Metasubbing Corner: Jokes in Anime Subtitles

This post was written by Fyurie. He is not Dark_Sage.

He writes huge walls of text about things you probably don’t care for.


Now that I’ve basically retired from active subbing altogether, I’m gonna give this a whirl for a bit, should be an experience to remember.

I’ll probably try this “Metasubbing Corner” thing for a while and see how that turns out. Think of it as a segment where I’ll write about different aspects of fansubbing, from the mundane to the outright controversial, and enter into open discussion regarding the subject of the article.

That said, I’ll take any suggestions for better content, this is literally the first thing that popped into my head. If it does happen to work out though, I’ll also take suggestions for future “episodes”.

With that out of the way, let’s move on to the post.


Metasubbing Corner – Episode 1: Jokes in Anime Subtitles

There has been a lot of “ironic” use of memes and pop-culture references in anime subtitles recently to try to get a laugh out of people (or even just for self-satisfaction, in some cases). This is an unfortunate matter. It generally brings down a translation’s accuracy or otherwise makes the original meaning unclear. There have even been cases where this behaviour has extended into typesetting, both recently, and in days long past.

This “jokesub” culture has gotten to the point at which even some large/older fansub groups have earned themselves reputations as troll-subbers or meme-subbers.

You’re probably thinking, “So what if groups are doing this shit, who cares? I can just ignore their releases and move on!”

This is true, you could. But this doesn’t solve anything. The real issue with this existing culture shows itself when anime airs that uses memes and pop-culture references legitimately/unironically in their dialogue, either as a main plot point, or to enhance a comedic scene.

There are two very recent examples of this: Amagi Brilliant Park and Danna ga Nani wo Itteiru ka Wakaranai Ken. The former has very spotty usage of pop-culture references/straight-up memes (The oh-so-infamous “soccer mom … #happening” line comes to mind), while the latter is basically riddled with them. As a watcher of both of the mentioned shows, so far I’ve seen a (mostly) tasteful usage in each.

Amagi has things fairly well-balanced and the “references” come few and far enough between, for the time being, that the translation choices made regarding them seem to work out. I’d perhaps like to see some further insight from Vivid as to why they made the choices they did, but I’ll trust they were well-informed, for the time being.

I could comment on Asuka’s attempts at this show, but their release is just a worsened rip-off of Vivid’s, so that’d be worthless. Unfortunately, there’s no official release to compare with so I’d have to wait it out for a Vivid response to get any insightful impressions at all. Thanks Japan.

Danna ga, on the other hand, seems to be written by 2ch and for 2ch. Each episode has used pop-culture references and memes more and more as the series has gone on, and there are no signs of it slowing down, either. Crunchyroll started out weak on this one initially, translating some of the jokes very literally, which puts a serious dent into some of the intended humor. The more recent scripts seem to be a lot better, though.

A notable example of this joke localization failure was in episode one. A line towards the end of the episode makes use of a slang term used on 2ch. This term is 祭り (matsuri, lit. Festival). As previously mentioned, in the Crunchyroll subs, this is translated pretty directly, with no consideration for the slang usage. This makes for a translation that, in regards to the show, comes off as fairly off-base.

This term, in its slang form, is closer in definition to a “hotly-discussed topic”. You could comfortably interpret this as a “flame war” or even just as an “interesting topic”, if you’d like to play it even safer. Regardless of your choice, though, both capture the intended meaning better than the non-sensical direct translation.

I will happily take a translator’s feedback on the matter, my Japanese is too low-level to give a more insightful answer than this. Any feedback I do receive will be edited into this post if the translator consents.

When I last checked the Kaitou and Chyuu-Migoto releases of this, they were also rather dull (and notably, they translated the above example directly), so I hope this has improved.

Scribbles’ version, however, to begin with, was rather well-handled, but in recent episodes, I feel that they’ve started crossing the line somewhat. Tasteful and appropriate usage has slowly given way for having a laugh and a joke instead. It’d be a crying shame if this doesn’t change as it was probably the best release for this show up until this started happening.

Even given my grievances, though, I do feel that there is an appropriate time and place for this kind of subtitling, but it does need to be kept in check. It also needs to completely cease in shows that do not require it.

I, personally, am an advocate of accurate and mood-fitting translations. This does mean that in the case of Danna ga, all references to memes and/or pop-culture should be included (and if possible, appropriately localised). This is only so long as they remain tasteful and reasonably true to the original meaning. If you can’t manage to keep your professionalism in check, you should not be taking up these kinds of projects.

But enough of the ranting. Let’s hear it: What’s Crymore’s opinion on this? I implore you, though, try to set your prejudices of groups and/or releases past and present aside. Try to make this decision based on the potential contents of the show, and not the subbers who may do it.

228 thoughts on “Metasubbing Corner: Jokes in Anime Subtitles”

  1. My first suggestion: Add an image for the post/future posts.

    It just looks kinda awkward otherwise.
    Also, embedded images from the scenes of the shows you are talking about would be nice too and serve to break up the wall of text (which could turn some people off).

      • Cool.
        Hey, D_S. Why is there a giant white space above my image? Did I do something wrong or has someone been messing with the site code again?

        EDIT: Now it’s no longer embedded…

        • There’s nothing wrong with the image. If it were just a bit smaller, it’d fit in the comment space, though.

          Basically how the site works is if your image/video cuts into the right side bar, it’ll drop it down below the side bar so it can display fully. If your comment is one of the first ones, and if the side bar is especially long, then it’s gonna mess with the post and result in a lot of white space.

          So if you wanna cut down the image a bit and give me a link to a new one, I’ll re-insert it into your post for ya. Otherwise we’ll keep it as a link to prevent the space issues.

    • I thought about that, but I’m not using a lot of examples in the first place, and my writing style leans more towards being literary as opposed to making use of image aids.

      It’s probably a slight mismatch for this site, but the people who appreciate those sorts of reads will hopefully take the content of the post for what it is.

  2. Honestly I’m fine with jokes in my subs as long as they are part of the show and not randomly throw in, like how a show can be mostly a comedy and the subs complement that but when something serious happens they still try to joke about it or when a joke by itself is fine but its localized anyway to make the scene look even funnier when there’s no need, usually resulting in forced and out of character dialogue, and just overall trying too hard to make jokes where there isn’t one.
    And while those 2 shows are valid for discussion about this, you’re really ignoring the elephant in the room, Commie’s Twintails.

