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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Beyond Komiks: Fairy Tail and Attack on Titan Manga in Filipino

Manga covers courtesy of Viva-Psicom
I heard all the rumors. Then I saw them in the shelves of bookstores. I was even invited to go to the book launch (and actually went there).

And on that day, I received a friendly reminder that Filipino-translated literary works are slowly invading our local bookstores.

I present to you: Attack on Titan and Fairy Tail... Philippine Edition.

I am not a huge fan of literary work translated from English (or any other foreign language) to Filipino. Not that I hate the language (because if I did, I wouldn't fall in love with komiks in the first place.) But it's more of how the work is translated and the quality of the book all in all. This is why even after all the hype, it took me this long to actually release my review on the Philippine Edition. These were actually some of my fears that I would encounter with these two titles.
  • Translations would be too literal and/or use uncommon "deep" words that are hardly being used in common conversation.
  • Jokes and/or storyline can get lost in translation. It can become different altogether.
  • The pages would follow a "left-to-right" reading pattern rather than the traditional manga style of reading "right-to-left". This happened to the English-translated manga I bought back in 2001 entitled "The Girl from the Red River" by Shinohara Chie. The real English title was The Sky Is on the Banks of the Red River or "Red River" for short. All the pages were "corrected" to follow the comic book style of "left-to-right". This had cut what supposed to be is a full page spread into two back-to-back pages, which made reading the "manga" confusing and frustrating at the same time.
  • Text from speech bubbles not cleaned up well that parts of it will still be visible and/or text boxes will appear a shade lighter than the speech bubble. I saw this happen with the Red River manga as well.
  • Overall quality will be compromised.
I really did not have any positive expectations with the Philippine Edition (Ph Ed) of these two titles. But my curiosity got the best of me and I decided to borrow a copy to do a quick review about it.

My overall verdict? 4 PAWS
  1. Quality - Viva-PSICOM, the team that made all of these possible, made sure that the Ph Ed is as close as the original manga itself. From the cover up to the quality of the paper, all of this is similar, if not the same, as the ones that are used in the Japanese manga. It copied the original so well that if you put the Ph Ed beside the English version in a shelf where only the spine is visible, there is a chance that you wouldn't notice you got the Ph Ed until you notice the Viva-PSICOM logo or that the text are in Filipino.
  2. Translation - I was so relieved that they used conversational Filipino during the translation. This made it easier to read and also better to comprehend. They avoided translating every single word and retained select  English words that did not need to be translated and/or did not have a direct translation in Filipino.
  3. Price - The price range for original English translated manga usually starts at Php 250. Ph Ed manga currently sells for Php 190/volume, which is for me a really good deal considering that they kept the physical quality and translations as much as possible.
Though I would like to give it 5 paws, there are still some things that I think Viva-PSICOM can look into. I was actually upset at how the back cover for Fairy Tail failed to describe Happy correctly (if re-translated to English, it would say that Happy is Natsu's friend that talks like a cat). This is actually minor, but I do hope that in the future volumes, these translation errors would be minimized, if not disappear over all.

The question is, would I still read the next volumes? Maybe.

As I said at the start of this post, I am not a huge fan of Filipino translated literary works. I always had the prejudice that quality is compromised over quantity when it comes to these kind of books. I'd still read it, but I wouldn't really invest in it. I would rather set aside my budget to supporting the local komiks.

But it does look like that the market is receptive to the Ph Ed titles. Viva-PSICOM has already released volume 3 of both Attack on Titan and Fairy Tail. Kondasha representatives also announced during the Manga and Anime Festival that they would release more titles in Filipino soon.

It was a big risk for Viva-PSICOM and Kondasha (the Japanese company behind these two titles) in releasing the Ph Ed but I admire them for their bravery. The market right now is starting to appreciate more and more titles written in the national language. Books written and/or translated to Filipino are starting to get readership. Maybe these Philippine Edition manga would be what pushes the Filipino-translated prejudice out.

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