Translation notes: Chained Girl

There are a number of Vocaloids songs for Miku that have similar titles, something followed by "shoujo". The first of those was Giant Girl (巨大少女, "kyodai shoujo"), which I found in the second Project Diva game, and then eventually I tracked down Deep-Sea Girl (深海少女, "shinkai shoujo"). Now I've found Chained Girl. (The title structure is slightly different - "kusari no shoujo" - but I feel comfortable grouping these songs together anyway.)

I translated this song for one simple reason: I listened to it, read the lyrics out of the CD booklet as I listened to it a second time, and realized I had a powerful song on my hands. All three of the songs I mentioned did that to me, really. Giant Girl is a song about wanting to be noticed. Deep-Sea Girl is an allegory for depression. Chained Girl is a song about feeling imprisoned by the expectations of others.

Neither was it a song that was particularly difficult to translate. I do still need work on the vocabulary I have memorized, since it's not really practical to pull out a dictionary in the middle of a conversation. But that wasn't a concern in this case. And in between my ability to listen to the song and the kanji I can read out of the CD booklet, getting the lyrics wasn't a challenge either.

The one interesting point that I'd like to highlight this time around, from a technical perspective, is the ways furigana (the characters used as a pronunciation guide, printed above certain kanji) are used in situations like this one. In the first two instances, they're simply "converting" the reading from Japanese into English; the word "hyouka" can be translated as "test" (or perhaps more accurately "assessment"), while "soushokuhin" can mean "jewel" (again, more accurately "ornament" or "decoration"). So those aren't a challenge to translate, particularly.

Later, though, there are three more in quick succession that are a little more complicated. In those instances, the kanji in question are being "pronounced" as entirely different words. It leaves open the question: do you translate the word printed in the book or the word actually sung in the lyrics? Which is closer to the meaning you're trying to capture? Is there a way to account for both intended meanings in the translation?

In this case, I translated all three as the lyrics that were sung, and I'd like to think it works out so that all of the original meaning remains. The first is the reading of "jinsei", "life", as "michi", "road" or "path". Honestly, though, that's not difficult either; it makes perfect sense in English just as well, in the sense of "the path we take in life" or something like that. Calling it "the path I am to walk" says effectively the same thing as "the life I am to live", and I think the former captures the poetic manner of communicating that thought more effectively.

Second, we have "ayatsuri-shi", which would be a person who controls a puppet, read as "akuma", a demon or devil. In this case, I felt that the element of being controlled was adequately represented in the following line, and that the song would not suffer greatly from me focusing on the "devil" aspect of the translation. There are ways to account for both by extending that line in the translation, but I felt that none were wildly effective, and I did want that line to parrot the similar line from earlier in the song.

Finally, "kusari", the focus of this song ("chain" in case it wasn't obvious) read as "ito", "thread". In that sense it's just a matter of picking one of those two words to put in there - is the singer being controlled by chains or threads? Again, with chains being prominent elsewhere in the song, and with thread making more sense as a method of puppet control (especially an invisible one), I felt the song didn't lose anything major by translating as "threads".

I probably could go on, but I think I'll settle for talking about that one issue and opening up the floor to comments, questions, complaints, what have you. Let me know what you all think.

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