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  • Have you heard the story of what happened during Yuri on Ice's run?

  • Early in the show, Victor asks Yuuri if he has a girlfriend, using the Japanese word

  • for woman, “onna”, which is a natural way of trying to figure out his proclivities,

  • if you know what I mean.

  • From here on, when referring to potential or past lovers of Yuuri's, Victor is sure

  • to use the gender-neutral termkoibito”.

  • Yet, the subs, at least in the initial airing, gendered this term, continuing to use girlfriend.

  • In an ordinary show, this would be a frustrating decision, but a harmless one.

  • In this series, one that consciously portrays gay characters throughout its run, a mistake

  • like this is glaring, hurting the subtle romantic back-and-forth that takes up much of the show's

  • first half.

  • While we can talk all day about how lover isn't a perfect term, or how partner or

  • SO convey nuances not contained inkoibito”, it can't be argued that in this case, girlfriend

  • was the wrong translation, one that's actually managed to reach the ears of many anime fans

  • due to the show's high-profile nature as a queer work.

  • Yet, Yuri on Ice is far from the only instance of this happening.

  • Anime translations regularly remove gender neutrality present in the Japanese script.

  • While it's fine to add a gendered pronoun to a sentence that initially lacked one when

  • we know the characters' gender for certain, it frequently creates large issues in regards

  • to queer characters.

  • Subtitles are often, unconsciously to be sure, a tool of cisheteronormativity, entirely confusing

  • viewers as to how scenes should be read.

  • I can certainly imagine some watchers being perplexed as to why Victor, one of the gayest

  • men alive, would assume the guy who clearly crushes on him has a girlfriend, even after

  • being told that he doesn't.

  • This, indeed, is the actual problem with anime subtitles.

  • It's very important that we target subs when looking at this.

  • This isn't because dubs aren't a part of this dangerous trend; they very much are.

  • Yet, dubs are far more blatant and as a result, far more frequently called out for this practice.

  • It's hard to discuss Sailor Moon, especially its initial English release, without the topic

  • ofcousinscoming up and it's far from the only case where this has happened.

  • Yugioh GX's dub gendered the antagonist Yubel, in spite of the fact that they're

  • a malevolent Duel Monster spirit who has no need to be gendered.

  • Sure, they were a human at one point, but Nanachi was too and you don't see the subs

  • gendering them, now do you?

  • Although now that I think about it, most of you probably don't know that Nanachi's

  • gender isn't specified.

  • Hell, if you want an extremely prominent example, just look at Kirby.

  • Even in modern times, dubs frequently get a bad rap for straightwashing characters,

  • and for good reason.

  • The Maid Dragon dub legitimately changes Kobayashi from a typical yuri character, “but we're

  • both girls”, into someone who's specifically not open to dating another girl, “I'm

  • not into women or dragons”.

  • This is an egregious change, one I was upset about when it happened, and it certainly deserved

  • the coverage it got; I won't defend the Lucoa joke later in the dub, it's not funny,

  • but unlike that one, this legitimately changes a character on a base level and it's a shame

  • the Kobayashi example got less press.

  • Wonder why the anti-SJWs didn't get as angry at it.

  • A real conundrum.

  • Anyway, while these are certainly bad changes that deserve to be criticized, they are criticized.

  • Everyone is aware that dubs, especially old ones, straightwash characters and change the

  • text.

  • What people seem to forget, somehow, is that subtitles do the exact same thing.

  • Any translation is, of course, a new work unto itself, and won't ever give you a duplicate

  • experience to someone consuming the original version.

  • However, in simply being an addition, something you read at the same time as you listen to

  • the Japanese audio, subs seem to subconsciously come across to most viewers as a natural part

  • of the work, not a new entity.

  • And so, when subtitles erase the gender-neutrality of a sentence, oftentimes irrevocably warping

  • the perception of what's going on, it simply goes unnoticed.

  • After all, if you don't know Japanese, how could you tell?

  • And even if you do, you're probably not paying the closest attention to the audio

  • if you're still at the point where you watch with subs, right?

  • I know I'm not.

  • Yet this is still an important issue that needs to be addressed, no matter how hard

  • it is to notice during a normal watch.

  • This straightwashing and ciswashing that occurs through translation is something that almost

  • certainly comes from unconscious biases, not active thought on the part of translators,

  • and yet it's detrimental, so let's explore the ways it can hurt one's understanding

  • of a work, so that we can pay closer attention to it.

  • We shouldn't allow a situation as egregious as the Yuri on Ice case to occur once again.

  • I'd like to begin with a casual example of this, because it's important to see how

  • pervasive it is even when it doesn't meaningfully impair the show.

