One thing to note here is that Kobayashi(‘s narration) isn’t saying the company has already made solid improvements, it’s that the company has finally established itself somewhat (as it was only founded relatively recently, and typically new companies are especially busy while trying to get off the ground) and now is starting to make improvements.
Similarly in the second sentence, it’s not “was” slow going, it’s “is still” slow going, and the working conditions “are” improving, not “have improved.”
This is がんば ganba, short of course for がんばって ganbatte, which I’m sure most of you are familiar with: the (in)famous “do your best.”
I only mention it because I like this shortened version of it. Ganba!
This is a fun little idiom(?)/saying: 鼻で笑う hana de warau (conjugated as hana de warawareta), lit. to laugh using the nose. It’s used to describe laughing at someone you’re looking down on for whatever reason (not necessarily in a super serious way, could just be a friend being dumb etc.; in this case it’s Elma’s being naive).
Typically it refers to like a “heh-but-through-the-nose” kind of “laugh,” but as you can see in this scene (where clearly Kobayashi is laughing with the mouth, even starting with “pff” lips) it works idiomatically even if the laughing isn’t only through the nose.
You may have heard that Japan is/was a “lifetime employment” country, where typically people would get hired right out of school and stay at that company until retirement. While that’s much less true today than it was even a couple of decades ago (and has become kind of controversial in ways), it’s still much more common of a practice than in say the US.
One result of this is that there’s a much bigger distinction placed between hiring people in spring as part of the annual graduation rush (the Japanese school year ends in March), and mid-career hiring. Typically you can’t participate in the fresh grad hiring if you aren’t one, even if you’re new to the field in question.
For larger employers (i.e. 5k+ employees), roughly two-thirds of all hirings come from fresh grads, and only small employers (<300 employees) hire more mid-careerists than people directly out of school.
Of course, this split tends to apply mostly to “standard” full time jobs, not so much part time, and is not necessarily a thing in every industry/at every company.
Just as a minor point of clarity, this “organized text” in Elma’s document refers to the phrase まとめられた文章 matomerareta bunshou. In a literal sense, matomerareta can mean organized/consolidated etc., and bunshou text/passages, but meaning-wise it’s more like “writing that gets its point across clearly/cleanly.”
This is a pretty big compliment and a very useful skill to have in organizations like this, as writing such that people can quickly and easily understand exactly what you’re trying to say often saves a ton of time and frustration.
Another minor point, but where the English could imply that they were overwhelmed by Elma’s intensity through the act of reading her report, the Japanese implies more that they started reading it because of how intense Elma was being.
It doesn’t really make much of a difference either way, but it stuck out a little for me.
To justify mentioning it, I guess I’ll explain the grammar point Kobayashi uses: されるがままに sareru ga mama ni. Sareru is a generic verb/verb conjugation for having something done to you (technically here it’s 押される, to be “pushed/pressed/pressured”), and mama refers to a state, condition, or “way” (like “do it this way”).
Put together, the whole phrase is used to indicate “you” do/did something that someone else wants you to, without (meaningful) opposition. (Something similar in raw meaning but with a very different connotation would be “going with the flow.”)
If a friend says “hey let’s go do something,” and next thing you know you’re out bowling despite preferring to stay at home, this is you.
You can stick the mama ni to various other things as well to come up with a similar idea, but without the sareru the nuance may end up different.
The word for clairvoyance here is 千里眼 senrigan, lit. “eye(s) [that can see] a thousand li”, li being a Chinese unit of measurement for length (shorter than a mile, but for general purposes “eyes that see a thousand miles” is basically the gist).
Despite the perhaps physical-sounding nature of the term, it does actually describe the same power as “clairvoyance” in English: being able to perceive things outside your actual range of vision, including potentially into people’s hearts and minds etc.
