Review: I Think I Turned My Childhood Friend Into a Girl – Volume 1

    English cover of volume 1, featuring Mido Kenshiro (left) and Hiura Mihate (right)

    Read in Japanese / 日本語で読む

    The first volume of I Think I Turned My Childhood Friend Into a Girl by Azusa Banjo was officially released in English by Seven Seas Entertainment on May 31, 2022. The English version was translated by Miki Z, adapted by Matthew Birkenhauer, and lettered by Elena Pizarro. Originally published as Koisuru (Otome) no Tsukurikata by Ichijinsha under their comic POOL imprint on pixiv COMIC beginning in February 2020, the series currently has four volumes released in Japan. It features Mido Kenshiro, a boy who loves cosmetics, and Hiura Mihate, his (male) childhood friend, and what happens after Mido tries putting makeup on Hiura for the first time.

    Today, I’ll be reviewing the official English adaptation of the first volume and comparing it to the original Japanese. (Note: I worked on a fan translation into English of the manga beginning with episode 5.③ until the official English version was announced. I make no claim that the fan translation or the literal translations below are perfect.)

    Update (June 10, 2022): Seven Seas has posted that they are looking into the addressing the issue:

    Regarding pronoun usage

    Although Hiura is initially referred to using masculine pronouns (he/him) in the English localization, he is referred to with feminine pronouns (she/her) beginning in ep1.① [p. 35]. Mido continues to refer to Hiura using masculine pronouns through ep2.① [p. 55] and all characters consistently refer to Hiura with feminine pronouns starting in ep4.① [p. 85].

    In an interview with pixivision from May 2021, the translator there noted the following when Hiura was referred to as a “heroine”:

    (* Translator’s Note: While Hiura is affectionately called a “heroine” as a reference to his crossdressing, he clearly identifies as male in the Japanese text, even while wearing stereotypically female clothing. As such, he/him pronouns are used in this article.)

    I personally agree with the assessment above. Hiura consistently uses the masculine pronoun boku and even after he starts wearing girls’ clothes, explicitly says himself that he is male, and not female:

    • volume 1, episode 5.③
      「えー、だって男だよ、僕。」
      “Huh? I’m a guy, though. [Fan] / Huh? But I’m a boy. [Official]
    • volume 1, special 2
      「…いや、僕も男だから知ってるけど…」
      “…No, I know, I’m a guy too… [Fan] / I’m pretty familiar with the concept– [Official]
    • volume 2, episode 10
      「こんな格好してるけど僕女の子じゃないんだって!」
      “Even though I dress like this, I’m not a girl! [Fan]
    • volume 2, episode 14
      「あの…僕、こんな格好してるけど男なので…」
      “Um… I may be dressed like this, but I’m a guy… [Fan]

    As such, throughout this review, I’ll be using masculine pronouns for Hiura outside of quotes from the English adaptation.


    ep0.①

    (p. 4, Mido speaking)
    JapaneseRomanizationLiteral TranslationEnglish
    あれは昨日発売のアンジュの新作リップ…!!Are wa kinō hatsubai no Anju no shinsaku rippu…!!That’s the new Anju lipstick that went on sale yesterday…!!The new Anjo lipstick just dropped yesterday!!

    The translator may have mistaken アンジュ Anju for アンジョ Anjo. アンジュ Anju could be interpreted as ange, the French word for angel. It’s also possible that they thought it was a reference to the Korean cosmetics brand Anjo, and the translator changed it back to the original brand.

    (p. 5. Hiura speaking)
    JapaneseRomanizationLiteral TranslationEnglish
    天屋のラーメン、おごり3回Ten’ya no rāmen, ogori san-kaiTreat me to ramen from Ten’ya three times.Buy me… three ramens at Tenka.

    can be read as ya or おく oku, and rarely ta. The same spelling of “Tenka” occurs again later in the volume in special 1. The translator most likely mistook for a different character, or else it was changed purposefully so as to avoid conflicting with a potential trademark.


    ep0.⑤

    (p. 26, Hiura narrating)
    JapaneseRomanizationLiteral TranslationEnglish
    僕が女の子みたいに変身した途端…Boku ga onnanoko mitai ni henshin shita totan…As soon as I was transformed into looking like a girl…Ever since I came out as a girl…

    The original Japanese text makes no mention of “coming out” whatsoever. The English localization implies that Hiura is transgender in a way the Japanese does not.

