Alexis Kirsch is a influential editor and translator over at Viz Media, and has worked on titles such as One Piece, Rurouni Kenshin, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, and Boruto (Just to name a few!) He also worked on the Black Clover manga which is receiving a anime adaptation this October.
We were very lucky to get to ask Alexis some of our burning questions about his life as a manga editor and his feelings toward Black Clover and its main characters!
As an editor I’m sure you have read A LOT of manga in your life-time. Do you remember what your gateway manga was that led you down this path? Do you often read manga outside of work? If so, can you tell us some of your favorites?
I was a huge manga fan as a kid living in Japan. My family moved there when I was in elementary school and I got hooked on Shonen Jump and Dragon Ball in particular. I used to own close to 800 volumes of manga at home. And while I’ve pared that down a bit, I still have two bookshelves full of manga. I don’t read as much at home as I used to but re-reading series like Naruto, One Piece and Death Note is always a pleasure.
A large part of your job is translating manga to bring it to life for a new audience! Have you ever run into a word that was confused for another word in English or maybe didn’t have an English meaning?
This is a constant battle. Translation is not an exact science. Finding the right word can be a challenge, but the toughest part is comedy. The Japanese language has a variety of dialects or accents that can be funny all on their own, no matter what the character is saying. Stuff like that is really tough to translate without getting super creative.
When you are localizing the series for an English speaking audience do you have to make any changes to make the story more relatable to the foreign audience? Have you ever run into any situations that only exist in Japanese culture and would be hard to explain to someone in a Western country?
We try to minimize the number of changes we have to make. Our audience is very sophisticated and appreciate when the original intention of the creator is retained. My personal philosophy is to try to keep the original meaning while inserting an explanation. It’s a delicate balance. There was a scene in a recent series where the main character had a bag of bread crusts for his school lunch. In Japan, this is a common trope. It indicates that the character is so poor that he went to a bakery and asked for the cutoff ends of the bread that are usually thrown away. But a western reader might never have heard of that. So it’s good to try and explain it in the dialog if possible.
What drove you to work on Black Clover? Had you read or seen the manga in Japanese prior? Had you read Tabata-San’s previous work Hungry Joker?
We generally receive rough drafts of the new series a few weeks before they launch and I could tell Black Clover was going to be really good from the first time I read it. I volunteered to edit it before anyone else could because I find it much more rewarding to work on series that I enjoy reading. I didn’t follow Hungry Joker that closely, but I was familiar with it. That was a pretty solid series and a lot of people were anticipating Tabata Sensei’s next series.
When working on Black Clover has there been any instances in the story or character development that truly shocked you?
Black Clover isn’t exactly a huge plot twist-filled type of series, but I thought the first chapter was really well done in this regard. (SPOILER ALERT!) Throughout the chapter, you get the impression that Yuno is a jerk who dislikes Asta. But then it turns out that he believes in Asta even more than Asta believes in himself. And then the shock at the end of the chapter when Asta gets possibly demonic anti-magic powers. It’s just such a well-done first chapter that gets you hyped enough to keep reading.
Who do you relate to more? Asta or Yuno? Would you rather have anti-magic power and physical strength or be a magic prodigy?
Personality-wise, I’m more like Yuno. Very few people are as loud and boisterous as Asta. But Asta’s powers seem a lot more fun and satisfying.
Who are you rooting for to become the Wizard King?
I’m hoping the series introduces some more competition. Asta and Yuno have been doing too well in the recent chapters. I’d like to see some new characters who cut them down to size a little bit. Otherwise they might start getting cocky!
Are you excited to see the anime adaptation? Do you think there will be any key differences between the anime and the manga?
I’m super excited. I’m sure there’ll be a lot of small differences and I’m looking forward to catching them all. I’m especially excited for the intro animation and music. It looks like they cast some really strong voice actors and I anticipate the Black Clover anime being one of the top new series in the fall.