Japanese Vocabulary in Meipouchou

Now that the first five chapters of Meipouchou have been released, I'd like to comment on the choice of Japanese words used in the books. Most characters in the story substitute certain English words for Japanese words. The words used are mostly words that are often repeated in anime or left untranslated in fan-translated anime and manga. But even though Meipouchou is a story aimed at a niche audience who might have some familiarity with these words, I didn't want to make reading it difficult for those who didn't.

The first drafts of a few chapters were so thick with Japanese words and sentences that the TL notes were longer than the chapters themselves. In order to reduce the number of TL notes, I decided to limit myself to a small pool of words. This meant eliminating a lot of alternatives. For example, characters will use naze, but never doushite or nande, regardless of the speaker or the context. Similarly, while demo is used in place of but and however at the beginning of sentences, the English words are used to start conjoining clauses, eschewing kedo.

There are definite drawbacks to this approach. In places, it can make the use of Japanese words seem stilted. Characters can come across as needlessly formal in some situations and rude in more formal settings. It also limits my ability to differentiate characters by word choice, which is a good way to make them feel more real.

But there are also benefits. Eliminating variants has lead to greater repetition, making it easier for those unfamiliar with the words to learn their meanings, at least as they are used in Meipouchou. The first time a word is used in each chapter it appears in the TL notes, but it's easier to read if you don't have to keep checking the notes. The repetition also lends some realism to the practice of inserting Japanese words. Even among anime fans, most people aren't going to pick up many words just by watching subtitled anime. In Meipouchou the trend was started by a few such people, who had an imperfect understanding of the words, and everyone else is just imitating them.