    • I’d have too much to write if I were to start writing about Twintails. That’d need a post all of its own.

      In regards to the rest of your comment though, I agree with you. In good taste, it works, and well. The problem is that it seems to get taken too far or is used inappropriately, and far too often.

      • I’ve seen two episodes of Twintails so far. I think Commie’s Twintails, for episode 1, is pretty great. But much like your complaints about scribbles’ Danna ga, I feel like they crossed the line sometimes in episode 2 (most notably “imgur”).

        But despite a few missteps, I feel like the life that’s breathed into the script through Commie’s writing makes the show a whole lot more enjoyable.

    • I think Commie’s Twintails is great, personally. The show doesn’t take itself seriously, so why should the subs? They’re accurate in that you can follow every conversation, and nobody is mischaracterized by out-of-place jokes. A joke being altered during translation does not make it wrong.

      This can also be applied to Danna ga (though granted, the Kristen joke was very meta and inappropriate, but I enjoyed it nonetheless).

        • Apparently Kristen is a dude despite claiming otherwise online. I have no idea whether that’s true or not, but it’s why they made the joke about that character (since he’s a dude who parades as a girl on the internet).

          • Kristen’s roommate told Kusion that Kristen was actually a guy and Kusion told everyone on the Interwebs. Or something like that.

    • I sincerely enjoy Commie’s twintails, especially because the humor is so well localized. It has been a while since I’ve had so much fun with a Japanese comedy series.

  3. And what’s your stance on unusual sub placement/movement/other effects in comedy shows?

    I for one think they improve the watching experience (unless, of course, the readabilty suffers as a result), but *cough* many people *cough* dislike such additions…

    • I personally have used things like alpha timing and \moves in small amounts. I think that if you consider readability above all when making these decisions, they can pay off.

      If the readability suffers though, I’d argue that they’re probably not doing the job they were intended for

      • Yeah, if it’s readable, I don’t mind having fun with the subtitles. I particularly liked Commie’s Nisekoi for that. They had fun with movements, etc. but still kept everything readable.

        • The IM@S movie did some stuff with the placement of dialogue to avoid TSing and character models towards the start, which I think paid off. You did have to dart your eyes around the screen a little, but it’s a vast improvement on trying to read dialogue through a visual clusterfuck.

  4. I always thought this trend towards meme-laden, “liberal” fansubbing (please excuse the term) was interesting, because when I was much younger I believed that subbing was a more accurate alternative to dubbing since lines didn’t have to be written to match mouth movements, and there was also a tendency for certain companies to over-Americanize dubs. Of course, contrary to what I believed, with translation it’s more important to convey the meanings of the lines rather than the words themselves, which leads to a more accurate viewing experience than a clunky weeaboo phrase-for-phrase translation anyway.

    In that sense, the #happening line did its job well, unlike many attempts at inserting memes into a show, mainly because it suited her character and the scene was a pretty hectic one already. I would also argue that the line doesn’t break the fourth wall as strongly as other meme-insertions, but seeing as other people are so butthurt over the line this point is pretty moot (if I didn’t want this line to stand out as much, I would’ve gone with “hashtag, happening” rather than what Vivid went with). I’m behind on Danna so I won’t comment on that.

  5. Thanks for the article. I think for future ones, though, it’d nice if you could add screenshots of particular instances to illustrate what you’re talking about (in this case, epic meme-ing). For instance, I’m not watching Amagi at the moment, so your reference to “soccer mom … #happening” didn’t make complete sense to me.

    Or if not, more details on examples would be fine, too. I liked your explanation on translating “matsuri,” but you later say that “tasteful and appropriate usage has slowly given way for having a laugh and a joke instead” without giving a specific example of what made you think that.

    • I tried to steer away from images as I’m not very comfortable fitting them around my writing style.

      In regards to what you mention in your second paragraph, you’re correct. I should have probably supplied examples. I’ll keep it in mind for articles of a similar nature.

    • ebin maymays are good when used appropriately, but sometimes cross the line due to putting them in for personal amusement rather than proper translation.

      PS – thx for the ebin twintail subs

      • I wish I could claim more credit for those, but most of it is fnord because I don’t have time to give the show more than a rushed single pass. I’ll probably give it another pass if I do BDs or something.

        Why do my favourite two shows to edit have to air on the same day :(

  6. To be fair, the staff working on Danna ga at scribbles didn’t really intend to sub the show seriously. It just happened that their subs convey the humor of the show better than what Chyuu-Migoto and Kaitou did.

  7. I’m personally of the opinion that it really depends on the show, in terms of how far a group should go. In a serious show, memes for the sake of memes are a definite no-no, but in a show like Danna ga I mind it less when an extra thing is done for the sake of humor, even if the original jp wasn’t humorous in that scenario. Of course, even in a show like Danna ga, there’s still a such thing as going too far. I just think that the tolerance on that kind of show should be higher because the show itself lends itself to doing so.

  8. I can deal with memes in my subs provided they are ONLY being used in place of a Japanese meme, not “memes for the sake of memes.” Vivid’s Amagi was a good example of this.

    What I can’t stand, though, is when groups “have fun” with a scripts and wildly translate lines to the point where they might have a similar meaning to the original Japanese, but the line is completely different. The most recent example I can think of was in Commie’s Twintail with the line, “It would be like giving Hitler a death ray.” The show has it’s own fucking jokes, you don’t need to try and force in humour with your own garbage, cringe worthy ‘humour’. Another example was from — you guessed it — Commie’s Nisekoi with “monkey aids”. I don’t know what you’d actually call this type of this, but it’s really annoying to see shit like this in your subs.

    • IIRC, every fansub group did stupid shit in Nisekoi. Evetaku had “young padawan” and good ol’ Commie’s “monkey aids”. Can’t remember what FFF did, but I do recall a lot of people complaining about similar shit.

      • Ah, okay. I went with Commie because EveTaku was so slow releasing, so I can’t speak for that release. But yeah, things like that is what I’m talking about. When a line in the anime is being serious, the translation should reflect this. There’s not need to add lame jokes where they’re not meant to be.

