The importance of subtitle quality

A recent post by @fkeroge talked about how subtitle quality can vary between official subtitles and fansubs, with the official ones not always being the most accurate. But ultimately, the only way one can get the original experience of watching an anime how it was intended, is to learn Japanese and watch it raw. Obviously this isn’t an option for a lot of people, so I’d like to explore the topic of subtitle quality further…

Like other aspects of the fandom, there are sentiments on both sides in terms of how important subtitle quality is. Some fans are extremely picky, waiting extra days for the “good” fansubs to come out and nitpicking any mistranslation in official subs. And on the other side, we have the fans who will watch crappy speed subs and not care about spelling/grammar errors, nor will they care if any cultural-specific dialogue is changed in the official subs.

Does the former of the two groups end up getting the better viewing experience? I would say so, since a more accurate translation means a better understanding of what’s going on. But as to @fkeroge’s notion that the only way to watch anime in its original, intended way is to learn Japanese and watch it raw, I’ve heard others bring up that idea too, even those who like dubs. After all, the original way anime is meant to be viewed is by native speakers of the language it’s in – Japanese. So in a way, watching an anime dubbed is more of a similar experience to this than watching it with subtitles because we’re watching it in our native language (English) just as the Japanese audience watches it in their native language. Watching it in a foreign language and relying on constantly reading subtitles to understand the story, that may also distract our eyes from the show’s visuals, could arguably be less of the “intended” experience than watching it dubbed.

Assuming most of us watch subtitled anime because it’s not plausible for us to learn Japanese, we prefer the Japanese voices, dubs are rare nowadays, or whatever our reason is, subtitle quality varies all across the board, as do people’s opinions of what constitutes good and bad subs. For me, the first place to start when accessing subtitle quality is how names are handled. I remember official subs from several years ago rarely left honorifics intact. Nowadays, Crunchyroll, Funimation, and other companies often include honorifics, which I think is a good thing since there isn’t really an accurate translation for “-kun” and “-chan.” But I don’t have a problem with honorifics being left out either if they’re given a decent translation, such as “Lord” or “Master” in place of “-sama,” “Mr.” or “Ms.” for “-san,” and making up a cute nickname in place of “-chan.” So I could go either way with honorifics being left in or not. What I don’t like is when they’re completely ignored altogether, as that prevents an audience not familiar with hearing Japanese honorifics from picking up on nuances in character relationships.

While I could go either way with honorifics, I actually think that the more things that are translated the better. I’m all for translating “o-nii-chan” as “Big Bro” and “o-nee-san” as “Sister” (when not used as honorifics for a non-sibling). I’d rather Naruto’s village be officially translated as “Hidden Leaf Village” instead of “Konoha” and his “Kage Bunshin” attack be called “Shadow Clone Jutsu.” The reason? I feel that profession translation should make subtitles as easily understandable to the native English speaker as possible and not cater to a small, niche audience. My personal viewing experience isn’t going to diminish if words like “hikikomori” or “mahou shojo” are left untranslated, but if I’m watching anime with my mom (which I do) or anyone who’s not particularly into anime, foreign words like that are just going to alienate them from the show.

But for fantasy-laden anime, I don’t think it’s a problem if some fantasy terminology is left untranslated since any fantasy series is going to require memorizing fictional words (whether in Japanese or another language). So Viz deciding to keep “Zanpakuto” untranslated in their release of Bleach is fine. It’s hard so say with certainly that names, Japanese slang, and fantasy terms should always be translated or not since it’s really dependent on the context and the series it’s in. In general, some things left untranslated is fine and could even enhance understanding. You just don’t want your subtitles to end up looking like this…

As for things like jokes that revolve around Japanese culture and words that can’t easily be translated into English, I don’t have a problem with translation notes. I remember old fansubs I had of Air dedicated the first couple of minutes of each episode for translation notes, and ADV’s old box set of Azumanga Daioh included a booklet explaining each episode’s culture-specific jokes. I prefer these to flashing a quick translation note on the screen during the episode that I barely have time to read. Or, if the translator can actually translate it in such a way that the reference has a similar affect in English, that works too.

