One Punch Man's Hero and infinite translation possibility space

So I've been listening to the opening to One Punch Man "Hero" by the fantastic group JAM Project. And the original song is great. You can literally feel them push their vocal chords to their limit:

But what's fascinating to me is these two English dub covers of the song:

It's neat because the lyrics vary quite a bit, but both do an interesting job at capturing the feeling of the show in different ways. It's a departure for subbing, since in dubs you can just put whatever you want as long as you get the feeling more or less correct. But it's also more constrained, since it has to sound lyrical and fit well in a song.

It kind of reminds me of this story from Radiolab, where this one guy had this French poem translated in dozens of ways to try to capture the structure, tone, and meaning of the original in English.

It might be counter intuitive, but having very clear constraints can be very beneficial to creative works. It gives focus and can lead to surprising innovation.


My response to an e-mail

So I was talking with a o1man and he sent me a very thoughtful suggestion on how the translations can be more approachable for a general audience:

"I understand the catering to a geeky audience, leaving it to the person to educate themselves, however, it may also be good to follow a concept attributed to Stan Lee. He always said the "every comic book is someone's first", so it is with every form of geekdom. Just something to consider. BTW it was because of such idioms and wanting to understand them, that I began to study Japanese, not just the language but also about the culture."

My response was:

"I'm more of the philosophy that if people care about it, they can learn about it. Not knowing what "otaku" or "itadakimasu" means isn't a barrier to entry, I'm sure the overarching story will make sense to a complete layman. But it's a nice nod to our target audience that we keep certain terms as they are, because vocabulary is important. Language and culture are completely entwined in a way that sometimes you can't remove one without removing the other."

I just really like the last line since it captures how I feel about the language and probably explains why I translate some things the way I do.

What I think about #TV-Nihon's trolls

So I recently did an interview for a forum member, and this topic came up. And seeing as how a related incident like this happened just yesterday, it feels like now would be a good time to talk about it.

Here's my problem with people who actively dislike #TV-Nihon's subs. They come off like religious zealots or dirty campaigners. Sometimes they do catch us making mistakes and stuff, but for the most part it's this smear campaign against a parody of what we are. They just say "Oh, that's the group that doesn't translate everything" and that's the end of that.

But those sort of tactics usually just end up being a "preach to the choir" type of thing. It's pretty easy to convince foolish people to believe superficial things, since they don't check the facts. But in this case, people who actually watch our subs already know what their opinions of our work is.

It's a preference. They come to our group because they like the kind of work we do and in the style that we do it. You can bully and pressure people into doing a lot of stuff, but you can't really change their opinions that way. I mean, if they didn't like our style and there were other options, they'd probably either complain or just watch other group's stuff. We have a plethora of ways for our fans to contact us, so it's not exactly as if they don't have a say in how we do things. (Oh yeah, anyone want to sign up to be a quality check person? Probably a good time to ask since summer vacation is coming up).

Getting back to the "preaching to the choir" thing. Mocking our work is pretty easy to do, and makes a lot of sense to those people, but it also only applies to those guys. It seems like they're under the assumption that just because they hold this opinion, everyone holds this opinion as well. They work pretty hard at this too. I've seen screencaps of our work on Tumblr, or jokes at our expense on our forums. I mean, that's fine and all, we're not above criticism or being the source of a joke, but who actually finds that stuff funny? It just seems like haters reenforcing their own hate.

I don't think any of our fans take the trolls seriously, but no one takes the Westboro guys seriously either. That doesn't make them any less annoying when you see their actions. It's just a sad reminder that there's a wide spectrum of people in the world, and some people don't have anything better to do than act like children.

If you find a mistake, e-mailing me, posting on the forums, writing on our wiki are great ways of letting us know. As long as you're not being rude about it, in general I feel like we're good at hearing out our fans, or at least explaining why we made the decision that we did.

