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Japanese fansubbing

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Japanese fansubbing

Postby XJTA » Thu 07.12.2007 4:30 pm

Something I've become very curious about lately. There is a very active and prolific community in the English part of the internet involved in fansubbing Japanese movies and television and making them available for download, but is there a Japanese counterpart to it? Is it a relatively obscure, niche hobby, or more wide spread and well known?

Is there a message board somewhere in the depths of the Japanese internets where people argue about which fansubbing group has the better Aqua Teen Hunger Force release?
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RE: Japanese fansubbing

Postby Ezrach » Thu 07.12.2007 10:56 pm

Really popular TV shows make it to Japan with professional subtitles. (24, Friends, Smallville, Seinfeld, Simpsons...on and on...) Japanese don't need to endure bad subtitles from fans - They can go rent the official release from Tsutaya.

In English speaking countries, on the other hand, the only really famous Japanese program we got was Iron Chef. Media corporations don't see Japanese television as a lucrative business, and so only the biggest movies ever make it over officially. That's why you have a large community of people who (out of necessity) subtitle Japanese media that wasn't previously available. (Variety shows, dramas, etc.)

Good translations are done by a native speaker into the target language, so an American who wants to translate Aqua Teen Hunger Force into Japanese is not going to end up with good results. The jokes in that show don't match with the Japanese sense of humor. You'd have footnotes explaining everything, which ultimately just makes the show not funny.
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RE: Japanese fansubbing

Postby AJBryant » Fri 07.13.2007 10:44 am

Actually, IIRC, when I was in Japan, all the American TV shows came over and were DUBBED into Japanese.

If you want the original soundtrack and subs, short of buying DVDs, you're SOL.

When I was there, there was a very active fangroup I knew (and I assume there were many more) who were doing fansubs of Star Trek the Next Generation.


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RE: Japanese fansubbing

Postby Ezrach » Fri 07.13.2007 10:55 am

When was this that you were in Japan, Tony? In my above post I was referring to my experience within the past two years, and this was in Fukushima (not exactly big city life). You could easily go and rent Friends with subs from Tsutaya.

Actually, they were even renting out Firefly, which I wouldn't even consider a major hit in the States. All of the movie theaters had early dubbed showings of films for children (Harry Potter, for example), then had later showings with subtitles for adult viewers.
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RE: Japanese fansubbing

Postby Dehitay » Fri 07.13.2007 11:23 am

Ezrach wrote:
Japanese don't need to endure bad subtitles from fans

Good translations are done by a native speaker into the target language, so an American who wants to translate Aqua Teen Hunger Force into Japanese is not going to end up with good results. The jokes in that show don't match with the Japanese sense of humor. You'd have footnotes explaining everything, which ultimately just makes the show not funny.


The sad truth is that rarely are professional subtitles better than the work done by fansub groups. The quickest working Jap to Eng fansub groups actually start with a Japanese translator with knowledge of English doing a quick translation which gets passed on to an English translator with knowledge of Japanese. Using that method, they can get grammatically clear subtitles that don't miss any details within a few hours for a 30 minute show.

It looks like you're implying that jokes taken out of context when you change language/culture are funnier without footnotes. I can't even really see how that's possible. I find the footnotes added by fansub groups to be much funnier than professional subbers who either skip the joke entirely or try to change it into another joke which is usually obviously out of place and not nearly as funny.
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RE: Japanese fansubbing

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Fri 07.13.2007 11:42 am

The sad truth is that rarely are professional subtitles better than the work done by fansub groups.


This is not true, in my experience. Fans are biased to believe that fansub group's translations are better, and the fansubs tend to hit the hot-button issues among fans like honorific suffixes.
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RE: Japanese fansubbing

Postby Ezrach » Fri 07.13.2007 11:43 am

Jokes lose their punch when they need to be explained. I'm not saying that all jokes are impossible to translate - I was mainly referring to Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Good luck trying to explain that show in Japanese.
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RE: Japanese fansubbing

Postby AJBryant » Fri 07.13.2007 1:20 pm

Ezrach wrote:
When was this that you were in Japan, Tony? In my above post I was referring to my experience within the past two years, and this was in Fukushima (not exactly big city life). You could easily go and rent Friends with subs from Tsutaya.


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RE: Japanese fansubbing

Postby doinkies » Fri 07.13.2007 2:39 pm

I've heard that on Japanese cable TV stations that show non-Japanese shows, you can easily switch from the original soundtrack w/subs to the dub by using the cable remote. However on non-cable channels, you mostly don't get this option. Though as others said, with the advent of DVD, you can easily hear the original soundtrack with subs if you want to.

I once watched an interesting documentary on the history of dubbing and seiyuu in Japan called アテレコ. It said that the prevalence of dubs on Japanese TV came from back when TV screens were very small and so it was hard to read subtitles on them.

As for fansubs...probably the worst fansub I've ever seen was the one for ep 1 of a J-drama called 「パパとムスメの7日間」. It had bad grammar, typos everywhere, misspellings of character names, unnatural-sounding sentences, and many mistranslations, and they used Comic Sans MS for the font. :@ I was really happy when they decided to give up subbing that drama and now there's a much better translator doing it than before.
Last edited by doinkies on Fri 07.13.2007 2:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: Japanese fansubbing

Postby Dehitay » Fri 07.13.2007 3:45 pm

Yudan Taiteki wrote:
The sad truth is that rarely are professional subtitles better than the work done by fansub groups.


