Let’s Beat That Dead Horse: Always Debate about Fansubbing

As you get older and if you keep up the good habit of self-reflection and introspection, the various nuggets of wisdom of the world may become crystallized into notions in your mind. It’s not a guarantee but it happens to most, sooner or later. The manifestation of wisdom, to you, might be like a light bulb that finally turned on inside your head. But good luck trying to find words to describe it, or better yet, convince those younger so they too can share in the glow. This difficult task tend to have a low success rate, which is why when we go through this exercise, it make sense to widen your audience. If your success rate is 1%, maybe it helps to involve at least 100 people?

Joke aside, I read ANN Forums so you don’t have to, this week, on Justin’s column on pro-sub versus fan-sub. It’s a good soapbox, but it feels like his concern has mainly to do with people complaining about translations. The resulting thread plays out in expected ways, if civil. To jump to the good stuff:

A handful of pro freelance anime translators participated in the thread too.

There were some demonstrative posts that expressed opinion that were directly rebutted by the OP. Like one guy who complained about “senpai” versus “sempai.” Or the guys who wanted honorifics in their translation even after a few real pro translators disagreed for exactly the opposite reasons. Mostly it was civil and people posted their opinions and questions, with anecdotes here and there. My favorite one has to be the Noragami “name” one; feels like someone can compile a list of stories like that and it would be a fun read.

Initially I was more curious about people’s participation to the ongoing discussion on “sub quality.” I am in no part of it, but sites like this do exist, and has for some time. Because how would nerds be able to tell which file to download, right?

Happy Birthday, Rio-chan!

To break it down some more, this is kind of how I feel about science. The study and research of scientific endeavor, on the whole, is about the pursuit of ignorance. By ignorance I mean in a pure sense, like the opposite of knowledge, if knowledge is a quantity. A thing or concept can only be known, or not known. If you know it, there is nothing about it that would further interest you as someone who persuit knowledge. A scientist is someone who knows stuff and is trying to find out what else we don’t know. This is the pursuit of ignorance. A fool is someone who knows stuff and stops, and doesn’t know what lies beyond what he has. The average fool is just content with that; the worse ones think they know it all, making no effort to make sure that’s actually true.

The thing is the body of human knowledge is huge. No one person knows everything; at best you can only expect that person to know just his or her field of expertise. And often these are people who are professionals, doing groundbreaking research, who’s studied such fields for many years, typically speaking. For someone who is new to a field, it takes a lot of studying existing knowledge to get to the edge of the collective known body of information, the cliff where Human (as a race) ignorance lies on the other side. In other words, to make sure he knows it all. And maybe a cliff is a bad analogy, more like a bridge over the vacuum of the unknown, given how today’s scientific research is driven by all these external factors like public interest, commercial investment, ethics, interests, and whatever, into specific subject matters, not quite as organic as the subjects themselves.

This is also why often we equate learning with research. We all are born ignorant, and we have to learn everything we know, because we were taught it, read it in Wikipedia or something, or found out via empirical experiences. Since it’s impractical to know and learn everything, human minds take what we know and make the best of it. So when you get a bunch of fools who know a few things about Japanese language, anime, and translation, you end up with a bunch of people who are really ignorant, don’t know they are ignorant, and are just doing what their minds think is best with the limited information that they have.

What’s worse, and it applies universally, are the people who don’t even realize they don’t realize they don’t know. Not to mention the larger pool of people who know that they don’t know. Equally bad is that they might not even want to know more or is not interested, even if they do.

What are you suppose to do in this case? Put damn -kuns in your subtitles.

Let’s be clear, I don’t blame them for not knowing; ignorance is an universal condition. The body of information of Japanese language, like any other large and well-studied subject matter, takes years to master and a lot of hard work. It’s not something you would expect the average westerner to have any ideas about. But you should expect the average person to know that they might not know that they might not know, and temper their opinions with that realization. Or maybe they’re just giant babies and would say whatever that makes them feel good with no regards to what that make them look like. I know all too well about that.

And to be fair, that’s just opinion on translations regarding Japanese. They might have opinions on English, because clearly they speak it and that makes them know-it-alls (because clearly 50% of translation skills required is English so that makes them half-experts right LOL). You can see where this is going. Articles like this Answerman column mentioning extrinsic reasons why pro translations are one way or another, and those things often don’t register in the comments of the masses, because they are already self-proclaimed knowers. They may not be experts, but that doesn’t stop anybody these days.

Which is why I think while it is fair that arguments and debates about fansubs is like beating a dead horse, let’s beat it some more. Get that 100 people so maybe one person get a clue, and the next time we beat this horse we will have a 2% chance.

Okay, I haven’t even touched on the arguments on a more self-centered perspective about “being entertained” (which I think is a totally different thing personally) and thus their entertainment consumption should please them and not upset them because “it sound weird when the dub says -kun and the translation doesn’t.” Nor have I addressed bigger picture questions about why we are even trying to do by beating this dead horse. Maybe I get a kick out of it, I don’t know. There are also legitimate complaints about pro sub translation qualities too, but until we lower the volume on the noise I don’t know how much of legit complaints can surface above it. In other words, make beating this dead horse less metaphorically relevant? LOL.

3 Responses to “Let’s Beat That Dead Horse: Always Debate about Fansubbing”

  • Digibro

    Idea: subtitle track for longtime anime dump-truck viewers who vaguely understand a lot of Japanese phrases but wouldn’t be able to hold a conversation in Japanese, consisting solely of context clues for them to fill in the blanks of what they don’t understand.

    • omo

      yo dawg, i know you love otaku databases of foreign cartoons so i put an otaku database in the sub track of the foreign cartoons about your otaku databases

  • Avatar

    Read the thread, chortled some. ADV/Sentai used to have someone who knew what a StuG was, who would go refer to German translators when German cropped up, and who regularly cracked the books when something complicated came up. (Sometimes interesting, sometimes not. Read up on Mu for RahXephon, for example… ugh.) It’s good to be missed sometimes. ;p

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