Why keeping the Japanese bits matter

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Why keeping the Japanese bits matter

Post by takenoko »

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news ... y-love.ars

I like this article, because it basically justifies the efforts that I and my teammates basically go through:
"As for why I continue to pirate anime that I can get legally," said Otaku2, "the main reason is because I strongly prefer fansubs over professional subbing. The fansub groups tend to keep more of the cultural idioms intact whereas professional subs just Americanize the sh*t out of everything."

"Fansubbers do a better job striking a balance between cultural references," agreed Otaku1. "And when something is obscure, they'll flash a half-second explanation on the screen you can pause later to read."

Otaku3 chimed in. "Fansubs also go out of their way to point out cultural stuff in the video itself, whereas 'official' dubs or even subs just try to pretend it doesn't exist. Some fansubs even go so far as to have screenfuls of text at the beginning or end to explain the cultural context of a particular episode."

While Americanized translations might make these shows more accessible to US audiences unfamiliar with Japanese culture and history, such translations are anathema to the Japanophiles who tend to make up the hardcore anime fan community.
Not to say everyone has to agree with those statements and like them, nor is this an attempt to say this is what the majority of the people want. It's just kind of like, this is the kind of people we are and the audience that we try to reach out to.

[10:21] <takenoko> I don't think most companies will do that because everything that comes out has to be hit with the "dumb down for mass consumption" stick
[10:22] <Lunagel> that's the whole problem though
[10:22] <Lunagel> they market it for mass consumption but it's really the small minority that buys it
[10:22] <Lunagel> if they were smart they'd change styles of subbing/dubbing based on how popular with mainstream it is
[10:24] <takenoko> buuuut... they still want to market for mass consumption in the hopes that they'll get a break out hit or something

Like sometimes I feel things get dumbed down too much in the name of accessibility. Like a recent episode of OOO featured a kotatsu or a heated table. I suppose "heated table" would be fine as a translation, but where's the fun in that? As far as I know, kotatsu are mostly Japanese and kind of an emblem of Japaneseness since characters like Date or the half French guy in Ouran Host Club make a big deal about them. It's a small detail, but it's a reminder "hey, this show takes place in Japan" and feeds subtle information to your brain about it
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Re: Why keeping the Japanese bits matter

Post by Catastrophe »

Personally, I like the Japanese 'bits'. I don't understand why there is a big ruckus over this point. Are peoples memories so short term that they forget the TL notes for when a new term appeared?
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Re: Why keeping the Japanese bits matter

Post by Silentwolfdog »

Heh, I was looking at kotatsu to buy someday. But if you guys typed in heated table, there's no way I would have found stores that sell kotatsu in America.

But hey, I think thing is changing in subbing though. I mean decade ago, you barely can find any anime/manga with honorific left in or something. But now I can find it sometimes in manga or anime.

But yea that's one reason why I watch fansub, mostly becuz they don't dumb it down for foreigner viewers.
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Re: Why keeping the Japanese bits matter

Post by Phoenix512 »

It's even more annoying with video games where they try to make up some inane reason for why something is so Japanese because they say the game takes place in America (ie Phoenix Wright series). I supposed if you're someone who just watches/play the localized product without knowing the true origins, they can probably live with it. Since I know all the Japanese aspects of it, it's a bit annoying.

I always wonder why there's this shift that everything must be translated. I can understand if most of it was just romanji and there's no translation. But I think it's fine if you have one untranslated word but explained the meaning of it right there. People don't want to think anymore.