@fkeroge pointed out in his post that sometimes even official translations try to “otaku-fy” their subtitles to better appeal to the anime fan niche rather than stick with the basic idea of accurately conveying the dialogue to English speakers. I never saw this in my early years of fandom, but recently it’s become more prevalent. Not just with the inclusion of honorifics, which I don’t have a problem with if they’re done right, but leaving words like “o-nee-chan,” “-senpai,” and “moe” left untranslated could again alienate less savvy viewers. For things like this, you just have to think about the context of the series. Leaving “eroge” untranslated in subtitles for OreImo is fine since few people but those familiar with otaku culture are going to be watching that show. But leaving the word “moe” untranslated in Bandai’s release of Haruhi wasn’t necessary. Again, I think good subtitles try to convey accurate translations but only leave words untranslated if it enhances the show while not making it seem too foreign to the average native speaker.

And I think that’s all I have to say in terms of subtitle quality. Since few of us will become fluent enough in Japanese to watch anime in its pure, raw state, I think the best subtitles we can have are those that accurately translate what’s being said into native English without being too literal nor leaving too many things untranslated that it diminishes the viewing experience for anyone but a knowledgeable anime fan.

33 Comments… read them or add your own.

  1. lostty says:

    I totally agree that when it comes to licensed materials, I much prefer having a booklet that explains all the cultural references than having them flash across the screen. That’s what they did for Lucky Star as well, which I’m very thankful for. Sentai Filmworks needs to really start doing that. They license a lot of series that have very cultural specific jokes (like Gintama and The World God Only Knows) and when it appears on screen, unless I really bothered to pause the episode I wouldn’t be able to read it everything.

    I guess it’s been a long time since I’ve watched anime with someone who was less familiar with words like hikikomori and moe, but I feel stuff like that (unless it really works when it gets translated) can be left in. If you don’t understand what it means you can pretty much understand it within the context anyway…I think people who watch anime for the first time should sorta expect they may not understand everything. Like when I watch a military movie, I don’t understand all the lingo, but I can understand the general idea by what’s going on. Never mind, that’s a terrible example. I just feel like they’ll eventually get the hang of it is all…

    Not to mention, the people who buy anime (I’m guessing) are usually pretty familiar with the terms. Maybe I’m overestimating the market that buys anime, but I think if you’re going to be spending 60$ on 12 episodes of anime, you probably know a thing or two about anime. I guess that then depends on the series, too. I think more of the problems happens when things are dubbed, simply because it’s more natural to see honorifics in writing when you are reading something over a Japanese voice, while when you watch it in English it’s more difficult to detach yourself from what’s normal in your own language. Like when I’m watching a dub and I hear one of the students call the most popular kid in school “Lord” whatever, I find that extremely awkward simply because people don’t refer to people like that in the English language, unless they actually were a lord I guess.

    Anyway, I still agree with you that the most accurate subtitles will probably give you the best experience for an anime, but I’ve never been all that picky when it comes to subs anyway. If the story is the same and really only a few words are different, I’m not really bothered much at all.

    • Yumeka says:

      I wouldn’t mind translation notes that flash across the screen so much if they left them on the screen long enough for me to read them. In most cases, both for official subs and fansubs, they flash them by way too fast for anyone to be able to read them (plus there’s usually regular subtitles on the screen at the same time, so I don’t know where to look XP) Booklets or translation notes shown before or after the episode work best in my opinion.

      I guess some words can be left untranslated if they don’t have a decent English equivalent. “Moe” is arguable, and “hikikomori” – I think “shut-in” or something like that would be a reasonable translation. Like I said, a lot depends on the series and the context. Since people nowadays can watch most anime for free or relatively cheap on streaming sites, spending $60 to watch anime is only for the serious fans while casual fans who don’t watch anime that much still have plenty of access to it online.

      Dubs are a different story in terms of honorifics, but I agree that in a lot of situations they’re best left out since leaving them in or even translating them sounds awkward in spoken English.

  2. Kal says:

    As a native Spanish speaker, I’m used to reading subtitles since I was very little. However, I did notice (after learning English), that the time it takes to read subtitles, can detract quite a bit from the movie. A gesture, an expression, a subtle detail. So I do agree that the best way to enjoy something, is in it’s original language. Specially when it comes to humor, and very cultural specific content.

    However, as you mentioned, some companies can do some really good work translating things, and others, not so good. I still remember the movie Shrek. I actually like the version in Spanish much more than the original English version, because they decided to adapt the jokes, instead of just translating them. So the movie is just much funnier to me in Spanish, because the jokes “click” more with me.

