Article: If Fansubbers “Edited” Hollywood Movies #1

Article — By on December 21, 2013 3:03 pm

This post was written by kokujin-kun. He is not Dark_Sage.

It has now come to a point where most of the people who are editing or QCing my scripts are basically these guys.

This post has been in the works for quite a long time, but what pushed me over the edge is the fact that this week, somebody editing a script I sent over to Digital Manga Guild for some walkaround money basically re-edited a line to something that is completely wrong, saw that her edit made no sense, then accused me of doing a mistranslation.

Anyhoo, like I said, the only people I’m getting who are editing and/or QCing my scripts are a bunch of FOBs who only know enough English to pass a TOEIC or TOEFL so that they may darken the doors of our many fine college campuses in the near future. I even had an editor who admitted that he refuses to watch our barbarian Hollywood movies and TV shows or read an American novel because, well, he was too much of a proud, Indonesian islamic. So when it comes to finding basic grammar errors and whatnot, they’re fucking great. But they then go over and beyond what is required of them and try to change a bunch of my lines because I used slightly unorthodox (in their narrow minds) words or phrasings, so much so that they constantly get on my last nerves. Every time I read a QC report or look over my “edited” scripts, I feel like I’ve entered Bizarro World.

However, when it comes to these willfully pig-ignorant sons of bitches, it’s damn near impossible to explain to them how much of a cancer they are to the fansubban business if they are completely blind to the obvious. It’ll be like trying to explain the colors of the rainbow to damn cavefish.

So instead, I’m going to show you wastes of space what’ll happen if your brand of malignancy manages to infect another area of the entertainment industry, namely Hollywood movies.

For this first outing, I picked Clueless just because I read a post by a FOB somewhere complaining about how my scripts used too many mid-90’s slang for an anime that was made in (wait for it) the mid-90’s. For each line of dialogue I selected from the movie, I will add comments that I would typically get from the various editors and QCers throughout my fansubbing career.


Wait a minute, what did I just read? “Loqued-out”? What’s thaat? Which one of you is the mailman?

(To be fair, it’s supposed to be “loc’ed out”)


It’s supposed to be “learn with.” Nobody learns “on” anything, it doesn’t even make sense. Do you even speak English?


Girls don’t say “dude.” I know, I spoke to two of them last week.


It’s supposed to be “he was all,” stop mixing tenses!


“Jeeping”? That doesn’t make sense. Can we replace the word with something easier like “cheating”?


“Audi”? Isn’t that the name of a car? I’m confused, it’s all weird and scary to me.


That “just” is unnecessary. Using “just” as a crutch is a sign of bad writing.


“Classic”? What does that even mean here?


A “Betty”? What the hell is that? I’ve never heard any of my three friends use that word before, so it can’t be something people actually say.


“Groovy”? Are we in the seventies now? Hurrhurr.


The word “maudlin” is too advanced for a blonde high-school girl. Dumb it down.


“Ducats”? There is no high-school girl alive who would ever use that word.


“Boink fest” is too slangy and out of place. Try “lots of sex” instead.


The proper term is “objection.” Haven’t you ever played Ace Attorney?


That’s a wordy and awkward way of saying she has a period.


First of all, “You guys want?” is NOT a complete sentence. It’s supposed to be “Do you guys want some?” Second of all, she’s speaking to GIRLS not boys, so she’s supposed to say “Do you girls want some?”


Same as above, “Describe,” is NOT a complete sentence. Humans speak in complete sentences, so change that to “Describe him.”


“Loadies” WTF is a “loadie”? Can I haz a TLC?


“Don’t feel nothing like”… doesn’t that mean that her buns DO feel like steel?

(Yes, I’ve had QCs who really should know better who couldn’t wrap their heads around the concept of double negatives)


“Kvelling”? TLC plox.


This sentence is very awkward engrish. It is literally ass backwards. Please replace with “Why did you ruin my satin shoes?”


“Rationed”? Oh no, no, no. Not in my script. “Are you FREE this weekend.”


Isn’t it supposed to be “Got AN ulcer”? Lrn2English


Outfits don’t look capable. Change to something else like, “I want to look very capable.”


You mean “WHY does that matter?”


Plaguing? How could something plague someone, and in what way?


Nobody says “anyways,” you’re supposed to say “anyway.”


Are we even watching the same thing? Cher was walking back and forth in front of the office, she was not dancing. TLC please.

Anyway(s), TL;DR, I hope I got the point across. You might not agree with Amy Heckerling’s script decisions, but I would much rather watch her version than whatever bastardized version you so-called editors and QCers manage to come up with.

