Is the culture behind anime translatable?

We have all seen some of these wonderful stories like Yu-Gi-Oh! and Pokemon. In the last few decades, manga and anime have become more and more popular around the world. But how such a different culture has its message transmitted to the rest of the world? In this article, we are going to tackle and see what might be the challenges when trying to translate Anime into other languages.

Translating Japanese Language

There has always been rivalry whether an anime show should be dubbed or subtitled into another language. The result is always the same – it is very hard to achieve a suitable and clear translation using any of the two methods. The reason for that lies within the language itself not only the capability of the people who do the translation. Here are some of the reasons behind:

Transmitting Emotions

If you are not familiar with the language itself, it is hard to grasp the differences but the fans of anime know all about it. The Japanese language has specific ways to express ideas, emotions, and even concepts. In western languages, the most common way to express emotions like anger, surprise and shock are words (swear words, exclamations and etc.), while in Japanese there are grammatical rules that you use in order to achieve that. You may even hear people refer to it as a “non-swear” language.

Role language for different characters in Japanese

When it comes to anime, we are all aware of the variety of characters in different shows. That is one of the great things in this genre, right? While English tends to have the same – high-class English, different and specific words and expressions that various classes in society use, in Japanese – these are 100 times more. And we mean it – the grumpy old man, the princess, the small boy who is particularly passionate about something, the hero ready to protect others – all of them and whatever other characters you can think of has a specific language – vocabulary, nuances in the expressions, tone of voice, the way sentences are formed and so many others, that we can hardly mention them all.

Cultural Differences

Last but not least there are the differences between the cultures from the East and the West. This refers to the small things incorporated in the speech and lifestyle that are bearing messages. For example “rice balls” was translated as “doughnuts” in Pokemon for the better understanding of the message it brings. The same applies to “ramen” transmitted as “pizza” and so many others. These are only a few examples of localization for anime which is a necessary action when it comes to getting the translation right.

In conclusion

While translating literally would produce a decent and accurate result in most languages, the literal translation of Japanese to English is a no-go zone. It takes a lot of knowledge and efforts in both – the target and source language and cultures in order to do a good quality translation, subtitling or dubbing of an anime. There are so many variations of one and the same sentence depending on the translator’s skills and knowledge. Various people can provide various translations of one and the same thing and they may all be valid and correct. The challenge comes when you have to assemble a team to do a translation of a Japanese anime show and they all have to be on the same page. Believe us, we have been there.