    In anime though, I know that I cannot totally rely on the translator to get all the information, so I learned all the honorifics myself, as well as a few phrases. So even if the translator tried to adapt a phrase, I can still get what they were trying to say in the original language. Words ending in “Tachi” are plural for example, simple words that are used often like “matte” (pardon the spelling if I get it wrong), words with multiple meaning like “kokoro” (heart, soul, if I’m not wrong), “yuki” (bravery, snow), and so many others. Learning a few words like that can really help understand exactly what it was originally said, even if the translator has to “interpret” what was said, instead of trying to provide a literal translation.

    So now, I do not mind watching speed subs, or subs from the really good groups, because my understanding is much higher now, and I can fill in some gaps that are simply lost in translation. However, for people that do not see anime often, I prefer to look for anime translated by the groups I know do a better job of it.

    So I agree that most translations should be done as clear as possible, without any words that could confuse people. It is always better to make something for the lowest common denominator, and make it as if people did not know any Japanese at all. As people learn by listening, and if they are interested in learning more, they can look up the honorifics, and learn some basic words to understand it better. Once they learn a little more, there is no real reason to get mad at the translators, simply because they are trying the best they can, and we can now understand a lot more of the meaning in the anime, while also learning a little Japanese ourselves in the process :)

    • Yumeka says:

      Yeah, the only “original” way to watch something is in its intended, native language without subtitles. But since learning a new language is one of the hardest things in the world to do, the majority of us rely on subtitles or dubs. And like you said with Shrek, you never know when a dub might be impressive so they’re worth giving a chance sometimes rather than being strictly sub-only all the time.

      I can usually understand an anime fine with speed subs but my preference is quality subs since I’m anal about spelling/grammar XD But if the good subs are taking too long, I may break down and watch speed subs.

      And just an FYI, “yuki” means “snow” while “yuuki” means “bravery.” Gotta watch out for those long vowels ;)

      • Kal says:

        Ohh!! Thanks for that… I thought it was just the same word with different meanings :S Long vowels… Have to watch out for those…

  3. Mikoto says:

    You raise very good points, and I agree for the most part.

    But the problem with conveying some translations in an understandable way to casual viewers is the fact that some Japanese phrases, such as the mentioned “hikikomori”, can’t be substituted for other words without being at least somewhat incorrect (“hikikomori” being an actual term also used in western sociology to identify reclusive behavior in Japan, which is a somewhat different phenomenon compared to recluses in America). There’s also the mentioned “eroge” (if it was mentioned in a more mainstream show), which can’t simply be called “porn games”, since a number of eroge only contain a small percentage of pornographic content.

    Personally, good subtitles for me just need to be consistent, and have sporadic TL notes for phrases like the above, and translating words that don’t need to be left untranslated. Not an anime, but the dub for the video game Shenmue (which was a bad dub of a good game… in the best way possible, lol), left in honorifics for some names and left them out for others. We have characters that call the protagonist”Ryo-san” in the dub, but others simply called him by “Ryo” when they originally called him “Hazuki-san” in Japanese. Then we have the dub of the sequel, where the order of Chinese given names and surnames are switched around to the western order. Very inconsistent.

    • Yumeka says:

      I’m not completely against leaving some Japanese terms like “hikikomori” and “eroge” intact – it depends on the situation I guess. I think “shut-in” is a decent translation for “hikokomori” if the word isn’t a major part of the show, but if the true definition of “hikokomori” is significant to understanding what’s going on in the show, then it should be left in the raw (with translation notes perhaps unless the characters explain it themselves). I think “eroge” could be translated as “erotic games,” but again, in a show like OreImo where eroge plays a major role, it’s best left as is.

      I also agree that consistency in translation is great. Your example reminded me of how Viz was very inconsistent with their release of the Inuyasha manga – sometimes they’d leave honorifics in, other times they wouldn’t, and sometimes they’d translate the name of Inuyasha’s sword as “Demon Fang” and sometimes they’d just leave it with its original name “Tetsusaiga.”

  4. CorporateRat says:

    I remember the fansubbed anime Rental Magica had dedicated @30 seconds for explaining mystical terminology at the end of each episode.