Hence why it’s a thousand screen display, when she updates it with tech knowledge:
“Tainted by work” here is 職業病 shokugyou-byou, lit. an occupational disease. The “proper” definition is a disease one gets from working in a particular job, such as black lung for coal miners or even posture-related health issues for desk workers.
Additionally, it’s used colloquially to refer to noticeable habits or quirks that people in a certain profession pick up, like a baker always waking up super early or a programmer using programming lingo out of context in normal conversation. The latter being especially noticeable in Japanese, as a lot of such terms are English in origin.
“Shocking” here is a fun word: ドン引き don-biki. “Don” here is added just for emphasis; the main meaning revolves around 引き hiki/biki, from the verb 引く hiku, meaning to pull.
The idea is that someone does/says something that you recoil from. Maybe it’s gross (“I only shower once a week”), maybe it’s mean (“They didn’t smile enough so I didn’t leave a tip.”), maybe it’s creepy (“I sent like 30 texts yesterday but still no reply.”), just anything that has you feeling like you might want to create some distance because… phew.
It’s kind of similar to the current use of “cringe” as an adjective/noun, though with less of an internet-slang feel* to it, and generally used more as something the speaker is doing rather than describing whatever/whoever is being cringe.
(*I think it started being used popularly in this way in the early-to-mid 90s, with the “don”biki variant specifically popping up around 2005.)
A “Premium Friday” is the last Friday of the month, where you get to leave work at 3 pm. It is largely theoretical.
The idea was created by the Japanese government as a way to reduce working hours and encourage domestic spending (boost demand), but it has not been implemented by all that many employers, and especially not many smaller employers. There isn’t, after all, any mandate or government-provided incentive for doing so.
Evidence from the places that did implement it suggests it is actually good for the economy, but good luck convincing bosses to give extra paid time off.
“Last Friday of the month” was chosen because most people get paid on the 25th each month (Japan tends to pay monthly instead of every two weeks), so it would usually be right after payday, when people are more willing to get spendy.
Kobayashi saying eight hours here reminded me of a “fun” fact: the typical Japanese work day is eight hours plus a one hour break. Plus a one hour break, not with. So a typical work day is actually nine hours. Most commonly 8 to 5 or 9 to 6. Not many “nine-to-fives” here.
The characters for Joui are 上井, which usually read as Kamii or Uwai. It’s “Joui” because that means, when written as 上位, “superior.” As in “a superior life-form.” Like a dragon, say.
This one is actually kind of a critical mistake. In the English it sounds like she’s talking about the improvement proposal that Elma made and that the boss looked at. In the Japanese though, she’s talking about a different plan, one the boss showed them*, that is similar in idea but is going to take longer to be fully implemented**. So we’re being told that while Elma didn’t get what she wanted as fast as she wanted it, it is still basically going through at a slower pace.
*In ”見せてもらえた misete moraeta,” the misete vs mite means they were the ones who got shown something, rather than the ones who got someone to look at their stuff.
**Which you can tell from the ゆっくりやる yukkuri yaru, where yaru is basically “do” and yukkuri means (in this case) at an unhurried pace.
(Re previous note: Hence why she says “immediately” here.)
“Black (ブラック)” and “white (ホワイト)” in the context of Japanese employers refers to how well employees are treated: a company with good benefits/pay, reasonable levels of overtime, and feels safe to work at is “white,” while a company that has excessive overtime, often pays poorly, breaks labor laws, and allows harassment to fester is “black.”
While “white company” was created simply in contrast to the term “black company,” the latter finds its origins in front businesses for organized crime, which were called “black” in the sense of “illegal” (similar to “black market” or something being in a “grey area”). Given the international reputation of Japanese work life, you can imagine that “black company” as a term sees much more use.
There’s been some discussion about maybe replacing it due to the racial implications (especially since it uses the English word “black”), but while typically English translations drop the color for that reason (e.g. ブラック企業大賞, an “award” given to Japan’s worst employer each year, is officially “Most Evil Corporation of the Year Award” in English), it hasn’t really penetrated to the mainstream at this point.
