Is there a Fansub Brouhaha? Really?

How come I don’t see it anywhere? The Anime Blog has a series of articles about the Otaking guy, who made a documentary about the inadequacies of the modern fansub scene. TBA stresses much on the alleged big ruckus in the fansub and anime community this documentary has produced, but the strange thing is, I don’t seem to see much opinion on it in the animeblogging scene.

Or wait, is it because I barely read any blogs nowadays? Anyway, the documentary and subsequent interview was quite eye-opening, as us anime viewers are so used to these things that we don’t notice them anymore. It’s like having body odour, you never know it’s from you! Or living in a garbage dump, where your nose scent sensors are already saturated and thus unable to detect the nauseating stench of decaying material.

Otaking makes many good points regarding the style most fansubbers use. They love to be literal and in fact, to many subbers and viewers, something that isn’t literally translated is wrong. An example is the rap lyrics from the Japanese movie "Check it out yo!". The subtitles I saw were done the Otaking way of conveying meaning, so the subtitles had stuff about Tom Cruise even though the original lyrics didn’t. I heard many people in the cinema, obviously weeabos, complaining about bad subbing and remarking that fansubbers would’ve done a better job.

There appears to be two major types of fans. Those who understand Asian culture and those who do not. I mean Asian because many Japanese idioms are actually imported from the Chinese Federation so Chinese-speaking fans have more understanding of Japanese grammar, sentence structure, idioms and cultural aspects. Such fans would thus feel that having a literal translation is alright, because even via such a translation, they still get the original meaning very well. Many fansubbers tend to be Asian as well, even if their nationality is American.

Those who are far removed from Asian culture would probably require a less literal translation. I suspect this is partly why even though anime has gone through an explosion in popularity, a vast majority of its fans are still people of Asian heritage. Even those who have no connection to being Asian would be converted into a pseudo-Japanese (weeabo) as much knowledge of Japan is required if one wishes to be an anime fan these days, due to fansub style and peer pressure.

Honestly, I don’t really care about fansubs because they serve as merely a rough guide to know the sentence meaning. If a vague meaning is given, I can understand the Japanese fully. Without the subs, it just takes too much effort and I lose enjoyment of the show. So fansubs to me are like the guiderails at the bowling alley.

In case people are wondering, the problems Otaking points out exist not just in the English fansubbing scene. The Chinese one is similar, with lots of notes, honorifics and other stuff. They rarely have fancy karaoke though, because they think it’s a waste of time. Which is true considering how each  show has multiple groups subbing it and released in less than a day.

Actually, the stuff Otaking point out aren’t as bad as it seems. He states that people would get lost in the subs if they weren’t already weeabo, which is true. But in this age of easy information, one can just find out the meaning of the terms instantly. This might deter newcomers of course, but if the majority of a fansub’s customer base desires that style, it’s only natural that they serve it up. It’s a simple demand and supply thing.

But in the first place, people who "support" fansub groups are idiots, especially those who feel the need to hurl vulgarities on online forums in support of their favourite fansub heroes.

So the question is, WHO IS YOUR FAVOURITE NARUTO FANSUB HERO?

15 Responses to “Is there a Fansub Brouhaha? Really?”


  • Who’s my favorite fansub hero…. that’s easy, the groups that’s doing my current favorite anime… it changes season to season… The major sub groups all do a good job. If you pick up an anime I like… you’re a-ok with me.

  • Triad: for stating after EVER RELEASE of Kaiji that it was their last release. Several hundred posters would then appear and whine, plead and generally insult incoherently. Then the exact same thing happens all over again, each time they release (and once again threaten to drop).
    Utterly hilarious.

    Or any group who DOESN’T hardsub karaoke, so I can bloody turn it off. Get that crap off of my OP, and ESPECIALLY off of the screen during insert songs. Nobody wants to be watching Macross, then suddenly have 1/3 of the fight scene obscured by HUGE GLOWING PURPLE TEXT.

    Whilst I broadly agree with Otaking’s points, I take exception to one of them: that DVD subs are simple because that’s the best way of doing it. DVD subs are simple because of format limitations. Vobsubs are pre-rendered as images, which are overlayed over the video when played back (rather than text rendered at playback, as with ‘normal’ softsubs). This puts massive limitations on what you can do with them, which is only compounded b the restrictive nature of the DVD standard.