    Since I began watching anime many years ago, I’ve begun to understand certain phrases and sentences in Japanese, including the subtleties of how it was meant to be conveyed in the context of the situation. So it really bothers me when most speedsubs and even some quality fansubs mechanically translate them. To solve this I watch each show twice, first reading the subs and second without.

    • Yumeka says:

      I don’t see any of those before or after-episode translation notes anymore – I liked them. Maybe translators figure everyone can just google what they don’t understand nowadays.

      If I had more time and motivation to watch episodes twice, I think what you mentioned is the closest way a non-Japanese speaker can get to the intended experience; first watch the episode with subs to understand what’s going on, then watch it raw.

  5. Frootytooty says:

    Good points here. I definitely agree that when I watch anime with subs I tend to spend most of my time reading the subs and watching the show from my peripheral vision. However I think that is still marginally better than the times when I’ve tried to watch without subs and got annoyed over every little thing I couldn’t understand, even if they were far and few in between, lol.

    As for leaving words like ‘san’ and ‘chan’, I’ll have to disagree with you as I really don’t think that it should be done. A good sub can express the relationship nuances by the way they speak to each other, without needing to slap on a ‘chan’ behind their name to explain things. Remember, we’re translating to natural English. Besides, if a viewer is a person who doesn’t understand Japanese culture, chances are the honorifics aren’t going to mean much and will just confuse them. More emphatic honorifics such as ‘sama’ or ‘sensei’ should probably be translated into their English counterparts. The only honorific that could be tricky is ‘senpai’. There’s no real English equivalent (aside from ‘upperclassman’ but you can’t really tack that on everytime) so I guess that’ll depend on the subber whether they leave it in or not.

    Similarly I think that words with a distinct Japanese origin that don’t have an English counterpart should be left in Japanese. How do you translate ‘moe’ anyway?

    • Alterego 9 says:

      How are “-san” or “Sensei” NOT a part of natural english? They were both used repeatedly in The Karate Kid, for chrissake.

      • Frootytooty says:

        Um, I don’t think foreign words used in one movie (which involves Japanese culture anyway) dictates what is and isn’t natural English. Tell me, do you use -san and -sensei everyday when talking to people in English? Cos I don’t know anyone who does.

        • jimmy says:

          And anime doesn’t involve Japanese culture? Upperclassman sounds way weirder to me than senpai does. Senior would be better, but I’ve never used it in real life in that sense. Superior would work best in a job context, though. But as an honorific, I see no problem with using it.
          I have no problem with simply leaving honorifics off in subs if the sentence works without them, though. The Viz release of Death Note has L calling Light ‘Yagami-kun’ a couple of times, but they’re basically the only use, and it all reads totally naturally.

        • Alterego 9 says:

          Words that are freely used in american movies and can be expected to be understood by native viewers, are part of the natural language, even if they have a foreign origin. “sensei” is as natural in english, as “ninja”, or “kamikaze”, or “tsunami” are, even if they are mostly coming up in Japanese culture’s context.

          Most anime also involves Japanese culture, so it makes sense that people should use honorifics that american viewers would understand as honorifics that are used in Japan.

          When anime subs are not allowed to use the same phrases that american movies, (and dubs of Japanese movies) are free to use, that sounds less like a genuine attempt at reaching out to the mainstream, and more like a misguided and overdone attempt at sounding less weeaboo-ish.

          • Frootytooty says:

            I agree with you there in terms of common Japanese words already integrated into English. And of course it was a bit short-sighted of me to forget that anime has a lot of Japanese culture, lol. That was my bad.

            However I still maintain that leaving on honorifics such as ‘-san’ simply feels like a lazy attempt at translating. Unlike ‘tsunami’ and ‘kamikaze’, Japanese honorifics aren’t used in English so simply leaving them with no change in the rest of the translation doesn’t really add any meaning for viewers who aren’t familiar with them. Besides, reading a subtitle like “A-san and B-san went over there with C-chan” sounds more weeaboo than natural to me. Like Yumeka said in her reply, a little creativity is better than being too literal.

    • Yumeka says:

      Usually “-san” is translated as “Mr.” or “Ms.” in all the anime dubs I’ve heard. As for subs, it’s either left out, left in, or again translated as “Mr./Ms.” Like Alterego 9 also said, Japanese honorifics or words that are somewhat part of the English language, like “sensei” and “kamikaze” could be left untranslated.

