My Fan Translation Thesis is Finally Complete! + Life/Anime Updates


The long haul is finally over! After almost a year of research and writing, I’ve finally finished my honours thesis. It’s around 18,000 words in total. (I know!) I still have to format the thesis and get it checked by my supervisor one more time before I submit it, but all the hard work has been done.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I can email the draft to anyone interested. Just let me know via the comments or Twitter. All feedback is welcome!

Here’s the abstract below:

tate no yuushaYeah, I know. The language is very dry and academic, but it is a thesis. I do have plans to condense my findings into a series of relatively accessible blog posts after the thesis has been submitted and graded, though.

To sum up my main arguments/positions:

  • Machine translation doesn’t suck. It doesn’t spell the end of everything good and readable. (I’m aware that this might be an unusual argument coming from a translator.)
  • Of course, it is generally accepted that fully-automated machine translation will never reach the quality of human translation. What is more interesting to think about is how machine translation is used in practical contexts these days. There’s a lot of human intervention involved, especially at the post-editing stages, so most of the time it’s not even really machine translation in the purest sense.
  • The reason I focused on machine translation here is because it actually offers a really interesting example of a non-translator doing translation. Even if you don’t know the source text language, MT users can still do everything that is important to translation: adapt a piece of writing for people who speak a different language.
  • Obviously, there’s a lot of potential for MT users to get things wrong and be really culturally insensitive, and I call that out here. At the same time, I don’t think that the trend towards user-generated translation is entirely a bad thing because it does release translation from the constraints of the publishing industries. Thanks to the magic of Copyright violations and online file sharing, lots of things that would never receive a translation now get to have widely read translations – even multiple translations.
  • I focus on fans’ use of machine translation here because fan translation has shifted consumer demand in this industry in a tangible direction (i.e. today’s licensors would never turn Uranus and Neptune into cousins)Therefore, the story of fan translation is of interest to academics and professional translators as well, whom this thesis is written for. It’s not just fan wankery on my part. I think that the trend towards user-generated translation is serious business. I go into some of the implications, but unfortunately it’s beyond the scope of my thesis.

Honestly, I spent a year writing this darned thing, so I could ramble on for a decade about why it is so full of ~scholarly importance~. I’ll shut up about it now, though. I’m just happy that I’m done because I can finally start doing fan translation again instead of writing about it. I haven’t worked on Qualidea for half a year and I actually do want to get something done before the anime starts airing this summer.

It’s probably gonna be a trainwreck, though… lol…























Then there’s that story I really want to finish writing. The general rule of non-fiction writing (and especially academic writing) is that you’re supposed to be as specific as possible, so I’m really looking forward to the prospect of writing vaguely about things for once.

Finally, I’m looking forward to watching some more anime now that school’s out (for now – I’m probably gonna do postgrad…). I recently watched Space Battleship Yamato 2199, which for some reason moved me to tears multiple times. Then I watched a bunch of WWII documentaries, which made me cry some more. I also watched Macross: Do You Remember Love? and that was awesome as well. Continuing with my spree of old-school anime, I picked up Now and Then, Here and There, which didn’t make me cry, but did make me exclaim “Fuck this gay earth!” every five minutes. I’m not saying it’s a bad anime at all, but it makes Gen Urobuchi’s shows look like fricken K-ON!













Also, this dude reminds me of this dude from Aldnoah Zero.


So, yeah. That’s my general life/anime update. Now that I’ll be getting more free time on my hands soon, are there any cool anime/manga/light novels I’ve missed out on lately? I feel like I’ve been out of touch with the anime community these days. It’s one of the sacrifices I had to make to get that thesis done on time, alas. I have a ginormous backlog to get through…



  1. Congrats, Froggy. The thesis sounds interesting don’t if I should wait for post about or not.

    I don’t know much about Gen Urobuchi, except reputation and what I’ve seen on the web. Honestly, I’m not sure how interested I’d be in his work but I’m always working to keep an open mind and give things a shot. I am planning on watching Madoka some time, our house has Netflix now so there’s that avenue open. But, I have read that he liked the Kamen Rider Black manga when he was young which influenced Kamen Rider Gaim. So that’s interesting.

    Look forward to future post and Good Luck.

  2. Grats! I really have been slacking on my backlog watching myself, Yamato 2199 and Macross DYRL have been on it for forever, and I still have most of the shows I haven’t finished from 2014 still hanging around.

    But, again, congrats, and good luck with moving on, and enjoying your ero-doujins :P

  3. Congrats on finishing your thesis! I really can’t stand having to write the more academic reports for my course (though the largest of those was only 3,000 words and medicine requires a lot less of my own thought), so I have a huge amount of respect for what you’ve achieved. Being able to write it around something you’re passionate about is another major success in my eyes.

