Addendum: Fansub Review: [HorribleSubs] Monogatari Series Second Season (Episode 04)

This post was written by Dark_Sage. He is Dark_Sage.


Ooh, I finally wrote enough in a normal review to split off into an addendum. This post covers one specific issue of the many that pop up when localizing -monogataris. I’ll cover how Commie handled this in their review.

The following scenes are from the Aniplex/Daisuki/HorribleSubs release. (If you don’t know the relationship, Aniplex provided subtitles for this series to Daisuki, which aired them simulcasted. Then HorribleSubs ripped the scripts and released them to the anime-watching universe at large.)

[HorribleSubs] Monogatari Series Second Season - 04 [720p].mkv_snapshot_13.45_[2013.07.27_19.47.54] [HorribleSubs] Monogatari Series Second Season - 04 [720p].mkv_snapshot_13.47_[2013.07.27_19.50.27] [HorribleSubs] Monogatari Series Second Season - 04 [720p].mkv_snapshot_13.52_[2013.07.27_19.50.47]

<Time passes and then this next scene appears>

[HorribleSubs] Monogatari Series Second Season - 04 [720p].mkv_snapshot_14.41_[2013.07.27_19.54.17] [HorribleSubs] Monogatari Series Second Season - 04 [720p].mkv_snapshot_14.46_[2013.07.27_19.54.26] [HorribleSubs] Monogatari Series Second Season - 04 [720p].mkv_snapshot_14.46_[2013.07.27_19.54.48] [HorribleSubs] Monogatari Series Second Season - 04 [720p].mkv_snapshot_14.52_[2013.07.27_19.55.17] [HorribleSubs] Monogatari Series Second Season - 04 [720p].mkv_snapshot_14.54_[2013.07.27_19.55.23] [HorribleSubs] Monogatari Series Second Season - 04 [720p].mkv_snapshot_14.58_[2013.07.28_00.06.58]

Ugh. Fucking Japan. They based an entire goddamn plot point around kanji wordplay. I’m just gonna write this shit all off to Aniplex’s benefit as a localization decision to not localize.

But let’s just say we wanted to localize it. What the fuck would we have to do?


Scene 1

The first scene works off the idea of the name relating to an idiom. And then it’s posited that the name is actually somewhat different than the idiom in a manner that gives connotations of power to the tiger.

So if we’re going to slightly subvert an idiom, based off the very limited amount of “tiger” idioms out there, it’s probably best to use “paper tiger” as the base.

Also, the whole point of naming the tiger “Kako” is so the wordplay works. If you don’t care about the Japanese wordplay, then, you can localize the name into something else that works. That takes the name bullshit out of the way too.

Okay, this gives us:

[HorribleSubs] Monogatari Series Second Season - 04 [720p].mkv_snapshot_13.45_[2013.07.27_19.47.54]

“It’s said the weak who put on fronts are called paper tigers.”

[HorribleSubs] Monogatari Series Second Season - 04 [720p].mkv_snapshot_13.47_[2013.07.27_19.50.27]

So if “<Insert Tiger’s Decided Name Here>” isn’t actually a paper tiger

[HorribleSubs] Monogatari Series Second Season - 04 [720p].mkv_snapshot_13.52_[2013.07.27_19.50.47]

…I’d say it’s more akin to a tiger whose claws are actually sharp — a “<insert adjective here>” tiger.


We’ll fill in those missing spots later. Onto scene 2:


Scene 2

Senjo mentions the name could be associated with the past as opposed to fire (even though it clearly is). And then she throws out a pun that she pulled outta nowhere.

Well, ignoring the pun for now, why not something metallic to convey the sense of strength mentioned earlier? I’d like to use “steel” but that’s not really related to the past. “iron”, however, has strong connections with the past — think the Iron Age — and it had to be forged with fire, cementing its connection to the fire theme of Hanekawa’s storyline here.

Now we have “iron tiger”. Sweet. All right, now we have two things left: the pun, and the original name for the tiger. Let’s go with the original name.

We need something that could be thought of as “paper” or “iron”. A cursory link would be “craft” — we have ironcraft and papercraft. So if the original name were “Craft Tiger”, we’d be good to go. And hell, if more naming bullshit crops up later, it’s easy to link with that.

For the pun… “And if you let the tiger age any more…” // “Yes?” // “It may even rust.”   That’s right. It is possible to play with words without blatantly saying you’re doing so.

[HorribleSubs] Monogatari Series Second Season - 04 [720p].mkv_snapshot_14.41_[2013.07.27_19.54.17]

If someone said “iron tiger,” I’d associate it with “the past.”

{No, it doesn’t match in a 1:1 fashion. It doesn’t have to. This is a translation, not a binary conversion.}

[HorribleSubs] Monogatari Series Second Season - 04 [720p].mkv_snapshot_14.46_[2013.07.27_19.54.26]

Because of the Iron Age?

