Image: Titan Comics
Translating media from one language into another is always going to be a fraught process—from trying to retain a style and nuance between dialogue, to navigating fanbases that often perceive any kind of difference in localization as censorship. But there’s a difference between that, and what’s happened to Titan’s Kamen Rider Kuuga releases.
Although the first two volumes of Stonebot and Titan Comics’ English release of Toshiki Inoue and Hitotsu Yokoshima’s Kamen Rider Kuuga manga—adapting the classic 2000 Kamen Rider series that revitalized the superhero franchise for the 21st century—have been available for a few months now, the series has come under fire this week after fans pointed out a consistent pattern of errors and awkward phrasing in the English translation of the manga. From clunky syntax to inconsistent name romanization, from awkward line breaks to printing errors cutting off art and dialogue, both volumes of Kuuga showcase a pattern of sloppiness that make them difficult to read at best.
But matters were made worse when the furor around the translation’s awkwardness revealed that Titan had been selling the Kuuga manga with an altogether different translation. Preview pages released last summer—including ones shared by io9 at the time—feature a translation that is not just different to the final release in terms of better sentence structure and phrasing, but in formatting and stylization too, utilizing different fonts and occupying more space in speech bubbles for dramatic effect, as well as stylized FX translations.
Left: Preview page released in 2022 by Titan. Right: The same page in the digital and physical release of Kamen Rider Kuuga vol. 1.Image: Titan Comics
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Today, Titan released a brief statement acknowledging fan concerns while also explaining the disparities between the previewed pages of both released volumes of the Kuuga manga—volumes 3-5 are currently available to pre-order—were the result of intents to get previews of the series out quickly.
“In April 2022, early draft pages (three pages for Volume 1 and four pages for Volume 2) were translated for marketing purposes, as we wanted to get the artwork out as soon as possible for the fans,” Titan’s statement reads in part. “These may still be circulating on the web. The actual translation for the printed books (approved by Titan and licensors) were worked on by two highly respected translators in the business.”
While this may explain the disparity between preview and final release, it doesn’t explain why Titan continued to use the separately translated preview pages in the run-up to, and after the release of, the first two volumes of Kamen Rider Kuuga. Tweets as recently as January 23, two days ago, continue to use the inaccurate preview images to advertise the comic, despite the fact that the worse translation was already in the hands of fans. Amazon’s U.S. store pages for Kamen Rider Kuuga volumes 1-2 also use the released translation as previews now, as opposed to the initial preview pages.
Kamen Rider has gained an international fanbase often in spite of itself across its long history, with much of the franchise—whether shows and movies, merchandise, or adapted material like manga and comics—still legally inaccessible to audiences outside of Japan. Although fits and starts have been made to bring the series to a wider audience in other countries, Kamen Rider is still an incredibly niche franchise, one supported by diehards who’ve put up with a lot in an attempt to ensure more people can legally enjoy the series they love.
But Rider fans shouldn’t have to put up with being hoodwinked in a manner such as this, and sold a sloppily translated product under the perceived onus of having to support it to prove a continued interest in the series beyond its home shores. If the difference in quality between fan-translated material and official releases is going to have such vast disparity, the companies Toei is working with to try and make Kamen Rider a mainstream superhero franchise outside of Japan are going to have to do much better to prove to the Rider fanbase that their access is going to do better for the series’ community than the work that community has been doing to sustain itself for decades beforehand.
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