      • FFF, at least in their final version, had no “fansub version”, at least not that I could tell. Perhaps their original first episode had it.

    • The problem is that Japanese jokes typically don’t translate very well, so it’s hard to preserve them while keeping the scene actually funny. The whole point of jokes is to be funny, so unless the joke is otherwise pertinent to the show, then what’s the harm in replacing it with something funnier to an English audience?

      It’s hard to argue this in generalities, though, and I’ll agree that not all scriptwriting is done judiciously, so if you have any specific examples (give me a release and approximate timestamp), I’d be more than happy to give a more detailed opinion on the matter.

      • I’m not complaining about replacing Japanese jokes with English ones. In fact, in my post I said I fully welcome that. Same thing with memes. I’d much rather have an English joke or meme where appropriate than a literal translation that makes no sense.

        What I don’t like is when there is no joke in the original Japanese line and groups try to insert their own lame joke anyway.

      • That’s also mainly because anime humor depends on the situation and the characters’ reactions and not really on what they are saying, if the situation is a funny one and enough to make you laugh you don’t need to add extra to the subs.
        Obviously sometimes characters actually say jokes but even then it’s very rare for there not to be some sort of reaction which is what makes the joke funny.
        Like if a character made a joke about Hitler, that’d not be the joke, the joke would be how other characters freak out because of the joke about Hitler or whatever.

    • Depends on the joke, really. There were a few small jokes the TL threw into Amagi that weren’t in the original script (“my reflexes will knock your thigh-high socks off”, etc) and I don’t have a problem with that – nor did anyone complain until hashtag happening (which ironically enough WAS a joke in the original script)

      As Nevreen said, Japanese humour doesn’t always translate well, and it’s not always possible to find a parallel for every joke in the exact place it’s used. I don’t really see a problem with matching the general mood of the show, and it’s a pretty universal practice in most commercial translations these days as well, if you look beyond anime simulcasts and the like (which are generally made on a schedule/budget that allows little room for improvisation).

      I’d say the issue is more with added jokes that people don’t find funny, but humour is ultimately subjective, so…

  9. If gg and commie hadn’t spent years trolling (even before you get to their subs), there wouldn’t be a strong reaction against such things where it works well like in Vivid’s Amagi. But since the highly visible proponents of liberal subs tend to act like assholes, unsurprisingly people have associated the subbing styles they argue for to be bad because the people making those arguments act bad. It’s really a shame since in many cases such things are better subs than the a strict literal translation, and they shouldn’t invite a backlash.

    • I feel like this is probably very much the case. While I wouldn’t call what gg and Commie did a few years ago “trolling,” both groups broke the mold by going against what was typical in fansubs: extreme weeaboo-ism. They did so in a rather extreme fashion, and I think it was important that they did, so that we could move away from what was conventional at the time, but they often went too far as a result of trying to make fun of other groups.

      I believe it’s mostly thanks to them that we’ve grown beyond X-oneechan-sama-tachis and ~de arimasu, but they’re also to blame for people’s overreaction to anything that might be perceived as scriptwriting.

      • >~de arimasu
        You say that like that was a bad thing.
        Actually, it was a bad thing but now they actually translate it and add it anyway, I was watching Horizon and there’s this character that says something when they finish talking (there’s a couple actually) and they translate what she says and add it to the end of the phrase, maybe it’s just my general dislike for these characters but jesus christ seeing “over” at the end of each line is really annoying (and I think the character said that in english on top of it all), at least ~de arimasu was kinda catchy and I don’t I could finish the show if every line started with “I’m reporting” or finished with “end of report! or however you’d translate it.

      • There’s a difference between localized subtitles and trolling.

        Localized subtitles are things like calling manga “comic books”, ramen “noodles”, and sushi “seaweed wrapped fish”. Daiz’s group, Underwater, is the best example of this. While I hate their subs, they do a fine job producing exactly what they want – extremely localized subs.

        Trolling is stuff like writing “You mad bro?” in the subs, when something like “Are you mad now?” would be fine and not elicit a meme. Or something like “Vagina Bones”, or writing “Fabulous” in rainbow colors (not to mention, using fabulous far too often when other words that do not elicit a thought of gays would work just fine). This is never acceptable, except by trolls themselves.

        What Commie and gg did were trolling. However, gg held a power in fansubbing that no group had prior to them, so when they went localized, the rest of the world followed. What solidified the localized standards that are commonly practiced today wasn’t Commie – it was Crunchyroll. And if you notice, people tend to demand things similar to Crunchyroll in localization style. Translate sayings, don’t remove honorifics or switch name order.

        • gg held ‘a power in fansubbing’? I’m not sure where these rose-tinted specs of that group has come from but nostalgia isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. There were many ‘famous’ groups before and during their time, and I’m not really sure on download numbers, but I think Eclipse outshone them purely due to the amount of series Eclipse pumped out.

          Eclipse also rewrote the rulebook on fansubbing speed – becoming the first speedsub group that was actually any good. Back when they were releasing episodes within 48 hours of them airing, releasing an episode a week after it had aired was considered *fast*.

          I also don’t think ‘the rest of the world followed’. What really happened is that gg were embedded in the meme culture because koda et al used to go on /a/ on 4chan a lot – to the point where she even wrote a TL note in one ep directly addressing /a/. That’s where meme culture and fansubbing really took hold – and a lot of people got into fansubbing on the back of that, thinking that was the best way to sub. I mean, just look how many of these so-called “troll groups” were set up after Code Geass aired. It’s not a coincidence.

          • Yeah, I didn’t really get into the fansubbing community until January 2008, and that was just really a little touch of it at the time. But honestly, gg had a ton of power at that time. When they started doing something, groups followed. Like removing kfx, localizing subtitles, releasing faster than the Eclipse standard of speed, releasing 720p only, etc. Hell, I think they were the first group to trash XviD, but could be wrong about that. Regardless, many groups trashed XviD very shortly after.

            • lol, “power” in fansubbing.

              No, you seem to think that they were trendsetters when they weren’t at all. Removing kfx was done way before gg started doing it (Check TheTriad’s Bokurano OP if you don’t believe me – it’s on YouTube in full), there were groups who were localising before them (AFK springs to mind) and a lot of groups moved away from XviD – gg didn’t spark that. This sounds like revisionist history.

