Aspects of Fansubbing – Editing can be pretty difficult

To make up for how long the last post ended up being, I’ve decided to make a slightly shorter post re-hashing an article I wrote on my Tumblr a while back. I’ve gained further knowledge about the topic since I’m actively involved within a fansub group, and I can now further apply that knowledge to the topic I’ll be writing about.

To start off, I’m not an editor for a fansub group, so I can’t say that I know everything about editing or even that I’m doing it right, but I do know how editing is theoretically supposed to work. For example, taking subtitles from an actual simulcasted release of CrunchyRoll (CR) or Funimation and making a few line changes does not make you a fansubber in my eyes (although that’s a great way to start into the editing portion of fansubbing). While this isn’t what the post will be about, it does factor into the problem that I will describe below with a single picture.

Also, spoilers of Golden Time ahead.

FFF Golden Time 13

Here’s the line we’re going to discuss. It’s from Golden Time Episode 13 from FFFansubs, a well-respected fansub group.

Now, I love fansubs for many reasons (heck, if I didn’t, I’d have to question what I’m doing with my free time), but let’s talk about how editing subtitles can affect your perception of the show. Without any context, this line is perfectly readable English, and there’s no grammatical mistakes or typos. That’s a good start; some releases can’t even make it that far. Although if you haven’t seen the show, you’d start to question what kind of abilities that this character has in order to have once been a ghost, and has now become one again.

To elaborate on the actual stasis of the character before I get into the editing portion of the article, the main character of the show, Tada Banri, has suffered from amnesia ever since he fell off of a bridge. This causes a split personality behavior, which has been personified in the anime by having this ghost form to resemble his past feelings. During a few scenes in the anime, this ghost disappears since his past feelings return to his real body, and this scene is the ghost reappearing, realizing that he’s not in the body of Tada Banri any more.

So, with that mindset, this line makes perfect sense since it fits with the story of the anime and the events that have occurred prior. So where did the editing go wrong?

We’ll assume that the translation (TL) is correct. I don’t know Japanese well enough to say that the line is correct, but from screenshots I’ll display later on, we can assume that the line is correctly translated (hopefully) because of their comparison lines.

The Issues

So, let’s move on to the line itself, “I’m a ghost again.” We determined that the line makes sense with the scenario, but does it fit with the anime? If you’ve watched episode 13 of Golden Time, you’ll know that the scene this particular line is from isn’t exactly a nonchalant realization of “I’m a ghost again.” The music from the scene is definitely not fitting for the line, as it’s playing a somber string piece while a storm is brewing. It’s all the signs of an ominous and mysterious scene, but with that not being portrayed in this first line of dialogue.

While you could argue that the dialogue becomes darker later on and that the first line of a monologue doesn’t have to start out with the mood it becomes, there’s more problems that this line suffers from; impact and characterization.

This may seem like a nitpick for this line, but if this happened in a more dramatic show with a more serious plot line, then this line wouldn’t be acceptable at all.

ISUCA 10 - Another CR Edit

No, this isn’t a good example of a serious show either. This line suffers from the same problem and I don’t like the wording here either.

This is the first line and the setup is pretty much perfect for a darker introspection of this character’s inner thoughts with this line, but the editor decided not to utilize it. The entire point of this character’s monologue is to show how angry he is at the real Banri for rejecting his past feelings, despite the ghost taking over his body to make him feel something that he doesn’t any more. Starting off with a line that has the connotation of “I guess I’m a ghost again”, probably isn’t the way the character is feeling at that moment, nor is it a very good way to start off a scene revealing those sinister motives of ghost Banri.

The Flipside

Since I’ve done nothing but rag about this one line, let’s talk about some positive factors of this line. Again, we’re assuming this a correct TL.

It is an accurate description of what happened, and the editing retained the idea with their line. They managed to follow this very confusing plot of a story, and somehow managed to make it make sense with what was actually going on. Some groups have a really hard time doing that, especially fansub groups that may not follow the proper standards and “fansubbing rules”, as silly as that may sound. They also managed to not make any big errors with typos or punctuation in this line, which is also a plus. Simulcasting releases can even have issues with that at times.

The dialogue flows into the monologue really well and fits the overall theme of what the character is talking about. I already talked about that a bit above, so I won’t really elaborate too much on that aspect.

They also managed to make the line fit the audio and not have this huge long line when the actual audio was much smaller. Props for that as well, as most people wouldn’t even realize that could be an issue, nor would they really care unless they can’t read the line. It can cause audio dissonance and readability issues too, which can affect your perception of the show. If you can’t follow or read what’s going on because of the badly flowing dialogue or inconsistencies, then it will affect how you view the show, and that should be highly valuable to a viewer.

