Viz has earned themselves a reputation over the years of over-Americanizing and modifying their titles. Ranma 1/2 is a good example of this, I distinctly remember one episode where the subtitles had Ranma & Akane’s dads singing Camptown Races. Lately they have been doing a lot better about this, keeping the Americanization to at least an understandable level and not modifying the actual dialogue much from the original beyond the needs of translation. They’ve done even better with Shoujo Beat (with one title actually retaining honorifics) and the Shoujo Beat manga titles as well. Well, for some of them, as Ultra Maniac is absolutely horrid, reflecting Viz at its absolute worst.
The modifications are both major and minor. Some of the minor ones could be overlooked if it wasn’t for the major ones that follow. Examples of minor changes are changing 1st years/2nd years/3rs years to 6th graders/7th graders/8th graders. (Although they leave the classroom signs unchanged, which will likely cause some confusion.) Another, mostly minor change is that Nina has been given a magic word to use when casting her spells. The manga doesn’t have one, the first time she casts a spell she says “power up” when she pushes the button, which is appropriate for the spell she’s using. The second time she says simply “transform” which fits the spell then as well (which is turning the beads she poured into the box into a magic ring). Now, she says “Spamola”. I’m not sure if this is the same word they gave her in the Ultra Maniac anime (where Nina was made more of a standard magical girl complete with transformation sequence) or not but it still sounds utterly stupid.
The major changes begin soon however, in chapter 2 in fact.
On the 4th page of Chapter 2 (there are few, if any, page numbers in Viz’s printed version at least), the following dialogue takes place between Ayu & Nina:
Nina: It can’t be anything I said!
Nina: So what is it?
Ayu: Now that you mention it…
Ayu: This whole morning has been awful!
Ayu: It started on the bus when a boy poked me!
Nina: It was probably just an accident!
Ayu: No, he kept doing it.
Ayu: He thought jabbing me with his finger was funny! I’ve got bruises…
Ayu: …all over! It makes me so mad! Boys can be so mean!!
Ayu: I wish there was a way to make them stop!
Ayu: (sfx) Sizzle
Now, the same page in the Japanese version, going by the scanslation I had of it:
Nina: Seems like you’re unhappy right now.
Nina: Did something happen?
Ayu: Arr …..
Ayu: Now that reminds me!
Ayu: Some pervert on the bus touched my butt!
Nina: Ayu-chan takes the bus to school?
Ayu: It depends. I usually walk.
Ayu: Today I caught the bus in time so…
Ayu: Arr… How disgusting!! I’m so mad!!
Ayu: Dammit!! Geez, I won’t take the bus for a while!
Nina: (sfx) Hmmm
This page is entirely different, and since it’s the inspiration for the spell that Nina will chose to try on Ayu next, it’s a pretty big change even overlooking the drastic change in dialogue.
Let’s look at the dialogue changes though, and let’s try to be fair here. First of all, I can somewhat understand their wanting to change this from a pervert touching Ayu’s butt, although I don’t think that this would really be a problem. If anything it reinforces that it is not OK for a guy to touch a girl’s butt without permission, a lesson I think most parents would want their daughters to learn. Let’s give them that this had to be changed though, now what about the rest of the page? The rest of the page had to be modified to make the idea of Ayu just being “poked” by a boy was a big enough problem to encourage Nina to cast a spell to keep boys away from Ayu, to protect her from them. They even changed the sound effect to be different and by a different character. In the process we toss out the character development about how Ayu gets to school. I’m really not convinced that they needed the entire rest of this page just to trump up the poking being a major problem, instead of Ayu starting off saying a boy “poked her”, she could have said a boy “kept poking her”, thus establishing the same concept in — one dialogue exchange, allowing the rest of the page to remain the same, leaving the character development and modifying the original as little as possible. Viz didn’t opt to take this route though, and I really wonder why. Do they think their target audience is stupid? Middle school girls aren’t that stupid, they’d understand the original exchange just fine, if Viz thinks they wouldn’t, well, then they’re underestimating them greatly. I should also point out that Viz’s version leaves you with the impression that Ayu still rides the bus and that the problem with the boy is unresolved. (Nina’s spell works, but not as intended and has to be cancelled as usual.) In the original we know that Ayu will not have the problem regularly since she’ll just walk and avoid the bus.
The other changes I’ve noticed so far (and I’m honestly only 2 chapters in so far, I’m scared of what else I’ll find) are both minor and somewhere between minor and major. Viz, as usual, dropped the honorifics, but they decided to translate them, making things worse. Other girls call Ayu Ms. Ayu and Nina, once she befriends Ayu, calls her Ayu-dear. (Originally this was Ayu-senpai and Ayu-chan.) I consider this more than just a minor change because the translated honorifics really make the dialogue sound wrong, but it’s hard to call it a full blown major change.
Bottom line though: The version of Ultra Maniac Viz is selling should be considered based off of the original, not a direct translation and adaption. If, like me, the changes I’ve noted above bother you, do not buy this version! Personally I had ordered the first three volumes along with a back-issue of Shoujo Beat I had missed in order to keep the shipping per item sane. Now I feel very ripped off and wish I could return them. In fact I will probably contact Viz to see if they will take them back, frankly I don’t want to finish reading Vol. 1, much less read Volumes 2 & 3.
Viz should be ashamed of themselves, I really hope this title does poorly for them, even though I’m still hoping somoene (definitely NOT Viz now) will bring over another of Yoshizumi-sensei’s titles — Minto na Bokura.