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Focal Point – Fanning the Fansubbing Flame War

Okay, okay, this isn’t really a news-related editorial (even though I promised I would write them soon), but this is recent, and it’s probably going to storm across anime fandom on the internet, so I might as well respond to it here.

Watch the video before reading the following.

Did you really watch all five parts (all 30 minutes) of it? No? Then go back and finish it. I’m not going to have people read this editorial in an uninformed fashion without having completely reviewed the source material (even though that’s precisely what the majority of internet people do).

First of all, I must give kudos to this Paul “OtaKing” Johnson. It’s obvious that a lot of blood, sweat, and tears went into making that video (it took half a year, apparently). I genuinely found the entire experience entertaining: the original animation was well done (he’s a professional translator, folks, not a professional artist or video director), the video game references were satisfying, and that stereotypical snarky British wit was dead-on funny. I know a lot of people feel that he was being elitist, but he’s British! Complaining that a Brit sounds elitist is like complaining that Asians make everyone else look bad by working too hard.

In addition, this guy is obviously a fan of anime who’s working in the anime industry. With all the unwarranted concern many FANS have of people in the anime industry NOT being FANS and mishandling their precious entertainment, I feel quite confident that a guy like this would ensure I get the quality anime I want when purchasing a commercial DVD, even though I disagree with him on some of the finer points of his so-called documentary (and it’s not a documentary – it’s a video editorial – because a proper documentary documents something impartially and allows the viewer to come up with their own opinions; damn you Michael Moore for changing this!).

Now, I do agree with many of his arguments, which pretty much can be summarized by the idea that fansubbers do a lot of what they do as a way of stroking their e-penis. Granted, some fansubbers are trying to ensure that their work isn’t taken and manipulated without their permission (anyone else sensing some hypocrisy here?), like when an ebayer sells a fansub. Heck, before I knew better, back in the day, I would pay money to rent VHS fansubs from a local video store, even though the fansubs displayed the words “NOT FOR SALE OR RENT” in small print before the episode started (only when a friend pointed this out to my ignorant self one day did I stop renting from that particular store). Still, this does not justify the arrogant emblazoning of one’s name(s) and/or over-glorified typeset all over the main title screen, opening, and ending of an anime. Nor does it justify explaining so much of the story with on-screen notes that the natural and original flow of the narrative is destroyed.


However, there are definitely some gray areas which OtaKing completely marginalizes (arguably, because he has to since he used the video editorial to make a point). While overly literal and sparsely localized translations are part of the weaboo culture of Japanophiles who like to intersperse Japanese with English (i.e. “That’s so kawaii!” or “You’re a baka!”), it is also an indication of someone who knows just enough Japanese that they do not want a jarring experience when reading a subtitle. Take for example how Japanese is “backwards” relative to English, both in the order of names and basic sentence structure. When a character says “Hirano Sakura desu” (a modified example from OtaKing’s video), it can be unsettling to read a subtitle that says “I am Sakura Hirano.” Potentially, even a person with no knowledge of Japanese would be able to recognize the sounds/syllables and realize that a set of them have been reversed. This is similar to the rewriting necessary when doing a dub (so that the words match the lip flaps); enjoyment of the show can be lost when a viewer feels something is amiss. Of course, a translator can take things too far and turn everyone into Yoda by being too literal with the translation: “Hirano Sakura I am.” This was the point OtaKing was trying to make with less obvious overly literal translations like “Even at a time like this.”

I also agree that it is contradictory to REGULARLY write out “onee-sama” or “onii-chan” in the subtitle while refusing to REGULARLY denote the differences in “boku” and “ore” when a character says “I,” not to mention all the different ways of saying “you” in Japanese. OtaKing criticizes the fansubbers for not working hard enough to be creative with their translations to get around such difficulties (and then uses an interesting example from Escaflowne to show how “Who the hell are you” and “Who the heck are you?” can denote the difference in harshness between “kisama” and “anata” and carry across the effect originally intended without just leaving it in Japanese). However, creative translations can only go so far. There are definitely times when the choice to use such Japanese words are a part of the story and MUST be pointed out. Plus, when it comes to idioms or language/culture-based jokes, the task of creative translations can be downright impossible. While I give great kudos to ADV’s work on Azumanga Daioh and its ability to culturally translate one of my most favorite jokes in the series (Osaka’s “Trivial/Bean Knowledge” into equally funny “Grains of Truthjoke), an unpaid and admittedly amateur translator doesn’t have the time and resources to consistently pull off something like that.

In regards to on-screen text, translation notes, and translation of signs, I agree that too much clutter can take away from an anime. If you can’t appreciate the serenity of a peaceful scene or follow the action of a fight scene due to the letters and characters flashing across the screen, then the subtitles are being done wrong. I did, however, have a problem with how OtaKing used examples from fansubs of Pani Poni Dash and Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei to validate his points here. In the original Japanese, there is a flurry of text that whizzes by at breath-taking scene, typically on a chalkboard (an identifying feature of many SHAFT studio works), such that a native Japanese viewer would have a hard time following it all. To me, the fansubbers were trying to reproduce that experience (a big point that OtaKing makes is that a translation should give the audience an experience as close as possible to the original). Sure, it becomes difficult to follow, because you are reading the spoken dialogue AND the original on-screen text in subtitles at the same time (I guess the only real way to solve that is to make a dub). However, a lot of good, hard work was put in by those fansubbers to offer the same effect to English anime fans that the original Japanese viewers had. Such fansubs (particularly a.f.k.’s fansubs of Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei) would go so far as to composite English text directly over the Japanese text as a professional company might do. And if they weren’t composited, the good fansubbers try to insert the English text in as unobtrusively as possible, for which OtaKing criticizes them by questioning if the sign with original Japanese writing had English writing in it originally as well.

I don’t see anything wrong with this…

In fact, when pontificating how fansubs should be more professional, OtaKing somewhat contradicts himself in the comparison of the actual typeset versus translation. He makes a point that using small, unobtrusive text at the bottom of the screen provides a much better experience for the viewer, but not only that, it’s more professional AND LESS WORK than the colorfully distracting karaoke and special moves text made in Adobe After Effects. However, being more professional in the translation by localizing culture references and idioms to English requires MORE work. Still, if I look at it more logically, OtaKing is really complaining that fansubbers are willing to do more work to do something they want to do (make flashy texts that show off their computer graphical skills and are more easily recognized by the viewer) than to do something they don’t want to do (write a professional translation that won’t be recognized, since professional translations, according to all the academic sources OtaKing referenced, are SUPPOSED to be invisible and unrecognized).

Let’s be honest, folks: that’s just human nature. People are always willing to do more work for what they like than what they don’t like (after all, here I am putting off grading papers in order to write an editorial on an anime blog). So what’s the problem? Fansubs are free (at least they’re supposed to be), so why complain about what they’re doing? I remember in the early days of digital fansubbing that some groups would get completely lambasted for having poor video quality (it still happens today, I’m sure). My argument was (and still is), “You get what you pay for.” In addition, a small part of me thinks a “poor” fansub can be a good thing – it gives people a taste of the anime and possibly encourages them to buy the DVD. Don’t want an opening filled with fansubbers’ names, karaoke-effects, or even the credits for the original creators? Then buy the DVD with a clean opening.

I can’t wait to watch a clean opening of this!

Still, there is a bigger issue here that OtaKing did not even address in his video. This “cultural movement” is affecting the industry. Look at the commercially localized manga and anime of today and compare it to 8 years ago. The proliferation of retaining Japanese idiosyncrasies has been on the rise, from the preservation of right-to-left reading in manga to the use Japanese honorifics in a dub (like in Azumanga Daioh) — A DUB!. If OtaKing really has a problem with cluttered on-screen text, then he should check out the commercial release for Excel Saga with the AD-Vid notes turned on (granted, as a commercial DVD, one can turn off all those texts – I guess, one can make an argument that fansubbers should create a matroskva pack that allows their fansubs to have certain on-screen text, karaoke, and translation notes turn-off-able…). This is nothing more than economics at work, actually: there is a market for weaboos, and anime FANS should be happy that the anime industry is the one of the most responsive industries to their consumers out there. However, this market is somewhat gradually taking over, and that does not bode well for the industry. Allow me to explain.

