Category Archives: Editorials
Was it worth the two-year wait?
People sure like to romanticise piracy. This was something that occurred to me after I published an article a few days ago called Explaining the English Light Novel Boom with Bookwalker Global, which didn’t mention piracy at all and yet sparked controversy on the subject anyway. As many of the comments argued, fan translations have played a part in popularizing light novels in English translation. Why didn’t I mention their existence?
In truth, I didn’t set out to snub fan translation in that piece. It was simply the case that the people I spoke to at Bookwalker Global did not mention it. The article was not intended as a comprehensive overview of the light novel industry; it was meant to showcase Bookwalker Global’s perspective on the subject. I thought that their views would be interesting because a) They’ve recently jumped onto the English light novel bandwagon with a clear rationale for doing so, and b) They are deeply connected to the Japanese light novel market.
Fan translations were clearly not relevant with Bookwalker Global’s choice of exclusive titles. Neither The Combat Baker nor The Ryuo’s Work is Never Done! had English fan translations when these releases were being decided, nor was there much hype for them on English-language social media. However, people still wanted me to talk about fan translation anyway. I suspect that they wanted me to romanticise their place in history.
Take note: this article is not about “subs versus dubs.” It’s not a competition. I’m sure that everyone has their own preferences, but in the end it’s like comparing apples and oranges. Dubbing involves a different set of skills, resources, and priorities than subtitling does. Even the scriptwriting process for a dub is very different from writing a subtitle script. (I’ll write more about this in a future column, perhaps.)
It’s a pity that conversations around the subject tend to revolve around how the voices sound rather than the translation issues involved. From the perspective of a translator, what’s interesting about subs and dubs is that they strive in different ways to bring the viewer as close to the experience of watching a Japanese anime as possible. With a subtitled anime, the original audio is retained. On the surface, this seems like a preferable format for language purists. On the other hand, Japanese speakers don’t need to read subtitles to understand the audio, so a dub might actually come closer to capturing the experience of watching anime as a native Japanese speaker.
As we’ll see in today’s column, however, “the experience of watching anime as a native speaker” is an extremely difficult thing to quantify, let alone replicate. When you look at the matter in perspective, the “subs versus dubs” debate misses the point.
Otaku is a word that seems deceptively straightforward at first glance. Adopted into the Oxford English Dictionary in 2007, it is defined as follows:
(In Japan) a young person who is obsessed with computers or particular aspects of popular culture to the detriment of their social skills.
It is notable that the dictionary definition includes the negative perceptions surrounding the word. According to the OED, the otaku is “obsessed” and lacks “social skills.” This description is essentially no different from the columnist Akio Nakamori’s use of the word “bizarre” (異様) when he defined otaku as a label in 1983. While it has become more socially acceptable to identify as an otaku these days, it still retains an air of eccentricity.
One could argue that this is very much the point of adopting it as a loan word—otaku captures a nuance that “geek” or “fan” can’t quite muster. But adopting loan words from another culture is not a simple copy-and-paste process. Otaku has transformed significantly on its Journey to the West (ahem), a sure indication that the meaning of the word was contentious to begin with.
And that’s the theme of this week’s Found in Translation column. Translation is not a simple additive or subtractive process. By its very nature it is both transformative and elusive, a constant reminder that words may not always mean what we assume they mean at first glance.
In the span of a few short months, Makoto Shinkai’s latest anime film, your name., has become one of the top-grossing films in Japan of all time, surpassing even Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke and Howl’s Moving Castle. The film is nothing less than a cultural phenomenon at this point, tapping deep into the anxieties of a post-Fukushima Japan while telling an emotional love story. Personally, I think it’s great, but I won’t be talking about the film itself in this article. The question I’m interested in here is one that interests many of us and yet involves no spoilers—how does your name. fare overseas?
The Asterisk War was one of the most-watched shows on Crunchyroll in 2015. Now, before anyone goes on about the shit taste of the average Crunchyroll user, consider why viewers would have been drawn to the show beyond the magic high school premise.
WOW, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? Even this monthly update post is almost a week late because I was away on a trip. I don’t even have any excuses for the radio silence, really, since it wasn’t like I’ve been particularly busy last January. I’m still in holiday mode, to be honest.
In any case, here’s what I’ve been up to lately:
Let’s recap the 12 Days of Anime and the whirlwind year that was 2016.
In October 2016, a friend of mine launched a website called Anime Feminist. I’m really surprised at how well it’s been doing so far. Although I’m not actively involved with creating content, I’m close enough to the action to see just how hard the staff has been working to keep things going. It’s been a real privilege to see the results of their work, and I hope that the site meets all its funding goals in 2017.
I’ve already talked about my motives for supporting Anime Feminist elsewhere, but I do want to talk for a bit about how I first became friends with the site’s editor-in-chief, Amelia Cook. Looking back, it was a rather unlikely friendship….