    (p. 29, Hiura narrating)
    JapaneseRomanizationLiteral TranslationEnglish
    こうして僕は『女の子』になることを決意したKōshite boku wa “onnanoko” ni naru koto o ketsui shitaAnd that was how I decided to become a “girl.”And just like that, I decided to become a girl.

    In Japanese, quotation marks are often used for emphasis and are not used as scare quotes. In English, most readers would probably interpret them as scare quotes, so not including them makes sense here.


    Extra

    (p. 30)
    JapaneseRomanizationLiteral TranslationEnglish
    日浦美果(♂)Hiura Mihate (♂)Hiura Mihate (♂)Hiura Mihate (♂)

    Note that Hiura is explicitly referred to as male here.

    (p. 31)
    JapaneseRomanizationLiteral TranslationEnglish
    【御堂】
    直感
    “Midō”
    Chokkan
    Mido
    Intuition
    Mido
    It means “to be intuitive.”

    御堂 Midō does not mean “intuition”—it’s saying that the author named him Mido using her intuition. His name actually means “temple.”


    ep1.①

    (p. 33 [JA], p. 35 [EN], teacher speaking/Hiura speaking)
    JapaneseRomanizationLiteral TranslationEnglish
    えー、というわけで
    日浦は今日からこの格好で学校に通うことになったから
    みんなもよろしくなー
    Ē, to iu wake de
    Hiura wa kyō kara kono kakkō de gakkō ni kayou koto ni natta kara
    minna mo yoroshiku nā
    Uh, and so…
    Hiura will be attending school in this appearance starting today,
    so everyone, treat [him] well.
    Before we begin…
    Starting today, this is how Hiura will be presenting.
    Make sure she feels welcome.
    …よろしくおねがいします…Yoroshiku onegaishimasu…Please treat me well.Nice to meet everyone… again.

    While a person’s appearance can be referred to as their “presentation”, the English adaptation phrases it in a way typically associated with gender presentation specifically. This is the first time we see Hiura referred to with female pronouns, which happens throughout the rest of the volume.


    ep1.③

    (p. 43 [JA], p. 45 [EN], Mido narrating)
    JapaneseRomanizationLiteral TranslationEnglish
    中学で付き合う友達のタイプが変わってから
    あいつは学校で俺から距離を取るようになった
    家に帰れば変わらない日々
    Chūgaku de tsukiau tomodachi no taipu ga kawatte kara
    Aitsu wa chūgaku de ore kara kyori o toru yō ni natta
    Ie ni kaereba kawaranai hibi
    In middle school, the type of friends I hung out with changed,
    so at school, he distanced himself from me.
    It was the same as always after we went home though.
    My clique changed in junior high.
    He distanced himself from everybody in school.
    Even if everyone was the same as always back home.

    The second and third lines were changed to refer to “everybody”, which changes the meaning of the second line and turns the third line into nonsense.


    Extra

    (p. 67 [JA], p. 71 [EN])
    JapaneseRomanizationLiteral TranslationEnglish
    男の娘+タイツOtokonoko + TaitsuOtokonoko + TightsA Boy♀ + Tights

    Translating otokonoko is notoriously difficult. This particular translation does get across the “read as boy, but feminine” aspect.


    ep3.①

    (p. 70 [JA], p. 74 [EN], Hiura speaking/Mido speaking/aside)
    JapaneseRomanizationLiteral TranslationEnglish
    ただでさえ女子の中に入るのちょっと恥ずかしいのにTada de sae joshi no naka ni hairu no chotto hazukashii no niI’m still a little embarrassed to be with the girls, though.I still feel weird mixed in with a bunch of girls.
    まー、しゃーない…Mā, shānai…Well, it can’t be helped…Keep trying your best.
    他の男子がすごくやりにくいので女子体育へHoka no danshi ga sugoku yari nikui no de joshi taiiku e[It was] very hard for the other boys to play [with him], so [he’s going] to [go play with] the girls’ gym classYou just can’t beat us guys, Hiura!