Basically, there are three markets the anime industry is trying to target: fresh blood (people who have little to no knowledge of Japanese language, culture, and/or anime), FANS (people who have some knowledge and/or are overly excitable about anime or anything Japanese), and mature fans (people who have extensive knowledge and/or are mature in their views of fandom). Only FANS desire the “authenticity” of retaining honorifics, name order, and Japanese words that do have a decent English translation (i.e. shinigami can mean reaper). Fresh blood don’t know any better, and mature fans can deal with it, because while they know how it was “supposed” to be, they can understand why the translation went a particular way.

Not only do we have a “numbers dilemma” going on here (where potentially only one out of the three groups is selected for when producing localizations of anime), but that particular demographic group of FANS routinely refuses to pay for commercial anime in the first place! They get everything they need out of fansubs, and they revel in their cliquey obtuse weaboo culture. The anime industry cannot sustain itself on a group of people who are only interested in anime because it’s different and allows them to speak in ways that alienates everyone (actual conversation overhead at an anime convention: “Wai! Tobi-chan! I’m so happy to see you! You’re SO kawaii in that cosplay!”), because eventually such a group (which was undoubtedly be small to begin with) will lose interest and focus on something else that is different and clashes with social norms. This also explains why there are always such huge reactions from FANS to the professional translations and localizations that OtaKing advocates: they don’t want their underground hobby to become mainstream. I’m sorry, but one should not like anime SOLELY because it’s different – that’s what we’d call a fad.

But maybe I’m being overly paranoid. As a teacher, I’ve witnessed firsthand the assimilation of all things Japanese into the youth of today. Ironically enough, maybe the integration of Japanese and English (both language and culture) will become more mainstream in and of itself, and that will generate a demographic large enough to sustain the industry that produces the wonderful entertainment we enjoy. I mean, it’s not like the anime industry is in trouble…or is it?

- Natron-e?
who is enjoying roasting some popcorn over the flame fest

June 3, 2008 at 7:00 pm
  • June 4, 2008 at 8:48 amPea

    Well, i didn´t pay the fansubgroup and they also didn´t get paid to do the subbing, so I have no right to complain, and I´m quite satisfied that they already sub the anime, it´s better than watching the raw, and for me they did quite a good job, so if that OtaKing want to have a “proper and professional” anime`s sub, why don´t he make his own fansubgroup and sub the anime himself.

  • June 4, 2008 at 8:50 amPasserby

    Arghhhh I cant help it anymore !!!

    The dude is an elitist. Asking for quality and professionalism? Yeah it’s true that some fansubbers have their ego but why is he complaining about the unprofessional doing a professional job? It seems to me he did mention why subbers exists. But I think he doesn’t fully understand what fansubers are for.

    Why old fansubbers subs an anime more professionally as to modern fansubbers? The answer was already given. It was REALLY hard to do fansubing back then. When something is hard to achieve, a person would normally do it more carefully and perfectly. When you spend a billion building a building do u aspect it to last for 100 years or a year?

    So why are people complaining about quality when the item is free and easy to get?

    To the people who live in 1st world countries: Not ALL animes shown in japan are in the stores and what do someone who was introduced to anime do when the country he lives in DOESN’T SELL ANIME?

    Just be thankful despite of the method that there are still means to get what u want.

    Giving an english live action movie as an example thats funny…. Does he realize that if the english language were not well known throughout the world and the universal language is Japanese. These english Sitcoms, Movies, Cartoons or whatever will be subtitled just like an anime and the Animes and the Jap dramas that u see now will be like those english movies amirite? Just picture yourself…… u don’t know a single word in English and u only know Japanese.

    It just so happens that the world we live in has the English language to be considered a universal language well many wont agree on that, but its true. Im not really good with english myself either.

    Where can I find this otaking? His ignorance leaves me in ZETSUBOU !!!.

  • June 4, 2008 at 9:16 amGod~knows~

    Nice article but…I didn’t check back here in for a few days and a new guy pops up? T.T
    I’m such a lagger…

  • June 4, 2008 at 10:00 amvoodoomage

    Heh…just thought of something …it took him a half of a year to make this…. speed subbers would have had it done in a day….

  • June 4, 2008 at 10:33 amKasumi

    Wow, I pretty much agree with the points exposed by Natron-e.

    On the use of japanese words…I don’t know, I like better “shinigami” than “soul reaper”. But the last one is a good translation, so I don’t complain.
    Nevertheless, the honorifics theme is more complex; because there are some series where the use of honorifics can be quite meaningful.
    Let me give an example…Tsubasa Chronicles. Sakura calls Shaoran “Syaoran-kun”. Every fansub leaves aside the “-kun” part and writes only “Syaoran”. Nothing wrong with that.
    Except that in this example, the whole “-kun” thing is quite meaningful; Sakura used to call him as just “Syaoran”, as a sign of trust. The latter addition of “-kun” turns out to be quite painful for Syaoran. What do you do in that case…skip the honorific part along with leaving behind some important element of the plot?

    A different example. I remember laughing a lot with a joke on the 1st episode of Ouran; where Haruhi ends saying “Should I use ‘ore’ from now?” and Tamaki making a fuss because she should use ‘watashi’ or something like that. Luckily the Lunar fansub pointed out that explanation.
    And that’s a sutile example; everytime I watch Lucky Star or Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei, I feel rather thankful for all the liner notes. I don’t dislike them; in fact, I love them. They can make quite a difference on the way you enjoy the series.
    Liner notes in a PDF? Nah, I’m too lazy for that xD and certainly, it’s not the same…

  • June 4, 2008 at 10:41 amTokki

    So you’re saying that some of the fan-sub’s I watch might be wrong or completely different then the orginal raw?

  • June 4, 2008 at 11:00 amKakashi_Crusade

    @Tokki: not exactly so… there is no such thing as “wrong” in translation… it’s just that the meaning of the statements differ in construction from group to group (try different subs of Lucky Star… you’ll see that the statements more or less share the same meaning…)

    My own reaction: yes… it was like an ad for you to buy the original dvd subs of the anime… hey i can’t do that… i need to stay up-to-date with R2 (and believe me… fans wouldn’t want to wait for 18 months to get the original…)

  • June 4, 2008 at 11:12 amAngelmonster

    @Tokki: None of them are completely wrong but some take too much creative subbing and change meanings totally around. Take the time to download a few episodes of different animes subbed by different groups and you will see that they differ in opinion on certain Japanese words…when, if they would just “english-ize” the Japanese words and make it readable to the English reader they should all end up witht he same thing.

    @Kasumi: Notes are fine, they should just put them at the beginning and/or the end of the episode so it is our choice whether to read them or not. Then it won’t clutter the entire screen and make us focus of fifty different things when we should only be focusing on the episode and the subtitles.

  • June 4, 2008 at 11:23 amhahaaaaaa


  • June 4, 2008 at 11:30 amKoji

    The main problem right now with the down turn in anime and manga sales has little to do fansubs or scantalations… it’s the fact that companies like ADV and Tokyopop worry more about releasing as much as possible in as short of time possible. This sounds great, and it should BE great. The problem is that the anime fandom base isn’t near as large both companies seem to think it is. There is not yet a large enough fanbase (which itself is broken up into many smaller fanbases based on genre) to try and license 90% of anime/manga released in Japan.

    This is one of the main reasons I think fansubbing can co-exist with licensed released series. There is just no way in the world the north american market can sustain sales of so many different series at once. Especially when the primary audience for anime is in the teens and early twenties. A time when most people don’t have a whole lot of money to spare. An example: Let’s say tokyopop releases 10 new manga volumes a month. They average $10USD a month so to get every new release would be $100 a month for anyone one person interested in all the series. Most people aren’t going to spend that much money to get that much manga every month. Instead, they’ll get 1-3. A couple months later when volume 2 of all those series comes out you’re only likely to get the next volume in the series you’re reading. You aren’t going to grab volume 2 or 3 of a series you’ve never read. In that case, Tokyopop ends up competing with itself. Losing money doing too many series at once.

