Interview with Yuri Translator Anastasia Moreno

May 5th, 2008

Once more, we take a peek behind the scenes in the Manga Industry. Today we are talking with Yuri translator Anastasia Moreno! Welcome Anastasia, and let’s jump right in!

1) So let’s start with the most obvious question – tell us a little bit about yourself.

My full name is Anastasia Shimabuku Moreno. I’m half-Japanese, half-Filipino, and was born and grown in Okinawa, Japan for most of my life. I grew up watching a lot of Japanese TV, especially anime like Urusei Yatsura and Gundam, with my 8 older brothers. I went to University of Arizona for a few years, but never finished college, and enlisted in the Marine Corps instead. During my tour in Okinawa, I married a Japanese guy in JASDF (Japan Air Self Defense Force.) After I got out of the Marines, I stayed in Japan to work in US military bases as a US federal employee. Currently, I live and work at Yokota Air Base. Hobbies other than manga include playing soccer, lifting weights, and imitating Japanese comedians.

2) Are you a manga reader yourself? How did you get into manga? Did that lead you into working in the manga industry? Or do you just do it for the fame, glory and chicks? ;-)

– Yes, I always read Japanese manga, but compared to a bazillion manga I used to read back in high school and college, I only read a select few these days.

– I grew up watching anime, but I didn’t get into manga until my sophomore year in high school. My friend insisted that I read a volleyball parody manga (High School Kimengumi v3) when I happened to be on the school volleyball team. When I read it at home, I laughed so hard my stomach hurt! I never imagined that manga stories, drawn with only black ink, zip tones, and paper, could evoke such strong reactions in readers (in my case, laughter.) I was hooked. I not only became an avid manga reader, but began drawing my own manga also.

– I actually worked in the manga industry twice – first as an artist, and later as a translator. In the 1990s, I drew 4 panel comic strips in college, called “Campus Abalone” in The Daily Wildcat (U of Arizona campus newspaper), which was essentially a 4-koma gag manga about campus bike cops. Back then, anime and manga just began to make its mark into the US comics industry, so nobody recognized manga as readily as they do now, resulting in close to zero fans (except the college anime club members and a handful of comic fans.) Also, my manga was published in Slave Labor Graphic’s Action Girl comics (vol. 7, 10, and 14), and I also did some manga illustrations for a college anthropology textbook. Oh, I also dabbled in fansub translations, like Yawara!.

Then I joined the Marine Corps for 5 years (1999-2004), spending most of my time in Okinawa, so I had no idea how much the US manga industry evolved during those years. My main job was an NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) defense instructor (run the tear gas chamber, fix gas masks, etc.), but my secondary job was a Japanese translator/interpreter. I interpreted for American and Japanese generals in high- level meetings and translated a variety of military technical correspondence, documents, and manuals into Japanese and English.

After that, I became a government employee, doing military technical translations and political military analyses. Having a regular day job (vice a hectic military tour) freed up my nights and weekends to get back to my personal hobby – manga. I thought it would be easier to get back into the manga industry by translating vice drawing, so I was lucky to be picked up by a publishing agent who gave me a constant stream of manga and novel translation projects to work on.

– I just love manga, so it’s more of a personal satisfaction than a pursuit of fame and glory. Of course, seeing your own name in a published book is definitely a morale booster. (^_^) Instead of being a chick-magnet, I ended up being an anime otaku magnet in college, when I cosplayed in a sailor-style school uniform at anime cons, haha.

3) Tell us, in general terms, what you do – where does your job fall in the process of producing a translated manga?

Probably in the initial stages, after licensing, I think. I provide English translations of Japanese manga and novels. Some publishers only require a raw translation for their rewriter to work from, and others ask the translator to adapt/rewrite as well. Each publisher has their policies and translation preferences, such as retaining honorifics or not, translating or ignoring sound effects, and adhering to a specific text style guide or not.

I’m usually given 1-3 months to translate one manga or novel, depending on the publisher’s needs. The most I’ve worked on in a month were 3 mangas and 1 novel (plus a regular day job, moving homes, and buying a new puppy. It was a very rough month.) (T_T)

4) Are you a fan of Yuri manga? Did you know it existed before you started working on a title? What were your thoughts upon seeing your first Yuri job?

