Hoshi wa Utau: Chapter 39
Japanese secondary education
That board Kanade and his bitch-queen mother are standing in front of is a fairly recognizable symbol in Japanese culture. (If you’re familiar with it already, you won’t be learning anything new here.)
In Japan, post-middle-school education is optional. Students who wish to attend a high school generally must pass the oft-dreaded oft-plotlined entrance exams, which determine admission status. The same holds true for college entry (read Love Hina if you want an entire manga about this).
Traditionally, accepted students’ names are posted on a board at the school when the time comes, and it’s generally a pretty big deal. (Occasionally, ID numbers will be posted instead of names, with ID numbers assigned beforehand; irrelevant note #1).
So Kanade’s bitch-queen mother crying in front of it means he wasn’t listed. Immediately obvious to native readers, maybe not so much to foreigners, which is why it’s noted here.
“Baka” doesn’t mean dumbass
Well, it doesn’t. It’s notoriously difficult to cuss people out in a language predisposed towards subservient humility (de gozaimasu), but that’s undoubtedly what Kanade’s doing in this chapter (even if there are no so-called four-letter-words in the Japanese text).
“Baka” means idiot, but the intensity varies by tone and context. Calling that guy who refuses to notice your feelings a “baka!” is not the same as calling the object of your absolute scorn a “baaaaka!”. If we really want to get technical, “baka” (馬鹿) means horse-deer, but let’s see how that reads in translation:
“You really are a horse-deer!”
Sure, it ridicules the subject to an extent, but it’s also pretty hilarious for all the wrong reasons, and just not the same in English as calling someone a dumbass, dipshit, etc. The same goes for most of the other random cursing you see in this emotionally turbulent chapter. (My rough translation had Kanade’s father calling him a “[Worthless person!]” before I settled on “useless piece of shit.”)