    This is even worse with anime series where the norm now is $30 for a DVD with 3-4 episodes. ADV had to raise the price of DVDs because they release too much at a time and end up competing with themselves for sales. That’s not even considering competition they face from other companies.

    What’s the solution then? The big anime and manga companies first have to realize it’s not the fans that are hurting their bottom line… it’s themselves for over extending their resources. Instead of focusing on 90% of series like they are doing, the whole industry has to take a step back and try aiming for 50% or maybe even lower. Focus on getting the licenses to the great series. This has MANY benefits. First of all, it’ll cut down on the shelf clutter. Someone new to anime walks into an anime section of the store and they are overrun with titles. Most of which aren’t very good. Especially not for someone just getting into the scene. Second of all, it helps the company bottom line. You waste less time on less desirable series that won’t sell well. Yes, this means downsizing the companies a bit, but if it’s necessary for the survival of the industry so be it.

    The third major consequence is it gives a place for these “fans” you mention in your article. It gives them a home that’s non-destructive. It allows them to delve deeper into the genres. What may be left un-licensed may not be huge titles like naruto or bleach… but that’s fine as most of these “fans” dislike such main stream fodder anyways. Even without those series there would be tons of gems for the hardcore to watch and enjoy. How they enjoy them would be up to them.

    How’s that? I ended up writing a nice long post and manage to completely avoid the flame war~

  • June 4, 2008 at 12:39 pmrc

    The editorial was alright, I did agree with a few points, but was more or less annoyed at the rest of it.

    To me, he is being just as hypocritical as the subbers whom he is putting down for not being as professional as he is (A professional subber). Any professional editor can go nit pick at whats wrong with his editorial because it is not perfect, and the amount of biases shown in the video kind of takes away from his point.

    What I found particularly bad about it is:

    1) Examples – He uses horrible examples for his points just to prove his biasness. Pani Poni Dash and Zetsubo Sensei are probally the worst examples you can possibly give about screen cluttering with massive amounts of information. I’m actually surprised he didn’t include Lucky Star into his examples. Some animes just have too much information at once, or jokes relating to the culture where many people would not understand.

    2) Lack of understanding – I don’t believe he keeps in mind that most subbers are already hard pressed on time issues (mostly due to competition). Many subs come out within 1-2 days of when it is aired in Japan (or at the very least posted here). Unless the subbing group is very popular, than theres a high chance that their subs won’t be viewed as much as one who comes out a day prior, regardless of subing quality. I know for a fact that I will watch what gets subed first, unless I really enjoy/trust a specific sub (Dattebayo and A.F.K to name a few).

    3) Problem with honorifics – I do agree on some points of his arguement, but I can’t imagine anime without the honorifics. Actually I refuse to watch professional subs partially for that reason. I don’t feel that I get a full grasp of what is going on and don’t get a full understanding of the characters and their relations to each other. Many honorifics denote differences in age, formality, and different ways of speaking. I don’t see why there is a problem with wanting to include all of that since many fans of animes do their own research and figure out and look up character biographies and back stories to specific characters. Simple honorifics like -kun, -chan, or -sama help fans (who know what they mean of course) get a general idea of what relations,age differences, and formalities are between others without doing research. It’s part of the language, just like how many other Asian languages have their own way of doing it. It adds to the description, because honestly the English language isn’t as… “romantic” if you want to call it that as other languages. You can do fine without honorifics and still get the point across, but it still takes away from from other languages. All it does is dumb down other languages to fit ours.

    The good parts I did find were:

    1) The problem with not doing the “I” and “You” thing with the honorifics

    2) The leaving in favorite words/randomly translating others

    3) Unnatural translations (Quotes translated directly from Japanese to English without fixing grammar)

    I still feel that fan subs are perfectly fine the way they are. Obviously if there was a problem with it, then they wouldn’t be as popular as it is. I believe the anime culture is still becoming bigger and bigger as we speak (or type rather). I myself rather enjoy some rather text heavy anime subs such as xxxHolic or Zetsubo Sensei because many of them help enrich me in the Japanese culture. Where else would I learn it? The current anime sub thing is a culture of its own. I don’t think its fair to call it good or bad, and I don’t think you can say it adds or takes away from the content of what you watch. The current anime culture in America is pretty much a hybrid of Japanese and English cultures, and the way its subbed is almost like a language of its own (broken Japanese if you want to call it). We already do that with the Spanish language, and we call it Spanglish (yes its a real word) and I you don’t really see people complain about that. The way the subs are right now, anime watchers slowly become immersed in the Japanese language and culture, because they want to know what’s going on in the anime they’re watching. They’ll probably never get to the point where they can learn enough through just anime to watch RAWs, but it does give a slight feeling of accomplishment when you can think to yourself and say “Hey I understood everything that was going on in that five second window of speech without the subs.”

  • June 4, 2008 at 12:48 pmForceDestroyer

    One part of the video is correct: Fansubs still loose meaning, even with many words explained instead of translated.

    Please understand the word “compromise”. Many fansubbers try to achieve the best viewing experience for the AVERAGE WESTERN OTAKU who’s watching fansubs WITHOUT adding separate explanations. Apart from maybe what a.f.k. did for Zetsubou Sensei or Static did for Mai-Hime etc. which is a text at the end of the episode. Unlike your “examples” in The Last Samurai, most notes actually make the animé easier to understand. I don’t mind watching a scene twice or pausing for subs if the cultural differences make it necessary. Showing up mistakes of a few fansubbers doesn’t proove a point.

    However, I agree on a few points concerning how fansubbers treat the original authors. Overwriting the original authors’ names or putting their tag before the title in the filename are such things. Still, crediting the Staff and marking the release is something I don’t dislike. With different releases on one anime, it’s meaningful who to download from. Noone really thinks of fansubbers as comparable to the people who produce animé.

    Overall, I prefer the fansub style to the “professional”, which often means backward subs, ugly aggressive SRT stuff popping up and missing Karaoké. Yes, I like Karaoké, even if it’s these triple subs.

    The heavily overstyled stuff is not something I produce or download. Subs must not stand out too much, and very often, fansubs achieve that better than original subs.

    And finally: We do it for FREE. We are treated like CRIMINALS by the industry. WTF do you expect?! -_-

  • June 4, 2008 at 1:42 pmSepsa

    Isn’t it more hypocritical to call yourself a king than place your fan sub group name In the subs?

  • June 4, 2008 at 2:09 pmreggie

    i thought your article was right on point. I also agrred with part of what he said, but at the same time some fansubbers put alot of time and effort into doing this. And in the end, its all illegal anywayz, so why is he complaining so much??

    p.s. I also prefer some very common words to stay in japanese, (shinigami, onee-sama, baka, etc…..)

  • June 4, 2008 at 2:24 pmIJ

    While I have not watched this “documentary”, I seem to have enough of the gist of what this person is talking about. And I’m listening to all sides of this conversation to get an idea of what people are saying. Given what everyone is saying, this piece does not present a fully balanced overview of the situation.

    However, that doesn’t mean I can’t have my own opinions.

    Now for my side:

    1. Honorifics and forms of even pronoun address (e.g. boku v. ore v. atashi v. watashi for first-person): I can only somewhat understand some people’s frustration that the Japanese version has come over to an English sub or even dub. However, there are two situations where you find yourself in a VERY tight pickle.

    One is general use. Japanese etiquette has a much finer-grained method of determining standing than English does. As it presently stands, more people are understanding this nowadays, so this one is not too bad.

    At the other end of the complexity scale is the other is when they actually debate which honorific or form of pronoun address to use. One example of the latter, in this case first-person, is what happened around episode 17 or 18 of Kanon (I forget which episode it is offhand) where Yuuichi quizzed Ayu as to why she addresses herself as “boku”, a gently-familiar masculine address. Then she tries other forms, including “ore”, with mixed–if not comical (well, to those in the know, anyway)–results.

    This one is MUCH harder to handle. For our release of Kanon, we pretty much counted on the fact our viewers would already have a basic understanding of Japanese etiquette’s intricacies. However, we put brief notes to further explain the specific intricacies.

    However, there is no easy answer for this one if you’re trying to sell this one.

