Hi Andrew! Thank you so much for this interview and taking your time to meet with us. Today we will be interviewing Andrew Gaippe who works as the translator for Danmachi (Dungeon ni Deai wo Motomeru no wa Machigateru Darou ka?) licensed by Yen Press Publishing
Keep reading for not only a fascinating interview about life in Japan and the industry, but an exciting giveaway contest as well!
First, please tell us where you are from and a little bit about yourself.
I’m from Iowa in the US. I first came to Japan when I was 16. It was a high school exchange with a sister school for two weeks. This involved a homestay with a Japanese family. I have four host families in Osaka. *laughs* After graduating from high school, I spent 1 year in Nagoya University of Foreign Studies as an exchange student. At the University of Iowa I did a double major in Japanese and International Studies. After graduation I moved to Japan with JET.
What was your first anime and what are your top 3 currently?
Like many Americans, it was Dragonball Z. I didn’t realize it was Japanese till I was 12 or 13 years old, but I started watching it when I was 10. I was forced by a friend to watch the Freezia saga and then I was hooked on a show where 5 minutes took 21 episodes. *laugh*
Currently, My Top 3 are Danmachi (because of work *laughs*) Recently my wife and I were addicted to Yowamushi Pedal, and I have been a fan since I saw it, Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei.
Source: Manga "Danmachi" #2 STEP11
What originally interested you about Japan?
Of course, anime was a big part but on my first trip to Osaka, my host family introduced me to Manzai. Manzai is a Japanese comedy style where you have two people who have an entertaining argument. It is a parody of Japanese culture where many things get mentioned. There is a famous duo called Non-Style. One of their earlier routines involved a Dragonball reference (Super Saiyan Transformation) and I wanted to understand more. Japanese history was a big influence too due to my interest in video games.
How did you learn Japanese? Are there any secrets to learning Japanese quickly? Also, how long did you study Japanese before becoming a translator?
Of course, anime was a big part but on my first trip to Osaka, my host family introduced me to Manzai. Manzai is a Japanese comedy style where you have two people who have an entertaining argument. It is a parody of Japanese culture where many things get mentioned. There is a famous duo called non-style. One of their earlier routines involved a Dragonball reference (Super Saiyan Transformation) and I wanted to understand more. Japanese history was a big influence too due to my interest in video games.
I would just say, follow your interest. Find what you like, and do it in Japanese. Learn words that you can use associated with your interests. A working vocabulary is a very powerful learning tool.
What did you do previously for work in Japan before becoming a translator? Also, what got you into translation in the first place?
I worked for JET which is an International English Teacher Recruiting Program. I was assigned to work in Fukushima. After the Touhoku earthquake I moved to Gifu Prefecture for safety reasons. I spent 2 years with Altia Central after JET in Gifu. Altia Central is a dispatch company for Assistant English Language Teachers. After that, for one year I was the interpreter/translator for Kakamigahara City Hall in Gifu Prefecture. After the contract ended, I worked at an English Conversation Café called E-Style while doing freelance translation, and here I am now.
For translation, it was noticing the difference between subs and dubs. I wanted to know why context was different, what was cut, and how things were changed.
What qualifications do you need to be a translator and what is preferred but not entirely necessary?
The base standard is the second level or N2 ranking on the Japanese Language Proficiency Exam or JLPT. N1 or the highest achievement is what gets an employer’s attention. It gets you automatic consideration when applying. After that, how long is your resume is the next part. How many lines are on your resume and how long have you been working in the field.
Just for your information, it took two years of applying to get accepted for a translation job. I was rejected by several companies, who shall remain nameless, until I was accepted by my current company, Yen Press.
Source: Manga "Danmachi" #3 STEP22
Was Danmachi your first LN/Manga that you translated?
Yes, this was the first creative translation project. This means that I had freedom to enhance a scene or description as opposed to set, factual information like a government document.
Which was translated first: The light novel or the manga? Which do you like better?
The light novel came first. Right before I started at the English Conversation Café I spent six weeks, working 5-6 hours a day translating, and there were a few scenes where I could not get a good mental picture. Then I discovered the manga. So, I bought the manga (in Japanese) and read it to get a better idea of where characters are and how certain settings looked.
*Sigh* As a translator I like the manga better. It’s pure conversation. I can focus on bringing out the character’s personality exclusively. As a fan though, I prefer the Light Novels.
Let’s talk about translation. When translating, do you find anything difficult? How do you handle things like pop culture references, keigo (polite speech), and anecdotes?
There are many, but the biggest one is that this author, Fujino Oomori, loves to use Japanese metaphors. Each company has its own guidelines for those sorts of things. For danmachi, I haven’t encountered pop culture references. However, there is a spinoff of Danmachi called “Somo somo Dungeon ni Deai wo Motomeru no wa Machigateru Darou ka” where Hestia uses twitter to try to increase her familia’s membership. She also participates in an idol contest and suffers from a funny disease.
