So as you might have guessed, we've been watching some mecha anime lately. The subtitles are good in that they're pretty accurate and are usually not misleading as far as the story is concerned. Although when they translated this line... Okay, now I have to explain. In Gundam Seed, they're stealing a big spaceship, and of course the people they're stealing it from are trying to prevent them from stealing it, and the one girl says something about how it's unfortunate that these are the circumstances, but they have to go (with the stolen ship), so they're going to anyway. In the Japanese, she says "Ikanakereba narimasen." This means "We have to go," or "We must go." If you want to get really technical, it means "It will not do for us not to go" or "If we don't go, it will not become," for the really literal translation. And for some bizarre reason, the subtitle says "We are destined to go." Where the heck did they come up with that? Oy. So anyway, that might be a little misleading plot-wise, because there's nothing in the plot to indicate some unknown force dictating that they go.
But the problem we were having today was with swearing. This happened while we were watching Code Geass, and it also happened way back when we watched some of its fansubs, so we kind of get the feeling they might be to blame. Sometimes we come up with crazy theories about how the companies are operating, like in this case how the fans keep talking about how the fansubs are better anyway, so the official companies try to give the fans what they want. Anyway. I understand that sometimes characters are going to swear, and sometimes they actually do swear, so sure, go ahead and put that in the subtitles. But there are two things we noticed that we didn't like so much. First, they seemed to be adding swear words in lines where there was really no need for them--nothing in the Japanese to indicate that kind of emotion, or in other cases nothing as strong as the subtitles were using.
Of course, this is just our personal preference, and I guess it could be argued that when people are fighting a war, they could be using super strong language because, y'know, it's a war, and people are dying all around them and stuff. Then again, it's just a TV show, and it aired in the evenings in Japan, which means it's a family show. Athena says, "I don't need to read anything in the subtitles that would be bleeped off of Comedy Central. Ever." Incidentally, as far as we know, there actually aren't that many swear words in Japanese. A friend of ours whose father was Japanese said it's because the Japanese don't like to defile their language. But of course, there are ways to do so, many of which are often used by Gojyo in Saiyuki.
Still, regardless of our personal preference in regards to what kind of language should be used in subtitles of random extras' lines, when dealing with main characters, you have to consider personality, and that's where we come to Suzaku. For those of you who don't know anything about Code Geass, Suzaku is like... the ultimate goodie-two-shoes. And they had him swearing, in a line that easily could have been translated without any cursing. I think maybe the translators have a hard time picturing anybody who wouldn't talk like them. As translators, we can understand that. But that doesn't make it any less annoying.
Ah well. We've been thinking a lot about translating and word choices and stuff, so that's been on my mind. I think a big risk in translating is that, even though all the characters have very distinct speech patterns and stuff in the original, if we're not careful, we can easily give all the characters the same personality by having them all talk exactly the same way we do. Then instead of having this awesome series with all its diverse characters, they all blend into one big gray mass and a lot of the flavor of the series goes away. It's so much easier in Japanese.
Today I'm thankful for subtitles, getting to hear Takahiro Sakurai play *gasp!* a nice guy, reminders to be aware of character diversity, shiny new themes at Gmail, and our internet still working.