In general, what are the main problems that harm the accuracy of the english translation of a manga? After this process, considering that problems, "shades" and "feelings" in the dialogues, with respect to the same title in the original japanese language are preserved enough?

Please, can you give me any example and why? many thanks. (:

  • 1
    You might be interested in our sister site Japanese Language for general questions related to the Japanese language.
    – Aki Tanaka
    Sep 29, 2018 at 1:28
  • This is still way, way too broad. Translation accuracy is subjective and variable, even within a single work, and you are quite literally asking about every manga ever.
    – F1Krazy
    Sep 29, 2018 at 10:55
  • I don't know where is the problem, since till now I have obtained two answers and both safisfy fully my question. So I think my question was pretty clear.
    – JB-Franco
    Sep 29, 2018 at 11:28

2 Answers 2


Japanese and English aren't even related languages, so their grammar is completely different, to the point where the way you would say something in one language is literally impossible in another.

For example, Japanese is a very contextual language. There is very little in the way of pronouns, subjects are often omitted entirely, gender is often ambiguous, and so forth. I've even seen a spoiler in the English translation of Pandora Hearts, where the Japanese language could be purposefully ambiguous by omission, but the English, by grammar necessity, revealed the identity of a particular person from the get-go. Though perhaps a less literal translator could have avoided that trap.

Another difference that causes translators alot of pain is keigo, or formal Japanese. Japanese makes very rigid distinctions in what kind of language you use when you are speaking to a subordinate, a superior, or a peer, and it just does not come across in English, most of the time.

Even simple nouns between languages of course don't have a consistent meaning, yet a common mistake many translators will make is to assume they do. For example, the word hoshi can mean planet or star, but many people very consistently only translate it as star, even when the text is obviously talking about a planet.

Good translations also frequently require culture knowledge that the translator may or may not have. Occasionally I've seen mistakes in translations simply because the translator was not up to date on pop culture knowledge, for instance -- I recently saw a mistranslation that "dere" is short for "tsundere" because the translator was unaware that tsundere is a slang word made by compounding the sound effects for a disdainful "hmph" (tsun) and flirting (dere.)

Furthermore, there are some translations out there that are flat out terrible. Ones in particular I remember are the official subs for the streams of Full Metal Panic and Beast Player Erin, both had obvious mistakes left and right. Bodacious Space Pirates, the sub for the stream, also consistently mistranslated suna no akahoshi as Sand of the Red Star when it literally just means Red Planet of Sand or just Sandy Red Planet (yet another mistranslation of hoshi, plus just flat out misunderstanding the function of "no" in that phrase.)

On the whole though, I'd say the quality of translations these days is generally at least serviceable, but you still would probably get more out of it if you understand the original language.


Given a source material in language A, a translation to language B isn't going to be the same. For starters, the person translating is usually a different one, so they may not know the original intent the author had. Also, the language is different, so things may not carry over.

But this applies to translations of anything, not just manga.

Now, a decent translator should be able to minimize the loss. One could:

  • translate the text to something that results in an equivalent reaction to the reader (e.g. the original text had a pun, so translating it literally would make it so the reader won't laugh at it, so instead we make a different pun, and the reader still laughs)
  • put in notes that explains why the source language text is written the way it is
  • rewrite the text a bit
  • ...possibly other tricks
  • combination of above

Regarding the example of the first one: there's this text that I'm translating that relies on that "おっぱ" means both "breast milk" and "breasts". If I were to translate it literally, the pun would be lost. So instead I make the text vague with "they" about what a person is actually referring to, and not revealing it until the last moment. But this, again, loses something on what was in the source text. On the other hand, if I were to put in a translator note instead of that, that would have killed the pun (and therefore, the intended effect on the reader would be lost in translation), but would have preserved the meaning of the text.

Another example that often is problematic wrt translations to English is the matter of pronouns: there are different first person pronouns depending on the gender, or whether it's formal or informal situation. One could make it hard to translate without putting in a translator note if a character in the source material uses a different first person pronoun that the social protocol would expect, and other characters notice that.

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