[HorribleSubs] Monogatari Series Second Season - 04 [720p].mkv_snapshot_14.46_[2013.07.27_19.54.48]

Yes, and because ironcraft makes more sense than something like firecraft. {She’s offhandedly dismissing the link to fire in the Aniplex script, so I matched the offhanded dismissal here.}

Also, if you let the tiger age any more…

[HorribleSubs] Monogatari Series Second Season - 04 [720p].mkv_snapshot_14.52_[2013.07.27_19.55.17]


{This line is her just repeating/confirming what Senjo’s saying in a polite way to keep the conversation flowing. Deal with it.}

[HorribleSubs] Monogatari Series Second Season - 04 [720p].mkv_snapshot_14.54_[2013.07.27_19.55.23]

It may even rust. {This works on multiple levels — it plays off the iron and age AND it translates into Senjo giving decent advice to Hanekawa, which was the entire point of the conversation}

[HorribleSubs] Monogatari Series Second Season - 04 [720p].mkv_snapshot_14.58_[2013.07.28_00.06.58]

And don’t even need to change anything here.



Okay, let’s put it all together. I’ll even apply my changes directly for your convenience.

Monogatari Series Second Season 04 - 01 Monogatari Series Second Season 04 - 02 Monogatari Series Second Season 04 - 03 Monogatari Series Second Season 04 - 04 Monogatari Series Second Season 04 - 05 Monogatari Series Second Season 04 - 06 Monogatari Series Second Season 04 - 07-2 Monogatari Series Second Season 04 - 08 Monogatari Series Second Season 04 - 09 Monogatari Series Second Season 04 - 10

And now it’s localized. Hooray.



Ultimately, there’s no real way to make this shit flow perfectly in English. The best you’ll get is an approximation that matches the Japanese meaning as best possible. It’s impossible to hit it 1:1 when the entire point is absurd wordplay ala Black Dynamite.

So perhaps rather than trying, it’s best to leave it all unlocalized and let the people who think they know Japanese lap up all the deep symbolism, when it’s really nothing more than a retarded game of word association and stupid leaps of lowbrow logic.

It’d certainly be easier.

33 thoughts on “Addendum: Fansub Review: [HorribleSubs] Monogatari Series Second Season (Episode 04)”

  1. That’s good, now imagine doing that about 100 different times. This is one of these shows where a good translation is probably going to take quite a bit more time than what a speedsub group is willing to invest.

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  3. I’ve seen the “a la Black Dynamite” thing done many times but the real thing was definitely one of the best, most convoluted ways of getting to a point I’ve ever seen. Educational too :D

    I ended up watching a video about the Monty Hall problem too, which isn’t relevant, but interesting how Youtube links vids :o

    I think, with shows like this that rely heavily on idioms and puns, you have to ask yourself how much scriptwriting is it acceptable to do? I mean, with your “rust” line, you’re losing the characterisation of “Whoops, I inadvertently punned, teehee” which I think adds a different slant to a character than an intentional pun. You might as well just have her say “geddit?” if you’re going down that route.

  4. A common issue from the various monogatari reviews, past & present, seems to be how Nisio Isin’s love of the Japanese* logographic** trait has been a mark of failure for fansubbing.

    As that trait is foreign to English*** & this series bases many scenes around it, I suppose that’s point where you have to draw the line. Either localize it knowing some meaning(s) will be dropped or learn Japanese.

    kokujin-kun & you have shown the third option of actually performing understandable translations is impossible without a ludicrous delay & massive amounts of motivation. Or money, though that seems to be out of the running since Aniplex has failed.

    *Along with Chinese & whatever else is related.
    **Found the term on wikipedia since my descriptive abilities suck.
    ***Don’t know if it applies to Western languages in general.

    • Ludicrous delay? Give me a few people at the top tier of their respective fields and we could have a pro-tier Monogatari release out in a day. Fansubbing has created this myth that subbing is a significant time investment.

      What, do you think my pasty-faced colleagues actually spend 10 hours straight on a script? An edit takes two hours, max, and if you take longer than that you’re honestly a failure (unless you’re speedsubbing, in which ironically it can take much longer as you wait for the TL to complete the script). A Monogatari would take three — the script isn’t “deep” in every line. You just need to watch out for when the wordplay kicks in.

      So I wouldn’t say that’s the issue. What does matter is the motivation piece you pointed out.

      • You’re making me drool D_S, please make it so. Conscript your own A-team.
        This series deserves some proper subbing.

  5. I don’t think this works terribly well. The tiger’s name of Kako is written 苛虎, which is written with ‘torment/tyranny’ 苛 and ‘tiger’ 虎, both of which happen to be characters from the saying 苛政は虎よりも猛なり meaning ‘tyranny is more ferocious than any tiger’. Also, as ‘gahara points out, ‘kako’ when said out loud is 過去, which means the past.