              The reason gg seemed to be at the forefront of changes in fansubbing is because one of their encoders, TheFluff, was in regular contact with other encoders, and encoders generally like to discuss new tech as it comes along and how to incorporate it into what they’re doing. But this was a wide network of encoders across several groups at the time – off the top of my head, encoders like Nicholi, Daemon404 and martino, but there were many others. They all pretty much fed off each other for ideas and ended up pushing the scene forward that way – but saying it was all down to gg is neglecting all those other fine encoders who were instrumental in fansubbing from 2005-2008 (most of them were rippers originally, I think).

              My memory may be a little faulty (I’ve never understood the inner workings of the encoding mind) but unless an old-skool encoder comes on to correct me, that’s the story I’m sticking to :D

              • Oh yeah, they definitely weren’t the first in anything. But I feel like they were the first group to do it as a trendsetter.

                Just like how Underwater wasn’t the first group to apply the “typeset 2 pixel high signs” ideology, but it was the trendsetter.

                • That’s not really how the word ‘trendsetter’ works, no. You can say they popularised it, sure (though again, a bit iffy on that – as I say, a lot of groups were doing the same things at the same time so attributing things to one group isn’t accurate), but not really trendsetting.

                • I honestly think you’re obsessed with groups you’re no member of. First it was gg, now it’s Commie. Will you write Commie’s history in four year’s time?

            • You seem to be implying that localizing, releasing faster, and moving to HD are bad things.

              Translating is localizing in itself. The degree to which this is done should be up to the people working on the show. I don’t know why you seem to think you have a more enlightened perspective when people don’t respect your work in the first place.

              I disagree with the idea that anyone has “power” in fansubs (especially now that most shows are licensed), but if people agreed with certain groups’ conventions enough to adopt them for themselves, then those groups must have been doing something right. You just seem upset over your preferences not being catered to, like a politician on the wrong side of the same-sex marriage debate.

              By the same token, there’s nothing that says a group can’t choose the more progressive option rather than releasing multiple versions of the same episode every week. One encode + softsubs have made encoders’ lives infinitely easier. You’ll also notice that re-encoding groups have popped up over the years specifically to cater to viewers who may need something less intensive. Division of labor is a good thing.

              Also, KFX is stupid. Most OP/ED songs suck anyway.

              • >I disagree with the idea that anyone has “power” in fansubs (especially now that most shows are licensed), but if enough people agreed with certain groups’ conventions to adopt them for themselves, then those groups must have been doing something right.

                This. All my this.
                One thing I’ve seen in Commie localizations is effects in subs. Like the \moving a line down after a line is said and no longer needed and the neat effects applied to the dialog like in Commie’s Mondaiji (for example, the head tilt thing and the subs tilted along with the head tilt.) I don’t know if Commie was the first to do these things and frankly, I don’t care. I like it and I want them in the subs I work on. Nothing to do with having “power.” You could call Commie “trendsetters” if you wanted, but I just see it as something I like and want to incorporate into works of my own. Not because Commie’s “cool” and I want to be like them.

              • >Localization

                There is a big difference between weeaboo, translating, and overlocalization. Here’s a simple example.
                Weeaboo – Anpan
                Translating – Bean paste bun
                Overlocalization – Jelly donut
                The problem is that people only think in extremes. If you choose to put in honorifics, those who like overlocalized subs see it as the same thing as “Just according to keikaku”.
                Subs prior to “The Decline of Fansubbing” were definitely too untranslated, but we’ve just gone too far the other way. People want subs localized to the level that crunchyroll does. And trust me, crunchyroll has a larger research department than your best guess.

                > I don’t know why you seem to think you have a more enlightened perspective when people don’t respect your work in the first place.

                The only people who don’t respect my work are rival fansubbers and people who seem to think Tenshi and I are the same person. Most of the times when people point to a problem, it’s something I did not do.

                >Also, KFX is stupid. Most OP/ED songs suck anyway.

                If that was the case, why have many groups started to do kfx once XY-VSFilter allowed it to be softsubbed? ;)

                • >The only people who don’t respect my work are rival fansubbers and people who seem to think Tenshi and I are the same person. Most of the times when people point to a problem, it’s something I did not do.

                  Lol. Just lol.

                • >The problem is that people only think in extremes. If you choose to put in honorifics, those who like overlocalized subs see it as the same thing as “Just according to keikaku”.

                  That’s not the problem at all. Honorifics are fine as long as they fit the tone and subject matter. I use them in a couple of shows I’m editing this very season.

                  From where I’m sitting, you are the only one thinking in extremes. Why should someone care about how honorifics have been handled as long as the rest of the script is solid? If they do, then it’s misguided autism and said someone can watch something else.

                  Furthermore, what makes you an authority on how people interpret Japanese honorifics? You have a habit of shunting ideas into categories like this, and I’m not going to carry on a conversation based on one of your ridiculous fallacies.

                  >The only people who don’t respect my work are rival fansubbers and people who seem to think Tenshi and I are the same person. Most of the times when people point to a problem, it’s something I did not do.

                  You don’t have any rivals. No one else gives a shit. But as for the second part, you’ll agree that people who know you might have reason to consider the possibility that you’re not who you say you are.

                  >If that was the case, why have many groups started to do kfx once XY-VSFilter allowed it to be softsubbed? ;)

                  I don’t get it. Are you trying to prove that something is or isn’t stupid in my opinion based on its popularity among other groups? What about those damn trendsetters who ruined fansubs?

                  • No, I have rivals or they wouldn’t be crying every time anyone says anything positive about something I made.

                    But I don’t like dealing with traitors, so I’m not going to be responding to you further.

                    • Oh no, HyakuPercent, they do consider me an equal or close enough to be considered. They just will never admit it. Just like how Yankee and Red Sox fans outwardsly believe the opponent to be horrible, they know in the back of their mind that they are pretty close to each other.

                  • What are you editing besides Shigatsu and Psycho-Pass? I thought Commie had a strict “no honorifics allowed under any circumstances” policy (unless it’s to troll like that instance in Inou Battle).

                  • Gotta agree with this. Honorifics don’t matter, and anyone who raises a fuss over their inclusion/exclusion needs to get their priorities straight. There are times when honorifics are more or less appropriate, but it’s never a big deal. What is important is how groups handle their exclusion/inclusion, and even that’s relatively minor compared to other aspects of the script.

