A tale mostly transcribed from Twitter.

We watched TV-N’s Gaim 32 today. It was pretty bad – the kind of pretty bad that’s usual for TV-N’s Gaim, it seems, where everything’s just sort of a bit drab and not doing the scenes justice, and the Overlordese cipher’s still being handled in a way that’s worse than useless.

You know, same old, same old.

But then we came across this line. Our subs at the top, TV-N’s at the bottom:akumademo

So let’s explain what happened here. The second part of the sentence is wrong, sure – Sagara is saying that he, Sagara, is acting according to his own interests, not that Kouta is moving according to Sagara’s. This is specifically stated in grammar – “ore wa ore no tsugou de”, but, you know. These are the kind of mistakes I’m used to seeing.

But the first bit. What TV-Nihon have heard here is “Akuma demo”, akuma meaning “devil”, and “demo” meaning “even if.” This is sort of okay valid grammar, but while just going “[noun] demo” is uncommon, going “akuma demo” is pretty much unheard of. Wanna know why?

Because akumademo is a word. You could translate it as “purely”, “strictly” or “solely”. “Akumademo” would mean that he is purely acting in his best interests – that he’s helping Kouta because it benefits himself. Which is why it’s very convenient that it’s the word he’s saying. The word that’s written in the closed captions. That TV-N have access to. That they post on their wiki every episode.

I am, quite frankly, livid. This is not a mistake born of being thrown a curveball, or seeing an uncommon word come up. To call it a child’s mistake would be an insult to children. A child would know what this meant, because this is a childrens show. That is not a construction that should throw you off.

And people watch these subs.

For what it’s worth, the line before this was mistranslated too. We’ve made posts in gory detail about numerous episodes TV-N have filled with mistranslations on this blog – and while, yes, those are the worst offenders – the ones worth writing about – they may be outliers in terms of the quantity or severity of mistakes, but those mistakes are all born of a single common source – apathy.

I don’t necessarily think having written, at some point in your process, “EVEN IF I’M THE DEVIL” is in and of itself a sign of incompetence. Momentary incompetence, sure. But we’re all guilty of moments of incompetence. Here’s a fun one from our 32: when Redue says she senses her servant’s presence beyond the veil or whatever? The word for servant here is “shimobe”, but it’s written with the same kanji as “boku”, the personal pronoun. And I, bless my dumb heart, had a brief moment for like 20 or so seconds where I was adamantly telling Caphi (my co-translator) that Redue had mentioned sensing her own presence because I was reading the closed captions and completely forgot shimobe existed as a word. That’s dumb as fuck.

I’m dumb as fuck.

But then I realized I was an idiot. And if I hadn’t, I’d have fixed it once I could hear the line. If for some reason I didn’t fix it, Caphi would have.

(As an aside, TV-N translated “shimobe” as “servants”, plural, which shows they’ve completely failed to grasp the plotline about the shrine tree being a Helheim flora. But I digress.)

What’s worrying here is that TV-N’s workflow is massive – especially compared to ours. And they take a lot more time on it, too. We’ll often make dumb little mistakes – word things badly, forget our established terminology, maybe miss a small irrelevant belt voice, or a “What?!” or some other trivial line. But TV-N’s 31/32 highlight a really inherently flawed misunderstanding of the narrative that no-one on their staff is catching, even given all that time. Lines are being mistranslated not as isolated incidents, but in whole chunks. And nobody’s noticing, even though there’s a translator on their QC staff who I know from experience is more than capable of producing translations of a quality that would not make these mistakes.

I keep saying this, and it still annoys me that I have to, but I place the blame entirely on their workflow. The translator is leaving QC the task of checking their work, and QC doesn’t have the opportunity to make meaningful changes, nor on the whole the Japanese language skill to notice these mistakes. When we TL an episode, we double-check it. I check Caphi’s work, Caphi checks my work, we check our own work, our editor Alkaid will flag stuff up. But take’s clearly not checking his work – at least meaningfully – and if QC are spotting these mistakes their changes aren’t being added. Which is a thing that, again, TV-N’s workflow allows because their QCs do not even get the script, yet alone get to edit it themselves.

Yeah, I know, right?

Okay, let’s backtrack and explain TV-N’s QC process. See, there’s a hidden QC forum, right, and what happens is all the QCers have access to it. And when an episode is ready for QC, they’re provided with a forum thread and a hardsubbed QC copy of the episode – often minus typesetting. A QCer watches it, and makes a nice list of all the changes they suggest making to the script. The next person takes the list and adds to it, and the next, and the next, until there’s a biiiiiiiig list.

