The problem I have with this thinking is that a good translation/localization should capture the spirit and feel of the work first and foremost. Oda might mix different languages from across the world for names and the like but at the end of the day, he mostly uses Japanese because that’s the language he knows and his audience knows. We shouldn’t take his use of it as this special thing like he does when using Spanish or German (I make an exception for English because of how widely used and borrowed from it is in modern Japan; it’s part of the school curriculum for crying out loud). If he uses a foreign word or name, it’s probably to make the world seem larger and more exotic by filling it with something that different to his readers’ eyes, ears, and mind. Or to confuse them, like with the
For a place like Wano (which is based on Tokugawa Japan), I agree that leaving the names untranslated is the right way to go about it (they place should feel like fedual Japan). But others are up for debate. If Oda gives a characters name that’s meant to be a joke, I don’t see why it shouldn’t be translated as such to the reader’s language. Let’s use Foxy’s Groggy monsters as an example; a lot of people get upset that the Viz translation calls the Wotan Big Bun instead of leaving it as Big Pan. But Big Bun fits with the whole joke of the Groggy monsters as being part of a Hamburger. Hamburg is a loan word without an already existing equivalent to refer to the meat, and Pickles is an English word that wouldn’t be unknown in Japan. Anything that keeps away a translators note is a good thing in my book. So names that Oda intends for us to laugh at should be translated. Same with most place names: I prefer Orange Town and Syrup Village over the Japanese ones, if for no other reason then it’s easier to read and spell.
The other problem is the lack of consistency; people stick with the name they see first that’s used constantly. The whole reason Haki stuck was because the fan translators (besides Stephen) didn't think “spirit” or “ambition” fit with Rayleigh’s action of knocking someone out in chapter 500* (I wish I could find those old translations because the Translators notes might help newer understand why leaving it as Haki was a problem; everyone these days seems to steal the Viz ones). Other examples include preferring Red-Hair pirates for Shanks crew but leaving Hancock’s as Kuja or have the Worst Gens called Supernovas but want Shichibukai to remain. Even names aren’t consistent, sure many people say leave Kuma as Kuma but these same people also support translating the names of the Usopp pirates. And the only reason I can explain any of it is that people just stick to what they’re used to.
- I actually might be misremembering this as well i.e. they did translate it at first but switched to just Haki later on.
And to go back to Kuma, my take is that he’s the only two of the original seven warlords whose animal name isn’t in English (not including the bat pun in Moria’s name). Now Jim Boy should be left as is; it’s tough to find a good English variant while keeping the animal part in for him (Whark, Whasha, Whashark, not feeling any of these). But Kuma, just call him Bear, it helps an English reader understand the connection.
Now, should all names be translated? Of course not. I don’t think Nami should be “Wave” or Sengoku should be “Warring States.” What names should be translated and which shouldn’t is a case-by-case basis. But I don’t agree with a hard line stance of keeping the names Oda choices for his characters the same, especially if there’s a joke involved. This is after all, a series about a goofy rubber pirate; Oda wants us to laugh.