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.