Subtitles Vs. Fansubs

September 12, 2008 — 4 Comments

The amount of films that are not in a language I can speak have increased at least 90% this year… thanks to the internet of course, otherwise I will be waiting for them to either arrive at the cinema, hit the small screen on satellite or cable, or just by finding some Region 1 distributor… but none of that!

Anyway, because of this reason, I have been focusing a lot on subtitles, and I finally have 3 films that I saw with fansubs and now I watched with the subtitles on the dvd. And the results are in… 3-0 in favor of fansubbing.

It’s not because the subtitles on the dvd are bad… they just lack on something. A little UMPH… a little personality… a little common sense?

Example 1 – Hula Girls. There’s a scene where Hirayama-sensei is at the local restaurant with the head of the yet-unopened-Hawaiian-Center, Yoshimoto-san. She rambles on and on about using coal miners’ daughters as dancers instead of bringing professional dancers from Tokyo… when finally Yoshimoto-san explodes as it was his last straw. He begins rambling on his own, complaining about the people that accuse him and complain about him, when all of a sudden Hirayama-sensei is puzzled replying “Were you just speaking Japanese?” – LOL

On the fansub, they begin translating when all of a sudden all subtitles begin showing up as symbols… @#$%@#$#$$# $#@#$&$#@@$##$, followed by “Were you just speaking Japanese?”

LOL, compared that to actually translating what Yoshimoto-san was talking about throughout his rant, followed by “Were you just speaking Japanese?” – Not as funny, me thinks. We already know what he was saying!!

Example 2- Chungking Express. Now, in this film there isn’t an actual moment I can point out. However, I did noticed that sometimes in the “English for the Impared” track said [Chinese] – WTF Makes no sense to me! Of course, the film is in Chinese! So there are parts on the normal “English Subtitles” track where things are NOT subtitle.

Example 3 – Hana & Alice. Now, this is a favorite of mine… and there are 3 or so particular instances where I kept my eye even more alert. The subtitles on the dvd are not particularly bad, but sometimes it felt they were translating words people like the protagonists (kids just entering high school) wouldn’t use or wouldn’t even normally know their meaning… such as “Doppelganger” – get my point? So many-a-times I felt everything was out of place.

Another instance was when Alice’s father is teaching her how to say “I Love You” in Chinese (Mandarin), and the subtitles show “Wo ai nee,” instead of the more common “Wo ai ni,” which is used in the fansub. But maybe that’s just a pet-peeve of mine~~~ There was also the scene where Alice’s father talks in Chinese, though it might be trivial, not knowing what he’s saying takes you a little bit out of the film.

So once again, I thank fansubbers and hope they begin getting calls from distribution companies asking for their work. xD

4 responses to Subtitles Vs. Fansubs

  1. I’d have to disagree for the most part.

    While the fansubbers out there are providing a much-appreciated contribution to the enjoyment of J-dramas, I find a number of fansubs to be self-indulgent and excessive.

    Adding personal comments (e.g. “LOL” or “He’s sooo cool!”) or extraneous information (“100 yen = $1USD” or “oden = hotpot meal”) distracts from the main dialog…

    Subtitles should provide the translation of the dialog and nothing else… If you’ve ever seen the subtitles in a Criterion DVD (“Rashomon” for example) or for “Swing Girls,” you’d see what a professional subtitle job looks like. :)

    Subtitles should complement the drama/movie and allow the movie/drama to be the main focus, not the subtitles themselves.

  2. LOL’ I agree on that comment about “personal comments” – personal comments have no bearing in a subtitle.

    There are fansubs, and fansubs… it varies from person to person, you know~ those fansubbers who add their comments (eg. “OMG, Such and such go out together finally!”) –

    I do, however, disagree on your thoughts about the extraneous information… especially if it’s about cultural things. People not in the know can’t possibly know how much is 100 Yen, and may end up thinking is a lot of money. So in the end, this also depends on the person and the situation… I particularly learned this in my quick stop in Narita Airport, so I’ve got no issue with it…

    And translation of things like “Oden” also depends on the source material. If knowing what Oden is, is important for the show, it should be somehow transmitted, otherwise it’s unnecessary. Case and point, Hana & Alice, where Alice and her dad order dessert, and end up ordering “seaweed pudding” in the fansub, and “tokoroten seaweed noodles” on the dvd. What they ordered is not particularly important in this case.

    However, in a show like Osen for example, in which the plot centers on the topic of food, its preparation and traditions, it is important to explain what certain tradition are, and what is needed in the preparation of certain dishes because it plays an important factor of what the show is, and in the end is what makes it all the more enjoyable.

    Anyway, I am only stating that it’s 3-0 from these set of films… so who’s to know it won’t be 3-4 next time?

    Swing Girls is on the way, I hope the Region 3 has the same high quality subs you are talking about. However, I must point out that the Spanish subtitles of the film were terrible… and it was the copy presented in the Japanese/Peruvian Cultural Center.

  3. Oh yeah, also forgot to mention… the reason why I prefer softsubs to hardsubs is because there’s not really more time for ‘personal comments’ inside the dialog.

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