Tags: , , , , ,


Anon says:

I don’t understand why anyone would even try to be an editor if they weren’t a native speaker with an above-average command of the language. Isn’t the whole point of being an editor to correct the awkward phrasings that can come out of a translator and make the lines sound like natively-spoken English?

kokujin-kun says:

Yeah, you’d think so, but then again these are self-important fagsubbers we’re talking about.

Noize says:

I’m not a native and I’m majoring in English. I once thought about trying to be an editor in a fansub group to improve my English but then I decided not to because I know I’ll make a fool out of myself if I try to edit any script.

Nigra says:

I don’t understand the fixation on being a native. I’ve been primarily speaking and writing English since I was like five and I think I’m doing well enough as an editor, but I sure as fuck ain’t no native.

Dark_Sage says:

When I use the term, I just use it an easy way to make a distinction. In a more intellectually honest way, I mean “native” as in “native understanding”. If you can puzzle your way through the language like someone who grew up speaking it all their life, surrounded by other people who did the same, then I don’t give a shit if you started learning at 2 or 20.

But getting to that level is pretty difficult for people who weren’t born learning the language.

tl;dr: The use of the term (much like using “literal”/”liberal” to describe translations) is just a lazy way to represent a more complex situation. It’s not actually a case of “you must be *this* WASPy to fansub”. You’re probably fine.

dannphou says:

What movie is this?

Guy says:

Clueless? Talk about a straw-man.

It’s affected and bastardized-sounding on purpose. And while there’s indeed room for slang, the line isn’t that fine, where if someone handed-in lines that all looked like lines from Clueless, they would pass muster.

Let’s be honest, had a group made a release with lines reading as lines from Clueless, even if it’d fit the personality of the characters, you’d dub it as “Failed” and nope right out while accusing them of trolling.

kokujin-kun says:

Yes, Amy Heckerling purposely made her characters talk in a way that went beyond how normal teenagers would talk.

And not to spoil anything, but it actually worked. Check out Rotten Tomatoes and the box office gross. They speak for themselves. Now you are suggesting that if a studio put out an anime that had similarly quirky dialogue, subbers shouldn’t be allowed to play around with the words? Yes, the subbers might be high-school kids who may not have the scriptwriting acumen to pull it off, but increasingly I’m seeing people criticizing fansubbers for using any “slang” at all in their scripts, which is downright poisonous and will lead to bland, uninteresting scripts all across the board.

Now if subbers do a “quirky” script that reads like shit, then, yeah, they’re open to failing grades and accusations of trolling. Just because they tried doesn’t mean they get a free pass.

Akatsukin says:

People are far too quick to call “trolling” on any line that isn’t plain and vanilla. Is a high school kid acting like a gangster and beating people up? Then I expect him to curse. Is there a hikikomori girl who spends all day on the internet and uses 2ch-slang? Then I expect to hear memes and shitty references. You’re supposed to write to fit the characters and mood, not just the meanings of the words like out of a dictionary. And when they make up a goddamn word in Japanese, then you can be sure I’ll try my best to make an equivalent in English. If you knew what they were saying and you still have complaints, then there’s hardly any reason to keep on watching with subs.

Guy says:

>If you knew what they were saying and you still have complaints, then there’s hardly any reason to keep on watching with subs.

My Japanese, and seemingly that of other long-time anime watchers is enough to pick up on some nuances which the translation drops (because translation is also interpretation) or outright misses, not always, and not good enough to watch anime completely without subs.

Neibs says:

Oh, I see. And weren’t you the guy who was criticizing Lyger for not being “literal” enough on KSG? I find it hard to take your opinion on translation and nuance seriously when you’re an advocate for “translation purity.”

Guy says:

1. We all have our preferences, and it’s good to know what they are and be able to admit them. Everyone has biases, you pointing out I have some not only isn’t some form of magic bullet to slay this opinion-having ogre, but is completely meaningless. Kudos.

2. I freely admit to not being a huge fan of very “affected” translations, it’s not just seeking the “purity”, but it feels unnatural to me, and as such keeps pulling me out of the show, keeps reminding me of the translation. I might argue that a good translation is one you don’t notice, but I am not going to argue my opinion as “right”, and merely as an opinion.

I would wince now and then even if I were to hear such lines spoken in an American live-action show featuring kids, and when I had in the past I’d usually think about how affected the children or the writers are choosing to be, and if I judge it to feel “real” in the context, then I might still remark on how quaint it is.

