year’s contest: Kamakura Monogatari, Museum, Nichijou, and Ibara no Kamuri. Will you test your limits in this year’s Manga Translation Battle?

Sign up here!

This is a Tokyo Otaku Mode original article.

Shimizu on Chocolate Cosmos: “This greatly influenced my work after winning the contest, so I recall it deeply. As a reader of Ribon, I had read works by Haruta, so I was very nervous to translate it.”
Shimizu on *Chocolate Cosmos*: “This greatly influenced my work after winning the contest, so I recall it deeply. As a reader of *Ribon*, I had read works by Haruta, so I was very nervous to translate it.”
Shimizu on Roppongi Night Clinic: “I was nervous about this work being that it was the first novel I was requested to translate. The story is about the underbelly of society, so I endeavored to create a translation that was sharp and cool.”
Shimizu on *Roppongi Night Clinic*: “I was nervous about this work being that it was the first novel I was requested to translate. The story is about the underbelly of society, so I endeavored to create a translation that was sharp and cool.”
Shimizu on The Baron & the Bodyguard: “Because of the position of the heroine, the speech used changed from casual to respectful language, but this is troublesome to inflect in English.”
Shimizu on *The Baron & the Bodyguard*: “Because of the position of the heroine, the speech used changed from casual to respectful language, but this is troublesome to inflect in English.”
Shimizu on No Regrets: “Because a portion of the story is set in the time after World War II, I had to be conscious of using antiquated ways of speaking. It left an impression on me because it’s a story that looks back at an old couple’s love when they were young, a type of story hardly seen from Harlequin.”
Shimizu on *No Regrets*: “Because a portion of the story is set in the time after World War II, I had to be conscious of using antiquated ways of speaking. It left an impression on me because it’s a story that looks back at an old couple’s love when they were young, a type of story hardly seen from Harlequin.”
Shimizu on The Long, Long Line: “This was my first time translating a picture book. Though I kept it concise and, more importantly, searched for words children could understand, it was challenging.”
Shimizu on *The Long, Long Line*: “This was my first time translating a picture book. Though I kept it concise and, more importantly, searched for words children could understand, it was challenging.”
Manga Translation Battle Third (https://otakumode.com/sp/mtb_third)
[Manga Translation Battle Third](https://otakumode.com/sp/mtb_third)

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