      I agree that “-senpai” as an honorific is tricky to translate, as is “o-nee-chan/san” and “o-nii-chan/san” when they’re used for someone who’s not a brother or sister. In cases like these, I don’t have an answer myself and it’s just left up to the preference of the translator.

      The Haruhi dubs translates “moe” as “turn-on.” I think it’s a word who’s translation can change depending on the context. For example, if the sentence translates as “She’s so moe!” you could say “She’s so cute!” or “She turns me on!” or “I adore her!” or something like that. Getting creative rather than being too literal can be a good thing.

  6. Alterego 9 says:

    “I feel that profession translation should make subtitles as easily understandable to the native English speaker as possible and not cater to a small, niche audience.”

    I kind of disagree with that. Subbed anime is already inherently catering to a small niche. The few anime that has a chance of getting a wider audience (some shonen fighters, Miyazaki movies) are also getting dubs, and THOSE can be more mainstreamificated, but many subs would benefit from fitting to the actual audience that they have, rather than chasing a hypothetical mainstream.

    Even if there is some chance of someone like your mom also watching them, for the overwhelming majority of viewers, replacing “hikkikomori” with a rough approximation, (even if they know what the word means, and hear it being said, and noting the mistranslation distracts them from the plot) would be just as bothersome for everyone else as the alternative would be for her.

    • Yumeka says:

      I see your point – I don’t think that all Japanese words should be translated in subs if it limits understanding of the show. If you see my reply to Mikoto several comments above this one, I think words like “hikokomori” should be left alone if the original definition of it is necessary for better understanding what’s going on. If it’s just a fleeting word in the show that doesn’t have any particular significance, I think it can be translated as “shut-in” so as not to add any more hard-to-pronounce foreign words than is necessary. Same thing with “moe.”

      The way I see it is that anime companies should be open to the potential of attracting new viewers who aren’t already anime fans. Making their subtitles more native-speaker-friendly isn’t going to stop anime fans from watching in any significant amount and could better attract non-fans to watch rather than if the subs were littered with untranslated words. So with this, I think it’s in their best interest to try and translate words as much as they can. They already have their anime fan audience who’s not gonna go away, so rather than just stagnating with that, they should be open to the possibility of attracting new viewers, even if it’s a small percent. That’s how I see it anyway ;)

      And I agree that words like “sensei” and “tsunami” should be left as is since the average English speaker knows what they mean.

  7. jimmy says:

    I’d sum it up as a balancing act between ‘sounding natural’ and ‘conveying the original intent’. Translation is not substituting one word for its exact meaning in another language. Fansubs generally have all of the latter with… something to be desired in the former.

    When it comes to specific terms, I sometimes find the way official releases do the former to be annoying (the single worst example I’ve seen is ADV translating ‘Shin-chan’ as ‘Little Shin’, which makes perfect sense but sounds retarded) but their translation of sentences themselves as ranging from equal to the best fansubs to far, far superior.

    It the fan translation of Disappearance, I was so sick of hearing about ‘that person’ that I almost skipped to where they revealed who it was. In the official release, they emphasise female pronouns with bold and quotation marks. “But-but ‘kono hito’ (I assume that’s what it was – which is kind of a bad thing) doesn’t HAVE a gender!” Yeah, but so what? There is no difference, with the added bonus of not sounding stupid. Protip: the reader probably doesn’t think it was Koizumi. Or Taniguchi. Or Kunikida. Or… wait, that’s basically all the male characters in Haruhi, isn’t it? At any rate,

    (Incidentally, I appreciated your work on volumes 10 and 11, it’s how I discovered this blog.)

    Referring again to ADV and Eva, I once watched all 26 episodes in English with the subs on as well, and was impressed by how they relay the exact same thing while remaining barely Japanese in the subs (you have to have some tolerance) and none in the dub. I haven’t read any fan translations of Eva, but it’s a great example of what to do right.

    Fansubs I’ve seen of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann have been crap, whereas in Aniplex’s official release the sentences in the subtitles flow beautifully and terms are translated naturally and accurately.
    “I thank you, my father” conveys the same intent and respect as “Arigato… Otou-sama” and sounds both formal and believable in English. “Thank you… Otou-sama” does as well but in going THIS WORD EQUALS THIS loses the formality that the “I” gives to the “thank you”.