    2. Notes themselves: Our credo is that stuff which doesn’t have a decent translation to English and/or is key to furthering the plot do we put a note in. And as brief as we can manage yet still be readable. Plus we don’t jar the viewer, but instead, fade it in then out.

    I will also note that telling someone to go to a web page link is not only unprofessional, but also ill-advised because what if that page has undergone changes or is outright removed whether by editing or by domain expiry?

    My rule of thumb: Anything where a few words would suffice, an in-show note will work. Anything requiring a bit more might warrant an end-of- or beginning-of-show reference. I do not like the notion of picking up a separate file just for notes.

    3. Further notes on Japanese language creepage: The example cited earlier of Haruhi Suzumiya using “moe” is, IMO, a rather poor example. That’s one of the terms which really SHOULD become a loanword in anime fandom only because those of us who have been watching anime for years will know what it means, or more specifically and accurately, what it connotes. Calling it a “turn-on” doesn’t have the same connotations in English as “moe” does in Japanese. This is a time where it almost pays to have this word come over.

    When it comes language creep, some groups really raise the bar here. One which REALLY got under my skin was TV Nihon’s excessive use of “-tachi” when used in the context of “Person’s name-tachi”, meaning “Person’s name and the others” or something like that. I don’t know whether this was a deliberate decision, like Kaizoku’s “nakama” instead of “comrades (in arms)” or simply sloppy translation. For what it’s worth, I give Kaizoku credit for documenting the fact they changed this as a matter of choice of style.

    4. Obliquely related to in-show notes, but more along the lines of shows which have heaping helpings of Japanese cultural references and/or linguistic jokes: I think the whole problem with shows like Excel Saga and Pani Poni Dash!* is a far more fundamental one. These shows are VERY MUCH niche shows. They require knowledge of Japanese culture, general and especially popular, at a level far more intimate than many anime fans can hope to understand–you almost have to LIVE there to get most of the jokes that aren’t manga-/anime-/tokusatsu-/dorama-related. Bottom line: These shows and shows like them do not belong in the hands of an anime initiate.

    5. Censorship: Unfortunately, I will have to sound off and say that if you want to watch anime, the best way is to NOT watch it on American TV, even on cable. Not to mention, if a given title is licensed to 4Kids, you know the rest. As for One Piece,

    6. Overall thoughts: My own style tends to be a mix of keeping Japanese in and localizing. I have seen subs which run the gamut between both extremes, by both fans and state-side licensing houses. I try to strike a balance so it can be easily understood while at the same time, trying to capture the essence of the prevailing culture. It’s not always easy, but I’m happy with how I’ve done things thus far.

    Anyway, those are my thoughts on the matter, such as they are. I agree that something should be done, but I’m not so sure that what’s been proposed thus far is necessarily the right way. Perhaps a happy medium can be met?


    * I’m hesitant to put Lucky Star in here because it’s teetering on the border. There are enough references to make it relevant on both sides of the Pacific, but there are a few references which fit into Japanese culture only.

  • June 4, 2008 at 2:31 pmIJ

    Oops, I notice I hadn’t completed point #5:

    As for One Piece, I’m not sure if it’s the creator’s direct reaction to seeing the cuts, his reaction by way of fans’, or perhaps a mixture of both, or perhaps some other factor(s) at work that 4Kids’ license to One Piece got revoked and given to FUNimation instead. Whatever happened, there was a bad reaction SOMEwhere. And this wouldn’t be the first time something like this happened (though one other time it happened, it was with another licensee, Nelvana, and their holding, Cardcaptor Sakura, and it was purely fan reaction). I just wish it happened to more of 4Kids’ anime library.


  • June 4, 2008 at 3:21 pmm o m o

    i do think that while most of otaking’s arguments were valid, it seemed to me that he was already sort of bashing the fansubbers.

    i just hope that through that vid, fansubbers would be more aware of how they should do or place their subs. something really simple with few translation notes would really benefit not only the viewers but also the subbers themselves. ^^~

  • June 4, 2008 at 3:41 pmTmoo

    Hahaha, oh wow, weaboos everywhere are completely miffed, this guy gets kudos just for that. There are many times when explanations for whatever romaji is in the sub pops up, for maybe 2 seconds! Now tell me, how the f*ck am i supposed to read that? Rewind and pause? that disrupts the flow of the show altogether. And then we have the ‘true and exact’ english translations. ‘even at a time like this’ and other such examples are so common they could be a meme. ‘for fun’? yeah i get that, but i see that as more of a defensive cop-out than a reason.

    i’d love to see more fansub groups get creative when odd phrases like the one mentioned pop up, and that take a step in the explanation issue so that we either get them in small amounts or have a nice notepad file to reference without the annoying 2 second limit/pause if we really want to know what said word means or how it stands in japanese culture. and on that note, i learn more about jap culture from Danny Choo than anime. His use of examples and rant-esque can be used against him, but you can’t deny that a lot of subs these days are complete shit. Small translated words on signs are fine, huge explanations taking up space that could otherwise be occupied by a lovely woman is not.

  • June 4, 2008 at 3:41 pmMeisme

    I feel like since I don’t pay for fansubs I don’t really have a right to complain. Also, some things he complained about I prefer. Like the poster, I don’t have a problem with the English word “infirmary” on the sign that has infirmary in japanese. Some things I can do without like the flashy subs and the explanations, but I usually don’t watch anime with flashy subs.

  • June 4, 2008 at 3:44 pmTmoo

    by ‘his’ i’m referencing Otaking, not Danny.

  • June 4, 2008 at 3:47 pmTmoo

    also in my belief, if more fansubbers start minimalizing on-screen explanations that have to be paused to read and putting them in notepads or whatever file, the trend will move towards that as a standard.

  • June 4, 2008 at 4:15 pmKarnstein

    Very good article Natrone. In fact it even encouraged me to write my first comment here after reading this blog for more than a year.

    As a non-english speaker I beg to forgive for any strange sentence structure I may use in the following lines.

    In my humble opinion otaking made some good points, but he fails in terms of getting a unbiased/objective point of view. As far as I understood his background, he wrote a dissertation which means he has a degree in either japanese studies or translation with the focus on the japanese language.

    I definitely agree with otaking about karaoke captions. I don’t care about those captions in the intro or ending theme. But they bug the hell out of me in the middle of an episode. Just take macross frontier as an example. Episode 5 had some concert scenes mixed with a major space battle. I’m a mech(a) freak, so I want to see some nice space action and not the karaoke captions of the background soundtrack…

    Translating each and every japanese word on the other hand isn’t necessary. I will stray a away from the general topic, back to my teenage years. I loved reading SF/Fantasy books (and I still love them) but some german translations were pure crap. One rather funny example? There was a translation of some short novels playing in the warhammer 40k (a tabletop game from the UK) world and a faction called “Imperial Fist” were translated into “Kaisergrenadiere” (german for “Emperors Grenadiers”). Some words just sound childish in your mother tongue. German words may sound cool for all those guys from all around the words, but as a native german speaker names like “Panzermagier”, “von Kämpfer” or “Dämon Kraft” are just plain silly for me. They are either wrong like “Dämon Kraft” or some kind of unused combinations like “Panzermagier”.

    Sure, some fansubs do a better job than others, but we are talking about unpaid people, most of them don’t work as a translator in their real life. And popular animes will surely be subbed by nore than one group. If you don’t like honorifics or the style they use: switch to another or hope that some company get the license and dub it. I know maybe ~5-15 japanese words, so unless the fansub don’t make a huge botch like animejunkies did in the screenie natrone provided, I surely would not be able to tell the difference between a good and a mediocre translation. As long as the sentence structur looks right I’m fine with a sub.

    Footnotes are a mixed blessing for me. Zetsubou Sensei without footnotes would be too hard to understand and some japanese jokes& wordplay have no english equivalent. But notes like “londinium =London” or “Rosenkreuzorden” are rather annoying. We’re living in a google world. Search for rosenkreuz, browse the google hit (german wiki) and switch to englisch version… tada: “Rosicrucian Order” … gosh, what would I’ve done without that

    Otaking has some good points but he ruins them thanks to generalisation and biased rantings. Not all fansubs are full of footnotes, honorifics or flashy karaoke captions and fansubs are fansubs, no professionals getting paid for their work. And rants about bad fan translations are misplaced as long as the professional industy cramps out bad dubbed DVD versions…

    just my two cents and thanks for all the fish

  • June 4, 2008 at 4:47 pmjlyn101

    When I first watch this so-called ‘documentary’, I can hear arguments here and there (yeah, that flame fest for instance).

