Last night I wrote a rather long rant about the effect bad translations had on my enjoyment of an adult male targeted comic book series called "Rozen Maiden". In the 20-odd hours since then, I found scanlations of that series and completed it. The translation quality was terrible, and I even spent some time shocking some of the Telefang translators as to what the fanbase does with clearly translatable vocal tics. (Spoiler alert: It's what they don't do.) Suffice it to say, after getting through all the bullshit of actually obtaining English-language Rozen Maiden comics, I really enjoyed it and I wish I had watched it along with the fanbase at the time it came out.
But this rant isn't about the series, or all of the things I'd really like to nerd out about it. I don't need to make you guys hate it by talking about it too much. But actually, instead I'm going to talk about the experience of dealing with that bullshit and the feeling of being able to nerd out about the series with fans who have undergone a similar experience. Fandom is something I've gone in depth with from a legal perspective but not so much a personal one.
The Internet has a habit of chewing up, embracing, rejecting, and destroying these self-assembling organizations based on mutual consumption of a fictional work. UNDERTALE went from an obscure Kickstarter made by the guy who did the music for Homestuck into an indie sensation in a few months. And anyone who wasn't completely amazed and wowed by it formed a competing counter-fandom based on mutual hatred of the work. As the fans quieted down, the counter-fans seemed to get louder. In reality they were already complaining at the same volume. It's just that we left and they stayed, leaving them the final word on all of the YouTube comments about unrelated videogames.
In the process of reading the ending of Rozen Maiden I had to find fan translations, of course. And there's a point in which all of the usual sources for translations just... ended. Like, every one of these third-rate pirate manga sites just copies off of one another, while adding their own really annoying watermarks. I feel dirty every time I have to use them. So naturally, whoever was moving this content into the manga site world just stopped caring about rehosting this stuff at some point. So, in desperation, I rushed over to
the N-Field a massive trash heap born out of the same shit chan culture that got me into this thing in the first place.
Fortunately, it turns out there were translations after all; just not linked at the top of the translations thread that every pirate comics site was copying from. It was instead in a dirty little .zip file that I honestly thought was just untranslated Japanese. I was determined to try trudging through this in Japanese with my lack of vocabulary and comprehension. Strangely enough, the .zip was actually translations and I was able to complete the story as I had originally desired.
That's the bullshit. But I also promised to talk about the fandom as well. Because they're really the same thing. Access to fan translations is dependent on unpaid and literally illegal volunteer work. It's the Batman of the licensing industry - doing what's right even when the system says otherwise. The thing is, Batman is really only one person. He doesn't have any super powers, money only gets you so far, and his genius isn't really his power either. It's semiotics. When a fandom is deprived of translations, they hope, beg, and plead for a fan translation to come and save it. Conversely, the symbol can't live without the eyes to witness it. When there isn't much of a fandom to save, Batman can't be there to save it.
From what I read on Desuchan, the Rozen Maiden fandom is pretty much dead. No, I'm not referring to the board's frighteningly low post volume. I mean even the series itself in Japan had massively dropped in domestic popularity near the conclusion of the manga. There's a several-years-old thread from a Japanese person admitting that they can't afford to buy Young Jump every week anymore and that the popularity polls are putting Rozen Maiden dead last. Several of the releases near the end of the manga openly admit they're a translation of a French translation; or that they paid their translator in WoW gold; or all sorts of other horrendous hackjob methods of getting this thing in English. And yes, it does detract a bit from the overall experience, even with the luxury of having been able to read it all in a day's time.
But at the same time, the bullshit is part of the fun, right? Humans take a liking to forming social groups that have something special and unique to them. It's why I was so big into 4chan back in the day, and I let it's bullshit flow through me. I'm not entirely kidding when I said I'd power my way through the Japanese language comics if I couldn't find translations. That's kind of what being a "fan" is. Not so much the conspicuous consumption of content as much as it is putting one's creative energies towards duplicating that same effort when the content dries up. Fandom isn't about the work itself so much as the hunt it took you to get there and the friends you made along the way.
The difference between an UNDERTALE player and a fan is that the latter started drawing fan art and writing AUs. The difference between a Jojo reader and a fan is that the latter started making fan translations because nobody would touch it up until recently. The difference between a Star Trek watcher and a trekkie is that the latter spends time making elaborate fan films and getting sued by Paramount. The difference between a Sherlock Holmes reader and a fan is that the latter forms entire societies and branches of study around a work so old it's partially public domain.
Speaking of which, I suppose I need to start differentiating myself as a Telefang fan shortly...