February 08, 2008

A rose by any other name

In Japan, The "His Dark Materials" trilogy is titled「ライラの冒険」or "The Adventures of Lyra." Not quite as poetic, but to the point. (And I doubt many English-language readers get the Milton reference.)

The British title for book one is Northern Lights, which I believe was changed to avoid confusion with Northern Exposure. The Japanese title for book one is a literal translation of the American title, which does render very nicely in kanji. And the original title is included in English for good measure.

The British sit-com The Good Life (one of my favorites) was retitled Good Neighbors because of an American sit-com with a similar title. The American title might even be an improvement, considering the nod to Robert Frost and the episode about the fence. A triple entendre.

TokyoPop has followed the obvious-but-dull route with the "Twelve Kingdoms" novels, using only half of the original Japanese. Volume 1: Sea of Shadows. Volume 2: Sea of Wind (I detect a pattern here). TokyoPop's title for volume 2 is (half) literal. Stretching definitions a tad, I came up with: Zephyr Oceans, Labyrinthian Shores.

Granted, a good title is one that potential book buyers can actually remember. So too much poetry might be ill-advised on this account. (Just don't get me started on the English title for Ai no Kusabi . . . . )

More musings about title translations here and here.

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# posted by Blogger Kevin
3/24/2008 12:13 PM   
If your curious, the story of the UK/US name change is here:


In the end, The Golden Compass actually fits in better with the other two titles of the Trilogy.

And it goes without saying that I thank you for your translations.