Behind the Scenes: Creating Miss Dream
I consider running Miss Dream my third job. A surprising statement, I know, considering that most fan sites are considered hobbies by their owners. The fact that running Miss Dream has become a third job surprises no one more than it has surprised me; I originally began Miss Dream as a way to alleviate my boredom during my son’s nap times and to alleviate stress while in a transitional period in my life. I had imagined it would be a small site, with probably few visitors other than me. It was going to be my dorky little hobby to maintain between diaper changes and late night feedings. Nothing more.
Now, after having translated more than 5,000 pages of materials, being asked to speak as a guest at anime convention panels, and working a minimum of 3 hours a day on this place, I can tell you with confidence that sometimes things don’t turn out the way you had imagined. I would never have thought that Miss Dream would ever have had the number of visitors it gets on a daily basis; I would have never thought that we’d have so much bandwidth transfer and disk space usage that even buying a private sever for webhosting would be a huge expense; and I certainly never thought that I’d need much staff outside of myself and a close circle of friends.
When I first opened Miss Dream, I was a recent college graduate and a first time mother. I had gone from going to school full-time and working a high stress job as an interpretation intern at a big American bank with many Japanese clients, where I regularly put in 70 hour weeks between school and work, to pretty much just staying at home to watch after my son. I have always struggled with being a work-a-holic. The transition to being a housewife and mother was really hard on me, primarily because I found myself with so much free time that I had no idea what to do with, but also because it was very isolating and lonely. It’s common knowledge (I hope) that being a mom is a hard job, and that first time mothers are in a particularly rough transition since we don’t really know what we’re doing. So my story is a pretty typical one.
I decided that I needed to find some kind of hobby to keep me from going loopy with boredom, and I’d always been a fan of Sailor Moon. I found myself with the language skills I needed to translate unreleased materials relating to the series, and an abundance of free time. I really wasn’t sure of where I’d begin, so I just started asking people on some forums I was a part of what they’d like to see done. The Sera Myu fans were the first to respond to me, and their overwhelming response was for “Mugen Gakuen” (Infinity Academy). Since James had been involved in running a fansubbing site for years, I asked him to teach me the basics of how to do the technical work of making a fansub and I got to work. A few weeks later, a working translation of “Mugen Gakuen” was made.
Since I didn’t really have the technical know-how to build an extensive fansubbing site, I decided that I’d ask around online if any sites wanted to do the technical end of my translation work. I didn’t get many responses. After a few months of playing the waiting game, I decided to put together a rudimentary site of my own with the help from a few online friends and just start putting my stuff out there. I asked a few of my friends from school who were also anime fans if they would want to do translations for this project I was doing, and they agreed. A couple of girls I knew online were on board to help us do graphical design work so that we could translate text materials. The original staff of Miss Dream comprised of me, my friends Brendan and Debbie from school, James (whom I also originally met in college), Yen-sama, and Schizzy. There were six of us; that number now exceeds 30, meaning that the size of the staff has more than quintupled since it started.
My aims for Miss Dream were never very specific. I decided that I would open myself up to fan requests, and did that for about a year before I got really bored of doing nothing but doujinshi translations and miscellaneous Sera Myu and PGSM book information. I shied away from doing big projects like the anime as a whole, the manga as a whole, or PGSM or the Sera Myus as a whole because even though I thought the existing translations could be improved upon, I didn’t think that they really needed to be completely redone. I had also since returned to the workforce and wasn’t sure that I’d have the time to commit myself to doing such large scale projects.
However, fans continued to send in the same request time after time: Do all of the manga. Do all of the anime. Do all of PGSM. Do all of the Sera Myu musicals. I decided to do something crazy: take the leap, and take on a huge project that I wasn’t sure I could really finish. I didn’t want to get myself too out of my league, so I took on the smallest project I could; re-translating the entire manga series. I released the first chapter of it back in November of 2010. I finished translating the final chapter of a work more than 3,000 pages long at the end of May 2011. In just over six months I managed to get an astounding amount of work done. By the end of July we expect to have everything published online; making the turn-around time for translating, editing, and typesetting a 14 book series just 8 months. Considering that Kodansha Comics USA plans to release exactly the same material over the course of 28 months, I think that what we’ve done is a huge accomplishment, especially given what all goes into making a translated digital version of a manga series.
Of course, over the last two years our projects and staff composition have changed drastically because of jobs, school, marriages, babies, and all the other normal life events you’d expect. It’s been a thrilling experience to meet so many different fans from all walks of life and from all the different “parts” of the fandom (manga fans, anime fans, etc.) with their unique perspectives on how translations and graphical design work should be done. I’ve been fortunate enough to find a few patrons who buy the materials I translate for general fandom consumption. It’s been a great experience to meet people who really appreciate this project and who have helped shape it into what it is today.
Right now Miss Dream is once again at another cross-road. Do I take another crazy leap and take on a huge project like PGSM? Do I go back to focusing on fan requests? Should I take a crack at finishing up the Sera Myu musicals? Considering my work schedule and family obligations, who knows if it’s something I can really keep up with any more. Time will tell!