The rice there is in a 飯盒 hangou, a metal container that looks… like that, and is the stereotypical item of choice for cooking rice while camping. It has its origins in the mess kits used by the military, but these days they’re primarily marketed as portable rice cookers for camping use.
You can get round ones too, but the bean shape is very popular.
“Settings” here is 設定 settei, lit. exactly that, “setting(s).” E.g. if you open a computer program and look at the settings menu, it’ll be settei in the Japanese language settings (settei).
I bring it up here because there’s a bit of a difference in how it gets used colloquially like this. In English, the “setting” for a story typically refers to where and when it’s set. In Japanese, “setting” in that sense is usually 舞台 butai. But settei is still used when talking about fiction, just in a different, more expansive way.
Often in these cases settei is used to refer to the various conceits that provide the context in which the story takes place. In this show, for example, one such “setting” is that dragons are real: another is that magic exists. It comes up especially often in fantasy/sci-fi type stuff where there are major distinctions between that universe and the real world—not that stories in a real-world setting don’t have settei of their own, but they often are lumped into descriptions of the plot in that case (”a dragon comes to live with an office worker in her apartment”).
It also refers to the “settings” of characters, like name or age, and things like “they run a bakery that’s going out of business and are trying to save it.” Basically all the details you’d have in a character profile.
It also gets used in conversation to refer to pretend things or (basically) lies: like here, where Saikawa thinks Shouta is playing pretend with his ley-lines talk, or e.g. if someone is trying to tell you some outlandish story (“my uncle works at Nintendo…” or someone asking for love life advice for “their friend”) and you’re just like “Okay so that’s the settei here, I see.”
Not really a big deal, but Elma’s line here in Japanese implies she won’t let Tohru call her that anymore (see her もう mou). Tohru’s response is also more of a “I haven’t been?”, since of course she wasn’t aware of Elma’s-mental-image-Tohru tormenting Elma in the previous scene:
The word for “full of” in the title here is ざんまい zanmai (a suffix form of 三昧 sanmai), usually meaning that there’s a whole lot of [whatever] to immerse oneself in. I mostly bring it up because there’s a famous restaurant chain called Sushi Zanmai that specializes in, obviously, sushi.
And you know, Elma is a water dragon that looks kinda like an eel… I’m just sayin’…
Not really a translation note, but wild that Elma didn’t even touch her parfait. (Not so wild that Fafnir finished his so quickly.) Serious business ahead…
“Genuinely” here is 素直に sunao ni, where the “ni” is used like “-ly” to make sunao work as an adverb. Sunao itself is an interesting word that falls into that category of “simple concept that is often hellish to translate.”
For some context, the first character, 素, is also used in the word 素顔 sugao, which is a face without makeup and 素材 sozai, basically raw ingredients/materials. The second, 直, is used in words like 直線 chokusen, a straight line, or 正直 shoujiki, honest.
Put them together, and you’ve got a word with connotations of directness and being unadorned. The original definition of the word tends toward “simple, natural” in the sense of e.g. life growing up on a rural farm.
The more common use for it these days is to describe people and their actions. Positively, it can mean something similar to a person being happy to help, or kind of like the opposite of conniving; open, frank, genuine. Less positively, it can mean someone is too trusting and easy to trick into doing things OR someone who is “too honest” and says hurtful things.
(If it helps: tsundere characters are often described as explicitly not sunao.)
In this case, the idea is that Tohru accepted the invitation easily as-is, without putting any conditions on it, or doing any “ugh, what a pain, do I have to, jeez” rigamarole—she just accepted. Another way you could put it in this case might be “It’s even more unusual for Tohru to accept an invitation like this without a fuss.”
Just to point out the hand on head thing again.
Also just to point out that this is another example of otsukare, as a reminder of how ubiquitous that word is.
And it makes a good place to end on: thanks for reading!