I've been tag-teaming Azumanga Daioh over the past several days--watching the anime and reading the manga--and a few things came to mind.
The translation of manga to anime was pretty well-done, but it wasn't without its issues. The time that Osaka gets hiccoughs and the girls try all kinds of cures, for example, includes Kagura in the manga, but not in the anime. A lot of these changes were due to the fact that the animators had to fill 26 half-hour episodes with material.
Sadly a few of the funniest jokes were omitted. Again, I think it was a case where they just could not be fit into the series. (Before the sports festival which featured the marathon, Tomo and Osaka try hanging Chiyo-chan upside down from the window as an anti-teruterubozu, in hopes of causing rain the next day. *sigh*)
Then there's the translation from Japanese to English. They did a fair dinkum job in the anime. The manga...not so much.
Chiyo-chan gets called "Chiyosuke" several times, which is funny. In the manga, ADV translated it as "Chihuahua", which is not funny.
The translators tried making Osaka's dialect obvious. Book 1, page 46, strip title "What should I do?"
Osaka, looking through her book bag: "Oh no! I fuhgot my English book! What should I do? I don't know anybody in my uhtha classes, neitha!"
Osaka: "That's it! I'll tell the teacha I accidentaly brought one from Osaka! Maybe she'll let it go."
Osaka, raising her hand: "Um, teacha? I accidentally brought the book I had in Osaka, so..."
Yukari-sensei: "Really? What book did they use in Osaka? I'd like to see it."
Osaka, sweating: "Uh, uh, umm...I don' got it."
Note to translators: STOP DOING THIS. Okay? Just stop. No matter what accent or dialect of English you pick it will not carry the flavor of someone speaking Kansai Japanese in Tokyo. IT. DOES. NOT. WORK. It doesn't work, it's ham-fisted writing, and it looks stupid.
Making Osaka sound like she's from New Jersey is almost as bad as it would be if they made her sound like she's from Texas.
The anime translation works better, fortunately: they truncate the terminal "G" of Osaka's gerunds, and that's about it.
There is no good way to convert the Kansai/Edokko Japanese dichotomy into English, because Kansai isn't just an accent but a seperate dialect. It would be more accurate to have Osaka start speaking Ebonics than it is for her to have a Jersey mouth.
Osaka, looking through her book bag: "Dayum! I done left my book at the hizzle. And I ain't got no homies in my other classes."
Osaka: "Hey! I just tell the teacher I brung my ol' one from Osaka. She let it slide."
AD isn't the only series that's done this, and ADV isn't the only translation house that has, either. Everyone tries doing it, to one extent or another, and I've never seen an example that worked.
Battle Skipper, arguably one of the worst mech series ever produced, contains a mech with a computer that speaks in the Kansai dialect. The dubbed voice? New York/New Jersey accent.
The Graduation game that Mixx released years ago, a translation of the Japanese game? I borrowed it from a friend in like 1999 and played it once. (He has never asked me to return it, and just the other day I found the CD in my desk.) One character has that same Jersey accent. Another one talks like a four-year-old girl even though she's supposed to be like 17 for Christ's sake. I heard those two voices and never played that game again.
I also remember an example of "Kansai=southern US" but I can't recall what series it was.
I haven't watched the dub of AD; just subtitled, so I don't know what they do with Osaka's voice. Dubs have annoyed the crap out of me since the second Kimagure Orange Road movie was released; that dub was so bad I got one minute into the movie before I had to stop watching it...and I've avoided them since then.
You can't avoid some errors when translating, of course. The thing is, you can avoid introducing new errors. Tomo-chan insists that a real Osakan would have takoyaki in her lunch. That doesn't translate well; what you do is add a footnote or something explaining what takoyaki is. What you do not do is change "takoyaki" to "meatball sandwich".
As bad as all that can be, nothing can compare to the utter hack job Mixx did on Miracle Girls. All the names in the series were changed to American names. Why? Were we somehow supposed to relate better to Japanese people with American names? WTF.
It's a shame, because the story was a pretty good one--but stupid crap like this is just distracting. It also makes you wonder what else they messed with, you know?