Manga translator Amanda Haley explains why the manga life has taken her out of anime in a manner you wouldn't expect.

manga freelance life

I look at my Crunchyroll viewing history because I don’t remember when the last time I watched anime was. Apparently the last episodes I watched were:

  1. The Asterisk War episode 1. What I remember: tsundere heroine. Bet the main character would annoy me. Liked the translation (agreeable alliteration in Tsundere’s “burst into bloom” move name, words like “resplendent,” “affable,” “dubious, ” etc).
  2. Lance N’ Masques episode 1. What I remember: characters look too young for my current tastes. Interesting translation challenge of an main character who switches between normal speech and “knightly” speech.
  3. Charlotte episode 11. What I remember: loved the series in the beginning, gave up on it near the end because of plot reasons. Awkward, overly “literal” moments in the subtitles drove me absolutely friggin’ crazy.

That was in September/October…so even though it feels like forever since I’ve watched any anime, it’s only been a few months. But still, I haven’t actually kept up with any anime this season, or even really thought about it. I used to watch about three or four per season, and always knew what upcoming shows I was excited about; for the last couple of years, my animu consumption has gone down to one or two shows per season (and uh, for one of those seasons, it was I Can’t Understand What My Husband Is Saying…which is a great series, but sorta not even five minutes per episode.)

What changed? Am I finally getting burnt out on otaku tropes and harem series? That’s probably part of it, but looking at that list, I suspect it’s because the way I watch anime (and read manga) changed altogether once I started translating manga professionally: I’m always paying attention to the translations now (yeah, no duh!!!). In fact, I checked out The Asterisk War and Lance N’ Masques specifically to check out the translations, not because I had much interest in the stories or characters.

When I watch anime, I’m always thinking about how I would translate certain parts of the Japanese, or how I’m impressed with the way a tricky part came out, if/how a translation could be further improved, and whether it all sounds natural in English. More often than not I can’t turn that part of my brain off and sit back and enjoy. Even when I turn off subtitles, I’ll be thinking about it in the back of my head anyway. I’m watching primarily for the translations first, and the story second. It’s not simply entertainment to me anymore, even when I enjoy a particular series. Watching anime is now work to me, in a way. So it takes more out of me, and because of that I watch way less of it. A different kind of anime burnout, I guess.

It’s not necessarily a bad change, though, because I can also enjoy it in new ways. I love my job, I absolutely want to improve at it, and thinking so much about translations helps me work towards that. Sometimes I imagine I’m in a shounen manga or something. Like Bakuman, but about localizers? I also find that I have a deeper appreciation for the writing in anime/manga, and catch little details, nuances, and moments of characterization that I wouldn’t have noticed before. Sometimes I seek out manga/light novels specifically because of who translated them, so I get to experience good stories that wouldn’t have been on my radar otherwise, too. I started watching J-Dramas for a change of pace, and found that I enjoy a lot of them…and so on.

They say that when you turn your hobby into your job, you need to find a new hobby. I thought I could keep on watching anime like I always have. I’m sure there are other people who work on anime/manga that can do a better job of “clocking out,” but in my case, at least at the moment, they’re right. I need a new hobby that I can wind down with. Maybe after I have some more experience under my belt and more confidence, I’ll be able to separate anime-for-fun and anime-for-work and be a chill person or something. But for now…I’m not watching any anime for fun.

…Except Dimension W. Dimension W is going to be awesome.

(P.S I’m working on the manga.)