    I do agree on some points, especially the one on putting the fansubbing group’s name along with the title in the opening credits. Then again, I’m tolerant if it’s written small enough so it won’t clutter the screen.

    One minor thing (it’s minor bcos it’s a little unrelated) I can’t help noticing: doesn’t “Otaking” have an updated references? 1976? 1964? C’mon, get a latest one if he can (this is me being a referencing geek XD).

  • June 4, 2008 at 4:49 pmNatrone

    I agree that the anime/manga industry has “flooded” itself into the current problems it faces, but that’s not the sole reason – like anything complex, there are MULTIPLE factors explaining why the anime industry is struggling.

    Thus, one of the main reasons why there isn’t a large fanbase yet is because there is a decently-sized and VERY vocal contingent of animefandom that doesn’t want a larger fanbase (maybe they don’t explicitly say so, but their actions to retain their cliquey obtuse culture reflects this and prevents new people from getting into anime). If we let them have our ways, the anime industry will have to continually struggle against them.

    Like many have said, we need to reach a balance to this solution. The problem is that I feel many FANS do not even recognize the effect they are having in the industry – they just keep complaining and complaining no matter what: “that’s a bad translation!”, “why didn’t they leave that in Japanese?”, “I hate the DVD subtitle fonts and colors!”, etc. And in some cases, the industry actually responds as best as they can, but the FANS keep on complaining, as the industry paints itself further and further into a corner, where it struggles to make ends meet. Then, these same FANS wonder why their favorite series aren’t getting licensed….or maybe they don’t wonder: maybe they jump for joy, so that they can continue to get free entertainment without paying anyone (not even the original creators) anything….

    Ok, so why do I care about anime being “open” enough so that new people who know hardly anything Japanese can enjoy it? That’s just the kind of person I am – I like to share things I enjoy and have more people enjoy it with me…

  • June 4, 2008 at 5:45 pmklo

    I don’t think the video of Otaking was hating, he’s a professional translator and he knows what he’s talking about… fanboys should cut the crap and accept the fact that on-screen text, karaoke and stuff like that does affect the viewing experience. I have watch anime for about 12 years and knowing that the character is -sama or -san has nothing to do with the overall impact of a series/movie… obviously I watch fansubs but it’s nice when they add a text file translations apart from the video.
    And for the love of God don’t use examples of anime comedy… yes they all inside jokes, but I don’t watch anime comedy to have an encyclopedic knowledge of anime and japanese culture… that’s not the point!!

  • June 4, 2008 at 5:50 pmAndue

    I agreed with mostly everything that guy said in his video editorial. It does alienate would be new fans to leave all the little things in. Not everyone who is getting into anime is going to know what onee-sama and onii-chan mean. As far as the flashy subtitles, while its nice to demonstrate your artistic talents, they tend to just detract from the actual show. For instance, Gurren Laggen, I loved the show and I personally loved (I watched Nyoro-fansubs and later the Anon subs when Nyoro dropped it) when they did Giga-Drill Breaker with the big flashy subs.. but was it really “needed”? Not really, it just emphasized an emotion that the translator felt when they subbed it. This makes an assumption of the viewer, that everybody is going to cry man tears during every super attack (like me and alot of us Super-Robot/Mecha Fans).

    I’m not sure if the subtitles in fansubs directly affect our industry. If you think about it, new anime fans aren’t going to necessarily get into anime by searching the web and downloading a fansub. They might, like I did that one fateful day many many years ago, just buy the show off the shelf and give it a spin- then do more research later on the web. Furthermore, there are also some fans out there that will go out and buy a series once it hits the stores in their area if they liked the fansub, like myself. I’m still waiting on the second season box set of Aquarion to hit the stores so i can get season 1 and 2 all at once and for Gurren Laggen to hurry up and get translated (apparently delayed). The only thing i think fansubbing detracts from the industry is a willingness to spend money and support the people that worked hard at producing the series. Lets face it, a lot of us are poor college kids.

    Oh and Natrone: Like yourself, I too was foolish and rented the fansub from the anime store back in the day.. ~_~ /wrists

    However, once i found out it was not for sale *or* rental, i kept it. They tried charging me late fees, but had no way to make me pay since technically it was illegal to rent out in the first place :P

  • June 4, 2008 at 5:56 pmDark`

    I think one thing that many people here forget when referring to how the script should be presented (practically fully translated or leaving certain Japanese terms in or some combination of the two) is that a lot of it is based off the translator for the group. The rest of us may all want the -kuns and -chans taken out but if the translator wants to leave them in, are we going to risk upsetting them by leaving them out and having the translator quit the group? Translators are hard enough to find as-is most of the time, so most groups will (understandably) bend over backwards to please the person who essentially keeps the group up and running.

    Luckily the TL my group works with is pretty understanding in most of the cases. For instance, the last time we subbed something, the character specifically said “cook’s hat”, but no one here would usually refer to it as a cook’s hat, but as a chef’s hat. Our TL told me that I could change it to whatever is normally used, and so I changed it to chef. But what if they had wanted it left as “cook” so we’d be accurate to what the character said and what the staff had intended? We would probably have some people like OtaKing coming after us saying “Yo, what’s up with the engrish?” Well, sorry. We don’t have the luxury of having paid professionals who are less likely to leave over small creative differences.

    Keep that in mind the next time you see a ‘baka’ or ‘nakama’ in the subs.

  • June 4, 2008 at 6:31 pmNatrone

    How you described your fateful day many many years ago, buying a show off the shelf, is precisely what I’m (possibly overly) worried about. If the current fansub culture of inaccessible Japanese translations and difficult-to-view-in-one sitting on-screen-text proliferates from fansubs and into the anime industry itself (it’s crept in with some ADV works like Excel Saga and Azumanga Daioh), then you will have a potential new fan picking up a DVD, watching an anime, getting lost, and never touching anything anime-related again. Again, I’ll admit that I might be too paranoid about this, but it might be another factor for why anime licensing and distribution outside of Japan is struggling….

  • June 4, 2008 at 6:33 pmJC

    Natrone, why would you write about this asshole? I have lost all respect for you sir.

  • June 4, 2008 at 7:03 pmKalua

    Quite interesting to see the quality of fansubs went down-hill so fast. I agree with the man for the most part. Disagreed a few times but no point in repeating what others have said. Well made and amusing, many kudos to the creator.

  • June 4, 2008 at 7:20 pmKraven Ergeist

    I didn’t agree with most of what he said, though I could certainly understand where he was coming from. Still, with all his references to the good old days of fan subbing, he did come off sounding like a cranky old timer. He could have represented a professional subtitling (Like ADV) for a modern anime (like Haruhi) that has recently been introduced to western media. I know he’s talking about FAN subs, but he still made comparisons to professional subtitling, so it still might have helped his argument to use them as a reference tool. But he didn’t – all he did was reference 80′s and 90′s anime as “Good material” covering only modern anime as “Bad material,” so his rant, while mostly valid, came off sounding arrogant and egotistical.

    Like I said, I didn’t agree with most of what he said, mostly because what he was pointing out doesn’t bother me so much. I’ve come to appreciate the way modern fan sub groups do things, and I don’t get annoyed at the flare they put on things. But like I said, I would certainly understand why someone would have complaints, especially when they’ve grown up around the older fan subs.

  • June 4, 2008 at 7:24 pmNatrone

    I wrote the article, because it was a recent event that was relevant to anime fandom, and I had a feeling (which has been validated) that a lot of people would have a lot to say on the matter.

    I’ve already mentioned in one form or another that OtaKing is not balanced in his arguments, that he contradicts himself, that he presents himself from a rather extremist side of an issue with a huge gradient scale, and that he acknowledges HIMSELF (for the most part) that he is trolling.