That's why I think action shows are the biggest successes for localization compared to Japanese comedies that place in modern day since the action shows don't require you to know Japanese culture while the comedies do for the most part.
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Re: Why keeping the Japanese bits matter

Post by takenoko »

I agree with SWD. Things are definitely getting better, but not consistently. Some manga companies are really good about keeping in the honorifics and I see those books being checked out just as much as the books that get kind of dumbed down. Like I really like how Del Rey includes a single page that just outlays all the different honorific types, including what it means when there's no honorific

I think situations and attitudes are a little bit better since Japanese culture really is a lot more mainstream than when I was growing up watching stuff like Sailor Moon dubs and reading manga where the character names are just sometimes totally made up

The video game industry suffers from the mass appeal dumbing down even more because I feel like the game localizations aren't really trying to do the same thing that anime/manga localizers are. The latter is purely about telling a story which requires the context of the culture, while video games can be kind of sparse on that

I think that's why the games industry suffers from dubbing (bad dubbing), taking stories and just making it up, and gets away with it because most people won't care as long as they have a game to play
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Re: Why keeping the Japanese bits matter

Post by Crimzonite »

Unless it's already been done, someone should make a comment about those of us who watch live action Japanese shows. We usually pirate it due to the fact that officially subbed live action Japanese material is extremely rare to find in English-speaking countries.

Edit: Well, yeah, there tons of movies available. But it's a little annoying when a company releases the live action Great Teacher Onizuka movie, but never touches the TV series it's connected to.
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Re: Why keeping the Japanese bits matter

Post by Aya »

I love buying manga and similiar book like artbook,novel but for show like anime and toksuatsu I must admit to download them ^^ they are so expensive :( as for games depends and i barely play game now
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Re: Why keeping the Japanese bits matter

Post by Joe_Mello »

Devil's Advocate time.

One man's "dumb down" is another man's "barrier to entry." The whole point of translation is to make something more accessible. Leaving things untranslated could break viewers' immersion, possibly to the point of discouraging said viewers from buying more of a series. Fansubbers don't necessarily have to worry about this, but distributors do. If they don't get "mainstream" viewers, then the general audience pool stagnates and eventually dies off, leaving no one to buy product.

Obviously, some things are easier to translate than others, and striking a balance between fidelity to the original and accessibility to the audience is key, but there's a method to the madness.
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Re: Why keeping the Japanese bits matter

Post by Therm_Kitty »

I understand why keeping things such as honorifics in their original Japanese is important for dubs and manga, but not subs. The unedited audio is being heard by the viewer. If the viewer understands honorifics, they can hear the dialogue and know whether the tone is casual or formal. If they don't understand honorifics, seeing them on-screen won't help. That's what TL note txt files are for. Same with things like hissatsu. Finishing blow works for that.

If it's a proper noun or an object with cultural significance, then leaving it untranslated and popping in a TL note on-screen makes sense since you would use the untranslated word in a English conversation. "I left my naginata at the pizzeria."
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Re: Why keeping the Japanese bits matter

Post by kurisenshi »

Hi all,

I've been a lurker for a little while but I wanted to chime in my feelings on this issue and hope to be a more active poster in the future.

Anyway, regarding YOUR way of subtitling, I LOVE it! I just got into Sentai (and a little of Kamen Rider) last summer, and I love the cultural bits you put in your subtitles. As long as you explain a word when it 1st appears then it isn't a problem to understand it. Also, announced Japanese attacks sound cooler than announced English ones. Maybe it's because I'm not Japanese, but who wants to hear "Fireball" instead of "Hadouken"? Not that you subtitled Street Fighter but it's just an example.

Regarding fansubs vs. professional subs, and the choice many professional companies make to try and appeal to the mainstream more than the hardcore fan, it's tricky. Honestly if I desire to own a show, and it gets licensed in the U.S. with subtitles, I buy it even if a fansub exists. But I probably enjoy the quality of subbing better with fansubs, because of everything already mentioned. It would be nice if a professional company did something like release 2 subtitle options. They could make option 1 the mainstream and option 2 more fansubby. Or they could give inserts accompanying the DVDs that explain some of the cultural stuff like they do in some manga that Takenoko mentioned. A.D. Vision did this with Azumanga Daioh which helped me to really enjoy that series a lot more than I would have if everything was simply localized.

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Re: Why keeping the Japanese bits matter

Post by remolay »

For a while I watched the official funimation sub of Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. I Think that one was pretty good at keeping some japanese bits in.