Then the project leader gets to go through that list and manually add changes if they see fit.

If they disagree? That change doesn’t get made.

Are these things discussed to a satisfactory degree? No, that’d hold things up. (Yes, that is pretty funny in and of itself.)

And the reason for neutering their own QCers like this? The reason QC isn’t allowed to make changes to the script directly, making their lives a lot easier (and also forcing TV-N to weed out any QCers who aren’t making positive changes to the script) and speeding up the process?

To prevent their scripts being stolen. Yup. This is a thing a fansub group is apparently worried about in Anno Novi 2014.

The worst thing is it’s not deliberate incompetence, I think. They wanted to let their community help them QC – which is admirable! But that’s a huge floodgate to open, and it provides a QC pool that keeps growing. And it’s a woefully tiring process to go through as a staff member trying to implement changes. If you wanna know what happened to TV-N’s Rockman.EXE Axess project (hi that was me) it was basically not wanting to deal with that entire QC process anymore.

But the real problem with the toku weeklies especially is that they keep airing. There’s always a new one. The workflow passes on. All the people who wanted to help on, I dunno, Gekiranger might still be there helping on ToQger. And every new show will bring new people. So the pool grows, the lethargy grows, but the practice of pawning the responsibility of fixing things to QC still remains – and there’s never a clean break to give a chance to do things another way.

I think our Aesir subs of Gaim are pretty fast and pretty decent quality for that speed. But the trick to it was breaking off to do things on our own. It allowed us to build a core team of only the people we needed, without the obligation of allowing everyone in Over-Time who wanted to work on it to do so. This, alas, is the bane of tokusatsu weeklies – it’s very difficult to build a team from scratch, and keep it small, because it means saying no to people within the group that you work with who were already on “the project” – just in the form it took for the previous show.

That’s not to say I don’t love them all and enjoy working with them all, but a fansub group doing semi-popular airing shows will inevitably accumulate more people than it needs, if allowed to do so. They can all be competent, they can all be lovely, but diminishing returns means allowing everyone to work on something if they want to creates situations like TV-N. It’s what slows weekly projects down.

TV-N’s QC is this massive, amorphous entity. But they’re 90% non-Japanese speakers, I think at this point mostly jaded, and the main staff don’t treat them with due respect or attention. And that’s so frustrating, because TV-N have the individuals they need to make a sub that’s a labor of love, that has due care and attention poured into it, that is, in all aspects, competent. The problem is, there’s so many people on the project that nobody feels they have to step up to the plate and make it happen. The ones that maybe still do, alas, don’t always get given the opportunity.

I want to like TV-N because they can be a good counterbalance. On a lot of shows they’re the only counterbalance. I want them to be good – as good as I know they can be. But seeing them drop the ball on Gaim this hard is disheartening, because thousands of people watch their Gaim, and apparently those thousands of people think a key will be Kouta’s downfall and that he’s knowingly working for Sagara’s agenda.

I love Gaim. And I feel that if there’s people out there who love Gaim, they deserve to be able to ride its wave properly. I just don’t understand how you can put out subs that will actively mislead people, will make them misunderstand the major plot beats of a show, and at any point think that’s an okay thing to do. An acceptable thing to do. A thing that you should be doing.

Whether they’re aware or not, they’re putting out subtitles that are going to have a negative effect on peoples understanding of the show. And for all our faults, and I know we have many, I take a reasonable amount of pride in our work. If I thought we were putting out subs that mistreated the show this badly, I would stop. I wouldn’t do it. There’s no reason to do it.

It saddens me that their viewers are being treated like this. When you put out an inaccurate sub that misleads people, it’s a waste of their time and trust. And it robs them of a show’s chance to shock and surprise them, because the words you put on the screen will be the ones that will shape how they react to the unfolding events of the show. When you’re denying people that – when you’re consuming their time and energy on false pretenses and misinforming them – that’s malice, pure and simple. Even if it’s not deliberate, even if it’s just being unaware of what you’re doing, that is in and of itself inexcusable because all it does is allow the damage to continue.

The joy of fansubbing is that there is no bottom line you’re beholden to, there’s no obligation to see anything through if you don’t want to. Don’t do it if you don’t enjoy it. Don’t do it if you can’t take pride in your work. And most importantly, the golden rule of all creative endeavors – don’t leave things in a worse state than when you started.

It saddens me to say this, because I still hold a lot of affection for the group from my time there, but their subs of Gaim have definitely fallen foul of that. And I wish, so desperately, it wasn’t the case.