    If you don’t mind me asking (and if you don’t mind sharing in a public forum), where does this all lead you? Are there any careers you’re looking to pursue?

    • Thanks! 3000 words is still tough, especially when you’re juggling a bunch of other deadlines, so I sympathise with your pain ;___;

      As for what I’m doing after this… well I do plan to get an academic career (hence the plans to start a PhD) but I also want to try doing some other Japanese language related work (such as translation and teaching) before I go down that path.

      • Good luck with everything! I sincerely hope you’re able to continue to enjoy your hobbies from both academic and entertainment perspectives ^_^

    • It’s all about ethics in translation.

      The most obvious example of user-generated translation is Facebook, which encouraged its users to localise Facebook into over 200 languages. It’s something that corporations are starting to clue in on, and they see it as a way of responding directly to “what the consumer wants”. It’s an ethical issue, though, because translation is not only a huge time sink, it’s also supposed to be a job for paid professionals. Is it really okay to exploit the labour of non-paid translators, even when they’re willing? (Some thoughts on this issue from a Wikipedia contributor’s perspective:

      Also, how will incorporating the work of amateurs affect the quality of the final product? Even Facebook understood that you need some kind of professional intervention, otherwise you end up with a product of very inconsistent quality at best. Anyone who has read a fan translation can probably attest to this.

      Finally, you have to consider the broader picture. How are relations between cultures going to be affected by the trend? I’ve already mentioned that there’s a lot of potential for fans to get things wrong with their translations and promote stereotypical views of Japan. There’s a popular train of thought in translation studies at the moment that goes along the lines of “promoting diversity is good, so translations should keep in as many ‘foreign’ elements as they can”. It’s a nice sentiment, but it doesn’t always work well in practice.

  4. Congratulations! I know everyone else has said/will say the same thing, but there it is – you’re awesome.

    I didn’t think Now and Then, Here and There would be me cry, but then it did. Which isn’t to say there weren’t a couple of “Fuck this gay earth!”‘s too, of course.

      • This one is mainly for spam, it’d be much easier for me to use [CENSORED]
        You know, I won’t be able to read your work right away because of exams and stuff, but I’d like to have it anyway just in case, what a greedy person I am..

        • All right, I sent you the email! Also, I censored the address in your comment to reduce the risk for spam. Hope you find the thesis interesting!

  5. Conga rats. Your thesis sounds interesting so if you don’t mind, please send it to mwisse at a certain search engine’s webmail.

  6. Congratulations! The topic sounds very interesting too. May I recommend you reg up on That way all can read and easily snag a copy. They let me use my handle too, so you can keep as much privacy as you want.

    And on your topic.. A search of subtitles for Gedo Senki might turn up the srt’s by FANG subs. I wouldn’t trust these to be absolutely accurate to the original, as I hear it on good authority that the idiot who did them knows absolutely no Japanese. Still, folks back then liked them for the fantasy shading they used.

    • Thanks for the recommendation! I am planning to publish a digital copy of my thesis online once it’s been graded. I’ll definitely consider

  7. Could you email me your thesis and the rest of that korean story too (when you have written it)?

  8. Hey, would you mind sending me a copy of your thesis? I’d definitely be interested in reading it.

  9. Please send me a copy of your thesis, if you don’t mind. I’d been waiting for this day, man. :)

  10. This might be a late comment but I have two things that might be interesting: A new post on What Is Manga [ whatismanga wordpress c*m/2016/07/11/what-translation-conceals-or-how-to-make-bad-choices-well/] (hmmph link suppression in effect on rando comments, hmmmm)
    I just remembered that someone once tried to go through an incredibly dense machine xlation to English from Chinese, from Japanese of Tachiguishi Retsuden, Mamoru Oshii’s ultra dense fakee-historico-sociological farce that I believe was never really properly fitted out with comprehensible English subtitles. That film may be impossible to properly subtitle into English. The bullshit levels and the flood of fake history & sociology are overwhelming. Worse, the particular fool who started the subtitle localization could not read or understand Japanese, or Chinese or… Not that that ever stopped him from pulling a “close ’nuff for rock n roll” on Howl and Gedo Seki.

    In any case, I have come into the possession of these mangled, half-way-through-the movie subs. Would you know anyone who would want such a curious artifact?

  11. Hi Frog-kun, I’ll be needing to write an independent study (basically a research paper) on the Japanese light novel industry and its impact on society with regards to knowledge construction. I’ll be very very interested in reading your thesis if it is possible. Also, is it also possible to disclose your references/ secondary sources used in the thesis? I might need them for the literature review. Thank you very much!

  12. Hello Frog-kun~ not sure if you’ll read this but I was hoping to get a copy of your thesis. I am currently undertaking a thesis myself doing a comparison between a fan translation and an official translation. If you would be able to send me a copy of your thesis I would be extremely appreciative. Thank you so much!

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