  • My favourites are Eclipse and Shinsen-Sub. Triad is not bad but that’s my impression from watching GSG.

  • The one gripe that Otaking that points out that sucks majorly are those stupid translation notes that pop up – the ones that either 1. Explain something a translator refuses to translate 2. Explain a joke.

    1. I’m not watching your subs as a 23 minute lesson on Japanese.
    2. If I don’t get it, I don’t get it. If you explain it to mean, it won’t magically make it funny.

  • I really love Honobono, but that might be just because they’re the only people subbing Goldfish Warning… however, even if they are the only ones, they’re doing the best job that I think anyone could. Goldfish
    Warning has so many culturally-specific jokes, and Honobono has meticulously included great translation notes for them. While this si something some people have been complaining about, the fact remains that if these notes were not included, much of the humor would fall flat to a non-Japanese person, so I appreciate it.

    I do also like Shinsen and Lillicious a lot, too, though… and when I watched shows that Live-eviL subbed, I always liked them a lot.

  • What the fuck.

    It’s free stuff, as long as its decent I don’t give a fuck.

  • Are you serious? Did you hear the word ‘fansubbers’ coming out from the audience while watching ‘Check It Out Yo’? :D

  • My favorite subbers are the ones who bring Chinese subs on hollywood films so our local aunties and uncles can watch and understand “The Matrix” or something.

    Also, I wonder why people actually complain about karaoke and reference notes that cover part of a scene. Oh my god my man juice has missed its mark on and landed on some text because theres so much of them!!11 Fags.

  • BSS have been pretty damn awesome so far. Only people really subbing Golgo 13 and Kurenai, and they finished off the extra Baccano DVD episodes I was waiting for for SO LONG. Plus they provide Direct Downloads, which instantly gives me more options.

    Generally, they have been true fansubbers by getting stuff to the fans. Seeing multiple fansubbers sub the same thing every week drives me nuts.

  • Any Subber that does a Good Job in translating the Show without showing off their Überskillz with fancy Shit like Fonts etc. are alright!

    As far as Otakings Opinions go im up with these:

    1) Subbers suck that take more Credit than the Show itself and need to show of their l33t skillz
    2)Some Subbers want to stay True with the “Elite-Otaku” and throw in randomly unneccasary Japanese Terms and other shit.If it makes sense to use the Japanese Term…Sure use it.But if you just want to show of OMG!!11 I know the Japanese Term of DeathGod LOL! Im so hardcore… Fuck off.

    As far as the References go:
    I like to be informed about Japanese Information/Customs i cant know about as German Citizen.But that doesnt mean every tidbit of senseless Information has to be plastered on the Screen.

    I actually cant understand why he criticizes the Subbers for bad translations…Its for Free Dude! They do it in their free time and well arent professional Translators….

  • Chinese… Federation?

  • ggkthxbai

  • I guess fall on the other side of the spectrum from Beowilf-san.But then again I’m probably a minority – my type enjoyed NGE, but liked Gasaraki *even better* because it was a mecha show PLUS all the cool kabuki, noh, traditional costuming, dance and music stuff in it.

    Fansub anime is an enjoyable way for me to keep in touch with Japanese culture, and also to hone my understanding of grammar, idioms, and common proverbs. I visit Japan about every 4 years or so, and in the meantime, I also enjoy anime that includes historical notes about cool places to VISIT. Best example is seing ‘Bakumatsu Kikansetsu Irohanihoheto’ and then GOING to Hakodate and VISITING the Western-style, star-shaped fort, but with your head already filled with (anime) images and sounds of what life and strife was probably like in the 1860s – 1880s and the dying flames of Tokugawa loyalists. Similarly, it’s like watching Ted Turner’s ‘Gettysburg’ first, THEN walking the actual battlefield later. Or watch ‘ Braveheart,’ then walk the bridge at Sterling, (Scotland) and understand how the ambush, elevation advantages, and tactics played out.

