To note, or not?

I was lucky enough to take part in a lively discussion on Takako Shimura’s Wandering Son (Fantagraphics), which will air at Manga Out Loud sometime soon. We all took a few minutes to ponder the usefulness of end notes. I’m very pro on the subject. I think they almost always add value and let the translator and adapter focus on flow and voice rather than info-dump. But I wanted to throw the topic out for discussion. Notes: yay, nay, or depends?



  1. Notes should Always be included.

    If one finds no value in endnotes, well, the notes can be skipped, unread.

    But if notes are not included there is no way to un-skip them.

  2. I prefer to have them, rather than not.

  3. badzphoto says:

    Another vote for yay.

  4. David Welsh says:

    Someone on Twitter mentioned an exception in a generally positive view of end notes/footnotes: he sees little use in translating sound effects, and I tend to agree.

  5. I agree that translations of sound effects are fairly worthless – I have only ever taken the time to match the page number of a translated sound effect to the page on which it occurred, and that was only because it was very difficult to figure out what had actually happened in that particular panel without knowing what the sound effect was. That happens rarely.

    I absolutely love translator’s notes. If you don’t know Japanese and wouldn’t stand a chance reading the original Japanese version, translator’s notes let you know of instances where things could have just as easily been translated one way as another, and they often let you know *why* the translator chose the wording they did.

    Cultural notes are great too – in fact, I think the ones that do get included often tend to be too brief. Without cultural notes, there are times when certain bits of dialogue or scenes go over my head, or I misinterpret something without even realizing it.

  6. Even when endnotes are unnecessary, they can bring a lot of insight into the production proccess, just like movie special features. In short, they rock.

  7. I always prefer notes – if you don’t like them, you can just skip them! :)

    (I also enjoy manga series like Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, where notes are pretty much mandatory!)

  8. I love end notes—I wish more manga publishers included them! I admit I’m somewhat biased as I’ve been learning Japanese, so I find translator’s notes interesting and helpful. I’ve also picked up a lot of interesting cultural information from Del Rey manga end notes, ranging from Japanese folklore (xxxHolic taught me what a zashiki-warashi is) to Kentucky Fried Chicken being a popular meal on Christmas Eve! ^_^

    • I also am a big fan of xxxHolic’s endnotes. Another series with awesome endnotes is The Kurosagi Corpses Delivery Service— whoever does the notes for that title definitely goes above and beyond. (BTW, I also learned about KFC and Christmas from endnotes… I think it was in The Wallflower?)

  9. I find endnotes invaluable especially when you are new to manga and they explain some of the definition and cultural traditions. It also gives it a bit of a personal touch really enjoy.

  10. I am a big fan of the notes and other contextual paratexts (introductions, etc). That’s my biggest gripe about D&Q’s manga, the lack thereof.

    I also like translated sound effects. The sounds are there for a reason and I like to know what they are. Maybe it’s not always important (the sound of a gun, or a car, or ridiculous combat sound effects), but I like to know when it’s the cicadas (one I can actually identify in the original at this point), or some other atmospheric element.

  11. Just wanted to add another voice to the chorus of people who love end notes. xxxHolic/Tsubasa -RC- were the first series I’ve ever seen them in, and ever since I’ve wished every manga had them. I haven’t read a ton from Del Rey, but I personally think those manga were a perfect example of how a manga should be localized — the robust translator notes and in-panel SFX translations that sat really small next to the original SFX art was really the perfect combo for me. I really like translated SFX, but redoing the art with new english SFX usually makes the SFX look too bland and samey, so I think Del Rey’s idea of hiding them right next to the original is a perfect compromise. Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is the only manga I’ve read with the SFX in the end-notes and I found it to be the most pointless thing ever. There was never a time I wanted to weed through the SFX list mid-read just to figure out what noise was intended.

  12. I’m definitely pro-endnote. I always find them interesting & informative, and it really helps me to appreciate the work of the adapter(s).

  13. Endnotes, yes, but with restraint. As others have noted, the translation of sound effects in endnotes is pretty pointless – I seem to remember that Viz’s Tuxedo Gin had those for some reason.

    But there ought to be a balance between translation and end-noting. I’ve noticed some translators going too far over the weaboo falls & leaving thoroughly translatable terms in the original Japanese & then providing the definition in the end notes. “Giri choco” is the example that immediately springs to mind. Yes, a reasonably experienced reader will know what it is, but no, there’s no good reason why that can’t just be translated as ‘obligation chocolate’, because it’s right there.

  14. Being able to include translation notes depends almost completely on if a translator writes them in the first place. And sadly, due to micro budgets for manga, translation notes are often not what a translator wants to be focusing their time on.

  15. Speaking as a translator rather than a reader, I would only include end notes for a small percentage of manga. Most don’t need them. If a volume has just one or two things that need to be noted, it’s better to just note them there on the same page. I’d only include end notes for something that requires a lot of cultural understanding that the readers of the translation probably wouldn’t have.

  16. I’m following the German Silver Diamond release now and not only did they not observe the honorifics – all the symbolism included in the names and stuff isn’t being explained even when the characters allude to it or make jokes about it – I only know that from the US editions – although I never understood why Tokyopop had that horrible to read background.

    Or to say it shortly: I want end notes and I also enjoy free talk translated ^^

  17. Another vote for endnotes. I don’t read them all the time, but I like having the option to do so. I also think sound effect endnotes are pointless. I prefer them translated on the page, although I think Yen Press’ method is excessive and cluttery, where they both romanize and translate them on the image. Just the translation is fine.

    If it’s just a short explanation though, I don’t mind if they’re explained on the page in the separation bars.


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