This is not true, in my experience. Fans are biased to believe that fansub group's translations are better, and the fansubs tend to hit the hot-button issues among fans like honorific suffixes.


Our experience seems to differ some then. However, I've watched a great number of both professional subtitling for Japanese shows and fansub subtitling for Japanese shows. Professional subtitles tend to break up a sentence on screen into phrases that match the timing of when the person pauses in speech. However, because of the difference in English and Japanese grammar, this is usually accomplished by changing the original meaning of the phrase. Fansub groups will usually just put the whole sentence on screen at the beginning and remove it when the person stops talking. Professional subbing isn't very much different than captioning for the dubbed version of the show. Fansubs tend to stay true to the original meaning and plot.

As for ATHF, that show doesn't even make sense in English. They're may be a few jokes that could be explained by footnotes, but I don't remember their being enough for footnotes to make a huge difference. The best they could do is add one through the entire show saying "Note: people think things are funnier when they're high". To say having a footnote to explain Japanese jokes would ruin the joke is weird to me. Since you're translating the language, shouldn't you translate the humor and culture in the language too?
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RE: Japanese fansubbing

Postby Ezrach » Fri 07.13.2007 9:39 pm

I'd just like to point out, Dehitay, that in professional translating you don't translate sentences, you translate meaning. Fansubs tend to translate word for word, which may be why you like them, but that's the same reason most other people don't like them.

For example, if in some show the original Japanese is, "足元を見る", fansubs tend to translate that as, "Look at his feet," even if that doesn't make sense in the context it's used in English. If the fansubber knew what the phrase meant and still insisted on putting it in the subtitles with a note explaining it, it would be something like, "Look at his feet. *Samurai used to determine the status of someone addressing them by looking at their feet. Poor people could not afford good shoes, and so wore..." I've already been jarred from the show I was watching, and the scene has probably already passed, and they haven't even gotten to the part where they explain that the phrase used colloquially means to take advantage of some situation, especially in a business setting.

Professional translators would find an English equivalent and use that instead, leaving the meaning intact but making the material digestible in the target language. They would probably just use, "Carpe diem." You, as a language learner, may feel let down by this, but the average viewer will not.
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RE: Japanese fansubbing

Postby SenescenceReign » Fri 07.13.2007 9:52 pm

Ezrach wrote:
You, as a language learner, may feel let down by this, but the average viewer will not.


I know this isn't true for most people, and I'm in no way contradicting you- I actually agree whole-heartedly!! You're one-hundred percent correct! But personally, I wish sometimes that there were translated movies that had both options- literal meaning and translated meaning. That way, I could watch the literal meaning, with footnotes, and learn through entertainment.

Yeah. That'd be greaaat. <dream>

One thing that annoys me a great deal is to watch a movie that is subtitled with friends, the sort who know about as much as me (nothing) but feel that if they recognize even one word that it should appear in the subtitle somewhere. "He said... he said the word "night"!! Why didn't the subtitles say night? How dare they not say night! I'm not watching this crap ever again!" "Shut up and watch the movie and stop pretending you know a whole language and culture you can't even begin to understand," I should say. Now that I think about it... why is it that people who know less tend to complain more...? Sorry. </tangent>
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RE: Japanese fansubbing

Postby SirFirestorm » Fri 07.13.2007 10:27 pm

Erzach, from my experience, you have it backwards.
Professional translators sometimes are not Japanese and have no idea what the Japanese colloquial expressions are. Sometimes they do, but they cannot put editors notes in the subtitles explaining a joke so they either change the joke for the target audience or roughly change the meaning.
Fansubbers are usually fans of the stuff they are subbing, and the good fansubbers, if they don't know the nuance of a weird phrase, looks it up, or asks someone who does. Those types of jokes are usually explained as editor notes on the top of the screen, you would have to pause to read it all. But for me, it doesn't really detract from the show.

It might be true that fans are biased with fansubbers though. I can't really vouch for the accuracy of fansubs, but I believe them to be a higher standard than rough translations, especially the good groups that have been around awhile.
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RE: Japanese fansubbing

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Fri 07.13.2007 11:01 pm

I can't really vouch for the accuracy of fansubs, but I believe them to be a higher standard than rough translations, especially the good groups that have been around awhile.


This is exactly what I mean by bias. Pretty much by definition, if you require subtitles, you are not qualified to comment on the quality of their translation.

Professional translators sometimes are not Japanese and have no idea what the Japanese colloquial expressions are.


And fansubbers are? This is just the usual nonsensical translator-bashing that I see out of anime fans. No wonder I never really wanted to get into that business.
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RE: Japanese fansubbing

Postby Dehitay » Fri 07.13.2007 11:30 pm

Yudan Taiteki wrote:
And fansubbers are? This is just the usual nonsensical translator-bashing that I see out of anime fans. No wonder I never really wanted to get into that business.


Like I said before, most of the bigger groups have one for each show they sub. They're about as hard to find as Japanese people that want to practice their English.
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