March 7th, 2009


Subtitle woes

I hate it when I can't come up with a good opening line. Not that all my opening lines are brilliant, of course, but sometimes it just flows better in my head. And if nothing really flows for the first line of an entry, I end up sitting there with a blank screen trying to figure out how to begin.

We had a friend visit today! Yay! This was very happy. But she's a very busy person, so she never ends up staying for long. At least she has time to come over at all anymore--it's been over a year since the last time she came over, and we had all completely forgotten where we left off in Princess Tutu. So we started on episode fifteen, which we're both sure is before where we left off, because I remember being very happy that our friend would get to see Uzura before she left the last time she came over. But memory refreshers are good, and of course there's nothing wrong with watching the same episode of Princess Tutu multiple times. (Although of course, there are always some episodes we'd be more inclined to rewatch than others. If we could only have two Princess Tutu DVDs, they'd probably be volumes three and six. But you really do need the whole thing.)

Anyway, yes. So our friend had come over for the first time in a loooooong long time, and we had a lot of fun chatting, and we lent her volume one of I Hate You More Than Anyone, and we're sure that she'll love it! (I say we're sure, but by "sure" I usually mean, "We think it will probably be the case, but since she hasn't read it yet, we're not going to be counting any chickens.") But anyway, it's a good opportunity to spread the love (the Hate♥ love?), and hopefully help the series gain popularity.

Then we watched Princess Tutu, and then we watched an episode of Host Club. This was our first experience with the FUNimation DVDs, and we were thoroughly unimpressed. First, we hate their logo. Maybe hate is a little strong. We heartily dislike it, and the dislike may be fueled by our already having been annoyed by the way they hype their dubs (Athena noticed that they listed their dub cast before the Japanese cast, something that always makes us hiss at American anime distribution companies) and make it hard to skip past the previews on things (for those of you still wondering, for FUNimation, you have to specifically hit "top menu" (maybe "main menu" on some DVD remotes)). But the FUNimation logo is so inelegant compared to the Japanese logo. I mean, sure it's kind of a goofy series, but part of the humor comes from the pretentiousness. By making the logo goofy, you're admitting right from the start that the pretense is false, and then what's the point in having the pretense to begin with?

But we tend to disagree on most American logo choices, so whatever, I guess. An even bigger problem is the subtitles. We had been told that they're white, which everyone knows is harder to read than yellow, but we didn't realize how much harder they would be to read until we watched the first episode with all its pinkness and detailed backgrounds and lines everywhere. The subtitles were almost completely camouflaged! Our friend even mentioned it herself, completely unprompted from us (we learned long ago that we need to keep our mouths shut about subtitles if we want anyone to get anything out of watching), saying the subtitles were much harder to read than the Tutu ones.

And then the translation... was just not that good. Not that it was inaccurate, except for a couple places where it actually was. For example, there's the part where they ask why Haruhi joined the Host Club and Haruhi goes over everything inwardly and then there's the line "sou iu hanashi da," which they translated to, "I have just the story," making it seem like the whole thing about Haruhi's mother passing away is the reason for joining the club, which, as we all know is not. Haruhi is not a liar and would see no reason to make up a story, so really the line, which really means "that's the story," probably should have been something like, "And that's why." Or something that worked better in the context.

But for the most part, it was a question of wording choices. Everyone seemed to have the same personality. Tamaki's speech was too casual. He's the King, dang it! He's not going to talk like a commoner! Even without having seen the episode where the Hitachiin's make fun of the way he talks, we would have translated him talking fancier. (But you all know how much we enjoyed translating Ayame.)

To be fair, the reason we learned to shut up about subtitles is that, back when we were watching fansubs, we would be correcting translations so much that we were practically talking over the entire episode. Again, more about wording choices and character voice than inaccuracies (but sometimes they were just wrong), and of course this habit has carried over to our official release viewings (maybe you remember our Code Geass rant...), but man. We had just been watching Princess Tutu, and of course translators are bound to have differences of opinion, so of course we complained about those too, but they weren't nearly as bad as the Host Club ones.

The problem is our friends' enjoyment of these serieseses depends on their ability to understand them, and if the subtitles are bland, they're not going to know the extent of the clever wittiness of the whole thing. Actually, we read a bad review of the Host Club anime on Anime News Network; I think that and other bad reviews were the source of our completely self-important, "If someone doesn't like it as much as we do, it must be a bad translation" theory.

(EDIT: Of course, we have also read bad reviews on ANN of things that we ourselves translated, but we're still confident in our skills (and perhaps a little arrogant), so we blame this on the fact that ANN doesn't seem to like much of anything.)

So I guess the lesson to be learned here is for us to make sure that one, we're learning from our mistakes and translating things as accurately as we can, and two, that we make sure the characters' English dialogue is just as fun as their Japanese dialogue. Of course, we're not native speakers, so we don't know for sure how fun the original Japanese dialogue is, but we just assume it's super fun. That way the English version is fun too. Or at least, it's our interpretation of fun... which is hopefully close to the authors', or at least fun for everyone else, too.

Today I'm thankful for having our friend over today (she actually has the same name as an anime character! but I'm not telling which one; maybe someday we'll show her that series), colored subtitles, our region 2 Host Club DVDs, having yummy ice cream to eat later, and getting to have cereal for breakfast this morning.