Rumiko Takahashi the same in every language? One man may
know: Gerard Jones. English rewriter of INU-YASHA, RANMA
1/2, and LUM*URUSEI YATSURA, among other manga, Jones has
also written American comics such as the classic THE TROUBLE
WITH GIRLS and OCTANE. Now he talks about Takahashi's new
j-pop.com: How do you feel INU-YASHA compares to
Takahashi's other work? Where's she going with it?
Jones: She's heading into a whole different style of
narrative. For the most part, each chapter tended to be
rather self-contained in her previous work, whereas here
she's doing a big, intriguing, ongoing narrative. I've
rewritten three issues, and it's very interesting and a
strong start, but I'm much less certain of where it's headed
than with the others.
j-pop.com: How have you made the characters'
voices sound distinct?
Jones: The tricky part is, I'm trying to make the
characters in the past speak in a sort of faraway voice. I
don't want them to sound like 20th century people or to use
a lot of stilted archaisms. Kagome is a fairly familiar sort
of Takahashi person, the teenage girl of the present.
Inu-Yasha is much more complicated. He's far removed from
the present, mysterious, and sort of a romantic object; I
want him to be intriguing without having a 1997 voice.
Kaede's a little bit of the same challenge, but since she's
older and the head of the village I can allow her to be a
little more formal and portentous sounding. And with the
villagers, I can play up the quasi-archaic speech pretty
heavily to keep us in historic context. Once the readers are
comfortably in the narrative that may fade away, which I
guess could mean Kagome is being more accustomed to their
manner of speaking.
j-pop.com: Often there are big decisions about
the translation of certain words, such as the
Jones: (laughs) There's a sort of call between
translating and not. I thought the protagonist's name should
be untranslated, for that comes off as the proper name of a
running character. Readers can pass on the information that
"Inu" means "dog", and stuff like that. But a monster, in
that case I'd rather have it in English, so that the meaning
is explicit. I think once or twice I've found ways to slip
the translations into the dialogue.
j-pop.com: Have you had to look up many
historical elements? It's always a question whether to
Jones: I felt it was better to keep it neither
too Japanese or too Western and try to convey the gist of
what the story contains. I'm afraid if I do too much
research it'll get in the way. Fortunately the literal
translator [Mari Morimoto -- Ed.] is pretty good as far as
telling what Takashashi means and suggesting how to
translate it. One example is a crow which goes inside bodies
and animates them. The translator suggested 'zombie crow',
but that is so hooked into the Caribbean thing, I decided to
use 'demon crow' instead. I'll be using 'demon' a lot as the
series goes on.
j-pop.com: How much time do you spend on sound
Jones: I was feeling in a rut, so I'm shifting my
whole approach and testing it on INU-YASHA. It finally
occurred to me that in American sound effects there's a
tendency to stick with onomotopaeiac nouns, "crack" and
"snap" and stuff, whereas the Japanese stuff functions
almost more like a soundtrack, kind of a music track of
tones. So I'm paying more attention to the sound of the
original sound effects as opposed to the narrative function.
There'll be more sound effects in there that seem odd to
American readers, but I think as you get used to it as you
j-pop.com: Do you prefer working with continuing
stories, such as INU-YASHA, or episodic stories, such as
Jones: Episodic's easier for me, because I don't
see the material unless the art shows up. I get them month
by month. The more episodic it is, the more I know where I'm
heading and what to set up. As it becomes open-ended,
there's the danger of missing a pun that turns out to be
important, that kind of thing. Luckily Toshi saved me on
this long thing in RANMA -- everyone thought they were
competing for a chance to visit China, and it turned out to
be some bizarre pun on some guy's name which wasn't revealed
for six or seven issues. [RANMA 1/2 Part 4 No.s #6-8 -- Ed.]
Toshi noticed it and told me "Wait a minute, when you
mention the trip to China, you have to set up the gag." It's
a little more difficult, and requires the editor to be
j-pop.com: Do you prefer scripting
Jones: It's harder, but I think I like the
j-pop.com: Do you feel rewriting Japanese comics
has affected your own writing at all?
Jones: I don't think I've stolen any jokes but
I've taken a certain attitude towards character humor from
Takahashi. I think I do more with repeated gags with
exaggerated characters. She's shown me how to spin a joke so
it's still funny four times in the same issue, which
American comics don't do.