    Leaving ‘moe’ untranslated is a bad thing? Haruhi is explaining a concept Kyon doesn’t know about to him. A viewer with no knowledge of Japanese would get ‘Mikuru fits into Haruhi’s weird cuteness-focused concept of ‘moe’, man she’s weird and also this scene is humorous’. Futhermore, what on Earth are you supposed to translate it to? I found the dub having Kyon say ‘Miss Asahina’ was way, way more distracting. In that sentence ‘… there’s always always one moe and Lolita character around’, the annoying part was translating ‘lolicon’ as ‘Lolita’, which only makes any sense to someone who knows lolicon. ‘Lolita complex’ is a term popularised Japan, after all, and someone only familiar with the literary character would get… not much from it. So Japanese pop culture works always have a cute, “moe” character and another modelled on Dolores Haze, a girl kidnapped and sexually abused over two years who eventually (spoiler) died during childbirth at age seventeen?

    • Yumeka says:

      For translations that sound too literal, I wonder if the translator actually read the sentence to themselves and thought about whether it’s something a native English speaker would say. Incidentally, have you ever seen “dubtitles” – where the company just makes subtitles out of their English dub script and passes them off as subtitles for the Japanese version? Pioneer’s old Tenchi Universe DVDs had those and even when I didn’t know any Japanese, I could tell they were wrong XD I’m glad I don’t see those anymore.

      Saying “that person” over and over like you mentioned with Haruhi does sound a bit too literal, but I think it could have gone either way; “that person” is closer to the Japanese version and doesn’t reveal the gender of the person, but at the same time sounds a bit strange in spoken English. Saying “she” sounds better but reveals a lot more. Actually, when I went to see the Haruhi movie when it was playing in San Fransisco, some people did think “that person” was Koizumi…so there ya go XD

      Yeah, translating “lolicon” as “Lolita” wasn’t the best choice. As for “moe,” see my reply to Frootytooty above. For Haruhi’s case, maybe something like “cute, mascot character” could have been used for “moe character.” But the word itself isn’t used much in the series after that, and you’re right that Haruhi does kind of explain it to Kyon (and in turn, the audience) so it’s not a big issue either way.

      Oh, and I’m glad you enjoyed my work on the latest Haruhi novels XD

      • jimmy says:

        Haven’t seen any old enough anime on official releases that have been dubtitled, though a fan translation I got once of Revival of Evangelion used the English dub as the subtitle track, which seemed to be a very labour-intensive, roundabout way of doing it.

  8. Artemis says:

    I’m not so nitpicky that I’d want to wait for one particular team to sub an anime if there’s something I want to watch, but I do get mildly annoyed whenever I see an official release that’s technically worse than a fansub.

    Funnily enough, I made a post in my own blog about my annoyance with the official Angel Beats DVD pack because of this just a couple of weeks ago. Not only were there a few small mistakes with spelling and the like, but whoever was in charge also apparently decided that it would be a good idea to subtitle absolutely everything – including the lyrics for any and all background music. Both the Japanese words plus the English translation. It cluttered up the screen pretty badly, but other than that I felt that it was just plain unnecessary. I don’t need to see the lyrics of the songs to know if it’s a sad moment or not; if anything, it just ends up detracting from the atmosphere when I’m trying to read three things at once while simultaneously trying to pay attention to the visuals.

    • Yumeka says:

      I actually haven’t watched my Angel Beats! set with subtitles yet (is yours Sentai’s release?) but that’s disappointing to hear. It also annoys me when there are too many simultaneous things being translated on the screen at once. If two characters are talking at once and it’s necessary to hear what both are saying, then fine, but if it’s not then having too many subs at once is just distracting. I don’t mind song lyrics having subtitles as long as they disappear when more important subs appear on the screen.

      • Artemis says:

        No, my release was through Siren Visual (I live in New Zealand so unless I buy directly from overseas, our anime is always through either them or else Madman Entertainment), so you may not have the same problem with your copy.

        I just think it’s a little stupid that I now have two copies of Angel Beats! – one downloaded fansubbed version and one official DVD version – and yet I prefer my illegal copy more.