And it may be fun and games for the trolls, after all, they've got to do something with their finite time on the Earth... but this stuff is serious business for us. We work really hard on them. Our group members spend a lot of effort, time, and money for this hobby. We argue back and forth about phrasing in quality check. Mistakes and wonky lines are going to happen, that's just life and part of the human experience. It's not going to be perfect every time, but we are making an effort to do our best.


Trolls are dumb and people who like their stuff are dumb. TV-Nihon ichiban.

This is me translating Wizard 15

That's this week's episode, so don't watch it if you don't want to be spoiled.


Japanese is awesome, but it shouldn't be the only tool in your bag

So I was talking with someone who read my previous post explaining why I decided to change the phrasing in Fourze to "Space kitaaa!". This post in fact.

To clarify, the point of the post isn't that every word needs to be left in Japanese. That would be bad and I feel like people exaggerate that point when complaining about our subs.

Imagine that translation is like being a mechanic of some sort. If you reach in your bag and you only have one tool, be it the "translate everything into English" tool or "leave everything in Japanese" tool, you would be an ineffective mechanic, because you only have one tool in your bag. That was the real point of my last post. Just be open to having more than one tool in your bag. You have to approach every situation when translating in a brand new way, because every situation is different. Too much constraint is a bad thing.

Think about it this way. I once watched a Chinese movie (I think it was Storm and Cloud). So whoever did the subs for that translated the main characters as Wind and Cloud. Fine, I can see what you were going for there. Someone could name their kids Wind and Cloud since those are beautiful things. But the bad guy's name was translated to Conquest.

Since he was the bad guy, his Chinese name must have meant "conquest" in Chinese, but it comes off as an extremely goofy decision. That translator ruined that character, because it became too meta. That guy's parents didn't name him Conquest, the writer who knew he was the bad guy gave him a name that also happened to mean Conquest. You can't just write out that guy's name like that without it bludgeoning the viewer on the head with its meaning.

Kitaaa is not always awesome

So I'm thinking about changing the current catchphrase, "Space is awesome!!!" to "Space Kitaaa!!!". I know it's an unusual precedent to change something that's been consistent since episode one, but I really feel like the current way of translating it is just plain bad. It doesn't work as a catchphrase and it's inconsistent with how it's used in the rest of the Fourze translations.

Now I know #TV-Nihon take a lot of flack for leaving too much Japanese in our translations, but remember that this is just another tool in the translator bag and a translation can only be better for having more options. For me, it's very important that translations evoke a certain feeling or reaction. I don't always accomplish that since I make bad decisions or mess up. Y'know, being human is accepting that you're going to make mistakes or that there'll be consequences to your decisions that you don't foresee. But if you guys are still here, then you must have faith in us as translators, so I'll have faith in you guys to trust our decisions when we explain them.

So here's why I don't like "Space is awesome." It's basically dumb as a catchphrase. It's not unique; I'm sure the Video Games is Awesome people have the "X is Awesome" thing covered. Thus, it's not very memorable. And it's not a catchphrase in that it doesn't work in any other situation that it appears. If we kept the translation consistent, we would have things like "Meteor is awesome!" (True) or "Oosugi is awesome!" (False). The fact that Kitaaa has the dual meaning of "to arrive" and "is awesome" probably meant that we should have left it in Japanese in the first place.

The original reason that I didn't leave it in Japanese is because Uchuu doesn't sound cool. It's weird looking and just isn't a very fun word. Translations should be fun. And Kitaaa is fun. It's fun to say (especially when it's done elatedly) and it works with the extra a's. "Space Kitaaaa!!!" "Cancer Kitaaaa..." that works for me and fits with Gentarou and Yuuki's personalities. I know it's a mid-series change and I know that people don't like change, but I'm hoping this works for you too.

ZyuRanger 7 released

DaiZyuJin Watch out! It's Godzilla! No wait, that was for the pic I used last time.

