“In the name(s) of the moon!”: ‘Japaneseness’ & Reader Identity in Two Translations of Sailor Moon

Authors

  • Morgan Sleeper Macalester College
  • Daphne Iskos Macalester College

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.21900/j.jams.v2.825

Keywords:

Sailor Moon, manga, translation, linguistics, language, identity, sociocultural constructs

Abstract

Manga has become increasingly popular in the United States since the 1990s, and over time, the strategies employed in translating these texts for English-speaking audiences have shifted. As translation practices have changed, so too has the status of the sociocultural construct of 'Japaneseness' – a commodified branding of Japanese elements – in translated manga. A striking example of this shift can be seen in two English translations of Naoko Takeuchi's 1991 manga Bishôjo Senshi Sêrâ Mûn (Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon) for the U.S. market, released 13 years apart: the 1998 Mixx/TokyoPop translation and the 2011 Kodansha translation. In this paper, we examine the use of four linguistic features – loanwords, honorifics, onomatopoeia, and iconicity – in both translations, and find that each version broadly employs a different strategy to either erase (in the case of the earlier translation) or amplify and actively create (in the case of the later translation) 'Japaneseness' within the text. These strategies in turn afford two different ways for readers to engage with Sailor Moon, so following our analysis of the texts themselves, we then examine fan discourse to show how readers construct distinct identities by drawing on salient linguistic features of each translation. The shift from a preference for domesticated reading experiences to a desire for translations to retain as much Japanese character as possible reveals the construct of 'Japaneseness' as central to the commodification of Japanese language and culture in both manga publishing and Anglophone fandom more broadly.

Author Biography

Morgan Sleeper, Macalester College

Assistant Professor of Linguistics

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Published

2021-11-29