3. I find it amusing you choose to use Kyousougiga in particular, assuming that’s what you mean by “KSG”, seeing as I watched the episodes translated by Anime-Koi, and then CR, and did some write-ups about them, while someone I know used the Commie subs, so I could compare.

Now, for a bit of background for a moment before I get to my point, I speak two languages on a mother-tongue level, used to be passable in a third before it withered away, am now learning a fourth language, and had studied Old Testament to some degree, where the notion of translation as interpretation is very much hammered in.

All translation is interpretation, and nuances are emphasized and lost based on the translators’ choices, and I don’t think this is up for debate. In the case of Kyousougiga, there had been in a large amount of the screenshots the other episode commentator had taken quite a difference, which actually made thematic difference (even if not very “plot-relevant”), compared to the ones I’ve been using, and in a show as thematically-heavy as Kyousougiga, that’s something worth mentioning. The best example is when Kurama explains the “crib” to Yakushimaru, and then we pan out to the visual metaphor of the crib which had accompanied us all show-long, which had been done away with in the Commie translation.

Are translators and their editors who change the text more to sound more natural, more /native/ doing good job? They’re doing great job, and it’s hard, and usually harder than the “unaffected” translation, and I can appreciate them, but I don’t have to actually like it.

I prefer reading the more unaffected translation, smooth over the small bumps myself, and lose less thematic content. Your preference isn’t better than mine, it’s just yours. As my friend said, Commie are a roll of the dice, and shine when natural-sounding dialogue is in order, such as in _gatari. For the record, I also didn’t care too much for their Gatchaman Crowds translation, due to the Hajime accent pulling me out of the show. I’ve spoken to them about it, and I can definitely /understand/ it, but I personally dislike it because it’s just so much /there/. I still think their subs were the best subs for the show and thus archived them, at least until Cthuko’s arrived.

In closing, I find it hard to take your opinion regarding my opinion, which is ye olde throw-away online posturing without much justification seriously.

Neibs says:

Saying something is an opinion doesn’t make it any less stupid. I used KSG (yes, Kyousou Giga) in particular because of this little gem of an exchange we had:

Any argument of “preference” or “affectation” was thrown out the window when you automatically assumed we did an edit of Commie — of all groups — and implied that the translation needed to be corrected because “that’s not what he’s saying literally.”

If you can speak other languages, great, you can comment on translations to and from those, but Japanese is not one of them, and fansubbing doesn’t follow an academic or normal style of translation. You’re free to disagree with a translator’s choices, but don’t come traipsing in, saying “I can sort of tell what the dialogue is, therefore I can pass judgment on what is a good translation!” when all you can do is tell a rough outline and some words.

Anonymous says:

Since it looks like Guy hasn’t responded in a while, I think Neibs wins.

Guy says:

I think you’ve got it the other way around :>

kokujin-kun says:

I think it’s getting out of hand. People are complaining to FFF about how their “Non Non Biyori” uses the phrase “from the sticks.” To me, that right there is plain and vanilla, but to the FOBs it’s damn near trolling.

adra says:

>If you knew what they were saying and you still have complaints, then there’s hardly any reason to keep on watching with subs.

I see this said a lot but to my mind it’s not a valid argument, because we’re not talking about a binary situation where viewers either have fluent understanding or don’t understand any of it.

I agree though that the ‘trolling’ card is overplayed to the point of hysteria. Even in the worst subs, the old chestnut of “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity” applies.

Akatsukin says:

I was simply going to say “if you knew what they were saying then don’t use subs”, but I realized my error before posting. Most shows have at least two options of subs to pick from (that being HS and whatever editing group), and if you don’t like one than just use the other. I’m still an advocate of original TLs, but I know that there aren’t enough groups willing to put in that much effort. What I hate most though is people who have an elementary understanding of Japanese who try to correct actual translators on what they do. Certainly we sometimes make actual errors, but at least half the time it’s someone trying to show up a more experienced translator and just looking like an idiot. If you can’t even understand the nuance behind words like “hai” or the “ja nai” ending of sentences and how they change depending on tone and context, you shouldn’t be mouthing off.

Case in point: this entire argument is 穏やかじゃないわね。

Guy says:

That’s why I’m calling it a straw-man, which I get is the point – to draw attention to how supposedly draconic your new QC overseers are :P

But there’s a lot of lee-way between “some slang” and Clueless levels of cant (I’d say it’s at the point where the term “cant” is applicable).