                    • I don’t care if a group drops honorifics, but they need to change certain phrasing to keep the original meaning. For instance, if you dropped honorifics in Index of Railgun, you couldn’t just translate “onee-sama” to “sister”, or even worse “sissy” like in Funi’s English dub.

                      The problem with a lot of groups that don’t include honorifics, though, is that they just plain drop then and don’t try to change the tone of the language to reflect their meaning.

                    • I have given the issue of honorifics in subtitles quite a bit of thought. When it comes down to it, fansubs should be outputting subtitles intended to be read by someone who understands English. The notion of including a set of particles of speech which make no sense what-so-ever in English is absurd to me. I believe honorifics can always be localized adequately since they generally only convey a sense of formality/informality. Just imagine if someone translated formal address in French as “you(f)” and informal as “you(inf)” instead of taking steps to try and match the tone of the scene. Unfortunately, there is a certain set of shows for which the use of honorifics in subs cannot be avoided (due to them being an essential part of the humor of the show). The conclusion I have arrived at is that in such cases, I should not be watching or working on the show.

                    • The theory of honorifics can be debated to no end about the benefits and the annoyances of each. However, the reality of it is that the end users want to see it. That is why crunchyroll still uses honorifics, and why many times groups that don’t get absolutely trashed on other sites.

                      Honestly, no matter what your opinion is on the majority of people, just look at what crunchyroll does. They are a professional company, and they will do whatever makes the most people happy. Because their customers happiness means money for them.

                    • You know, I’ll tell you something. It’s unrelated to the topic you were discussing here, but in a sense it is related, so I’m sure I’ll have your forbearance.

                      The reason people from the “cartel” and from groups you consider your “rivals” keep responding to you is because you preach about the deep mysteries of fansubbing. Maybe you do know what you’re talking about. Maybe you don’t. I don’t want to judge that. But you preach. You produce endless posts purporting to explain the ways of the online world, and some people feel actively offended by it. Maybe what you say is right; maybe it isn’t. But in the end, as far as I can tell, it’s your never-ending sermon that provokes these discussions.

                      If you seriously want to be free of all these battlegrounds you nurture, you should consider that.

                    • The issue is that most subbers don’t localize honorifics correctly, some of them try and fail horribly and others just don’t even bother (which is usually better if you think you’re going to fuck it up) so for the most part, while useless, honorifics are kinda of a must to me because I know there’s an high chance of you fucking it up if you aren’t using them.
                      It also comes down to personal preference really.

                    • Couldn’t you put “dear sister” for Onee-sama? A bit antiquated perhaps, but it gets across the intention of a more formalized way of looking up to your big sis.

                      Honorifics, I prefer to lose/localize, but I’m ambivalent towards them so if someone on the team has a stronger opinion, I usually defer to their wishes (especially if it’s the TL). However, any other words (Onee-san, Senpai, Sensei and so on), I make a point of actually sticking them into English – because let’s face it, we’re translating for an English crowd, aren’t we? Anyone who knows those words will hear them in the audio, so why not localize them? Makes no sense to me.

                    • To me honorifics just feel less awkward overall, I just treat things like Onee-sama or Onii-chan as nicknames, translating them to big sister or big brother just feels awkward to me, dear sister/brother is fine but I’d probably get tired of it, kinda same for senpai, translating it as senior is a big no, just using the person’s name is fine but it’s still not the same.
                      Things like sensei, it really depends, I’d also rather have them translate if it’s alone but like name-sensei depends on the situation, when referring to the teacher themselves either leave it as is or just use teacher (or mr.), but when talking about the person when they aren’t present translating it as professor -name- is fine.
                      Obviously these are just my preferences but I imagine it really comes down to culture more than anything, I’m a dirty ESL so I don’t know exactly how people in english speaking countries actually talk so this is just me and how we talk over here (I mean, it’s not like I’m saying you should cater to me rather than english-speaking people but that was just me giving you the benefit of the doubt, it’s not like I’m clueless about how people talk to each other, like in the teacher’s case I said mr. was fine but we also don’t really use our equivalent of mr. around here in these cases, we do have another form of “you” that’s more formal and that replaces it, so in the end I’d still prefer just teacher but I’m fine with it because I know people talk like that, things like big/little sister/brother or senior in normal speech when talking to each other are a bit more far-fetched to me).

                    • OR how about more groups do what Underwater did with Kiseijuu and have 2 subtitle tracks, one with honorifics and one without. It would be like 10 minutes more work for the group and make everyone happy. But of course it will never happen cuz of the groups’ “ideals” and “standards”. Oh well a man can dream.

                    • I tried doing it for a couple shows but it’s honestly too much effort for something that doesn’t matter. These days I do whichever I think is best and people can deal with it, same as I do.

                    • So obviously people have personal preferences when it comes to honorifics, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But my point was that honorifics are such an insignificant part of the script, so stop making such an issue of them. It really doesn’t matter whether honorifics are used or not, but it’s probably the most divisive issues among leechers, and people will avoid releases based on that one factor alone. It’s mind-boggling.

                    • It also depends on the show, if the show is honorific heavy and I know you are going to mess it up or do something I don’t like then I won’t use your release, I imagine lots of people are like that, it’s a small thing that gets big fast depending on the show (if it’s a SoL and I know you don’t use honorifics that’s pretty much a no right away), but if your script is shit it’s not like I’m going to put up with it for honorifics alone.

                    • I don’t know why people don’t just use their ears if there aren’t honorifics in the subs. They’re the easiest thing to hear.

                      On top of that, of all the things that add context to dialogue but might not have a direct equivalent in English, honorifics must be some way down the list behind specific pronouns and what general level of politeness is being used. You don’t have to know much moon to pick up on those things at the same time as you’re getting the detail from the subs.

                      Translators usually say that a good translator will find a way to express these things – well, sometimes they will but not always. For many of these things English might use tone of voice rather than specific words, and text doesn’t get that across too well. That’s just too bad. Just so it’s clear, I’m certainly not saying fansubs should take on the clusterfuck style of groups like TV-Nihon (“Temeera don’t stand a chance against ore-sama!”). Just that if the nuances of honorifics (and similar general things) are really that important to a viewer then they can just listen out for them.

