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1) Thanks for agreeing to this interview!

I know that you have a blog


with as much personal info as you feel comfortable with discussing on
your blog (https://fantasticmemes.wordpress.com/) and that youve
also gone through a brief history of your journey through the
interwebs in a recent post called Reflections on Writing, Blogging
and Translating. This means well be able to skip through a lot of the
usual stuff.
In light of this, list one concept that you had a different perspective
on when you started your blog for each of the following: anime,
blogging, fanfiction, translation, literary analysis.
Instead of listing one concept for each, Ill tackle this question in a more
general way.
I started blogging around the time I started university. So many of the
upheavals I experienced were very much influenced by my education and not
simply through blogging.
Probably my most dramatic change in perspective came about from reading
academic literature about social problems, particularly gender issues. This
made me a lot more sensitive to the broader implications of what I wrote and
read. I used to think I was special for my insider knowledge of otaku culture,
but now Im very strongly critical of that sort of mentality.
2) Now, I do want to get some clarifications/justifications from what
youve posted so far if possible. Your posts and opinions - Im taking
the blog to be generally representative of your opinions - seem to be
based around evaluating subcategories within certain themes/values
(e.g.: types of sexuality). Outside of this early post
(https://fantasticmemes.wordpress.com/2013/06/07/fanservice-doesnot-always-suck-an-analysis-of-ecchi-as-an-art-form/), you avoid the
topic of comparative value (e.g.: political satire vs sexual fanservice)
with disclaimers such as As far as I am concerned, any reason for
liking an anime is valid, and I intend to go into that by treating some
so-called trashy titles with the intellectual weight they deserve.
Could we get a clarification on what your evaluative thinking is when
thinking about anime since you wrote this post? Do you truly believe
that any reason (implied values-focused relativism) to like an anime is
fine? Doesnt this pure relativism devalue your own discussions with
others on the matter, or would you call your analyses simply
statements of your own values? If not, are there common guidelines
that all otaku can follow for anime?

First of all, I should make it clear that Im not a moral relativist. Many others
have described why moral relativism is a flawed position, so I dont feel the
need to go over that here.
Art is quite a different case, though. A persons taste in art isnt necessarily
defined by their moral values, even if moral judgements are a part of media
evaluation. You can enjoy art you find morally repugnant, for instance. Being
amused by watching fictional characters die is not the same thing as being
amused by watching real people die. I think you can reasonably argue that
some works of art are less moral than others, but if you judged media by
morals alone, youd be insensitive to the complicated relationship people have
with the media they consume.
Im not a fan of hierarchies when it comes to art evaluation because I think that
encourages the false idea that there is an objective measure to art. In fact,
art is inherently subjective. Taste is fluid and influenced very strongly by a
multitude of social factors. I think its more interesting and useful to use art as
a way of thinking about people. Even a seemingly trashy title will tell you a lot
about its social context.
Thats why I tend to narrow the scope of my analysis whenever I discuss
individual titles. Its simply more useful than comparing two works with
completely different aims and arguing that one is holistically better than the
other. Of course, I also acknowledge that you can unpack more ideas from a
more purposefully-constructed work.
I dont pretend that my way is the best way, but I do think its generally a good
idea for anyone (not just otaku) to be receptive to criticism and to try and
understand other peoples experiences.
3) One of the comments on your reflections post (linked above) states
that Re-defining a work needs something of yourself, your audience,
and the author. How do you rank these three in priority during
translation?
I dont think theres a clear hierarchy. When I translate, I tend to juggle all three
things at once. Sometimes, these things conflict and sometimes, they dont.
Generally, I stick to my gut reaction from reading the Japanese text. How does
the authors vision come across to me? How can I express that through words? I
cant communicate with the author, so I have to make my own judgements
about his intent, but I try to be reasonable.
Im also conscious of what my audience wants when I translate. Rarely do I
have to alter my overall approach to suit them, but it does affect some minor
vocabulary choices. For instance, I keep honorifics and cultural references

intact. If I had been translating for an audience unfamiliar with anime and
manga, I might have approached the task differently.
Also, I think every translator puts a bit of themselves into what they translate.
Its inevitable. Take Oregairu, for instance. If youve watched the anime or read
volume 2 of the light novel, youll remember that the protagonist goes on this
monologue about how much he hates nice girls. I personally interpreted that
monologue as one of self-loathing. He doesnt really hate the nice girls; he
hates himself for piling unreasonable expectations on them. I was really careful
about how I translated that scene so that the subtext came across. Im sure
another translator would have handled it differently.
4) Lets switch over to the topic of fandom, otaku, and the insular
nature of fanfiction/JP anime-related media. Your brief comment about
how it is so inclusive/insular strikes a familiar note with the Dec. 2014
Hayao Miyazaki interview
(http://en.rocketnews24.com/2014/01/30/ghiblis-hayao-miyazaki-saysthe-anime-industrys-problem-is-that-its-full-of-anime-fans/) where he
complains that the content creators fail to grasp realistic portrayals
because they use anime not as an open medium (which, as you
point out in your blog, can be done), but because they use anime to
further the tropes that have been born within the anime and its
context.
Do you see any future changes to the static nature of anime creators
tendencies, besides perhaps generational and cultural shifts? How
would you maintain the stable fanbase of the anime community that
you like so much while recognizing that its insular nature also may
drive away newcomers?
Man, thats a hard question! I think theres no easy answer. To prevent the
more toxic effects of insularity, you need newcomers and critical voices. I think
that anime culture right now has both of these things, but it is certainly
frustrating for non-Japanese fans that our voices are not part of the
conversation.
Im not as cynical as Miyazaki is about the industry, by the way. The overall
approach of anime distributors might be very conservative, but the market is
evolving and trends are fluid. While the industry still does little to cater directly
to the foreign market, its certainly not as homogeneous as Miyazaki makes
out.
Would I still like to see the male otaku hegemony challenged? Absolutely. But I
dont really see that changing anytime soon
5) On a lighter note, what part(s) of light novel translation (from
picking/getting raws to feedback) do you like the most? The least? Is

