Don’t @ Me: Eight of my Anime Opinions: Translation Edition

It’s Monday, which means it is time for this! Welcome back to Don’t @ Me! The place where, like my sweet ass new sunglasses. I #dealwithit as I give you my thoughts, views and opinions on everything in the anime and manga world. This week I return to the well of translators and the reaction of people to them. There have been fervent opinions on both sides, so I am going to do what I do best: cut straight down the middle and try to see each respective side. Let’s get into it after the cut.

  1. First off, I have to say, if there was one way the culture war was going to get its hands into the anime and manga world. Going through the translation scene was probably going to be it. It really feels to be the only avenue open for westerners to actually have any sort of say. English dubs remain too niche for the general fanbase, and subs have mostly stayed true to the source material.
  1. For both sides of this issue, I once again think that it is a case of each respective viewpoint seeing the worst in the other. The purists believe that translators, especially those who are vocal and active (politically or otherwise) on twitter, are determined to insert their own ideologies onto the work and scrub any of the ‘unsettling’ words from the text. On the other hand, the translators believe that if they don’t do a complete 1 to 1 transfer of the language, then they aren’t doing their jobs correctly. It is two extremes that, while there has been evidence of wrongdoing on both sides, feels a little out of place.
  1. Purists need to understand that a complete 100%, 1 to 1 translation of the Japanese language to English is probably impossible. I have little knowledge of how it works, but even I know that Japanese is very difficult to both understand, and to change into English. There is a level of inference that is required and sometimes that means, even with the best of intentions, that some of the text might be changed. It’s how language works.
  1. However it is not acceptable for translators to omit words or phrases when they are clearly laid out in the text. Especially if the work they are translating may go against their personal beliefs. They don’t get to be judge, jury and executioner on what is said or isn’t said in a story. A translator’s job is to try and represent the work in another language as true to the author’s original intent as possible. If that goes against their personal or political beliefs, well then tough shit.
  1. Right now, thanks to the workings of social media. We are mostly seeing snippets of people taking things out of context, or zeroing in on small issues and blowing them up in order to gain clout or outrage clicks. These people often don’t really care about what is happening, they just need fuel for the narrative of a culture war in the anime sphere. They want to be a victim, and yes, shove people out who they don’t want here. Most people, and frankly, most translations are often 98% faithful to the source material. Yes there have been some mistakes, but again most of these are corrected when enough attention is thrown on them. 
  1. But it should also be said that there is a level of smugness and frankly dismissal of legit concerns by more vocal translators. I do think they need to understand that the anime community is very protective of the medium. The scars of the 4kids era are still here, and there is zero tolerance for any ‘westernization’ of the source material. Yes, social media is the worst barometer, and it is understandable for translators to get defensive when so much of the criticism is so toxic, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have to understand people’s concerns. I think it would go a VERY long way if the translators showed a bit more humility towards their work and didn’t paint the anime community (many of whom are on their side) with such a broad brush.
  1. Honestly, there needs to be good faith shown on both sides, because no good will come of an increasing polarization of the anime community. As a child of the 4kids era, where there was REAL censorship of anime. Or the fan-sub era where things like the ‘Franky house’ translation of the One Piece manga decided that adding a ton of profanity was cool. No good comes from extremes on either side. By lowering the temperature and engaging in good faith, things might get better.
  1. Or maybe just stop talking about your jobs on twitter. Or hell, stop going on twitter. Fuck that website. It’s only good for looking at pictures of anime tiddies and butts.

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