Then there are dubs, like Bleach, I was watching it for about a week (speed run of the first couple seasons) and I had no clue what any of the words they left in meant, because they never actually gave an explanation. Then I ran out of dubbed episodes. In fact, Subtitled episodes of Bleach is how I started learning Japanese. Now the dub has overtaken me several times over, along with the dub of brotherhood. When I watch them, at least Bleach still sets Kurukara(sp?) Town in Japan.
Kids stuff is a different matter. Yes, make your child believe that there is no other country but the United States out there. Yes, make even the British think that United States is the center of the world.

I forgot what my overall point is, but I think it is that Subtitling gets better as the audience gets older, which It probably should be about the same since learning language is easier when younger.
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Re: Why keeping the Japanese bits matter

Post by Alara Moonrunner »

I agree, the point is to help the community understand cultural references and how things can be done differently. Now if they would only do that for games as well, only a few games are subbed and bought to the US locally. (DMC 3 and Odin Sphere to name a few, though Sphere's subs are better than DMC3)
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Re: Why keeping the Japanese bits matter

Post by That Guy »

Therm_Kitty wrote:I understand why keeping things such as honorifics in their original Japanese is important for dubs and manga, but not subs. The unedited audio is being heard by the viewer. If the viewer understands honorifics, they can hear the dialogue and know whether the tone is casual or formal. If they don't understand honorifics, seeing them on-screen won't help. That's what TL note txt files are for. Same with things like hissatsu. Finishing blow works for that.
Well, there are some deaf viewers who can't hear the Japanese track and depend on the subtitles to understand what's going on, so saying people can hear the honorifics isn't 100% true. However, I staunchly disagree that there should be honorifics in dubs, because that's just plain awkward. English-speakers do not use honorifics, an English audio track is absolutely the last place they should be heard. There's some leeway with a subtitle track, but spoken dialog should be fully written into the target language and any special relationship statuses the honorifics imply should be conveyed in English through tone of voice, word selection, etc.

Really, I feel subtitles should be written this way as well, there's not much reason to leave anything untranslated unless it's something people know in English like katana, sushi, haiku, and things like that. Kotatsu would be excusable as well since it's an object with no functional equivalent in the US. However, I give leniency for honorifics (although they CAN be translated), with some exceptions. I feel otou-san/okaa-san and ojii-chan/obaa-chan should be translated as dad, mom, grandpa, and grandma, respectively, or if otou-sama, etc. is used, father, grandmother, etc. And I absolutely cannot see any reasonable justification for the use of -tachi. It's a pluralizer, and in English, we form the plural with "s" or "es" or other ways. "Makoto-tachi went to the library" is "Makoto and his friends went to the library." Or "Makoto and his classmates" depending on the context.
remolay wrote:For a while I watched the official funimation sub of Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. I Think that one was pretty good at keeping some japanese bits in.
I haven't seen the Brotherhood subs, but I'm watching another show this season that's in kind of a similar situation in that it's set in a fictionalized Europe in the past (the show is Gosick BTW) and their official subs do the same thing. But to me, that's not good. The show is set in Europe, the characters in FMA are technically speaking English and in Gosick they're speaking French, the dialog is just in Japanese because it was produced for a Japanese audience. Therefore, while I understand there will be honorifics in the original dialog, I don't want to see them translated into English, because that's not what they're "really" saying. Instead, I believe translators should find a way to convey the meaning that is proper in the original language or preferably the final translated language.

For example, a few years back, in my first or second year of high school, I read the original novel version of The Phantom of the Opera. For those unfamiliar, the story is set in France. As I was only a first year student at the time, I picked up an English translation, and the most French it had in it besides the names of the characters and locations was that it would use M., Mme., and Mlle. (title abbreviations for Monsieur, Madame, and Mademoiselle for those not familiar with French) instead of Mr., Mrs., and Ms. I thought that was pretty nifty, it was a subtle reminder that this was a story set in France but it didn't scream REMEMBER ALL THESE FRENCH WORDS either. I personally feel that's the sort of standard all translators should strive for.