Episode 7

Have I ever explained what the name Kyouryuu Sentai ZyuRanger means?
Well, kyouryuu/dinosaur (恐竜 from the kanji scary-dragon) is the theme, even though a saber tooth tiger, a mammoth, and technically pteranodon are not dinosaurs.

The pronunciation for ZyuRanger is actually JuuRanger since the jyu/獣 part means beast. The reason it's spelled in this way is because it relies on some outdated romanization techniques (The same one that spells shi as si and chi as ti, I think). So the official spelling is completely meaningless. It's the same word for "beast" that you know from GekiJyu/Fierce Beasts or HyakuJyu/Animals.

Note that JuuMammoth probably does not use this kanji. That Juu is probably this kanji.:

That's why we spell if JuuMammoth instead of ZyuMammoth.

About #TV-Nihon
Index for the front page tags

Japanese in subs: The problems with cultural whitewashing

The importance of Japanese in translations for Japanese shows thread

So last week some guy was mad at me for some reason in the Gokai 2 release thread. In it, he suggested that the Medals be translated instead of using stuff like Taka and Tora and Batta and stuff. It seemed strange to me, since even if you don't know Japanese, it can't be that confusing to keep track of which Medal goes with which animal.

It was suggested that people would learn better by having the translation each time, a reenforcement of the meanings. And that makes sense, but it would seem to me that you'd learn a Japanese word better if you saw the Japanese phrasing. People more than likely know animal names like "hawk, tiger, grasshopper", it's the Japanese that they need practice on. Even if you missed a note, I'm sure you can infer "that's a bird" or "that has tentacles", it must be this animal. There's nothing wrong with saying there's a slight bump in the learning curve that one must overcome. I mean, you're watching a Japanese show with subtitles and not a dub or English remake for a reason, right?

Plus it's more fun to leave it in Japanese. Taka Medal, Taka Can. Plus the songs are done based on the Japanese names. What would you have instead for Hawk, Tiger, Grasshopper? Would the song need to be translated next? Hatigra combo?

I want to give you tools so that you can enjoy these shows, but I don't want to make the shows something they're not. There are a lot of problems with shoehorning one culture's thing into another's. Something is always lost. And to some extent, this is a sort of censorship of the original culture.

A real good example of this is the first book for Harry Potter. In Britain it's called The Philosopher's Stone, referring to the famous thingy that is a philosopher's stone, something that was a thing. You can Google "philosopher's stone" and find references to it that aren't Harry Potter. For America, it was dumbed down to Sorceror's Stone? You Google "sorceror's stone" and only get Harry Potter results. And this sort of thing is done throughout the book; there's probably a list of the changes somewhere. In any case, I'd rather read the original British book and stumble on the quirky differences between our language (and y'know, maybe look up something every once in a while) than read something that was changed because some guy thought kids couldn't handle "philosopher's stone". I mean, do you really want other people filtering the content for you? This is the kind of thing that happens when people take liberties with the original material. They change stuff around and make stuff up.

Is this stuff necessarily bad? Not exactly. I watched the Yu-gi-oh dub and enjoyed it. But I'm sure that the questionable content was cut out and certain references to the occult were cut out. Heck, didn't they even redo the animation so there was exposed bosom on the female characters? It's fine to enjoy the end result, but you have to admit that you're watching something removed from the original work. Sort of like watching a theater cut and a director's cut. People are probabaly going to have their preferences

Well, we try to preserve the cultural stuff. That's not to say we make things purposefully awkward. I really like gonig back and forth with QC to try to find a good medium ground. I don't want to cut something out entirely because it might challenge the viewers. I want to believe that you guys are smart and that you guys are learning a lot of interesting stuff by watching our subs.

Studio Ghibli's Ponyo on the Cliffs review

Great movie; sub translations are kind of shitty

Full review here

Why honorific thingies?

Phoenix created an interesting post regarding the usage of honorifics in our subs.                   Read it and tell us what you think.

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