  • In Tonari no Kyuuketsuki-san, main character Akari meets and decides to move in with vampire

  • Sophie after falling head over heels for her at first sight.

  • When she goes to school the next day and talks about this sudden move, she never refers to

  • Sophie's gender and yet the subs use she/her.

  • This ordinarily wouldn't be the biggest problem, but immediately after this, one of

  • Akari's friends asks if she's moving in with a boy or a girl, causing another friend,

  • Hinata, to freak out at the prospect of her precious Akari, a mere high schooler and her

  • crush, deciding on a whim to move in with a new guy.

  • This joke doesn't work when all of them refer to Sophie as a girl just moments prior.

  • Fortunately, unlike in some cases, this does not strip the queerness from the anime, Akari

  • is still in love with Sophie and Hinata's crush on Akari remains obvious, it only hurts

  • an inconsequential joke, but it's a good introductory example of how this can occur.

  • There's no chance of malicious intent in this case, it's simply a bad translation,

  • and it's key for us to understand that this is typically what happens here.

  • Few translators are trying to remove queer subtext, they're especially not trying to

  • create nonsensical exchanges, most of them are just working off what feels natural, but

  • what feels natural is not always what's correct.

  • An interesting case occurs inrchendchen, where main character Hazuki is brought into

  • a world of magic, quickly crushing hard on school leader Shizuka.

  • Now, fortunately, when her step-sister corners her about why she's skipping school, Hazuki

  • refers to this person she's come to like using they/them.

  • However, this step-sister uses he/him in the subs, despite that not being the case in the

  • Japanese.

  • Compared to other examples, this isn't actually bad.

  • The translators clearly know to use they/them in certain instances and when they do use

  • a gendered pronoun where it's not in the source, it's an instance where said character

  • does assume the gender of the person they're referring to; given that she talks about Hazuki

  • being set for life, it's clear she assumes that this potential partner is a boy.

  • Yet it still indicates a potential poor direction, one that's avoided here but oh-so-often

  • not in other cases.

  • I have no criticism for the translators here, it's a solid adaptation that doesn't fall

  • apart like the series's production doesOh, poor Maerchen Maedchen, I love you

  • so, if only you had been treated properlyand in many ways this serves to indicate

  • situations in which it's fine to add gender where it initially isn't — after all,

  • Japanese simply uses gendered referrants less often and it would be awkward to avoid in

  • all cases, as long as the gender is known by the speaker and those they're talking

  • to, us transtrenders haven't abolished gender quite yet after allbut there's still

  • a hint here of the danger that the other examples present.

  • Let's move onto cases where this danger actually crops up, situations where it's

  • not just bad, as in Kyuuketsuki, but actively detrimental.

  • Take the instance of Kino's Journey.

  • In the 2003 series as well as most fan translationslet's not even get into the godawful

  • Tokyopop version of the light novel, which outright butchers almost every element of

  • the series that it touches, from gender to prose to not adding weird one-liners out of

  • nowhereKino is referred to with she/her, in spite of the fact that they aren't gendered

  • by the text itself, being androgynous enough that others see them as either a boy or a

  • girl, depending on the person.

  • Say what you will about whether Sigsawa intended Kino to be non-binary, I certainly have my

  • issues with the man's politicsit sure is disappointing when writers whose stories

  • I like get way too close toJapan did nothing wrong” — but it's inarguable that the

  • text never says that they're a girl, only that they were raised as one, and well, those

  • aren't the same thing.

  • Gendering Kino here, at least outside of their origin story and especially after they truly

  • take up the name Kino is wrong, it introduces an element to the series that is not present

  • in the Japanese, and it's just one example of this.

  • Thankfully, the 2017 anime's subs avoided doing so.

  • Now, if only the 2017 series had chosen better stories to adapt and a better director to

  • lead it, but hey, it was still a fun time.

  • Another clear example of this is Fullmetal Alchemist's Envy.

  • Envy is a shapeshifter and a homunculus, once again a character who has no reason to be

  • gendered and, in the Japanese text, isn't.

  • Hell, theirmain bodyis pretty damn androgynous, so why in the world did every

  • translator decide that they should be considered male?

  • Is it because they're flat?

  • They have female voice actresses, so perhaps it was because of Viz's decisions?

  • Wherever the choice initially came from, it once again erases a character who's not

  • gendered in the source.

  • Anime is hardly a place full of stellar non-binary representation but when what we do get is

  • erased by subtitles, it only makes the situation worse.

  • Crona in Soul Eater provides another example.

