Ok so I’m gonna talk abt this iconic image


So firstly I think it should be said out the bat that THIS TRANSLATION LINE specifically was 90% probably a joke, specifically a satire of the kind of translation trend you’d get back in the days of finding anime on dodgy streaming sites with no official subs. See back then even if your anime GOT a western/english release, you would have to wait for the DVD and almost every time it would be dubbed, not subbed.

This is fine, but the voice actors back then for dubbing and the localisation could be pretty shit fairly often (the infamous 4kids comes to mind, a studio of about 10 voice actors who would play every single role on every anime they dubbed. They also localised as if the audience was dumb as shit and would change onigiri to donuts etc).

So that’s why the old thing of “subbed is always better than dubbed”. Because it literally often was!! Nowadays I would not agree with this statement at all, especially for things like mob psycho 100 and bnha.

So anyway. There’s this cool new anime out in japan but you don’t understand japanese and you aren’t in japan. so people would record the anime off their tvs (or rip it off the DVD), cut the ads out, and fan translate each line. this was usually done by people with english as their first language who were learning japanese, often who were only at about an intermediate/n3 level. Sometimes this would mean there would be lines where you would just get “no idea what was said here, sorry ^_^.

But sometimes, something else would get in the way. Almost all fan translators were not professional translators – professional translations also include a degree of localisation. This isn’t a bad thing like ur 4kids onigiri to donuts, this usually just means figuring out what certain language-specific idioms and phrases can be closest met with in the target language. this means accuracy is lost but accuracy would simply make it unparsable in the target language. For example:


The literal, accurate translation of this is:

I like stomach

But what it actually means is:

I’m hungry.

Then there are cases like this:


The literal translation is something like:

This is the first time meeting you/let’s start a friendship.

But that’s weird and disruptive, so a localisation will change it to:

Nice to meet you.

These are very basic localisation issues, ones that you’re taught from day one, so you won’t see issues with those in old fansubs. BUT when you run into more complex phrases with more culture specific meanings, it becomes much harder to localise, especially because you lose a touch of accuracy.

Coming up with what these things actually mean in English take time, and besides, anime fans get PISSED about inaccuracy especially back then, especially anime fans who don’t know Japanese or even understand the way the translation works and the need for localisation. And besides, sometimes people would want to nerd out about japanese a bit. Go to a forum? No way. I’m going to do it in the illegal fansub of this obscure anime im chucking onto kissanime. So you would then get fansubs that would basically be like this:

At the bottom of the screen, with the usual subs, you would get a literal translation, sometimes with a word untranslated and romaji-d instead (usually “baka”). At the end of the line there would be an asterisk – *
And then, at the top of the screen, often covering over half the actual screen, was “translators note:” and then an explanation of the accurate translation and what it WOULD be localised to best but they didn’t do that because it wouldnt be accurate, here’s all the cultural connotations of this phrase too.

Now this was incredibly annoying, especially when you could just …localise it. As much as people wanted accuracy, they also didnt want to have to go on an adventure up and down the screen to read a subtitle, especially when it was pointlessly distracting you from the actual action.

People got annoyed with this. You may say, well why not just turn the subs off? That wasn’t a thing. You got a very basic video player and the subs would be written as text onto the video in windows moviemaker, exported as an MP4, and uploaded. You know how you cant turn the subs off on the version of naruto on crunchyroll? That’s because they were done old style, imported into the video file itself because the subtitle feature wasn’t universal nor reliable. That’s how fan translations were also exported, in a yellow serif font with a black or white shadow beneath.

So there was no avoiding the paragraph long japanese lesson on top of the awesome gore sequence you were watching. But because the internet has always been filled with talented narcissists, people still did it. Often the non-localisation was absolutely pointless. You know how the anime weeb thing is to call people “baka”? Well “baka” ie バカ translates very easily to something like “idiot” or “stupid bastard”. But one person decided to not localise it, so other people didn’t, and then it became a joke amongst anime fans, and then people forgot the context because now NO ONE was localising baka because that’s just what you do, right? And now everyone knows “baka” because of mid-2000s anime fansubs, to the point that when I see official subtitles use “idiot” when the character says “baka” it feels like its corporate sacriligy against a divine english speaking anime fan tradition.

So you can understand that this shit was RAMPANT. Ur getting assholes showing off their japanese lore skills on top of fruits basket instead of on a forum, and fan translators that are sick of it themselves are beginning to craft little jokes of their own, pointless translators notes as jabs at the assholes. And hence we get the infamous death note fansub:


I need to clarify for anyone who doesn’t quite know. 計画 (keikaku) is one of the most basic translations you can get. You do not need any localisation. There is no subtle nuance. Even the kanji just mean “plot drawing” which doesn’t actually mean this needs localisation because that’s not how kanji work. Keikaku is one of the easiest words to translate. Its common, n5 level, very basic. It corresponds to the word “plan” in English very neatly. To pretend that 計画 needs localisation is a pretty blatant and honestly kinda accurate parody of the kind of bullshit that was happening with fansubs at the time

keikaku means plan and a bunch of other egregious incidents happened and people had a good laugh, there were a few posts compiled of a bunch of different stupid anti-localisation translations, and the trend of fansubs being spots for u to show off in began to fade, not only because of the mockery but also because by this time sites like crunchyroll were going legal and beginning to offer actual good anime subscription services. DVDs were also coming with subtitled options and not just the dub, and anime was much easier to find in english speaking countries. There wasnt really such a massive need to people to pirate or illegally distribute, sub, and stream anime anymore because you had options that were, granted, paid, but they were decently priced and you would get higher quality video and subtitles. Besides, kissanime had started mining bitcoin from its users and that was making people pissed off.

Anyway yeah this is just me being old and talking abt keikaku means plan because I think ppl always thought it was like…real…as in not a joke?? Probably because people don’t know about what it’s joking about. There we go.


(And yeah, it’s “my stomach is empty”.)

My one great hate from translation debates is people calling literal translations “accurate”. They’re literal. They’re word-for-word. But they fail to convey the meaning of the original so, by definition, they are inaccurate. (This trend is true far and wide across conversations about this, and it’s The Worst!)


#history #language

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