Of course, you probably know your specific complaint about ESL in how it lampoons everyone together is quite of a generalization, not to mention who knows what native English speakers know, which can be affected by region, not to mention which side of the pond (or /which/ ocean one’s on, and I for one am not too fond of the rampant american-centric approach, when it comes to fan-subbing, what’s wrong with some Australian accent? ;-))

Not to mention native speakers’ level of language is deteriorating, here’s an amusing example:

I’ve used “Lousy with” once recently, and I wondered if I should, due to how many people might think I’d meant the exact opposite.

And if I wasted this much digital ink, let’s go the whole way:

Megu: Peach, you’re eating way too much! We’re supposed to fight a match later!
Peach: Relax, Megu! It’s just a scripted tag team match. And since this town is lousy with places to eat, let’s try one more

“Have a match” sounds much better, I’d probably default to “fight in a match” otherwise.

Peach’s line just reads really awkwardly, they’re talking of food in general, due to the move in topics, aside from the niggle of “tag-team match” (accursed hyphens), I’d still try to massage the “Let’s try one more” somehow, “And since”, dunno, maybe, hm.
“This town is lousy with places to eat, let’s have fun!” is what I feel DxS would go with, but he’s a bit too loose for my taste, and when I compare subs to dubs and see this level of change I grimace.
“This town is lousy with places to eat, so let’s eat!” :P

kokujin-kun says:

You’re right, most of what works in Clueless will not work in, well, any of the anime airing this season. But the danger is that this type of jihad against writing scripts that go above the 7th-grade reading level will stifle that kind of creativity.

And, yes, some FOBs are more knowledgeable than others, and there are some native English speakers who engage in that kind of bullshit too, but at the end of the day, I still get reports from people who want to re-edit lines that are perfectly fine to something that is bland or worse.

For example, while your suggestion for my line sounds fine in a vacuum, I don’t feel it’ll work in this context. I will cop to the fact that I was not busy writing the Great American Manga and rushed on some lines. I still expect to have an editor who knows what she’s doing.

Vagoo says:

I haven’t ever heard anyone use the phrase “lousy with”, but a google search tells me that it is an actual idiom; just not a commonly used one. The edit that was made caused the sentence make no sense, but I can see how it happened. Really I’m more upset that the editor left “fight a match” unfixed.

kokujin-kun says:

Yes, first drafts aren’t going to be perfect. Now that I see it, I think I should have gone with “we have a fight coming up.”

But seriously, if people have a problem with “lousy with” I wonder how they deal with the shit that comes up in, say, British sitcoms?

Guy says:

>But seriously, if people have a problem with “lousy with” I wonder how they deal with the shit that comes up in, say, British sitcoms?

1. With subtitles.

2. How many people exactly do you think watch British comedies these days, who aren’t British themselves? I’m loathe to say “British sitcoms”, for the last one I’ve watched starred Daniel Redcliffe as a young pre-Harry Potter lad, LOL.

Guy says:

Also, sometimes I watch things with subtitles from English, every so often I see a translator not understanding a figure of speech in English and translating it wrong. Aside from pointing it to whoever is in the vicinity, I groan.

Yes, it happens >.>

kokujin-kun says:

I know it’s not a comedy, but I’ve heard “Downtown Abbey” is pretty popular among the hipsters these days.

>Yes, it happens >.>

Yeah, I’ve had the same experience when I watched “The Wire” with subtitles.

FalseDawn says:

Being a Brit, I’ve never heard “lousy with” either, though after a few rereadings, I kinda get what it’s meant to say (why you’d use “lousy” in this context, I have no idea – I mean, just looking at a definition gives this as an example: “Old Mr. Wilson is lousy with money.” which I would automatically read as being really bad with money). Similarly, with your FOB mention in this post, I didn’t know what that meant (would that even be accurate if it’s talking about an Indonesian guy?).

I agree that idiomatic phrases should be used in fansubbing and that you shouldn’t reduce down to vanilla edits, but there has to be an understanding between translator and editor/QC that some lines just come off as ambiguous, especially when you’re using a word that’s usually used in a completely different way. Not everyone reads lines the same way you do and that’s important to remember when it comes to producing subs, whether that’s down to regional dialect or not.

Obviously I know this more than most in the fansubbing scene because I’m a Brit editor who specifically edits for an American audience and that’s a lot harder than it sounds. And even then, there will always be certain word choices or phrasing choices that QCers will pick up and suggest changes, but the absolute worst thing you can do is fly off the handle about it, because you want them to pick up the occasions where things don’t work.