    This aside is more of a narration or dialogue from a external point of view (“It’s very hard for the other boys to play with you, so go play with the girls’ gym class” if a teacher was saying it, for example). The English localization rewrites it as a taunt from the other guys, which removes that context.

    (p. 73 [JA], p. 77 [EN], Mido speaking)
    JapaneseRomanizationLiteral TranslationEnglish
    見た目は女の子だってこと、もっと自覚しろって…!Mitame wa onnanoko datte koto, motto jikaku shiro tte…!If you’re going to look like a girl, then be more aware of it…!If you’re gonna be a girl, try acting like one!

    This changes Mido’s insinuation from Hiura “looking like a girl” to “being a girl”.


    ep3.②

    (p. 77 [JA], p. 81 [EN], Mido speaking)
    JapaneseRomanizationLiteral TranslationEnglish
    だから、お前がその格好で学校来てるの
    ほんとすげぇよなって
    隠すどころかむしろ自慢してーよ
    俺の幼馴染すげーかっこいいってさ
    Dakara, omae ga sono kakkō de gakkō kiteru no
    honto sugē yo na tte
    Kakusu dokoro ka mushiro jiman shitē yo
    Ore no osananajimi sugē kakkoii tte sa
    So, you coming to school like this,
    I think it’s really amazing.
    Rather than hide it, [I] want to brag about it.
    Like, “My childhood friend is so cool!”
    Then you started coming to school like this.
    That’s some amazing confidence!
    You’re brave enough to be yourself!
    That’s just… insanely cool!

    This page is changed to have Mido praise Hiura’s confidence and bravery, rather than focusing on how Mido is proud, not embarassed of Hiura. The “Rather than hide it, I want to brag about it. / You’re brave enough to be yourself!” line comes up again in the next chapter, which changes the tone of that scene as well.


    Extra

    (p. 80 [JA], p. 84 [EN])
    JapaneseRomanizationLiteral TranslationEnglish
    日浦の学校あれこれHiura no gakkō arekoreSome Stuff about Hiura’s SchoolRandom Stuff about Hiura’s School
    更衣室Kōi-shitsuChanging RoomChanging Room
    職員室横の空き教室を使わせてもらっています。Shokuin-shitsu yoko no aki kyōshitsu o tsukawasete moratteimasu.Allowed to use an empty classroom next to the staff roomThey let her change in an empty classroom beside the teachers’ lounge.
    トイレToireRestroomsBathroom
    この学校にはいくつか多目的トイレがあるのでそこを使っています。Kono gakkō ni wa ikutsu ka tamokuteki toire ga aru node soko o tsukatteimasu.Uses one of the several accessible restrooms at the schoolShe uses the private bathrooms available throughout the school.
    校長先生の方針でかなりフリーダムな学校ですKōchō-sensei no hōshin de kanari furīdamu-na gakkō desuDue to the principal’s philosophy, it’s a pretty liberal schoolThe school’s principal is fairly progressive!
    自由に生きなさい若者よJiyū ni ikinasai wakamono yoLive freely, young ones.Live your truth, kids!
    感謝…Kansha…Thank you…Thanks so much!
    校長KōchōPrincipalPrincipal
    生きてますIkitemasuHe’s aliveHe’s still alive.