                      Having said that, it’s far from unheard of for translations to include the original language’s terms of address. I’ve heard a lot of BBC 4 radio plays where they do that. Their adaptation of Balzac’s ‘Eugénie Grandet’ starring Ian McKellan used Monsieur, Madame, etc and no funny accents. Similar for a play set in WWII Berlin, only with Herr, Frau, Fraulein.

  10. Has Crymore become a retirement home for fansubbers?

    I echo what people have said about adding screenshots in your article because even though I’m used to reading long passages of text as an English Lit grad, they are pretty useful for saving your place if you go off and do something else. There are plenty of opportunities in what you’ve written too (the #happening screenie, the matsuri line) – even two would be enough, one as a shining example of good meme-work and the other less so. It’d just drive your point home that much more. After all, this is a blog post, not an academic paper ;)

    Secondly, this line got me wondering: “This “jokesub” culture has gotten to the point at which even some large/older fansub groups have earned themselves reputations as troll-subbers or meme-subbers.”

    Who did you mean by large/older fansub groups specifically? I mean, gg were accused of being troll subbers a long time ago (Code Geass days) and a lot of the older fansub groups have quietly disbanded or carry on doing their own thing (Saizen and Live-Evil spring to mind – you’d have to go a long way to find anything approaching a meme in anything they put out). So just wondered where you were going with that.

    • By large/older fansub groups, I imagine he’d be referring to Commie? I wouldn’t say people think Commie is a trollsub group, but rather than a lot of people — especially on /a/ — think that all Commie releases are full of trolling and memes.

      • And when they do stuff like shop a dick into an opening, have the title of an anime be Gay Swimming instead of it’s actual name, or simply how they act in general (especially with release posts, for example see the image they included with their episode 4 of UBW release post), I wonder why people would think of Commie as trollsubs and reject them for an alternative.

        Serious though, you want to know why many people reject anything commie does (and by extension, when anyone does those things), it’s because of bullshit like above. Yes they have plenty of fine releases and people shouldn’t think of them as all meme filled troll releases, but when they constantly pull bullshit like that, it’s kind of tough to think otherwise. It’s also often hard to tell which series will get a proper release from them all the way though.

        • Pretty much this.

          I know most of Commie’s releases are perfectly fine, but I don’t have the luxury or the effort to actually check and make sure. I mean, they ACTUALLY added a dick to the OP. Some people found that amusing; I didn’t.

          • Checking is quite difficult as well though. I do not believe it would be possible for someone to create a list of “shows commie is subbing this season which will be free from bullshit”

          • It’s not getting upset, but just pointing out such “joke release posts” reinforces the view many people have that Commie is releasing “joke subs”.

            • I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having some fun in release posts. I mean, I can’t even remember the last release post I played straight. Of course, it becomes a problem if it bleeds into the release itself, but not taking yourself overly seriously in a release post isn’t really a sign of anything.

              • Yeah, that is correct and many groups do such joke posts without anyone caring, but it doesn’t affect their reputation because they don’t let it bleed over to their releases. A good example recently that I can think of is UTW pulled some trolling on their website shortly before they released the Idolmaster movie, but no one takes it to mean anything about their subs because they don’t pull this bullshit with their releases.

                More broadly though my initial point in an earlier post was responding to the post talking about the perception others have of Commie. In that regards, when Commie acts like they do as a whole (the combination of both the subs in their releases and how they conduct themselves with their posts and public comments), it is not unreasonable for people to have a perception of Commie as being nothing but a bunch of trolls and looking elsewhere for subs, no matter how many proper releases they do. They go out of their way and give the impression as often as they can that they are immature assholes, but with that in mind others have no obligations to figure out when they were behaving themselves with their releases. They have fully earned themselves the reputation that they have.

          • It’s not the people get upset with it. It’s an example of Commie’s disposition which leads to people thinking they predominantly release trollsubs. They don’t uphold themselves professionally like some other groups do. Then couple this with things like dicks drawn in the OP etc., and you can understand why some people automatically assume anything from Commie is bound to be full of trolling.

  11. Kinda like how every time a line like “I will not let you go any further” appears in a show groups edit it to “You shall not pass!”. Which really sucks when a show actually intended the line to be interpreted as a LotR reference.

    I say editors only have themselves to blame for the shit they get(unless they have a liberal TL like miniezo). Boy who cried wolf, much?

    • Every time I see a post like this I laugh because neither you nor any other leecher have a way of telling whether any given line in the script was due to the editor or the translator. You just automatically blame the editor out of some half-formed idea of how the fansub process works.

      Though I guess a better answer would be that the editor and translator work on the script together, so perhaps it doesn’t even matter to begin with.

  12. Needs to be show-appropriate.

    My approach to Danna ga Nani – translate in the most free-form way, then reel shit in during editing as much as possible. I really only want a light dusting of memes in my release, because fuck you that’s how I roll.

    Joke subs where the point is to have funny subs are fine, but you sort of expect [DUWANG] or [DAMEDAME] (or if you’re russian – [359SUBS] or [СПАСИТЕЛЬ]) to be the tag, not actual “serious” groups.

    But fansubbers have always been terrible, news at 11.

  13. If you want to fully grasp Japanese puns, the only way is to learn the language.

    Most of the puns can never be translated without losing some of the meaning. Even if it does not lose its meaning, the joke would be lost.

    So i’m definitely all for localizing if a similar joke in an English context is applicable.

    • To me, the best way to handle a Japanese pun is to translate it literally and have a side file that has an explanation of the pun. What’s also nice is with the side file, you can explain lots of things such as like why things were translated certain ways, name meanings, background, or all sorts of fun things that people might want to know that you would never consider putting into onscreen notes.

      Unfortunately, doing this requires a lot of effort, and it is rare to find a group that is dedicated enough and knowledgeable enough about a show to do so.

      • The point is not the effort, it’s the immersion. Making people pause a video for a tl note or to read a pdf after the fact in order to digest what they’ve watched is not how the material is intended to be consumed.

        • I think the vast majority of people would agree with you that having to pause for a TL note or having to read a pdf after the show is finished seriously breaks immersion.