The Alternatives

This entire article has basically been me complaining about one single line that may not actually matter in the grand scheme of things, so now it’s up to me to prove that I can do it better… Right?

“I’ve become a ghost once again.”
This line isn’t exactly too much different from the previous line, but it is a bit more fitting with the mood and seems less terse than the previous line, which is partially why it may seem comedic.

You could also switch up the order like “I’ve once again become a ghost,” and it wouldn’t really change much.

“My past feelings have again returned to this body.”
Probably a bit too long for the audio and more liberal than the previous, but it still works, although it probably wouldn’t pass a TL check because of “feelings” and “body” not being in the original TL.

If you took the “again” out, it’d probably actually just make the line even less accurate to the TL, even though “returned” may seem to imply that.

“I’ve again returned to this ghostly form.”
Less liberal than the previous, but more liberal than the first. Probably would pass TL check, may still be too long though.

… So in reality, it comes down to a choice of literal vs liberal scripts. It also shows that I’m not an editor, since I couldn’t do much better than FFF. Let’s see how they hold up timing-wise.

Line1

Only a few CPS, or “Characters Per Second” longer than the original. That’s what that fourth column is. The one before “Default”.

Line2

Aegisub is useful that it shows when a line is becoming too long for audio by highlighting the CPS in increasing brightness of red colors. This color usually means a re-edit of the line is needed.

Line3

CPS is fine for this line as well, as it’s not showing a red color.

Yeah, that’s about what I expected. Line 1 and 3 pass, while Line 2 is pushing it at best.

Of course, other groups did this show too, so let’s see how their versions did compared to FFF.

HorribleSubs-CR Golden Time 13

This is a CrunchyRoll rip, so the dialogue is the same as you’d watch it streamed on their website. Notice it’s the same as FFF.

Chihiro Golden Time 13

Chihiro sometimes does original TLs, but since this line is the exact same as CR, I doubt this was one of those. It could be exactly what the Japanese dialogue is saying though, so I guess it’s a possibility to get the same two lines even with an original TL.

Commie Golden Time 13

Only Commie could make a line like this. They emphasized my point though, since this is pretty much how the line always read to me. At least they didn’t copy CR, so props for that.

The Verdict

As you can see from above, looks like Commie was the only one that wanted to “effort” this line for this show, although not necessarily in a positive way. Everyone else either took CR and didn’t bother to check it, or they figured this line was good enough and focused on other lines that needed editing more.

… Or everyone just thought the show was going in a silly direction and decided that having a line like this just shows how silly of a direction it was. I’m just surprised that out of 4 editors, only one of them had a different line, and that line sounded sillier than the rest of them, but still retained the same connotation as the others.

So, here are the possible verdicts:

For groups that aren’t Commie:
A. All the fansub editors may have been extremely lazy and just copied CR’s lines. Hence the CR “Edit” (AKA highly minimal edits) fansubs that you may run across.
B. All the fansub editors had other lines to deal with, and sacrificed this line to focus on other lines that needed more editing.
C. This show has really bad writing, and the original line was poorly written to begin with, and the only way to retain meaning of the line was to go with a silly sounding line.

For Commie:
A. Commie wanted to trollsub this show, so they decided not to copy for additional “fun.”
B. Commie thought the show was silly and wanted to give it their own “flair” in the process.
C. The line was just poorly written and they decided to make the line as silly-sounding in English as it did in Japanese.

—————————————————————————————

Note from the Author: I wanted to write this post initially because of the silliness that this line invoked when we, The Backloggers, watched this show and couldn’t help but not take this line seriously. We attempted to look for alternative versions of this line in order to find something that didn’t sound ridiculous, and that’s kind of how this article was first written on Tumblr. Since I wasn’t a fansubber at that point in time, lots of the information I gave in that post wasn’t exactly accurate or relevant to what I was talking about, and decided to brush it up with new knowledge and better wording on here. While I’ll eventually touch on the subject, editing is a very important part of the fansubbing process, and is crucial to a viewer understanding what the show is properly saying, which is yet another reason I complain about this very “nitpicky” line issue. Ultimately, I hope to bring awareness to these kinds of issues by writing posts like this, even though some people may see these as “unimportant issues.”

We still joke about this line to this very day, along with making several ghost Banri jokes.

Seriously, that aspect was interesting, but it wasn’t executed very well in the anime. Maybe I’ll talk about this at some point…

Next Post: Summer 2015 – Plan to Watch

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