Japanese Fans Look at Quality of Fansubs
"100 Foreign Anime & Manga Questions" is an ongoing series from AnimeAnime where Japanese fans ask questions about the foreign Anime and Manga scene. One of the recent questions deals with the quality of translation of English fansubs.
How is the Quality of a Fansub's Translation, and the Translator's Skill? (The person answering the questions is a staff from a JP Anime Distributor)
Q: Nowadays, fansub is becoming increasingly popular in the U.S. I heard recently that their speed is also increasing - fansub is available only a few days after the anime is aired in Japan. But how is the quality of their translation?
Dealing with Japanese can be difficult, for example, when I was watching Ghost in the Shell, Batou yelled "Matori!" I could not make any sense of the phrase at that moment, but after a few minutes I noticed that it meant "Mayakutorishimari" (drug-investigation). Some phrases and ideas are hard to understand even for Japanese, it must be even harder for the Americans. How do they deal with this problem?
A: There is a large difference in quality among the fansub groups.
First of all, fansub means "the act of translating an anime by a group of volunteers (or I should say, translating without permission) and delivering them." It's illegal since they don't have any rights to publish the anime.
Fansub groups have their own names. I don't now how many groups are currently active. They are focusing on the speed of their work. The quality of their work depends on many things, such as communication between staffs, or if there are any Japanese working for the group.
When translating titles that are already licensed, the group can use the licensed version as a reference. If the show was based on a manga, they will be able to refer to the manga. If they meet words like "Matori", they can research the word themselves. Even professional translators frequently make mistakes, the quality of the translated scripts depends on if it's going to be checked by native Japanese.
Since fansub groups don't have the scenario, I can't say how many mistranslations are being made by them. Some Japanese may be helping fansub groups, but I don't actually know the specifics. They could just be helping out only when a group is having a lot of trouble. How many anime-loving Japanese, who are also good at English, are there overseas? And how did they get involved with these fansub groups in the first place?
Here are examples of some humorous translation mistakes made by fansub groups:
Witch Hunter Robin:
I'm assuming that a lot more mistranslation exists in their works. It has become a competition of "who can release the episode first", and it seems they don't care about the quality as much any more. In their works, I can spot the over-stuffing of phrases, the rough timing, and the lack of consideration for the fans. Groups that produce these bad translations often say, "We're doing this to promote the title to the world. We're contributing a lot, so you better appreciate it!" I think their illegal activity is anything but a great thing, it's a lack of responsibility.
I must say again, fansub is illegal. Nowadays it's not like most titles are still unavailable in the U.S. Till now, the U.S. distributors still are not paying enough attention to them, I believe that they are to be blamed for this, the problem with internet distribution must be dealt with.
Translated by T. Ohara