          • I think immersion is a good point; however, I just recently had to pause Log Horizon to read the translated item descriptions. I even jokingly said to my buddy next to me that I had to read flavor text for the first time in my life. It was practically necessary, since I wanted to know the translations for plot-relevant purposes, so I never considered it being a problem.

            I’m reminded of the time I watched Yakitate Japan. The tl group had to bring up a window near every episode to explain the puns. Perhaps I’m a bit weeaboo, but I didn’t mind it in order to better understand The Original Japanese. I later bought the translated manga, and usually they somehow came up with english puns, but sometimes a visual pun, say a person making the shape of hiragana, had to be explained in-panel.

            The point is that even paid translators can make a better, unbroken experience, but it can’t always be done, and my anecdotal POV is that I don’t mind at all.

        • Indeed, it’s preference. For me, I don’t really care that much about immersion because I’m not trying to delude myself into thinking that I’m watching a show that’s created specifically for me – with my sensibilities and my cultural background in mind. The audio is in a foreign language and it’s painfully clear that I’m consuming a foreign product.

          That being the case, I’d rather try to appreciate the show from a foreigner’s perspective and understand how the jokes would be received by a Japanese – as it was meant to be appreciated. Besides, what about references to other anime? References to cultural practices? References to Japanese food? If you want to cater to the lowest common denominator of uneducated and blissfully ignorant people, the pandering will never end.

          Not to mention, trying to translate and localize every single bit of Japanese culture and wordplay can also be considered condescending to the viewer.

      • Let’s be honest here. Doing a word for word literal translation and then adding a TL note in a release post is significantly easier than finding a way to manipulate the English language to localize the joke. This is especially true for puns, since you have to really think about the lines and how you can convey the same meaning in Japanese. On the other hand, doing a word for word translation and then just saying “At line x, this word rhymes with this word, so it’s supposed to be funny,” is straightforward, easy, and, most importantly, not funny at all.

      • “Unfortunately, doing this requires a lot of effort, and it is rare to find a group that is dedicated enough”

        This is completely untrue. It would take -far- less time to write a .pdf explaining whatever puns or background information would be lost by a literal translation than it would adapting it in English. The reason most people don’t do it is because it’s bad practice, even if it means they have more work trying to make it work.

        This is exactly what I meant when I said you preach.

  14. I agree with a lot of what’s stated here. There will always be the arguments over how liberal or literal a group’s script is, but in honesty, I’m of the belief that preserving the intended meaning of a line is more important than providing a strictly accurate translation. I think some fans tend to forget that English and Japanese are very different on some very fundamental levels.

  15. I’m gonna really miss Kaylith, hopefully Caffeine can keep the same quality of subs. On another note, this is a quality post, but I’ll just echo the opinion of others when saying you should include at least some pictures to improve it. Keep doing good work Fyurie!

    • Yeah, that’s not a meme. It’s bad editing since it uses rather strong words that direct the focus on the fansub instead of the plot. But it’s not a meme.

          • Or blame the leechers who are so easily distracted by a perfectly appropriate word choice just because it features a naughty word.

            Seriously, that phrasing is perfect for her character. Stop looking for issues in subs, and maybe you’ll stop being annoyed by “strong words.”

            EDIT: To clarify, there’s nothing wrong with pointing out actual issues in subs. But this has gotten to witch hunt levels where people are just looking for excuses to cry foul, thus finding problems where none exist.

            EDIT2: Although, really, the only people raising a fuss about this are LotusGG and Kristen, which says a lot about the validity of this particular complaint.

            • This has gotten to witch hunt levels where fansubbers get defensive and start hurling insults at everybody whenever someone dare suggest that another word would have fit a sentence better and rightfully so.

              I mean who the fuck do you people think you are, suggesting things? Questioning the genius of the editor? Implying that he could ever make a single mistake?

              You people make me fucking sick. Dirty leechers the lot of you.

              • That’s not a witch hunt.

                I’m not involved in this project whatsoever, so it’s hard to get defensive about it.

                “Rightfully so” lol

                I explicitly stated, for the sole purpose of pre-empting this kind of response, that questioning bad edits is completely fine. But if you’re going to triumphantly barge in here and start making fun of people, you better be fucking sure you know what you’re talking about or you’re going to get the same kind of treatment in return when people explain to you how dumb you are.

                3/10 Please apply yourself harder next time.

                PS: If anyone actually thinks this is a bad edit and has a compelling case, I’m all ears. I’ll be civil if you don’t act like a dickwad.

                • I suppose there is a case for ‘weren’t’ –> ‘wasn’t’ – while the subjunctive is correctly deployed here, if the character is more conversational like you suggested earlier, I’m willing to believe she’d say ‘wasn’t’ in this instance, which is used more in natural diction.

                  I’d also consider ‘so’ instead of ‘this’ because ‘this’ suggests a specific level of anal retentiveness and that she’d consider him perfect if he was *more* anally retentive (because it doesn’t differentiate between more/less, only that it’s not at that specific level), but obviously this isn’t the case. ‘So’ implies that the level is too high.

                  Of course, that’s just nitpicking and the line is passable in its current form :D

              • I’m not even a part of their group. I’m just stating what I know and have seen from the guy who makes a fuss about almost all these lines he posts.

                I mean, like, who the fuck do you think you are? Coming in here like you know the whole story.

                You make me sick, you filthy leecher.


  16. Q: Why were you fine with ITW’s “jokesubs” for Noucome but say you felt scribbles started to cross the line a bit with Danna ga? Also, where do you personally draw the line at in the context of these kind of shows?

    • Because Noucome was never taken seriously from the very beginning whereas Scribbles’ release of Danna ga at least for episode 1 didn’t exactly come across as a jokesub (partially because of Fyurie’s involvement, so yes, there’s likely some bias there) but has become more trollish as the series has continued.

  17. tl;dr: Fansubbers need to have fun too!

    Fyurie: I think you already know my tastes in translation and fansub releases in general. :P
    I didn’t pay as much attention to your post as I should have, but you’re basically asking the translator to walk a tightrope. Some of them can do it, but eventually many will fall off. Fansubbers are people too, if they like to add memes and other nonsense in their subs to have fun I say go ahead. If you had done this once in a while, maybe you’d still be subbing instead of blowing a fuse and writing walls of text here. :P

    • I don’t even know where to start with all the wrong in that post.