Yes, I knew about and liked yuri manga, but volume-wise, I tend to read more mainstream shonen and shoujo manga that may or may not have a minor element of yuri in it. The only yuri title I worked on so far is Strawberry Panic. This title was over-the-top in terms of melodramatic characters and perfectly timed misunderstandings. The more serious the characters spoke or thought, the funnier it seemed in my mind. So I decided to go all out and retain as much of the seriousness and melodrama as accurately as possible, which in effect enhanced the comedic elements.

5) Not every Yuri series is equal. Some are better than others. What, if any, thoughts do you have about the series you’ve worked on. Silly? Serious? Quality? Not?

Since I’ve only worked on Strawberry Panic so far, I can’t make any comparisons yet. I love the cute artwork, and it was a fun title to translate. I think a group of readers will take the story seriously at face value, while another group will see the parody in it, but I’m sure most will ultimately like the title. I really enjoyed both aspects of it.

6) Have you gotten any fan feedback? Anything you want to share?

No, translators usually do not get any direct fan feedback, unless they have their own website or go on a forum soliciting feedback. I usually read manga reviews online and see if they evaluated my translations, though. Getting good marks for translation in the review is another morale booster. (^_^)

I tend to notice this in military translating, too, but usually when a translation is good, the writer and publisher get most of the credit, but if anything goes wrong, the translator is the first to be blamed. Sigh. Please give translators some slack — they are trying their best to adapt a foreign language product into your language, so there will always be subjective differences in interpretations and awkwardness when crossing cultures. Please remember that even great translations cannot save crappy titles sometimes. (T_T)

7) Any Yuri titles you’d like to see make it over here? Anything you’d like to get to work on?

I would love for the original Hana no Asuka Gumi manga series make it out here. The whole underground world where junior high girls beat the living crap out of each other all over Tokyo is just too insane! You know, I was able to memorize the 23 Tokyo wards because of the area masters in the story, lol. And would I love to work on that title, for sure! Also, I would like to work on titles that tap into my unique bicultural background and military experience, like Magical Marine Pixel Maritan (I coached voice actresses on English pronunciations of vulgar Marine phrases — a unique, fun-filled job!) If there are any yuri titles involving military/police women, though, please let me know!

8) What’s your favorite and least favorite thing about your job?

My favorite part of the job is to find little in-jokes in a story (that are totally apparent to native Japanese people but often overlooked by Americans) and being able to explain it in the translation notes. Unfortunately for Strawberry Panic, the whole story was a big parody, so I had nothing to add…

My least favorite part of the job is the tight deadline I sometimes have to meet. I work 40-60 hours a week at my day job, and 50-70 hours a week translating manga on nights and weekends, which leaves little to no personal life or sleep. I feel really bad when I have to neglect my husband and puppy for weeks at a time to meet a project deadline.

9) Anything else you want to tell our audience?

Yes, a whole lot of shameless plugs, if it’s all right… (^_^)
Please buy Strawberry Panic manga and novels! You’ll surely find something that catches your fancy, whether it be the cute drawings, favorite characters and/or couples, or the parody elements. It is a really entertaining series!

Please buy the other titles I’ve worked on, too: Love Hina novels volume 1 and volume 2 (Tokyopop), Trinity Blood RAM 1 and ROM 1 novels (Tokyopop), Sugar Princess: Skating to Win volume 1 and volume 2 (Viz), Hard Rock (DMP), ALIVE The Final Evolution series (Del Rey), and Maid Machinegun novel (Del Rey)!

Oh, I plan to start drawing gag manga again and posting it on the web this year. Stay tuned!

Thank you for your time.

Thank you Anstasia! I’m glad to meet another Hana no Asuka-gumi fan! And for all our readers out there, allow me to plug your new blog, Manga Gunkan, which is written in both English and Japanese. Among other fun things, Manga Gunkan discusses some of the trials and tribulations of translation work.

Once again, a fabulous insight into the people behind the books – thanks again to all three ladies who participated in these interviews. We look forward to more great Yuri from all of you!

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One Response

  1. One way or another a fellow Filipino makes her way to the top, and this is one of those nice pieces of news.

    To Anastasia, keep up the good work and hope you’re on the better track this time. Besides, thanks to Marimite, Utena and Strawberry Panic, there’s a growing Yuri community down here in the homeland.

    HOO-RAH! :D

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