For polite speech, each character is different. When I translate, I try to keep specific patterns in speech. Elves especially always speak in this polite speech, but I have to find ways to bring out their individual personalities. One is confident, cool, and polite while another is timid, scared, and barely able to talk politely. Tone is what changes. That is important.
Have you ever come across things that are untranslatable in the sense that if translated, they will not make sense? Also, have you ever had to alter what the characters are saying so that it makes sense for the English speaking audience?
The biggest one is going back to the metaphors, is there is a scene in the first Light Novel, where Bell is being stalked by monsters and the sound their footsteps make is described as a “heavy clicking sound like the opening of a Kabuki play.” Most westerners have not seen a Kabuki play. So what I did was I turned it into a drum roll. The sound is a little different, but they have the same rhythm.
As for changing what they say, Loki speaks with an Osakan accent. The accepted train of thought is that this sounds like a mix of a western accent and southern accent in dubbed anime. I tried to be loyal to that and still present Loki in a more whimsical manner.
Source: Manga "Danmachi" #3 STEP22
We do have to ask this, but who is your favorite Danmachi character? How do you feel about him/her? Did you find them the most enjoyable or the most difficult to translate for since you liked them so much?
As a translator it’s Loki. She challenges me to change how she talks and thinks and her scenes are always fun to do. For example, her arguments with Hestia or her interactions with Aiz.
As a fan, I like Lyu. Because I have a thing for mysterious badass characters. She is basically the equivalent of a Batman in Danmachi. For both of them, I get excited when they come up in the story, but I really want to do them justice so I spend more time on them. I wouldn’t say it’s more easy or difficult, but rather I am extra attentive.
Do you think that the anime did the Light Novels justice and why? PS Where is the second season??
I only watched the anime one time through and the flow was a bit different, but story wise, I liked all of the seiyuu, and the art style was very similar, so yes I enjoyed it.
Don’t look at me!
Did you work on the translation of the anime? Will & Do you want to work on it if it comes for a second season?
I did not but I would love to!
What was the most difficult part of Danmachi that you had to translate and why?
The most difficult book for me was book two. When I was doing book one, I could focus solely on the translation, while with book two I was working at the café which meant I had to learn how to manage time better. So, overall, book two was the most challenging for me. The rest is just consistency in the sense that how a character speaks, getting names right, etc.
The author changed spellings of names. When he changed the name of the actual Greek god, Hephaestus, to a female one, I had to train myself to write it in that spelling. FYI he, the author, changed it to Hephaistos.
In the same vein, what part of Danmachi did you enjoy translating the most and why?
I really liked the fight scenes. *laughs* When doing conversations, I have to focus on the character’s reactions, how would they get upset, tease, insult, etc. With a fight scene though, I can just turn on music and let my mind go to work.
Source: Manga "Danmachi" #4 STEP23
What is the most challenging part of translating for a series like Danmachi?
It’s really just the consistency because it’s so long! *laughs* There are many books so the way a character speaks in book one has to line up with how they speak in book five. The only time this changes is if they have had significant character development.
Did you ever get stuck translating or had writers block and were unable to continue for a few days or more?
That thankfully has never happened to me. I am using the author’s words, so I do not have to “create” this world. I just have to put it through a filter.
Right now you are the Danmachi translator. Do you think that you will continue working in the industry by moving on to other series & do you have any series that you want to work on in the future?
Well this series is going to keep me busy for a while I think. My eventual goal is to get into the video game industry, but if I manage to get a job translating for Gundam or one of my other favorite series in Light Novel form, I can die happy.
With my communication with Yen Press, I really have no idea what could come next! My editor has sent me my next assignments for the next year. To give you all a preview, that includes up to book nine of Danmachi and book three of Sword Oratoria.
Source: Manga "Danmachi" #5 STEP33
Finally, do you have any advice for anyone who is wanting to break into the industry?
Don’t burn any bridges, because that’s how I got connected to Danmachi. I have a college classmate who works for my company as an editor and she recommended me when they needed a new freelance translator. Former contacts at other companies have also connected me with other freelance projects.
Don’t get discouraged by rejection. Take it as a challenge.
If you are trying to learn Japanese, shadow read your favorite anime character when they speak. I learned some unique Japanese phrases and my impressions of Bleach characters were a hit with my former students. Finally, find a way to experience something you like in Japanese.
This concludes the interview
Thank you for your time and cooperation! We really appreciate you doing this interview for us and not only giving us a look at life in Japan but also a peek at working on a big series like Danmachi. We can’t wait to hear more good things from you and yenpress in the future and hopefully more about damachi! Keep reading to hear more about the contest!
Andrew has been so kind to not only sign some copies of the official translated Danmachi Light novel, but we will also be doing a Giveaway contest! Please keep reading to know what you can win and how you can enter!
1 complete collection of
“Danmachi” Manga #1-#5
on the inside
by Andrew himself!
Hestia figure is not included.
1 of 8
Autographed Copies of
the 4th Edition of
Signed by Andrew!
Hestia figure is not included.
How to Enter:
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