      It’s not a tightrope, it’s an easy choice: accurately translate what they’re saying or add in a joke instead. It’s no more a tightrope than deciding whether you’re going to tie your shoelaces or not.

      Sure, fansubbers CAN add memes and jokes – just as fans can tell them it’s annoying and stupid when they do so. Moreover Fyuurie did comment that adding meme joke lines can have a corrosive effect in how well the group is trusted. The result of that is fans end up shitting the bed when actual memes really do appear in a show. That’s partly the fault of the group (the lesser part, but still partly) for dicking around in the first place.

      I didn’t get the exact details of Kaylith’s meltdown but having seen the fallout it didn’t have anything to do with memesubs.

      “Just have fun XD” and “u mad” is basically what your post boils down to. Try harder.

      • ^ This sums it up pretty nicely, actually.

        I won’t jump on the last line as that’s your opinion alone, but the rest of it lines up with what I believe at least.

        I will say this much though: Tobi, you haven’t subbed in ages, and didn’t do it that well in the first place, so please try not to act so condescending, thanks. :)

      • Well, in a series with really obscure Japanese references, it’s hard to mirror every joke for an English audience. One way to retain the overall feel of the show is to use humor in other parts of the script because certain jokes can’t be localized (at least not to the staff’s ability). I don’t think either group that was mentioned in this post really has a reputation for putting out jokesubs, either.

        For what it’s worth, I didn’t interpret Tobikage’s post as implying Kaylith should’ve used more memes for the sake of having fun. It sounded more like he was just having some fun himself.

        • I agree with Jing here – I think they handled Danna really well. Memes (or “having fun with a script”) are only an issue when they’re out of place, like Commie’s monkey aids, for instance.

      • Except adding jokes is what makes most of these shows funny in the first place.
        You wouldn’t laugh even once if a comedy show was translated accurately. You can thank UW and Commie for making a shitty show like Nichijou funny.

      • I’m not sure if you’re in a fansub group or not, and if you are, please feel free to correct me.

        I was once a translator (not a very good one), and I have rarely felt that translation is a simple choice like you pointed out. There _is_ a certain amount of tightrope-walking involved, so that you can deliver a good script without it being too literal or take too much of the meaning away.

        I still stand by my opinion that groups can add as many or as few memes/jokes in their script as they want. It doesn’t make them necessarily better or worse, it’s just their style. I just don’t agree with people saying it’s bad to deliver the script in a certain way.

    • You don’t need memes to have a bit of fun with a script. The issue with memes specifically is that they stick out like a sore thumb, whereas you can have a lot of fun weaving things in more subtly. In one of the shows I edit, the entire cast are animals so I make sure that any insults that fly around are a form of wordplay, such as “You dirty ape!” or “You mongrel!” Easy changes to make and you get immense satisfaction about inserting those nice little touches. In fact, creative insults is where you can have the most fun because Japanese insults are all a bit same-y compared to English (though I’d probably steer clear of ‘spoony bard’ :D).

      But the point is, you have to be subtle – these are “nice little touches” because they don’t distract or detract from the dialogue; they enhance it and make it more believable. They also have to be on-song with the translation. You can’t just throw any old shit in there and expect people not to notice you’ve served them a shit sandwich. In another show I edited, I very nearly changed a line to a Pulp Fiction quote (it was so close to fitting perfectly!) but I decided that it was too far away from the context of the scene and the literal translation to get away with it.

      Having said all that, when I did Shining Hearts, I made the pirate character talk entirely in piratespeak so I understand the temptation to push the boat out ^___^

      • Localization choices with regards to character dialogue can also potentially come back and bite you in the ass if a show decides to throw those choices for a loop. For example, what happened in this week’s episode of Amagi Brilliant Park may end up causing some headaches for Vivid because of how they subbed the dialogue up to this point.

        • You don’t talk about Vivid’s localization choices, you just don’t. Arguing with Xythar is just as pointless as arguing with D_S.

        • I’d say it’s unlikely for that to happen unless you’ve already pushed the boundaries of localisation or have erased potentially important information in the name of localisation (I’m thinking of the debate of the use of rose-tinted spectacles or whatever in that KyoAni show that 8thsin wrote a tl;dr on). If you play it reasonably safe – again, that’s my whole point on subtlety – then these things don’t become an issue. It’s only when you get more into the realm of scriptwriting that you find you’ve caused yourself major problems later down the line (as well as not really being a faithful translation any more).

          Of course, there is the common issue when you decide not to use honorifics that there might be a whole bit of dialogue about someone using a different honorific to what is considered standard (chan instead of kun, for example), which are a real pain, but pretty much par for the course when you make that original decision.

            • The rant wasn’t wrong at all (though I felt there was definitely a better middle ground somewhere). You wouldn’t know that from the first episode so you have to cover all possibilities when translating/editing an ongoing show. Just because it wasn’t embellished upon in later episodes makes no difference – you can only act on the info you’re given at the time.

              • That’s why the prudent thing to do is to hedge your bets. Of course, if you start to overdo it, your subs end up needlessly convoluted and/or bland.
                Which is what happened when they tried to maintain the metaphor.

              • Can someone explain what happened?

                I don’t really want to have watch Amagi to learn about Vivid’s controversial localisation choices.

                • I can’t be certain what they meant, but I think they’re talking about Macaron’s -ron sentence tics. Because Vivid ignores them, it does make some lines that draw attention to them a little tricky. They decided to just use different words for them that are strange in a more English-speaking way, which works alright I guess.

                  • Tiramie’s -mie lines too, now that I’ve got to them. And I suppose if you don’t mind being a tiny bit spoiled, I’ll go into more detail:

                    Spoiler for
                    Basically, Macaron and Tiramie end up wearing a magical costume that makes them appear, aside from a giant zipper that everyone notices, to be Kanie. Kanie is out with a cold, but they go to school for him to keep his attendance up. When they interact with his classmates, they continue to act and talk like they normally do, including the -ron and -mie sentence tics. Vivid renders these as animal lines, such as referring to a class as a herd, or liking the sound of a girl’s name as something that wags Tiramie’s tail.
                • They’re talking about the “rose-colored life” line in Hyouka. 8thsin wrote a rather long blog post about it that has since been lost to time.

                  Unless you actually mean amaburi in which case why is your comment down here


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