Now, before anybody bites my head off, I'd like to preemptively defend myself. This was a topic about a certain style of translation and the justifications for it. I disagreed with it and respectfully presented my reasons for disagreement as well as alternative ways to translate these things in different situations. I am not attacking anybody, I'm not lashing out because I'm an ex-QCer for this group, and while I feel it would be nice if every group conformed to my ideal of translation, that's because everybody has a soft spot for their own ideas, not so much because it's 100% correct. After all, translation, like law enforcement, is 100% discretionary. I recognize any changes are not going to happen anytime soon if at all. I'm just putting my feelings out there, presenting an alternate viewpoint to try and get some discussion going on an issue that I am interested in.
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Re: Why keeping the Japanese bits matter

Post by takenoko »

I don't know what to say about that deaf comment. I mean, if anything, the deaf person I know wouldn't say "ignorance is bliss". She'd want to know the details just as much as anyone else

I also disagree with the thing about stories that take place outside of Japan. To be honest, I'm not really sure how to phrase why I disagree with it. I guess the problem is, the Japanese is there to substitute for another language. To me, if it's something that was written in Japanese, that's the original dialogue and it kind of needs to be preserved if it's going to be a true translation?

On the hardcore spectrum, I think people are more interested in what people actually said in the original dialogue, because that's canon, that's the original intent of the creative work, since it was made by Japanese people

On a more casual spectrum, people are just there for the story. It seems like if the translation is going to be changed so much to retrofit it for a different culture, that kind of stuff should belong in a dub or something. It's all well and good to say, "These Japanese bits break the verisimilitude of the fiction". But c'mon, if you're listening to Japanese and the subtitles say something totally different, that's just kind of weird to me. In a sense, I feel like you need to be making stuff up or changing the original meaning if you're going to do a translation that ignores the original Japanese lines.

In a sense, I feel like such translations that substitute "Here's what I think should be here instead of the original dialogue" is kind of taking creative liberties with the original work. The causal viewer won't care, but the hardcore viewer will feel like they've been lied to

Alright, I've thought of a good analogy actually. Let's take Transformers Animated, a cartoon originally made in America and that has English dialogue. When Japan dubbed it, we received a ton of requests to sub it. We joked it off, making fun of the people for wanting an English sub of a Japanese dub of an originally English cartoon. "Why don't you just watch the original cartoon then?" might have been uttered at some point.

But in all honesty, I do understand why people would want something like that. If I released a sub of Transformers Animated but using the English dialogue as the subtitles for the Japanese dub, would people find this an acceptable "translation"? Hell no, right? "But why not? This is the most ideal subtitles to use since it's what works best in English, because it's the original dialogule." But that's not a translation. That's not really what people want out of a fansub. At least, that's not what I want. Hopefully that's what people who download these subs as well
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Re: Why keeping the Japanese bits matter

Post by DrowningFishy »

It took me awhile to read everything, but I feel like I should finially say something (sorry). Fansubbers are not restricted as offical subbers when it comes to translations. First off goes to censorship, the language Japanese sometimes use, okay often use, is not okay to use for kids here. Espeically calling another person stupid, this is funny cause we can make fart jokes all we want :roll: and no one gets offended. Also parents do not want to spend the time explaining to their brats when they ask were is this, or what is that? I could go on forever in what is not acceptable in America but I think one of my Malasian friends says it best when he says "American kids are wrapped up in bubble wrap, sealed with a layer of intolerance, and not shown that there is a whole world out there." Changing the translation is a differnace in ratings and avoidance of a lawsuit.

Shoot if their brats are old enough to read subtitles they should be able to understand or at least google the information themselves.

I like fan subs because I do not like it when I am watching an offical sub and one of my friends who does speak Japanese pipes up "that is not what they are saying". Yes, ignorance is bliss, but even still something gets lost along the way when translation is over done. (can you image Den-O with out the Ore Sanjo (sp))

To change gears again in my final note, I understand when translating there is always going to be a degree in changing wording. Japanese Grammar, is not like English grammar. Direct translations would probably make many peoples heads explode.
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