Fansubs

At risk of sounding like Paul “Otaking” Johnson, I’m going to go off on a fansub rant.

First of all, I recognize that fansubbing is a free service that fans do voluntarily for the good of the fandom. However, I also believe that people are obligated to conduct themselves in an intelligent manner at all times (even when being stupid!) and there are a number of fansubs hitting the pipes that are just totally retarded.

To be honest, I’m happy with a lot of fansubs and fansub groups now-a-days. Across all the shows I’ve been watching this season, I rarely find myself punching the wall in frustration over a stupid decision a fansubber made. Most groups are doing away with horrid karaoke effects, and translation work across the board is acceptable to great. However, things still pop up here and there that rekindle my rage for some fansubbers.

I didn’t want to name any names, but I guess I have to. When I first started on ChäoS;HEAd, I got a sub by some group called Dark Rebirth. In past seasons I was wary of new groups, but lately newcomers to the scene have generally been good, so I downloaded their release with little worry. I turned off the show six minutes in. The translation read as if the person writing it didn’t know English. And they probably didn’t.

If you don’t know English, don’t translate something into English. You’re only making a damn fool of yourself, and no one will care about your dumb as shit release. Now, if your translator is not an English speaker, that’s fine. However, find someone who is to edit your script. When I was working on Kojika scans for a period of time, this is how we operated. A non-native English speaker who was decent at Japanese would translate the script, then an American would edit it. This worked great! I don’t see why these “Dark Rebirth” morons couldn’t find some American to edit their script. There’s plenty of them out there! I would have done it, even.

Of course if you were to say, walk out on any street in America, you’ll notice that most Americans themselves can’t speak their own language for shit. This terrible, terrible truth bleeds into fansub translations in the form of poor sentence structure and bad wording. It’s quite sad when I have to rewind and pause a show just to parse a poorly written sentence. I’ve edited awkward translations before, and while it does take doing, it is possible to take a weird English translation and have it read as nicely flowing conversational English. That said, if the Japanese dialogue itself is stiff, you’re kind of screwed. Like in Shana.

All these complaints so far are just minor quibbles, though. My Japanese has gotten to the point where I can pick nouns, verbs, adjectives and the like out of a sentence, then determine if anything is missing in a translation, and sometimes if anything is outright wrong. As such, bad/inaccurate translations don’t really bother me if the show’s dialogue is pretty general. What really gets me is when fansubbers plaster shit all over the cartoon I’m watching.

Karaoke effects, overlays, and stupid bullshit get brought up ad nauseam across fansub bitchfests (such as this one) but such complaints bear repeating, since it seems they still haven’t gotten through the skulls of some boneheaded fansub groups. Karaoke effects that are needlessly decorative and complex do not enhance my viewing experience. Handle names and IRC channels plastered all over the opening sequence do not enhance my viewing experience. Using a serifed or rounded font does not enhance my viewing experience. Translation notes carefully explaining the meaning of “ETA” and “debris” do not enhance my viewing experience. These things are distractions. They would distract any other normal person. Just because you have AfterEffects (that is what those cunts use, right?) doesn’t mean you should use every fucking trick it has to offer. It’s like some kid’s first time on Photoshop. All they want to do is make lensflares.

I’m really going to sound like Paul here, but he makes a good point– in a translation of anything, the translator should be totally invisible. I think the odd translation note here and there is fine, but for the most part the translator should not infringe upon the viewer’s viewing experience. One of the worst examples of this infringement is when fansubbers overlay English text over Japanese text. Let’s take Eclipse’s Clannad subs for example. What they’ve been doing lately is carefully Photoshoping over frames with Japanese text, and scribbling English text on top. Clannad takes place in Japan. Why the fuck would Japan have English signs. Just leave the motherfucking show alone you fucking cunts. You’re not only fucking up my viewing experience, but you’re also insulting the guy who painted that background by scribbling the fuck all over it. Jesus, are you guys stupid or something? I feel like I’m watching some show localized by 4kids.

However, I am happy that a lot of groups are doing away with this shit now. gg, even though their taste in anime is absolutely horrible (subbing mainstream crap like Geass and Macross, then dropping Toradora!), does a great job at putting out nice lightweight subs that are just a straight translation with very little in the way of fancy formatting. Same thing with Triad, ADTRW, the newly formed Aero subs. I like m.3.3.w, even if they’re guilty of most of the things I have complained about. However, their approach is very minimal, and their translations are always fucking solid.

So, after all this whiny bitching, what is my picture of the perfect fansub? One of my puppets has explained it before, but I guess I’ll say it for myself– the perfect fansub has a nice, easy to read translation that is localized to the point that it doesn’t omit or change any cultural references present in the dialogue. The font used is a neutral, sans-serifed font; translation notes are delegated to a txt file, or a link to the official site; and staff credits are either not present at all, or just appear on an extra frame at the end. The format is a softsubbed MKV file, which preferably uses the best quality raw available. I do not think this is too much to ask.

Like I said, most of these complaints have become moot, but some modern fansubbers are still missing the point of fansubbing, perhaps because they’re too knee deep in their own dickwaving contests. Fansubbing was, and still is about allowing people not versed in Japanese the opportunity to watch what’s new and cool in Japan. Fansubbing is not about Photoshopping over a highschool’s name plate.

I really hate raging. Usually when I rage, it’s just for laughs, but this shit really bugs me. I guess I’ll get on blogs next. Won’t that be fun!

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