    But, just because you hate the messenger doesn’t mean you should hate the message. And I see a much bigger underlying yet extremely important message here for fans of anime……

    (I really don’t want to repeat it, since I’ve done so already in my last two comment-responses)…

    Truly, my article was not solely about him – he was merely a catalyst for me to discuss and make a much bigger point….

  • June 4, 2008 at 7:58 pmMC Sam

    1. The guy refers to himself as “Otaking” (king of Otaku) AND he’s brittish (in other words, he’s an egomaniacal elitist prick). So right there you can pretty much toss anything that he says out the window with the bath water.

    2. Fan subs are FREE. If he has such a big gripe how they are done to go about creating a documentry about it… why not create his own fansubs? Do it the way you think it should be done.

    I’ll tell you why he doesn’t. First of all he would say that it’s because he’s a professional and there is an ethical issue (plus it’s technically copyright infringement), but the real reason is that if he put out his “invisible” translations nobody would know who he was. He couldn’t stroke his massive ego.

    One thing that I hate about professional fansubs, and dubs (especialy the dubs) is that they localize too much. Anyone remember when they used to translate rice balls as “jelly doughnuts”? I do. What’s wrong with learning something about another culture? Why do a lot of professional subs try to rewrite it as if it wasn’t taking place in Japan? Azumanga Daioh dubs did that, it was (imo) terrible. Otaking would probably be ok with changing the names to western names, you know… they used to do that too.

    As for the side notes, there is one group that has been including a text file with their Macross F subs (don’t recall who). And Ayako has been including a splash screen right after the opening with notes as to avoid having them occur in the middle of the episode. Yoroshiku’s subs of Chi’s sweet home are very professional as well. He doesn’t talk about groups like that though. He basically presents a one-sided argument, and that is bad journalism.

    Lastly Natrone, thanks for writing about this. I wouldn’t have come accross it by myself for some time. I have mixed feelings about people like Otaking, but I enjoyed your editorial.

  • June 4, 2008 at 8:03 pmCain

    Right on target, he is a professional translator. His job is just to get whatever has been said in some inferior foreign language to the superior language of the human race. However, despite TWELVE years of watching anime, you fail to mention that japanese, as much as it’s alien to me specially when watching raws, then followed by fan subs which I love way more than professional japanese-to-english subbing (dubbing lite).

    Let me give you an example,
    (1) yesterday, john-senpai helped me to solve this equation in my algebra class
    (2) yesterday, john helped me to solve this equation in my algebra class

    The honorifics, while it might be confusing to newcomers (which we all were at one point), help to show the relationship between a mere classmate or friend, to something bigger, a person we held in high regards.

    And for the part where you mentioned that he is not hating on fan subs, please, re-watch the video and turn your sound on.

  • June 4, 2008 at 8:06 pmCain

    edit: However, despite TWELVE years of watching anime, you fail to mention that japanese, as much as it’s alien to me; specially when watching raws, then followed by fan subs which I love way more than professional japanese-to-english subbing (dubbing lite), that it wouldn’t make sense to remove the honorifics because of this example below:

  • June 4, 2008 at 9:15 pmRojSlade

    Well, for either the good or for the bad it’s obvious that many fansub groups have heard Mr. “OtaKing” message and either agree with him, or disagree with them and have started to alter their fansubing style accordingly.

    Either way, some of the most recent releases have been cleaned up of screen clutter, which I personally like better. Had this whole debate not been brought up though I really would have never noticed/mind the flashy subs mainly due to the fact that I’m not going to complain about something that is free.

    All in all I just hope this moves toward a different mindset towards anime as a whole to be more open rather than the cliquey nature it has now.

  • June 4, 2008 at 9:29 pmMike

    After watching this video I am very depressed, all this time I thought that the growth of sub titles was linked to creating a better easier to understand pleasing to the eye almost seamless addition to the videos we watch.

    Was I ever wrong? It seems that subtitles are meant to be so dull and boring that they are barely noticed or even read and attempts to create fan following for subtitle groups is borderline egomania.

    In truth if I knew more Japanese and perhaps could read it too I’m sure I could find Japanese fan subs of British and American shows with equally offensive material to the Otaking or should I say the Otaku sama.

    Perhaps I’m jaded but I like fan subs vs the more professional versions because you never know what you will get in text. Next to Engrish versions of Japanese Anime from Hong Kong even the worst fansub offenders are a delight to the eyes.

    By the way I enjoyed the latest Fan Dub of Mai Otime, god only know Otaking probably shat himself when he saw it, it could be the wave of the future.

  • June 4, 2008 at 9:58 pmkamiro!

    I DO agree with almost everything he said!
    I mean, I’d rather see a plain text than all those unnecessary effects! XD
    the stuff about the karaokes, and the names of the fansubs are very true!!
    but I also think fansubbers do this stuff because they like it, and it is
    free after all… so, if we want something more official, then we should
    buy the dvds or something!

    I’ll be leaving now! P.E.A.C.E!
    (sorry for my english…. u_ú!! it may be wrong!)

  • June 4, 2008 at 10:24 pmHei

    I don’t even know what to say he chose the worst possible animes to complain about not only that but I didn’t agree with almost any of his points notice I said almost meaning that I did agree with some but my minds to cluttered right now to go into details so all I can say that I respect ALL fansub groups because they take time of their own hands to sub for us, no matter how inaccurate or cluttered it is because the thing is people who watch fansub don’t friggin understand japanese that’s why they watch it and all of these fansubbers have other jobs or they attend school so to even have time to sub is a miracle

    but then again my japanese is good enough to the point I don’t need to watch subs so….yay

  • June 4, 2008 at 10:25 pmTmoo

    fansubs being ‘free’ doesn’t protect them from complaints/criticism/hate/whatever comment someone has to say about it. it’s like saying an ostrich is safe from a poacher because it sticks its head in the ground. yeah fansubs are free, so what? free =/= magical protection.

  • June 4, 2008 at 10:59 pmWhim

    I believe the primary aim of the “they do it for free” argument is to point out that if you don’t know Japanese well enough to watch RAWs, don’t be an ingrate and bitch about how people go about making their fan-subs. Otaking is criticizing from the point of a professional translator. I mean, everyone has their right to be a whiny little bitch and post on the internet, but he does have some credentials, so he at least has some weight to throw around when he’s casting his criticisms.

  • June 4, 2008 at 11:25 pmDunames

    all i can say is…..WHAT A JOKE.

    and i’m dissapointed in any fans who aggreed with him for many reason.

    a fan will always be a fan and a pros must alway show some lvl of professionalism

    u cant expect a fan work which is release 3 hours to 24 hours after that episode is air in Japan to be in the same quilty as a slowpros who release their work 6 months to 1 years after the series is completed in Japan.

    comparing this 2 is liek comparing the graphic of real time in-game graphic of game that is rendering in real time Final Fantasy 7 to already beign render CGs graphic like Advent Children. they r both computers graphic but 1 is sure better then teh other. doing what this cheap jerk doing is like hating on in-game graphic say how they can be so much better if not like Advent children.

    as for the I, U, and Dunames-onesan stuff…here an example of why fan sub do what they do

    i dont now how it is in other countries, but here it eh US, we dont use it. since we dont use it, its hard to accurately translate stuff liek Haruka-onesan or stuff like that. just eh name with eth title alone tranlate into a lot of stuff. to me, Haruka-onesan mean, she Haruka, although she not my blood sister, she a very good and close friends, some1 i trust and consider a sister of mine. it show how close the relation is between teh 2 persons as well. in a fan sub, i would rather have the indication there then to have it delete since such title is regional. ina pro sub, sicn eu knwo htat the pro version gonna be release in a certain region, then the sub can be tranlate to fit that region.

  • June 4, 2008 at 11:58 pmRednights

    Very nice video. Anyone who’s filling up a screen of Kanji during a song definitely needs to watch this video. NO ONE CARES, stroke that epeen harder typesetters.

    Some of his nick picking was a joke though …. as in case with One Piece, leaving “Nakama” (with an intro footnote at the beginning of the ep) was JUSTIFIED, wellllllll over 200 episodes ago. It made sense back then, it makes sense now …. very important word and translating it to “friend” is just silly.