        • Yumeka says:

          I think I once read on your LJ that you were from New Zealand but I couldn’t remember. In that case, maybe the subs on my Angel Beats! set are better…I’ll have to see.

    • jimmy says:

      I was disappointed when the cinema run of Evangelion 2.22 got translation of background music and the DVD/Blu-Ray didn’t. In one of the two scenes they appear, they’re really necessary for conveying the true irony of the song choice.
      That said, if they’d translated every bit of chanting in the classical score while Mari was screaming death threats it would have gotten annoying. And I’m glad the Japanese wasn’t included as well.

  9. Nopy says:

    I actually don’t think having subtitles like the example you showed is that bad. Part of the reason is because I grew up watching subbed anime with tons of translator’s notes. Sure, it was annoying, but I wouldn’t have learned what “onii-chan”, “baka”, “kawaii”, and “hikikomori” were otherwise. It also helps if it’s for an anime that uses a lot of plays on words, since those almost never work when translated.

    • Yumeka says:

      Translator notes are fine, I just think that if fictional names of places, items, and such can be given a decent translation, they should. One shouldn’t assume that their audience is interested in learning Japanese words as much as just understanding the show. Of course, most of the people who watch anime don’t mind some Japanese words being left in…so it’s hard to please everyone. But I’d rather go with the way that has the potential to attract new viewers.

  10. Wingless says:

    I like a good middle ground. I prefer to leave honorifics completely un-translated. The official Azumanga dub bugged me so much with the Ms. Sakaki. It’s so very awkward. Especially in shonen and action-y shows I really dislike it when they fully translate called attacks, too. Oftentimes they sound MUCH better and less incredibly awkward in Japanese.

    For example, the official Inuyasha dub has his “Iron Reaver Soul Stealer” attack. I think that sounds so much more awkward in English. I’ve been watching Fairy Tail recently and half of the episodes I get have subbers who are fairly guilty of making the million and one attacks sound ridiculous.

    On an unrelated note, a lot of the time I wonder which shows your title pictures come from, but I don’t know where to find that kind of thing. What’s this one from? :)

    • Yumeka says:

      Yeah, “-san” shouldn’t be dubbed as “Ms.” all the time. In cases like AzuDai, I think it’s less awkward if it’s just left out altogether.

      Personally, I think attacks should be translated in subs, but in dubs, either way. Naruto calling out “Shadow Clone Jutsu!” doesn’t sound too bad but Inuyasha’s “Iron Reaver Soul Stealer” sounds too long and too literal.

      And the picture I used in this post is from To Aru Kagaku no Railgun :)

  11. chikorita157 says:

    As with any foreign media, there is always going to be a loss of cultural stuff and such unless it gets mentioned in the subs. But still, sub quality varies as people have different interpretations of what they said in the show. Obviously, bad translations are easy to pick out if it sounds awkward, but for the most part its subjective unless one has a good grasp of Japanese. Licensed and official translations tend to sound awkward since of the strong localization than the literal translation.

    As for learning Japanese just to watch Anime, it’s rather impractical. I decided to learn it to possibly make my resume stronger and that I want to play games that are in Japanese. Visual mediums like Manga, Light Novels, Visual Novels and Video Games tend to be easier since you have the text and one can always look up the word if they don’t know it. For most, its time consuming and people would rather enjoy rather take on another language, which makes subtitle quality a lot more important.

    • Yumeka says:

      Subtitle issues aren’t as a big a deal to me as they used to be since I usually understand enough Japanese to notice when translations are too literal or just plain incorrect. Even though I can get around it, it bothers me that people who don’t know as much Japanese will get an inaccurate interpretation of what was said.

      It is easier to practice Japanese through things like video games and manga since you’re reading and can look up words you don’t know. But if you want to focus on listening comprehension, watching anime raw is something to do.

  12. TPAB says:

    I’m not picky with subs. While I do appreciate translators adding notes for culture specific jokes, I do understand some of the usual terms after watching a lot of anime. Eventually, terms like yoroshiku or the difference between “Ai shite imasu” and “Daisuki” becomes everyday knowledge.

    I do agree that leaving honorifics in subtitles is just lazy subbing. Today I usually watch anime as fast as a sub is released because cultural terms is only a side dish to the story I want to watch. I guess I’m just that easy to please.

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