    I also like fansubs in ‘intermediate’ Japanese – they write common aisatsu such as ‘Itadakimas’ ‘Go chiso sama deshita’ might need a translation, but it should be borderline understandable to anyone who’s watched more than, say 20 series – so they just write those ‘words you should know by now’ in straight romaji. Often this is more enjoyable to me than the US-produced DVDs that come out a couple of years later, (which I buy to retroactively ‘support’ the series,’ then often donate to local libraries.)

    Quote: ‘So fansubs to me are like the guiderails at the bowling alley.’ = Perfect. Or training wheels set to their highest. You’re just about good enough to take them off and fly the RAWs…

    Now, besides ‘chiku-sho’ and ‘kuso’ Japanese really doesn’t use swear-words, and one thing I *hate* is when English fansubs falsely add in swear-words that the Japanese language clearly did NOT contain. Common examples are ‘ii kagen ni shiroo,’ ‘nan da temme,’ or ‘shimatta’ – none of these have any reference to sex or excretion so it’s a let-down to me when a fansubber inserts an f-bomb when THATS NOT WHAT WAS SAID OR THOUGHT OF BY THE CHARACTER. Part of the coolness of this particular foreign language is how you can express severe anger, cogent threats, frustration, and abject disrespect, all using ‘real’ words. There’s an old saying that in an argument, whoever resorts to swearing first has lost, so forcing you to think clearly without swear-words, you develop a skill in your own native language – without the crutch of a swear. You develop your own argumentative skill and assertiveness.

    However, B-san has a point too: if something is spoken or happens which is a reference to something complicated to explain (yet important to the story or the scene,) then rather than clutter up the field with two lies of dialogue below, and a 5-line paragraph in the top of the screen, it’s better to keep the cultural notes brief at the time and place and then append some detailed paragraphs and images in after the ED. the group who did ‘Oh Edo Rocket’ were great at this. And I agree with Blowfish that translating EVERYTHING IN SIGHT can sometimes detract from the total experience. IIRC no one has translated the ‘TO MA RE’ (Stop line) characters painted on Japanese intersections – generally, that would be extraneous to the scene and the plot, so it’s not necessary.

    Certainly I’m not dissing the people who volunteer their time and skills – just sayin’ what I enjoy most…

  • I don’t mind the flashy karaokes in the openings and endings. Actually, disregard that, I *love* them. Actually, disregard that too: the reason why I got into fansubs was because their subtitles are awesome: they’re colorful, they have nice highlights, their fonts are great. Perhaps the one thing I feel uncomfortable with is having to pause to read the explanations on the top of the screen, but that’s because I watch my anime on my iPod, and the iPod puts an annoying black bar on the top of the screen every time you pause the video. I don’t mind overlays either; as long as the kanjis are correctly translated and make sense, that’s fine. I do agree that sticking detailed paragraphs after the ending is a good practice, though. I saw it on the Azumanga Daioh fansub by Triad, where a chapter begins with a note explaining why Tomo comments about Osaka’s tsukkomi (ead. http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/BokeAndTsukkomiRoutine)

    Otaking has a very interesting point, though: if something that needs explanation is not absolutely relevant to the plot, then you’re better off with dynamic equivalence. TV Tropes calls that “Woolseyism”, after Ted Woolsey’s translations of Squarenix’s games, and it’s the trademark of excellent translations. The Mexican dub of Serial Experiments Lain, for example, translates “Wired” as “Nexus”, which feels much more natural (“Cableado” would be silly) and makes much more sense in the context of the series. I personally don’t mind literal translations as long as they have an explanatory note, but I do acknowledge that not everybody knows what, for example, “moe”, “tsundere” and “-chan” mean, and if you’re hell-bent on translating literally instead of just conveying the meaning, then I’m afraid you’re a grammar nazi, not a translator.

    But of course, there are exceptions to the rule. a.f.k., for example, does a very good job at dynamic translation. The Haruhi Suzumiya sub is almost devoid of explanatory notes; in the last chapter, when Kyon says “I have a pigtail moe”, they translated it as “Pigtails turn me on”; in the Lucky Star sub, when Konata says “Tsundere girls wear pigtails”, they translated it as “You oughta have pigtails if you’re bipolar”.

Leave a Reply to The Sojourner