And actually, fansub editing is like being a member of a political party – the more in the middle you position yourself, the more successful you will be. On the one side, you have boring, rigid scripts (known rather falsely as the “literal” camp) and on the other, you have the trolling, meme-replicating attempts (the “liberal” camp). Neither is a preferable outcome, and both will draw criticism (trolling more than the other due to oldfag sensibilities still being somewhat prevalent).

tl;dr Idioms aren’t easy, even for natives due to major regional variations. Take a chill pill, dude xD

kokujin-kun says:

I remember QCing scripts that you wrote edited and coming across a whole bunch of words that, to be honest, I have never heard before (e.g. “conkers” and “dork-features”) but I didn’t note them because I have an imagination and I can see people using those words at some places at some times.

Not so with a whole bunch of editors and QCers. The editor for that mango script I mentioned STILL maintains that “lousy with” has never and will never be used in the English language, period. Because she’s a goddamn expert, and I’m not. I wish I could take a chill pill, but this is all pretty maddening.

FalseDawn says:

Well, sure, if this editor is continuing to maintain that it’s not a phrase when a simple search will set her right, then she deserves any heavy object you can throw at her :D

FalseDawn says:

BTW, you’ve never heard of conkers? I didn’t realise that was a Brit-only word. They’re horse chestnuts, as well as being a handy euphemism for testicles XD

kokujin-kun says:

Yeah, I didn’t even have to look it up to figure *that* out, lol.

Guy says:

It’s very much British only, heh. I am actually familiar with it, but I read too much.

Guy says:

The real issue is people use “Editor” as a term, when there are multiple types of editing and editors one can do.

Copy-editing is indeed something ESL are usually better at, and in general people who had been forced to learn the language “properly”, without picking up bad habits (“I could of sworn” drives me nuts).

But sure, fluidity and especially idioms usually fall flat when you give them to a copy-editor to work with.

shark0week0 says:

I think your real problem was working for DMM in the first place. What did you expect when their standards are so low?

kokujin-kun says:

All I wanted was the beer money.

Anon says:

>Girls don’t say “dude.” I know, I spoke to two of them last week.

They do, but it mostly depends on the type of girl. Much more common for party girls to say it than, say, bookworms.

kokujin-kun says:

Yeah, but I even get native speakers who insist otherwise.

FalseDawn says:

Does anyone say “dude” anymore? I mean, other than to parody 90s slang?

FalseDawn says:

Or in disgust where “dude” substitutes for “wtf did you just do/say?”

Fuwaa says:


Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure: Party on, dudes.
Aerosmith song: “Dude looks like a lady.”
Somewhat less well-known: The movie “Dude, where’s my car” (don’t know how to italicize in here) and most scenes from BASEketball.

With such excellent reminders, dudes will keep “Dude!”ing.

FalseDawn says:

Most of those are from the 90s, including The Dude from the Big Lebowski (awesome film), so you haven’t really disproved anything there :P

Though, I accept that it’s probably a regional thing and just less said in Britland than America.

csb says:

Stoned people use it quite frequently, if I’m not mistaken. Then again, I’m not really familiar with how stoned Americans really sound like.

FalseDawn says:

Or surfin’ turtles in Finding Nemo :D

FalseDawn says:

Who, come to think of it, might have been a parody of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles :O

Sheep says:

I say dude ;_______;

kokujin-kun says:

My sister says “dude” but then she’s also a huge dork.

sangofe says:

Oh koku, what a fantastically fun read this was especially knowing you well :D

kokujin-kun says:

And there are more to come too.

temp_late says:

These examples aside, if people want to prioritize understandability for a wider audience over flavor in subtitles, I think that’s fine (but not what I’d prefer). A lot of the audience is ESL or otherwise may not be familiar with certain slang, idioms, or rarely used words.

Most lines in most contexts can be effective without relying on those devices.

As for suggested changes in general, I tend to see editors (sometimes QCs) going in the opposite direction as what koku’s annoyed by, so I’m mostly at a loss of words for what’s going on. Usually that’s because the translators are ESL and the others are native or have better English, so the reverse situation is boggling the mind.

kokujin-kun says:

Yes, you’re right that it’s better to let the action in the video carry the script rather than to constantly draw attention to yourself with “clever” lines. I myself often wonder if I went too far with the scripts.

However, when it comes to scripts that sound a lot like Japanese translations than natural English dialogue, then that’s a whole other story. I often find that editors and QCers would change lines to fit whatever stock translations they have in their mind for a Japanese word or phrase they recognized.

sangofe says:

It’s because koku’s got a unusual high english level for being a translator.

kokujin-kun says:

I do recognize my limits. If I were to try writing a novel, I probably wouldn’t even get rejection letters if I shopped it to publishers.

Leave a Comment