  • June 5, 2008 at 12:36 amPatches

    I’m one of those evil translators who regularly leaves things like “Onee-san” untranslated, while translating “boku” and “ore” ubiquitously as “I”. Why? Because saying “Sister, where are you?” sounds awkward in English. At the same time “Boku am over here” also sounds awkward in English.

    My rule for these sorts of situations is more or less: If the word has no accurate English equivalent or would sound unnecessarily awkward or clunky translated literally AND flows well grammatically in English if left untranslated, it’s left in Japanese.

    “That’s so kawaii” fails this rule because “kawaii” does have an accurate English equivalent and does not sound awkward translated.

    “I’m being attacked by a kappa” conforms to the rule because there is no English idea equivalent to “kappa”, translating it as “turtle-shelled water sprite” is needlessly clunky, and leaving it as is does not interrupt the grammatical flow of the sentence.

    But all in all, everyone has their own translation styles, and as long as the point of the dialogue is being accurately reflected and is readily understandable in English, honestly, who cares about anything else? There are simply some nuances in Japanese that CAN NOT be expressed in English, and it’s pointless to try in the subtitles themselves. This is why most fansubbing groups have forums, where the translator can answer any questions about deeper nuances in depth.

    Things are inevitably going to be lost in translation because of the vast differences between the two languages, and it’s downright elitist to stick your nose up at the average anime fan who doesn’t differentiate between “ore” and “watashi” or “kimi” and “kisama”, and just wants to know what’s going on this week in Bleach.

  • June 5, 2008 at 1:09 ammundox

    Well I watched all 5 vids and read the cool article written by Natrone, and well… I don’t really agree with most of the stuff that Otaking ranted about.

    About typesetting
    Well now day there’s this amazing tech called softsubs and you can just put whatever boring font you like to the subs.

    Too much Translation Notes
    Well you can always download the release from another group that doesn’t use tl notes, the examples he used where just wrong. I mean, in PPD the chalkboard was already clustered with text, fansubber just tl that stuff so we could read it you wanted (I actually paused those PPD eps a lot to read those things, some where really funny).

    It all depends on the fansubber, they can either be really fugly and unreadable or cool, and you can sing along with the intro.

    Kaizoku no Fansubs
    Their job is just cool, I don’t know what the heck he rant so much about, the effects for the powers are just cool, and actually I loved the 224 eps of one piece I saw with their subs, I never found them intrusive or anything like that.

    So yeah, actually the only part I liked about his video was the first one, I never lived the old fansubing days. Back on the VHS days I just rented my anime from a store (most of them where from MANGA Video) or I just whatched them on TV (Rurouni Kenshin, DBZ, Sailor Moon, Samurai Pizza Cats, Tekkaman Blade, others) when they still aired anime on national tv here (I’m from Panama ;)), then came the internet and now I just watch any anime I want from the fansuber I like the most (I’m quite picky from whom I dl from :p).

  • June 5, 2008 at 4:05 ame3m88

    karaokes are fun only if you can read and sing with the singer. Why to put the name of the fansub group on screen? (equal or bigger than the anime title)… and he forgot one thing, quality over quantity.

  • June 5, 2008 at 9:49 ampanaghoy88

    I don’t care what other people say about this vid but he has accomplished his mission! Let the fansubbing flame war begin!

  • June 5, 2008 at 11:05 amshogun22

    Some things in the anime fansub docu might be exaggerated, but a lot of the stuff he mentioned also makes sense.

    What I think… translate the words that can be translated into english and leave those words that don’t have a direct english equivalent. (the ones that can only be translated in the form of a phrase)

    I’m not a fan of subs that clutter the screen with explanations (the one that requires you to pause every few minutes). There’s a fansub group that puts the explanations at the start and end of the show, I guess thats one solution to lessen the text on the screen.

  • June 5, 2008 at 11:43 amWoeIsYou

    I agree with OtaKing for the most part. For example, I don’t find superimposing the translation that bad, since the fact of the matter is that already by subbing it, your audience is already seeing a completely a wholly different series than the original viewers. Would it be any different from having a giant yellow “INFIRMARY” in the lower part of the screen?

    “I’m one of those evil translators who regularly leaves things like “Onee-san” untranslated, while translating “boku” and “ore” ubiquitously as “I”. Why? Because saying “Sister, where are you?” sounds awkward in English. ”

    But a with a bit of rearrangement to something like, say, “Where are you, sis?”, it doesn’t sound that awkward. That’s his point. If a direct translation is awkward, you find ways around it instead of leaving untranslated Japanese dangling there. Similarly “kappa” could be translated as “river imp” or “river sprite” without it sounding too awkward or off. I agree, though, that if a show takes place in Japan, there’s no reason to modify it to make it seem like it takes place somewhere else. Complete and utter waste of effort on some of the professionals’ part.

    But like the original article says: it’s human nature to spend work on things a lot of people notice instead of things they don’t. But sometimes humans are dumb. I don’t mind the karaoke subs, they are good practice for whoever does them and they look nice…BUT OtaKing does touch the issue about fansub groups competing (but doesn’t really delve into it). At times it’s ridiculous! Trifles about the stupidest of things: who “deserves” to sub a show, who “deserves” to watch the subbed show and who “pwns” the other group by putting out a sub faster than the other groups. Less of that, more care about the quality, please.

  • June 6, 2008 at 1:22 amninjikiran

    Fansubs these days feel rushed, perhaps they are taking longer to release but the quality is not presented, only the effects are. I used to be an encoder, not a translator and work going into translation and editing, the sweat and blood that went into them was amazing. Sometimes we would be seconds from release only to have one mistake in the subs, just one and still would force a re-encode. (These were times before soft subbing, where they were hard coded, one re-encode via nandub could take a few hours on a fairly high end CPU). To be honest some things are just blown way over proportions though, the translations and stuff all over the intro and OP don’t bother me, nor does limited explanation boxes. Nothing upsets me more though then shitty translations, the point of a translation is to form it to the native language of your viewers and not to half foreign half native language. This commentary was a very good view, and sort of scares me to the future of fansubs, though given it is a free service is there any real right complain? not really. I do hope this spurs some fansub groups to change their ways, as for dieing anime I think online distribution is the biggest good for the industry as a whole, as well as MPAA protection for copywrited american material.

  • June 6, 2008 at 3:19 amSenefen

    I agreed with a lot of what he said. I don’t watch one piece but the subs there were waaaay over done. I feel for the group being used as his bad example tho XD.
    I like karaoke, provided it’s not huge and over done. They’re just credits, I want to know what the song means, it’s not a clean opening/ending anyway.
    Don’t mind -san, -kun etc but by now I speak enough japanese that I don’t need subs to hear it, plus all the different words for you and I. I thing onii/oneesan should probably be translated for any time it’s ment literally. But for non-relations it’s ok if it’s left in jap. But I don’t really mind.
    Things like Baka, hitsuzen etc should be translated. If there’s an english word use it.
    Nothing wrong with a nice font. So long as they don’t over do it. I think we need moderation.

    He was channelling Yahtzee at least once there.

  • June 6, 2008 at 5:32 amoutcast

    are you still grading those papers correctly? :P

  • June 6, 2008 at 12:44 pmGin

    An excellent editorial, to be sure.


    Dare I ask why the heck all of this is such a big deal?

    People, Japanese and English are JUST languages. There is nothing sacred about either of them. Indeed, half the reason English is such a pervasive language is that it doesn’t hold itself up as sacred–unlike, say, French. *cough*

    The real problem with the fansubbing community is that people are so obsessed with preserving the sancity of Japanese/English (Japanese 95% of the time) that they completely forget they are translating INTO another language. Japanese is not English, and vice-versa.

    I’d rather see fansubbers completely rewrite dialogue to make it flow better in English than run around trying to inanely preserve every little thing. To put it another way, the problem with the fansubbers today is their ENGLISH sucks, not their Japanese. They have no idea how to manipulate their own language. Anybody can look things up in a dictionary.

    You know…I think I’ll go make a follow-up rant on my blog. Hee hee.

