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LOTR translation for films in Japanese – Fans worried.

June 18, 2001 at 6:15 am by Tehanu  - 

More Japanese fans have written in to defend the LOTR books in Japanese. They say that, like many English readers, a casual reader could be put off by the slow beginning of the story. They have a greater expectation that fantasy should be full of active magic. Lucifer put it this way:

“The problem is , they [Japan] have got really great animation industry. And it is really important to create scene with huge magic battle and impossible tough heroes in order to attract fans. So, most of the Fantasy lover in Japan get used to “Destroy the world with a wink” type animation and comics.”

However those Japanese fans that do persevere with reading LOTR feel well-rewarded. Lucifer again:

“The translator who translated LOTR into Japanese is quite famous in Japan. He(or She. It’s hard to judge by Japanese names) is a children’s literature writer.He spent several years to translate LOTR, his jap edition of LOTR even got [the] Anderson Superb Translation Award (I’m not sure the exact name)and Japan Culture Award. I guess there’s no problem with the translation.”

James backed that up:

“I am just yet another one of those numerous Japanese individuals who loves LOTR. Since I believe there are so many LOTR lovers in Japan probably, well at least in my opinion, largely because the Japanese translated version is a painfully beautiful piece of work …”

James commented that Christmas isn’t an important festival in Japan [therefore it’s not a specially important time for releasing new movies] and that all movies arrive ‘staggered’ back a few months from their appearance in the West. I’d have to say that LOTR is unusual in that it IS being released in so many countries at the same time.

However, the main thread of discussion concerns the translation that New Line seem to be using – This is a copy of a letter that Chris is trying to bring to New Line’s attention.

“I am writing to you to raise a concern about the marketing campaign for LOTR in Japan. I have been corresponding with several Tolkien fans in Japan who are members of the Japanese fan community. These good people have mentioned to me that the use of katakana instead of direct translation (phonetic equivalents instead of meaningful translation) on the NewLine site may significantly diminish the understanding and appreciation of The Lord of the Rings in Japan. There is a faithful translation of LOTR done in the 1970s by Seta Taiji that could be used as a guide to assist in clearer presentation of this work in Japanese. Additionally, the Japanese version of Ralph Bashki’s movie adaptation might provide some ideas. I am sure that the assistance of some in Japan who have read Tolkien’s work in Japanese could greatly enhance the impact and appreciation of Tolkien’s work in that country.

This is offered with respect and appreciation of all the effort NewLine Cinema has invested in bringing JRRT’s work to the screen. I understand that bureaucracies have momentum such that can it be difficult to shift course once funds have been invested, however as we are only at the beginning of a number of years of marketing strategy concerning a potentially large market, due respect, both to JRRT’s lifelong work and to the sensibilities of the audience in Japan would undoubtedly make good marketing sense in the long run. For instance, if the trade name “Lord of the Rings” is particularly important to the marketing campaign I am sure some creative way to incorporate both the native understanding of Tolkien’s intent and LOTR can be found. Simply using the un-translated English title subtitled “Yubiwa Monogatari” might work very well. While the title has been focused on as an example of the concern, it is only, perhaps, the most visible manifestation of it. I am not sure how far work on Japanese subtitles might have proceeded, but that clearly would be an important issue as well. A good translation is sure to increase the breadth and depth of the audience appeal.

Please take this in the spirit that it is offered – deep respect for language and culture that was central to JRRT’s work and life.”

Posted in Old Special Reports on June 18, 2001 by

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