  • Unlike in Envy's case, the fandom has conducted a lot of debate about their genderit

  • remains actively unspecified by the mangaka, it must be saidalmost certainly due to

  • the fact that, well, Crona is cute and Envy isn't, unless you're into them, which

  • would be cool, I suppose.

  • As the Lilydebateshows, people want the characters they find cute to be cis girls.

  • Compulsory heterosexuality sure is annoying, though I don't think you should be into

  • Lily beyond finding her adorable whether she's cisshe isn't — or not, given, uh,

  • look at her.

  • Regardless, Crona is intentionally ambiguous.

  • Despite this, both the official manga and translations refer to them with him.

  • This is slightly different than the other cases, as it was done less because the translators

  • saw them as male and more because they didn't think they had any options other than he/she;

  • a common, though incorrect, idea, one that we need to abolish asap.

  • Yet, it remains a problem, giving ampleofficialammo to those in the debate who refuse to

  • recognize Crona's ambiguousand perhaps, non-binarygender as what it is, not to

  • mention all the confusion it causes.

  • This is perhaps even more glaring than other cases, as rather than just not recognizing

  • that the character is non-binary, they knew and just didn't care.

  • Fire Emblem in Tiger and Bunny is yet another example, and this time, the subs damage a

  • character who's not just queer-coded or lacking gender but queer as such, drawing

  • upon historical depictions of gay and trans characters in anime, no matter how fraught.

  • Their narrative is bound up in the fact that they've faced oppression and scorn for being

  • who they are, and at one point, they proudly state, “They say a man is made of courage

  • and a woman is made of love.

  • So what does that mean for people who are gay?

  • We are invincible!”

  • This is an out-and-out non-binary character, someone who's had to deal with the way gendered

  • expectations are forced on people, managing to overcome these expectations in becoming

  • a hero, and eventually finding pride in who they are.

  • They're cool as hell and I doubt even the most backwards cishet could listen to that

  • line without admiring them.

  • And yet, the subs repeatedly refer to them with male pronouns.

  • I could see that being the case for the characters, there are situations, like in Tokyo Godfathers,

  • where active misgendering occurs, and he/him can be used in those instances.

  • But when a gender ambiguous characters is referred to with ambiguous language, and yet

  • the translation genders them anyway, it's a problem, and once again a sign of how cisnormativity

  • covertly sneaks its way into people's' minds.

  • Yet, the one that most bothers me is a decision made in the 90s shoujo drama, Oniisama e.

  • After suffering the great hardship that's only natural to a shoujo protagonistseriously,

  • this is one of the most melodramatic shows ever made and I adore itmain character

  • Nanako is given a partner.

  • As she says to her older brother, she's fallen in love with a new person at her university,

  • and she's very happy, nice words to hear given how poorly her last love worked out.

  • Yet, for some reasons, the subs refer to this new significant other as a man.

  • I've checked this a good half-dozen times throughout the past year and I can say with

  • certainty that the Japanese does not gender Nanako's new partner.

  • For a show that stands as both the first TV yuri anime ever made and an adaptation of

  • one of the genre's first manga, this is not just frustrating, it's horrendous.

  • I've seen people criticize the show for having a “gay until graduationending,

  • something which admittedly was common at the timethough more often, the girls would

  • just swear off romance or die after the failure of their first relationshipwhen that's

  • not what happens in the slightest.

  • It may not say for sure that she ends up with another girl in the end, and perhaps that

  • merits criticism, but it hardly forces her into straightness either.

  • This is, I believe, the most detrimental example in the entire piece, because if you trust

  • the subs here, your entire understanding of what the work's conclusion is saying will

  • be ruptured beyond repair.

  • If you can see this example and still defend the process of removing gender neutrality

  • purely because, “Using they/them is awkward”, then you're not worth talking to.

  • In a world of expanding queer rights, as these topics come up more in anime, this is a problem

  • we have to deal with.

  • Viewers' perception of certain characters and themes are entirely shifted by these simple

  • errors and we as a community need to ensure that translations don't do this.

  • And, well, I suspect it won't be long at this point before anime introduces an explicitly

  • x-gender character.

  • What does it mean to be x-gender, and why would someone who identifies that way show

  • up in anime?

  • Well, you'll have to wait until the end of the month to find that out, but if you

  • think I've made too many snipes at the right-wingers in the community in this video, or you're

  • happy to have seen me do so, get ready.

  • Because next time, I'm turning my sights toward the bad apples on my side of the aisle.

Have you heard the story of what happened during Yuri on Ice's run?

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The ACTUAL Problem with Anime Subtitles

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    二百五   に公開 2019 年 09 月 11 日
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