Friday, September 23, 2011

Right Text, Wrong Balloon

There was a recent discussion on what Manga publishers do that upset their customers. The answers ranged from cancelling a series only three volumes in its run, or even worse, just one volume away from completion. Then there's the other general pet peeves, such as transparent thin paper, and slipshod translation efforts.

However, there's one slight detail that's easy to make mistakes in that can occasionally get on my nerves. It's when dialogue gets placed in the wrong balloon. I've written before about text across the page that can be read the wrong way, but this is something different.

Even though this example is faithful to the source material, it would sound more natural if it were "My knife... and fork!" Not to mention having the words be consistent with Toriko's hand gestures.

Here's another example from Emma. At first glance, nothing seems wrong with this scene. But take a closer look...

In the green circle, there's the tiniest hint of a balloon tail. It makes it sound like the accused is admitting to being greedy, when her facial expressions say otherwise. Also, the offscreen teasing sounds coming from overhead would be more consistent.

If this kind of detail is too hard to see, there's another helpful shortcut. Just take a look at the size and shape of the balloon. A good rule of thumb is, if there's more space than usual, or if it's spiky, that's a good clue right there. Otherwise, important information would have to be squeezed into a smaller balloon instead of the larger balloon where it would naturally belong.

It bothers me that text is inserted without any regard for the context of the overall picture. It's as bad as exposition that explains what we're seeing right now. Sure, it helps if we're not clear on what's happening, but oftentimes, that's not the case.

In other instances, we get information that's revealed prematurely.

It's rare, but even scanlations can slip up on this little mistake. Here's an example of some crucial information coming out early in the wrong dramatic panels.

Part of the reason why this happens is because word balloons can be read either sideways or across, and it's not always clear who's talking. To make things even more problematic, those pesky tiny balloon tails? Sometimes they're intended to be spoken from characters across from each other. You might not be able to tell, but this was flipped to read from left to right. It doesn't look unusual at first, until you take a closer look at the dialogue, and realize that Astro is responding to something that Big X hasn't even said yet.

An even bigger mistake of this kind is when dialogue is translated, but organized the wrong way. This scene near the climax of the classic Astro Boy story, The Greatest Robot on Earth, is made confusing because the dialogue is translated, but the page itself isn't flipped. See how much easier it reads if the circled balloons are switched?

For the most part, this kind of thing is more likely to be looked over in Mangas that have lots of throwaway dialogue that's not likely to get a second look. Most modern-day Mangas don't suffer from this problem, since they're usually not too text-heavy, but there are exceptions. Here's a few examples from Yu-Gi-Oh!

This kind of mistake happens quite frequently in From Eroica with Love. Even now, I can't tell if there's anything wrong with this panel or not. (Apart from the obvious reasons)

In the 3rd panel below, Klaus is responding to James, the unseen stingy accountant (a man after my own tastes) under the table, which gives us a clue as to what's wrong with the 5th panel. The way Eroica talks there, it sounds like he's threatening to kick Klaus under the table instead of considering his offer.

Oftentimes, because the balloons are so close together, it's easy to get them mixed up. The lower one is closer, but the upper one should be read first.

You probably can't tell, but the circled balloons are pointing towards different targets. usually, the American way is to have balloons over the character's heads, but in Manga, they're more likely to be by the side.

Also, since panels are likely to be filled in from left to right, the first available open space is more likely to be filled in. If they're not numbered properly, this kind of mistake becomes easier to make. Here, in a sudden revelation that Eroica's been hoodwinked in a wild-goose chase, the internal monologue is in the wrong place.

During a scene where Major Klaus was being hit on by a rather ugly woman (actually Eroica in drag), he's getting some natural ribbing from his superiors. The agent with black hair, Lawrence, fancies himself to be a James Bond archetype, even though he has none of the Agent's charisma or skill. The line he's saying would sound more natural coming out of Klaus' mouth.

Here, a suspect of a terrorist organization sounds like he's accusing his interrogators, instead of the other way around.

For all of Lawrence's faults, he's surprisingly efficient in other areas, such as waking up on time. This is another example of somebody responding to something before they've said it.

Lawrence's not a telepath, otherwise he'd pick up on the intentional hostility of his co-workers. Unless he'd actually say what they were unconsciously thinking.

Just as Lawrence is inept in social etiquette, Klaus is equally ignorant of the art world. Or rather, he would be if he didn't guess what The Blue Boy was.

Despite being an extremely effeminate art thief, Eroica has an irrational dislike of women. So much that he's stolen the harem girls' introduction.

Context of this scene would help, but I won't give any, other than Klaus is impatiently buying a plane ticket.

Another example of reading from top to bottom, rather than from side to side.

Another example of somebody else stealing their lines.

If there's one thing that Klaus' butler is that Alfred isn't, it would be emotional. In this instance, it sounds like he's lamenting his own recollections, and Klaus is breaking out in tears because of it. (The butler actually broke up an argument between Dorian Klaus by talking about Klaus' childhood bed-wetting accidents. The result was so embarassing that both men lost the will to continue fighting)

A scene of Eroica escaping by throwing scalding food back at his prisoners. The guards really should know better, otherwise they'd wind up reversing their pronouns.

Lastly, it sounds like Walrus-guy (Bonham) wants to buy a statue, when he's actually scared of it being haunted, and wants to run away. If Eroica had known how things would've turned out, he might've had a change of heart.

Despite these faults, I hope that a company will pick up from where CMX left off and continue the zany adventures of Eroica and Klaus. This, along with the remainder of Swan, Even a Monkey can Draw Manga, Club 9 and What's Michael? Hell, why haven't Viz done omnibus collections of their out-of-print Shojo lines? Classics such as Please Save my Earth, Basara, Red River and Banana Fish would be potential bestsellers, and solve the dilemma of finding rare volumes. Especially Banana Fish, which only begins to pick up steam around the 7th volume, and becomes an intense page-turning thriller similar to the last half of Cerebus' Church & State, and the 4th storyline of Sam & Fuzzy.

1 comment:

  1. A Distant Neighborhood's second volume suffers from wrong text, wrong balloon syndrome.