    There isn’t actually any reference to fire at all. Daisuki’s proofreaders screwed up and said that the name was 火虎, meaning ‘fire-tiger’.

    If you were gonna localize this, the best way would be to come up with some sort of phrase meaning ‘a tyrannical tiger’ for the name, one which sounds like it’s referring to the past, and then link this to some famous idiom. Of course, that’s probably beyond a lot of fansub groups…

    • This post was based entirely on the Aniplex translation being accurate. My bad for assuming their competency.

      You have three tiger-related idioms to work with:
      “paper tiger”
      “catch a tiger by the tail”
      “wild as a tiger” (this is a bit of a stretch, though)

      The best you could do, then, is link some historical tyrant to the tiger, saying he was as wild as a tiger. And then you can work from there.

      • You could use “as fierce as a tiger” maybe? Shame it isn’t lion, because then you could use Richard the Lionheart as your historical figure – though he was much loved by his people, so I guess that doesn’t work either. Hmmm…

    • I thought it was merely a misunderstanding on Senjougahara’s part, since I’m pretty sure she used the phrase “Hi no tora” (or “hi to tora,” if I’m mishearing the particle).

      I just assumed that Senjougahara said that coincidentally (as is wont to happen in this series) to refer back to the fact that the tiger does kind of look like it’s on fire.

  6. Does Dark_Sage’s example really work? It’s a serious question, I’m not a native speaker so I don’t really get it.

    1. I don’t see why a tiger whose claws are actually sharp would be an iron tiger.

    2. Iron doesn’t make me think of “the past” at all, maybe of “old,” but not really.

    3. Rust destroys iron. Your last line makes it sound as if the problem could solve itself with time, while the Japanese doesn’t.

    • 1. Because iron brings to mind sharpness. Play word association with me and the first thing that drops when you say “iron” would be “sword”. “man” would be a close second, but Game of Thrones > Robert Downey I’m sorry.

      2. It’s stupid wordplay. That’s how Monogatari works.

      3. Mostly irrelevant. The point is punny wordplay. The Japanese line doesn’t offer anything other than calling attention to it, so if you want me to dumb down my writing to arbitrarily match it, I could do that too.

      Ideally, I’d like to come up with something alongside a TL because when I wrote this all I had to go off of was the Aniplex script. If you take anything out of this, it’s the thought process behind how to localize this shit. Because if your thought process comes up with things like “Hystery Tiger”, something needs to be fixed.

      • 3. It is relevant. If you change or add meanings you are rewriting, not translating.

        1. (and 2.) Were more a curiosity. I wanted to see if those associations came to mind to most natives or not.
        (Iron makes me think of iron bars, prison, rocks, mines, pickaxes, ironing clothes, etc. Sharpness and the past are quite down the list.)

        • Then there’s no such thing as translating because nothing ever comes out 1:1. I got across what I thought was most important and threw out the trash. I’d keep it if a TL told me to, I guess, but I didn’t have one on-hand for this post.

          Yes, the past is quite down the list. Stupid logic leaps is the name of Monogataris. It’s shit writing that I’d be embarrassed to put my name anywhere near, but in Japan it’s the greatest of literary devices.

          • It’s obvious that no translation is 1:1, but adding meanings that weren’t there is still a bad practice that should be avoided as much as possible.

            Also, I never found the logic leaps to be so stupid, they are mostly about words sharing pronunciations or kanji.

            • Apologies, but I don’t find word transformation ala word -> work clever or illuminating. Perhaps I’m just not smart enough to get how great it is.

              • To be honest, it only makes sense for such a thing to be a stronger device in a language of ample logographs, few phonemes, and variable pronunciation.

              • If you think “word -> work” is all he does then maybe you should read a basic description of Japanese? Nyangoro is right.

                Anyway, you can like it or not, but a lot of people find puns funny and even witty.
                I never heard anyone say Shakespeare’s writings are stupid because he used lots of puns.

        • That depends on where you set the priorities for a script.
          Do you want something that captures the spirit of the show and is genuinely interesting/funny, or do you want something that you can use for an analysis in your university Japanese class that nobody finds interesting bar the people who don’t even need subtitles in the first place.

            • I’m not arguing in favor of an overly literal translation, but this is an anime that revolves around dialogues, wordplays, puns, double meanings, etc. and in this particular scene they are discussing why the Iron Tiger should be called “Iron.”

              Rust weakens and dulls iron, eventually destroying it, if you mention it here I’m going to suppose there’s some meaning behind it.

              Maybe I’m just used to read too much into things…

  7. Dammit D_S, why don’t you just do a release of this show. You could even edit the Daisuki script and only fix these bits that were fucked up.


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