    In the literal translation, “liberal” is being used in the sense of giving the students a lot of freedom and leeway, rather than in the political sense. As noted before, the English adaptation uses feminine pronouns for Hiura.


    ep5.②

    (p. 98 [JA], p. 102 [EN], Hiura speaking)
    JapaneseRomanizationLiteral TranslationEnglish
    はぁー…
    遊びにいく服で悩むってなんだよ
    リア充かよ…
    Hā…
    Asobi ni iku fuku de nayamu tte nanda yo
    riajū ka yo…
    Sigh…
    Why [am I] worrying about what clothes [I’ll be] wearing out?
    [What am I,] a normie…?
    Ugh…
    Freaking out over a stupid outfit…
    Is this a social life?

    I find the line “Is this a social life?” somewhat awkward. It feels like it’s trying to say something like “Is this what having a social life is like?”, but it doesn’t actually say that.


    ep5.③

    (p. 102-105 [JA], p. 106-109 [EN])
    JapaneseRomanizationLiteral TranslationEnglish
    ナンパか…Nanpa ka…[They’re] hitting on [someone], huh…Typical sleazebags.
    話が通じない…
    なんなのこいつも勧誘??
    Hanashi ga tsūjinai…
    Nanna no koitsu mo kan’yū??
    I’m not getting through…
    What, is this guy a salesman too?
    They’re so dense.
    Are they really hitting on me?!
    チャラい…Charai…How flashy…Sexist pigs…
    危うく変な商材とか売りつけられるところだったよ…Ayauku henna shōzai toka uritsukerareru tokoro datta yo…I almost got sold some weird product or something…They almost roped me into buying some weird product.
    いや、普通にただのナンパと思うけど…Iya, futsū ni tada no nanpa to omou kedo…No, I think they were just hitting on you…Uh… They were flirting with you.

    Mido’s first line here is changed to refer to the pickup artists as “sleazebags”. Hiura’s thoughts are rewritten so that he realizes that the “sexist pigs” are hitting on him as a girl. This makes the subsequent conversation where Hiura still thinks that the guys were trying to sell him something no longer follow.


    ep5.⑦

    (p. 125 [JA], p. 129 [EN], Hiura speaking)
    JapaneseRomanizationLiteral TranslationEnglish
    女の子の格好で出かけるのも思ったより悪くないかもOnnanoko no kakkō de dekakeru no mo omotta yori warukunai kamoMaybe going out as a girl isn’t as bad as I thought.Maybe going out all femme won’t be bad after all!

    The English localization has Hiura use the word femme, a term popular in LGBT+ circles referring to a feminine appearance.


    special 1

    (p. 142-143 [JA], p. 146-147 [EN], Hiura speaking)
    JapaneseRomanizationLiteral TranslationEnglish
    えっ…
    これ、もしかして…
    押せばいけるんじゃ…??
    まじ?
    ガチで好みなの??
    え??
    E…
    Kore, moshikashite…
    oseba ikeru nja…??
    Maji??
    Gachi de konomi nano??
    E??
    Huh…
    Perhaps, this…
    if [I] push it, it could work…??
    Seriously??
    [This is] actually [to his] liking??
    Huh??
    Huh?
    Could it be…?
    Does he like me?!
    No way!!
    He really likes me?!
    What?!

    This section is rewritten so that in the English adaptation, Hiura realizes that Mido likes him. In the original, Hiura realizes that Mido likes how he currently looks and that if he were to push it further, Mido might fall in love with him. Something to that effect is later stated in chapter 15 (「…その人に好きになってほしくて、この格好してるんです。」 “…I’m dressing like this because I want him [Mido] to like me.”).

    (p. 144 [JA], p. 148 [EN], Hiura narrating)
    JapaneseRomanizationLiteral TranslationEnglish
    …でも、御堂が女の子?の前であんなドギマギするの初めてな気がするし
    キモがられてる様子はないし…
    …Demo, Midō ga onnanoko? no mae de anna dogimagi suru no hajimete na ki ga suru shi
    Kimogarareteru yōsu wa nai shi…
    …But that was the first time I’ve seen Mido so flustered in front of a girl (?),
    and it didn’t seem like he was creeped out…
    …But I’ve never seen Mido so flustered in front of me.
    And he didn’t seem creeped out.

