Having read this book in the original Japanese, i was curious about the translation. Some called it bland while others said it was "excellent" and even Amazon's own reviewer calls it "unobtrusive". Well, it does not appear that any of these opinions were rendered by people who could compare it to the original so perhaps my two cents here will not be a total waste.
In my opinion, the English translation of "Out" is a work unto itself. I wouldn't even call it a translation; more like an "interpretation". many things which are stated in Japanese are not stated in English. I mean things like, you know, nouns, verbs, adjectives, perhaps entire sentences... it's not like these are subtle nuances.
I think this was deliberate on the part of the translator, whose obvious aim was to create a very smooth, readable product in English. i think he has succeeded in that respect. I think the publisher's marketing arm should be quite happy with its unobtrusiveness.
However, i'm not so sure that i agree with that approach to translation. maybe if you're translating poetry or something whacked out like Finnegan's Wake, you have no choice but to take some serious poetic license. But geez, this is a novel. There is a lot of descriptive language--Kirino's Japanese is much more challenging than, say, Murakami Haruki (himself a translator) or Suzuki Koji (he of The Ring fame). So, i agree that it would not be easy to do a straight-up translation and make it seem like it was originally written in English. But to me, that's half the fun. why do we need to pretend it needs to sound like it was written in English to begin with?
If there are subtleties (grammatical, cultural, etc.) which are too convoluted to convey in a normal English sentence, would it really hurt the book's sales figures that much to throw in a footnote or two? Perhaps endnotes if that is asking too much? I have read Korean translations of several of Kirino Natsuo's books and they all contain translator's notes. These notes provide valuable information to the reader of the translation. The fact that they are present in the Korean translations but absent from the English translations indicates to me that certain American publishers tend to look down on their readership. They seem to believe their readers do not have a sufficiently long attention span to read even the slightest footnote, as if such notes would be awkward and out of place, overly "scholarly".
In recent years works by the likes of Dostoevsky, Kafka and Natsume Soseki have been retranslated because the old standbys were overly interpretive and people reading the translations actually wanted to know what these guys were saying. Obviously something is always lost in the translation; i just don't think it has to be this much.