Recently I got the opportunity to interview with the official translator of the probably biggest rising star of shonen jump, Jujutsu Kaisen by Gege Akutami, Stefan Koza (Dragon Ball: That Time I Got Reincarnated As Yamcha!). Jujutsu is arguably one of the biggest names rising in the shonen scenery in recent times, personally, I’m really enjoying it, Viz Media definitely has a great series in hands!
It was a great talk with Stefan! We talked a little bit about everything, his beginnings and passions, the manga market, and a lot of Jujutsu.
First of all, tell us a little bit about yourself. How did your passion for translation/localization begin? And how did you get into manga/anime?
– I was raised in a household that speaks both Japanese and English. I was also obsessed with Japanese TV. Anime, variety, movies, and so on. Translating manga was a relatively recent development. However, I grew up interpreting for friends or extended family.
How did your career as a translator begin?
– I was fortunate enough to be invited to the VIZ office along with My Hero Academia and Dr. Stone translator Caleb Cook. We got to talking and it turned out well. (laughs)
What do you think that is the greatest difficulty in locating Japanese from manga to English?
– Japanese and English as languages often times reflect the culture itself. Phrases that apply in Japan can seem very out of place when translated into English. I try to make translations that don’t feel awkward or forced. As far as JJK, the move names are very cool in Japanese but can also be very abstract. Those can be very tough.
Scanlations are clearly a big issue for the manga market, with services such as Manga Plus (free), Viz Media (free/subscription), Crunchyroll Manga (subscription) among others, what do you think manga readers need to fully embrace the legal manga market?
– If the material is available officially, there is absolutely no excuse anymore to support illegal content. Both manga and anime are being delivered faster, cheaper, and of higher quality than ever. VIZ and the SJ app blew me away when I first heard about the new service. A plethora of manga for pocket change. Incredible.
Were you expecting such a success that Jujutsu Kaisen had?
– I think JJK was severely underrated when it first came out (via “JUMP START” iniciative on weekly shonen jump). There was clearly a fanbase that wanted more but I was surprised with the initial love it or hate it reaction. I can see how the subject matter may not have been for everyone but at this point, it has proven itself a stellar series.
Do you have a favorite character from jujutsu? I think Gojo-sensei would probably be the most popular here in the West, he’s so cool!
– Can I choose more than one? (laughs) Yuji is obviously fantastic. Nanami, Todo, and Nobara might be some more of my more obvious choices. If we’re getting niche I would have to say the bakery girl! The one in the Nanami flashback! Gojo is cool but I would argue there are many more characters that are deeper than him. Although, I’m excited to find out more about him in the recent flashback arc.
Also, do you have a favorite arc from Jujutsu? Personally, I think that the “Cursed Womb” arc is amazing, I always recommend to new readers to read at least until Chapter 6, because from there it only gets better.
– The Mahito introduction arc was great. Mainly because of its character development with Yuji and Nanami.
Jujutsu Kaisen seems to mix some kind of magic (jujutsu) but also a type of spiritual force/energy (juryoku) how do you interpret it? Was it hard at the beginning for you to understand?
– The idea of cursed energy is quite easy to understand if you’re a fan of shonen. It’s your “ki”, “chakra”, and all that good stuff. JJK is great because it’s base as far as staying true to shonen is there but does things a little different and more interesting. Chapter 12 does a fantastic job of explaining cursed energy and cursed techniques.
We have cursed spirits and jujutsu sorcerers; do you think we can look at them as evil vs good? Or the answer is not that simple.
– This is a huge theme in JJK. Yuji’s character is based on this notion. The “proper death” so to speak and he quickly realizes after being with Nanami that it’s not so black and white. However, there are characters that do fall into either category as well. I’ve come to find this may be an unpopular opinion but Mahito is evil. I have difficulty seeing it any other way. His character, after all, is constructed on the negative emotions of human beings. Greed, hate, anger, and so on. An interesting character, but blank as of this point in the story. I think Geto is going to be the more compelling villain as the story goes on.
The popularity poll came out recently, some surprise? I was particularly surprised to see Nanami rated so high, I was kinda happy about it because I think he’s really cool and calm.
– Seeing Nanami that high was not surprising at all if you ask me. Fantastic character. I’m a fan of Okkotsu but seeing him that high was surprising. It seems lots of people have read through volume 0!
Jujutsu Kaisen reached this month the 2 million copies in circulation with the release of its 6th volume in Japan. It already had a novel released earlier despite its yet short serialization time, and on December 3 Viz Media will release its first volume. In addition, Jujutsu also had promotional animated PV’s, and it seems that’s only a matter of time until we get to see its anime adaptation. What is your level of enthusiasm right now?
– There’s a lot of positive Juju flowing right now. (laughs) With the popularity of the series, I would be absolutely surprised if there haven’t already been pieces moving for a while now on an anime. My guess is they know they have something really special and are working to give it the attention and quality it deserves. My dream scenario would be either MAPPA or Production I.G. to be in charge and theme song by Maximum The Hormone!
May we close the “tobari” for now, thank you for your time!
– Emerge from darkness, blacker than darkness. Purify that which is impure. Muito Obrigado!
You can find Stefan on the following social media:
You can read Jujutsu Kaisen worldwide for free on: