Inspired by takenoko’s post of the same name over on TV-Nihon’s forums, I felt I should do a post talking about my general feelings and thoughts on the translation of Go-Busters I did over at, uh, Over-Time. There’s a lot of things we did during Go-Busters that I feel are notable either positively or negatively, and I’d like to talk about some of them. And you know what happens when I get talking, I never stop. So brace yourself.
So, this is probably the big elephant in the room a lot of people slam on us for. “You see, Over-Time!” they shout, “This is why you shouldn’t translate things like this, you idiots, you shot yourself in the foot.” And, well, all I can say to that is that you can’t let the fear of failure stop you from trying.
Honestly, the logic we had at the time for translating “oh” to “King” seemed pretty sound. Go-Busters was a super-westernized series where virtually nothing had a Japanese name in their tech and lore – the only things that did were their weapons (IchiganBuster and SouganBlade, both of which were never named in show – but if they were we’d settled on “LensBuster” and “Binocublade”) and, well, that little fragment “oh” in the mech name. Apart from that, it was time for buster and let’s driving and roger, rabbit. Making the main mech fit in with that scheme, and not stick out so much, seemed a logical choice to me with the tone of the show and what people expect from our work.
In the end, that choice tripped us up, but I don’t think it was the wrong one to make at the time. We did what seemed most sensible with the information we had, and after 35 years of Sentai history, this is the first time we’ve had an “Oh” and a “King” in the same show. I felt reasonably sure I was safe in making the decision, and was proven wrong.
Or, well, was I? See, we discussed this a little bit after the actual Go-Buster King hit the show, but swapping their names actually makes the entire thing make more sense. You have Ace, that forms part of King – it’s thematically sound. And then you have Tategami Li-Oh – the only part of the team’s mecha arsenal that has a Japanese name. Suddenly you have Tategami Li-Oh, Go-Buster Li-Oh, and then… Go-Buster King? Swapping that to “Oh” makes the entire scheme of mechs involving our lion-y friend seem a lot more coherent.
So yeah, I actually think it was a change for the better. The audio-sub desync is an issue, one admits, and the Street Fighter M. Bison-esque confusion added by having two things referred to by each others names probably did the fandom no favors. Still, watching the fandom be confused is always kind of good for a laugh.
Gock and Magock
This one was actually just a fuckup on my part, and a pretty stupid one too. See, I was aware of the entire Biblical myth with Gog and Magog, that wasn’t the problem. But when I saw “goku” and “magoku” show up in katakana in the names of Escape’s weapons, I made the seemingly logical assumption that these were deliberate corruptions of those names to make them sound more like weapon names.
It dates back to an old Japanese translation of Anne of Green Gables, a story that contains two dog statues named Gog and Magog. But in this translation, for reasons unknown, the translator chose to render their names not with a final ‘g’, but with a ‘k’ sound – leading to ‘Gok’ and ‘Magok’ being the kind of accepted names of those two characters in the Japanese literary consciousness.
So technically speaking, these names should be Gog and Magog – they are corruptions, but accidental corruptions done long ago in another work. I salvaged this a little by, when the names came up again as the names of the actual dog statues, using the correct names there, and Hiromu commenting on the names being the same got changed into them being a massive similarity instead. It’s something to fix in the v2s, I guess.
Yes, we know. We’ll fix that for the v2s as well. Which leads us into…
TL Note: Francais is French for French.
But no, really. A lot of people ask why we leave Enter’s French untranslated, as though we are somehow doing them a disservice by not translating it and why are we being elitist and aren’t we supposed to make this understandable and hey guys you translated the German in the OOO movie what’s going on here seriously.
Here’s the thing though: Enter’s French is specifically designed to be exotic, something which the Japanese kid audience is not supposed to understand. This is why we have scenes early on where Yoko specifically asks what Enter is saying, to force Ryuuji to explain to the audience. The idea, I feel, is that the show hooks people in a bit with the French to start with, gets them used to the viewer understanding it by explaining what things mean, and then pulling away that safety blanket and forcing you to look things up for yourself.
Not that most of it isn’t either the kind of French most people will have picked up in the course of their lives anyway, or failing that, it’s generally understandable via context. When Enter shouts “Zut!” every time something bad happens, it’s not hard to tell it means something bad is happening. While we could certainly have translated it, I feel it adds to the mystique and exotic allure of Enter that he’s operating on a level outside what the target audience is used to, and I’d like to think that if he was ever dubbed into French, he’d speak some other language instead to maintain that.
But that’s just me.
Beet J Stag
The J stands for “juice.” Tree juice.
You know, salvaging that middle name – “Juueki”, meaning “tree sap” – was an absolute bitch. The fact that “Juice” is a synonym for ‘sap’ is a really, really tenuous connection that just barely qualifies as a decent way of handling the entire situation, and we were one step away from the entire thing just not making sense without a translation note.
And yet it really just goes to show the faith people put in their translations, because we had plenty of people on forums and things who were just absolutely sure that this was something the Japanese had done – that his middle name actually was Juice, and that it was a deliberate pun that we had two characters named “Jin and Juice.” It was ridiculous, really, but very amusing nonetheless.
Speaking of our beetley friend, I came across something amusing on our blog the other day – someone complaining that the italicizing on J’s Is was annoying and unnecessary – when actually, it’s a vital part of his character. J, as he admits himself, is an absolute egotist. He always talks about things in terms of himself, how it affects him, and anything that doesn’t, well, isn’t worth bothering with. As such, he uses his personal pronoun in Japanese a lot, and always draws attention to it with how he forms his sentences. Where a normal person would go “Is that really necessary?”, J would say “I am not sure that is necessary.”
Drawing attention to this really reinforces J’s character in a very meaningful way, and helps really get the viewer acclimatized to how he thinks and how he prioritizes things. There’s a really cool scene in the last episode, too, where he talks about how he’s protecting the rest of the team, using the connective particle “ga”, indicating in a very robotic way that he’s protecting the team (if you wanted to do a over-literal translation that hits the tone right, it’d be like “I am protecting them!”). He then later changes this to another particle – wa – which is a more normal doing particle. For this, you could render it as “I will protect them!”. This is the payoff for J’s arc – he’s no longer an egotist taking orders to do good things from Jin, he’s thinking for himself, knowing his partner isn’t long for this world, and realizing what he wants to do and who he wants to help.
It might not be exactly what the Japanese did, but I think what we did with that scene – dropping the italics and having him enunciate normally – was a really great way of making use of the tools we had available to deliver the same impact.
This is where I need to give a big hand to my TLC/editor on this project, and Over-Time’s lead translator, HeatMetal. Heat and I have very different areas of expertise and specialization, and the vast majority of the Metaroids in the show – especially in the early sections where they had more pronounced gimmicks – owe their being great to him.
I’m still a fairly new translator, and a lot of odd Japanese quirks – particular dialects, particular mannerisms and subsets of terminology – are just alien to me. Even if I recognize them and can understand them, phrasing them in a way that seems natural in English is often beyond me. A great example of this is the… man, I wanna say it was Drillroid, who was just yer average hard-workin’ drill, trying to earn himself a living in these hard times. That guy!
Well my original take was awful and basically made him look like a stupid braindead idiot rather than just an average hard-working guy – because I’ve never had to really write that archetype before, and when I’m pushed to write character types I’m not familiar with, it’s very alien to me and comes off… wrong. Luckily, Heat was always there to pick up where I made a mess of things, and for that he has my eternal gratitude.
A Go-Busters without Heat would have ended up a lot worse than a Go-Busters without me, so I think he deserves a lot of credit.
That said, I’m sure I can find something he did to bitch about. Like, uhh…
The name’s Jin Masato, engineer extraordinaire!
I’m not going to talk about technicalities with Jin. I’m going to talk about something entirely different and more subjective: character voice, and how – in my opinion – we royally fucked Jin’s up.
Now, for the first 15 or so episodes Jin is around, there’s no real way to get a grasp on his character. He’s always joking around and playing the goof, and you don’t get a sense of what the guy underneath is like. Episode 34 tells us why Jin does this – its his defense mechanism, his way of hiding from situations he finds too hard to bear or too difficult to face directly. This episode is his turning point, the one where you realize Jin is a flawed human being.
And that’s really the thing, as I see it: Jin is flawed. More than that, even, I’d say he’s fundamentally broken. And the entire point of the character is that he’s failed at saving his colleagues, he’s failed to help their children achieve their goals, and eventually he fails at saving himself. Yet he knows he still has things he can do – that he needs to do – and hides his sorrow and guilt to get them done, even if that means doing so through a facade of bravado and slapstick.
And this is where Heat and I don’t see eye to eye – different viewpoints, I guess, and different takes on the character and his deal. I take it as very important that when Jin’s facade slips, it does so royally: We get to see him weak, vulnerable and lashing out at the idea that he’s denied this comfort blanket, denied the ability to just keep on going and trying to persevere despite the odds.
I think Heat’s take on it though is that when the facade drops, he’s frantically trying to rebuild it: it gives the impression of a Jin that never gets the opportunity to seem too weak, to seem too vulnerable. In this ep what that results in is a scene where Jin is pouring his heart out about his survivors guilt – how he hates the fact that he had to survive while everyone else died, and that he had to lie to the Busters to get them to go along with the plan and kill their parents – and our final script ends up with Jin being supremely callous and acting like all that mattered is that he got through it alright.
And maybe it’s because I see a lot of that bad habit of Jin in myself, but that shit just don’t fly with me. It happens again in 49, when Jin and Kuroki are having their final farewell – saying their goodbyes knowing that they’ll never see each other again, and it kind of ends up as “guess I need to go kick some ass now, bye.” I hate that a character who is allowed that kind of depth and vulnerability as a Sentai hero kind of ends up having it get lost in our subs, and if I have a single regret about our Go-Busters subs – a single thing I’d want to fix – Jin would be it.
C’est la vie, I guess.