    This line is rewritten so that Hiura doesn’t refer to himself as a “girl (?)”.


    special 2

    (p. 152 [JA], p. 156 [EN], Midou speaking/Hiura speaking/Midou speaking)
    JapaneseRomanizationLiteral TranslationEnglish
    俺は違うけどな
    思春期男子は獣だぞ!!
    Ore wa chigau kedo na
    shishunki danshi wa kemono da zo!!
    I’m not, but
    adolescent boys are beasts!!
    But–aside from me–adolescent boys are pigs!!
    …いや、僕も男だから知ってるけど……Iya, boku mo otoko dakara shitteru kedo……No, I know, I’m a guy too…I’m pretty familiar with the concept–
    俺は違うけどな!!?Ore wa chigau kedo na!!?I’m not, okay?!!Except me, of course!!

    In the English localization, this section is rewritten to remove Hiura mentioning that he’s a guy as well.


    Afterword

    (p. 159 [JA], p. 165 [EN])
    JapaneseRomanizationLiteral TranslationEnglish
    初投稿作・デビュー読み切りと
    コソコソと男の娘ものを描いて
    来ましたが、まさか連載させて
    いただけるとは思ってもいませんでした。
    Hatsutōkōsaku · debyū yomikiri to
    kosokoso to otokonoko mono o kaite
    kimashita ga, masaka rensai sasete
    itadakeru to wa omotte mo imasen deshita.
    I’ve been sneakily drawing stories about otokonoko since my first submitted work and my debut one-shot, but never dreamed I’d get one serialized.I’ve been slipping my debut story of a boy turned girl into weekly published comics for a while, but never dreamed I’d get to publish an actual collection.

    The first sentence of the afterword confuses some manga publishing terms in the English adaptation:

    • 初投稿作 hatsutōkōsaku is literally “first submitted work”, as in the first manga that Banjō submitted to a publisher/magazine.
    • 読み切り yomikiri refers to one-shots; her debut one-shot 『モノクロ・シャルロット!』 Monochrome Charlotte!, published in Gangan ONLINE’s Fresh Gangan in 2011, featured an otokonoko character.
    • 連載 rensai refers to a serialization, when a series is published regularly in a magazine or the like.

    Note that otokonoko is translated here as “boy turned girl”.


    Conclusion

    Although I have catalogued several errors above, I do know that everyone makes mistakes, so errors here or there are reasonable and to be expected. The bulk of the volume I take no issue with whatsoever: on most pages, it is a perfectly reasonable adaptation of the corresponding Japanese text, and reads quite naturally as English dialogue overall. Even most of the rewrites are fine, in isolation.

    The problems arise when the work is taken as a whole. If you market a series as an “LGBT+ romantic comedy,” then I expect your adaptation to match how the original work depicts those characters’ identities, and especially how the characters identify themselves. Instead, it co-opts the language of the LGBT+ community to strongly imply that Hiura is transgender in a way that is not present in the original work. Other characters (including Mido) are written to refer to Hiura using feminine pronouns, despite Hiura himself continuing to state explicitly that he is a guy.

    It is, of course, impossible for any translation to be faithful to the original work in its entirety. But having also read the original Japanese, the English localization appears to provide only this one interpretation of the text, and ignores evidence to the contrary. I wouldn’t know whether these changes were made intentionally or out of a misguided reading of the Japanese text, but the differences are apparent nonetheless. As such, if you do choose to read the English adaptation, be aware that you are viewing the original through a looking glass, and that what you see is not a clear reflection of the original work.


    Edit (June 6, 2022): Added an additional quote to the “Regarding pronoun usage” section.

    Edit (June 10, 2022): The author has posted that comments about translations should be sent to the publisher, and not to the author directly:

    Edit (June 10, 2022): Added Seven Seas Entertainment’s initial response.

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