  • June 6, 2008 at 8:23 pmdarkkodiak

    I’ll try to not repeat some of the arguments that was posted earlier. As someone who has followed fansubbing in it’s early years, I can agree to some of the points pointed out by OtaKing such as too much translation clutter that happens and the Karaoke being a distraction at times. However, guess what happens, I simply switch fansub groups. I’m going to just say it, I whole heartily disagree with anyone who supports full translation because I was first expose to this kind of translation and I always felt that it ruined the atmosphere of the show. I’m actually glad that fansubbers today keep as much of the Japanese culture in their translation because it makes the shows more enjoyable. I always bear in mind that this is a Japanese show, not an American show so by taking away all the cultural references kills the show for me. As for honorifics, I deemed it important in slice of life shows but for everything else it doesn’t matter if it is used or not. As for fansubs not being friendly for newcomers, I will agree with that statement to a small degree simply because of the change in the fans to fansubs culture that is happening. I’ve introduce anime to many newcomers and they like the honorifics and found it strange when it wasn’t used. I was expecting this kind of video to come out because it’s not like we haven’t seen something like this before in other formats. It is just what happens when a certain culture may it be large or small goes through a rapid transition.

  • June 7, 2008 at 1:32 amacidflower

    And while everyone else agrees with OtaKing. I will jump to the defense of the subbers.
    There isn’t a written law saying that subtitles must be translated professionally and things such nakama must be translated (eg Kaizoku-fansubs). Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with the subs. Fansubbing is now competitive and subbers strive to make it faster, better and prettier in a shorter amount of time. Subbers aren’t getting paid to do this (at least most aren’t) and it’s out of our own free time so beggers can’t be choosers.

    So to summarize, who the fuck is Otaking to say which way is the bad way to subtitle anime? He’s just making a comparison between the old ways to the new ones.

  • June 7, 2008 at 4:43 amZeeVee

    i definitely agree on most of the argument… If i was the director or the animator and found these fansubs online, i would be extremely enrage…
    Though, i don’t mind the way they left some of the japanese words on the subtitle, “haruki-nessama” doesnt have to be translated as “haruki-oldersister”…

    P.S: can somone tell me the anime ending theme song at PART 3 from 5:17 to 5:22, sounded really catchy >.<

  • June 7, 2008 at 4:47 amZeeVee

    ooh… i also agree on acidflower’s argument…. fansubbers are doing these traslation for free and hence they deserve some kind of attention or credit for it…
    Some fansubs already start releasing their episodes in .MKV format… so that you can turn on/off the subtitles…

  • June 7, 2008 at 1:39 pmshogun22

    About the Translator’s notes on foreign names…

    He showed 2 examples, one was a name of a secret society in German, while the other was a name of a place in Latin.

    If the director didn’t need to explain to the Japanese viewers the meaning of these foreign words/names during the show, why must the Translator pepper the screem with trivial explanations. In a way, OtaKing does have a point.

    You end up with a lot of text (important and unimportant) vying for the viewer’s attention at the same time.

    I’m not a fan of this style, but I’ve gotten used to these Translator’s Notes popping out all the time… I just ignore them most of the time and probably read them after I’ve watched the episode.

    If you think about it, trivial stuff like this can always be put at the end.

  • June 8, 2008 at 2:35 pmhomina-homina

    i think that the creator of this movie obviously worked real hard on it to come out. however, in the 2-3 years i’ve been watching anime, i have never cared about the way that fansubbers use their editing in episodes. in fact, i kinda like it. i have plenty of questions in my mind when i read text on screen that isn’t subbed, or notice references that aren’t explained. i’m sure the fansubbers translate or explain those too per request of a majority of the fans. normally when they include those notes, i either pause it and read them or i read them REALLY quickly as i have that ability. and if otaking says that anime watchers in japan can’t pause these shows to look things up, he obviously needs to be introduced to tivo. this reminds me of a quote i saw in a political cartoon a while ago that i feel is very relevant to this case. the quote says:

    “a candidate is a person who will seek to convince the public that he or she is a hero when compared to other assholes.”

    i’m not saying that otaking is running for president, but that what he’s basically doing is making himself look like an asshole by proving himself superior to all other assholes (fansubbers).

    i think the real message of his documentary was that he was basically saying “their way is wrong. my way is right. everybody love my method and hate anyone else’s.” i made a spelling-issue comment to a fansub company and got flamed before its many patrons on how they go through so much work to get them done. and it’s true. it takes so many people and so much time to sub anime, even before the flashy graphics. and they don’t pronounce themselves like they used to. sure, it was a problem in the past, but times change and so do people and their habits and styles.

    oh, and the “not for sale” thing. that doesn’t just refer to fansubs, but also to the actual show. you could get in SERIOUS trouble yourself if you were to sell it. they aren’t just protecting themselves; they’re protecting you, too. besides, most fansubbers VOLUNTEER. those donation drives you see are for servers and bandwidth. so, in an essence, “what’s been created for free should STAY for free”.

    and the credits thing; now that’s the only thing i side on. they should do what the subbers did during jigoku shoujo: either put them in the eyecatch or put them in the slides that show who sponsors the show. other than that, i think otaking went a little overboard with this documentary.

    so in the end, i think that otaking should basically put his own foot in his mouth. if you really have a problem with all of these fansubs, here’s two solutions:

    1) sub/edit them YOURSELF


    2) watch the raws

    you don’t have to sit in front of us and talk about how much of a lost cause this is.

    and there’s my $.02, folks…

  • June 9, 2008 at 9:05 amshogun22

    I have to admit, he does have a point most of the time (sometimes exaggerated), but these things no longer bother me because i’ve gotten used to them.

    What do you guys think, OtaKing did this anime fansub docu because…
    A. He was bored?
    B. He wanted the fansub groups to improve the quality of their future translations?
    C. He just wanted to pi$$ off the fan sub groups and start an argument?

  • June 10, 2008 at 12:10 amAnnoyed

    he sounded like a pompous twat the whole way…

    get over yourself, really. he kept repeating himself over and over. and most of his points were things i liked to be kept in subs. things like honorifics, original attack names, last name first, some japanese, and a modicum of TL notes.

    though trinity blood was a hot mess and zetsubou made my eyes cross at times… its not that big a deal. if he understands japanese enough then DL the raws and leave the subs be. i’m not reading a text file later for the show i just watched… pass.

    the whole thing was some blowhard that had way to much time on his hand and thought WAAYY to much of his own oppinion.

  • June 11, 2008 at 3:39 amChappy

    I Just Don’t Like it When Dattebayo Name 1st Appeared than the Director itself, It’s Like they’re the Ones Make the Movie

  • November 21, 2008 at 7:48 pmRemuen

    I think that he’s taking it a little too seriously. sure, he raised a couple of good points – having words to the songs disappear in flashy font effects before you can read them is one. Having far too many Japanese words left untranslated (barring things that are actually names, such as “gigai” in Bleach) is another – it can alienate people. But in general, I think that he’s complaining about the quality of free, illegal, subtitled foreign cartoons, which is about as effective as complaining about the quality of pirate DVDs. (Oh, and I’m English. Even I think his elitism is too much.)

    And I admit – I like fansubs. If I don’t like the way something is fansubbed, I simply don’t watch it. I don’t consider it an insult – but then I am not a professional translator. I guess it all boils down to personal opinion.

  • November 26, 2008 at 10:54 pmeQko

    - first off, he does have some good points but i wish he didn’t sound so pompous about it.
    - i watch fansubs, mainly because i can’t understand a lick of Japanese and seriously give thanks to all the fan-subbers out there that take the time to sub these animes
    - i cant agree to the fact he keeps comparing how a professional sub to a fan-sub and how would a “professional” do it. The fact is a professional gets paid to sub a dvd but a fan-subber does it more or less as a hobby. So how can someone fault them for having their own style and doing it their own way? Honestly if a fan-sub group comes up with something enough people don’t like, most likely they’ll die out and just disappear. My point is, if you don’t like it don’t watch it.
    - i do agree on the point on how some fan-sub groups that plaster their name all over the anime but really can you blame them on wanting their 5 seconds on fame for something they essentially did for free? (not to take anything from the actual creators of course)
    - last thought: i actually like the random fonts on the fan-sub One Piece; to me it actually goes with the silliness of the show but that’s just me…

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