there a certain aspect that youd like to improve upon? You can be as
specific as you like.
Ill start with what I liked least about translating. The references! Its always a
total pain researching the cultural references and then having to make a hard
decision. Do you leave a footnote and sacrifice readability or do you assume
that the reader should be able to understand it through context?
Other than that, I tend to enjoy the translation process quite a bit, even if it
gets tedious at times. Theres something satisfying about nailing a sentence or
a characters voice. Its similar to the fun of writing a fanfiction.
As for where Id like to improve I have to say Im still working on my
Japanese. Ive improved a lot over the last year, but some kinds of texts are still
kind of difficult for me.
6) Now I want to get your perspectives/recommendations on other
people. List a couple of things the average light novel reader could do
to improve the community (as an individual or via contribution).
The light novel fan translation community has a notorious reputation for bad
quality. Part of it has to do with fans not demanding better quality. Theyll read
a dodgy machine translation because its faster than the alternative. Since
there arent enough translators to go around, many of the more talented
translators are hesitant to work on things that have already been translated,
even when theyve been done poorly.
As a reader, you can make a difference by giving feedback to translators. If you
spot mistakes, dont feel afraid to point them out! If you enjoyed a translators
work, tell them so! It really does make a translators day to hear their work
being acknowledged.
If youre really passionate about improving standards, you can always sign up
to become an editor. I hear Nano Desu is currently looking for more editors.
But really, just sparing a moment to appreciate the hard work translators put
into light novels is enough. Also, try not to bug translators about their update
schedule. Translators are human and translation is terribly time-consuming
work. Please try it for yourself and see what I mean.
7) With the rise of aggregate sites, free fan translation groups,
commission-based fan translation groups, professional translations,
and everything in between, there has been a lot of tension and outcry
both in the fan community and in the industry about overseas piracy
and the effect of fan translations. What would you say your role in this
market is as a fan translator with a significant amount of followers?

As a fan translator, Im conscious that what I do is considered illegal and even


morally reprehensible by some. At the same time, as a Japanese person would
say: Shikata ga nai.
It cant be helped.
When theres no way of accessing material in English, youll have to resort to
fan translation and piracy. There are certain ethical standards I personally hold
myself to, though:
1) Dont translate licensed series.
2) Dont accept monetary payment for fan translation. In other words, no
commissions, no donations.
3) Buy the official releases and make sure other fans know about them.
Naturally, I dont see eye to eye with some of the practices of other translation
groups. But I also think that no matter how many titles are licensed, many
more will only ever receive exposure through a fan translation. So the work of
fan translators will still be necessary for a long time to come.
8) Have you or Nano Desu Translations ever considered partnering up
with people in the anime/manga industry with regards to your
translations? Why or why not? What are your thoughts on publishing
groups releases such as Yen Press compared to fan translations
(release pacing, quality, etc.)?
So far, no. I dont think its something weve even talked about a lot. The
resurgence of English LN publishing groups has been a recent thing. Nano Desu
(the head translator and admin of the group) is rather cautious about it. The
last time there was a light novel publishing boom, many fan favourites such as
Kinos Journey and Zaregoto were dropped halfway through serialisation. To
date, very few LN series have successfully finished their English run.
If I were approached by industry people, I might think about partnering up with
them, but so far that hasnt happened. The industry likes to quietly pretend we
dont exist. The only interaction Yen Press has had with fan translators so far is
sending them DCMA notices.
Speaking of Yen Press, their translation quality and release schedule are quite
good. Theyre consistently better than the fan translators in both regards. That
said, the quality is still variable - some translators are better than others. I
thought the Sword Art Online translation was very good, but others (e.g. A
Certain Magical Index and No Game No Life) are comparatively poor.
9) There have been a lot of incidents related to the very same
overseas aggregate sites that created a place for the fanbase to
gather and grow. The AnimeTake shutdown, the stricter regulations on

Baka-Tsuki, and so on. Describe one or two general trends that you
think might happen with light novel sharing and translation online as
these incidents continue to happen. Do you think more stringent
regulations such as the ones found on Baka-Tsuki are beneficial for the
fan community at large?
Absolutely. As a trendsetter in the LN community, I think its great that BT is
putting the foot down. Hopefully, that should mean LN fan translations can
avoid what happened with manga scanlations. Scanlations really hurt the
market because there was no regulation in the community and manga
aggregator sites were making seedy money off page views and advertising.
(And still do today, I might add)
Unfortunately, BT is rather unpopular among translators for a multitude of
reasons that are too long to go into here. To cut a long story short, though,
many refuse to allow their work to be hosted directly on the BT wiki. The LN
community is becoming more decentralised, which has its upsides and
downsides. On one hand, without an alternative aggregator site of comparable
popularity, the potential for individual translation sites to do serious damage to
sales is limited. On the other hand, seedy practices may still continue on blogs
and individual websites.
Anyway, I hope that BT continues to do the right thing, as well as any other LN
aggregator sites that may pop up in future. My intuition says that the LN fan
translation community is different from the scanlation community, though I do
question whether the LN market will be sustainable in the long term. A lot of
the popularity of translated LNs right now is dependent on the prevalence of
anime adaptations, after all.
Time will tell, I suppose. I try to be optimistic.
10) Thank you for the interview! Do you have any last comments,
questions, shoutouts, callouts/flames, or shameless plugs?
Youre welcome!
To the readers, I hope you can support the light novel industry and the efforts
of fan translators. Thanks very much for reading.