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Answerman - Why Do Opening and Ending Song Lyrics Sometimes Get Subtitled In Japanese?




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Lord Geo



Joined: 18 Sep 2005
Posts: 1669
Location: North Brunswick, New Jersey
PostPosted: Wed May 08, 2019 12:13 pm Reply with quote
I remember back when digital fansubbing was in vogue, and any anime that didn't have on-screen lyrics for the OP & ED were generally translated by ear, which resulted in often incorrect words, lines, & even entire songs; hell, some fansubbers even mistranslated when there WERE on-screen lyrics! Usually, after the official singles came out & the lyrics were included in the insert, the fansubbers would create more accurate song translations, but the sheer madness of early-airing karaoke subs was fun.

Honestly, I'm always all for having the lyrics on-screen. If nothing else, it can honestly help you learn the occasional kanji once in a while, when you realize what word it associates with, because repetition sometimes is the easiest way to hammer something into your brain.
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Triltaison



Joined: 03 Jul 2011
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PostPosted: Wed May 08, 2019 12:40 pm Reply with quote
I just wish the music licensors would let companies translate the songs for distribution elsewhere in the world without that official translation only nonsense they've been doing for like the last decade. It's ridiculous that openings and endings are rarely translated on streaming, and that insert songs are ignored when it's plot relevant. At least transcribe the Japanese lyrics in the subs instead of doing nothing. *side-eyes her AKB0048 DVDs*
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Kougeru



Joined: 13 May 2008
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PostPosted: Wed May 08, 2019 12:49 pm Reply with quote
Triltaison wrote:
I just wish the music licensors would let companies translate the songs for distribution elsewhere in the world without that official translation only nonsense they've been doing for like the last decade. It's ridiculous that openings and endings are rarely translated on streaming, and that insert songs are ignored when it's plot relevant. At least transcribe the Japanese lyrics in the subs instead of doing nothing. *side-eyes her AKB0048 DVDs*


Definitely agree with this! It drives me up a wall when I'm watching music anime especially, and the lyrics are not translated. They're so very often plot-related. For example, "Tenshi ni Fureta yo!" from HO-KAGO TEA TIME was written specifically for Azusa and was a MESSAGE to her that only comes across when you know what the lyrics mean. A more recent example, would be "Returns" in BanG Dream 2nd Season. Sentai didn't translate this song at all even though it's lyrics are were the main focus on the entire episode the song was in, and a large point of the 2nd season entirely.

But yeah, I love when lyrics are on OP/EDs, even in hiragana/kanji. If it's in romaji we can sing along, too. And if it's in hiragana/kanji then fan translation sites for anisong can at least get proper translations of TV-version lyrics.
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Shiroi Hane
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Joined: 25 Oct 2003
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PostPosted: Wed May 08, 2019 1:32 pm Reply with quote
Quote:
As foreign-language viewers we're used to reading subtitled lyrics, but if the song is in your native language, it's second nature for your eyes to follow along with the text of the lyrics rather than pay attention to the visuals

The opposite always happens for me. I can never pick up on the lyrics of songs because a few lines in my attention always drifts back to the animation.

Lord Geo wrote:
I remember back when digital fansubbing was in vogue, and any anime that didn't have on-screen lyrics for the OP & ED were generally translated by ear, which resulted in often incorrect words, lines, & even entire songs;

Ahh, Hellsing...

Triltaison wrote:
I just wish the music licensors would let companies translate the songs for distribution elsewhere in the world without that official translation only nonsense they've been doing for like the last decade.

I don’t follow?

Quote:
It's ridiculous that openings and endings are rarely translated on streaming, and that insert songs are ignored when it's plot relevant. At least transcribe the Japanese lyrics in the subs instead of doing nothing. *side-eyes her AKB0048 DVDs*

Pretty sure the former has been explained here before. Worst case I’ve seen of the latter was the UK release of Penguindrum where no songs were subtitles - not even in the one episode where most of the dialogue was sung.
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OjaruFan2



Joined: 09 Jul 2018
Posts: 182
PostPosted: Wed May 08, 2019 3:00 pm Reply with quote
I feel more engaged with the opening and ending song lyrics if I'm watching them with Japanese subtitles. But I honestly need to improve my Japanese listening skills so that I won't have to always rely on Japanese subtitles.

I wonder why Western animation aimed at kids has never adapted that practice for their theme songs. The lack of subtitles often made me misinterpret some theme song lyrics back when I was a kid.

Shiroi Hane wrote:
Pretty sure the former has been explained here before.

Yep, it has indeed been explained here before: animenewsnetwork.com/answerman/2017-09-01/.120752
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John Thacker
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Joined: 28 Oct 2013
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PostPosted: Wed May 08, 2019 5:27 pm Reply with quote
As the article alludes to, shows that are shown on Japanese TV during normal daytime hours and appeal to kids are far more likely to have the on screen subtitles. Mix, for example.
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CandisWhite
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Joined: 19 Apr 2015
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PostPosted: Wed May 08, 2019 10:41 pm Reply with quote
Shiroi Hane wrote:
Triltaison wrote:
I just wish the music licensors would let companies translate the songs for distribution elsewhere in the world without that official translation only nonsense they've been doing for like the last decade.

I don’t follow?

I can't speak to a broad industry trend but I do know that Sailor Moon has both the locked in place translation of 'Senshi' as 'Guardians' and the official demand that certain lyrics NOT be translated because "people can feel the lyrics". They'll just get it, man, if they feel hard enough.
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Commander Cluck



Joined: 02 May 2019
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PostPosted: Wed May 08, 2019 11:19 pm Reply with quote
CandisWhite wrote:
I can't speak to a broad industry trend but I do know that Sailor Moon has both the locked in place translation of 'Senshi' as 'Guardians' and the official demand that certain lyrics NOT be translated because "people can feel the lyrics". They'll just get it, man, if they feel hard enough.


Doesn't the transformation song literally call them "Sailor Soldiers" in English?
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unready



Joined: 07 Jun 2009
Posts: 377
Location: Illinois, USA
PostPosted: Wed May 08, 2019 11:27 pm Reply with quote
Lord Geo wrote:
I remember back when digital fansubbing was in vogue, and any anime that didn't have on-screen lyrics for the OP & ED were generally translated by ear, which resulted in often incorrect words, lines, & even entire songs; ...

The fansub lyrics to Mami Kawada's "Borderland" for Jormungand where practically psychedelic by comparison. "Reality and dream" got subbed as "We are the killing team" to name one. "Eeny Meeny Miney Moe" seemed to confound the subbers utterly, so they just let it go without even trying to guess.

Although I found Log Horizon to be fairly mature for a story, even with most of the main characters as adults rather than kids, I was amused that the studios subbed the song lyrics in kanji with furigana, which you'd expect for an audience composed of kids under 10.
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Meongantuk



Joined: 03 Jun 2016
Posts: 144
PostPosted: Thu May 09, 2019 12:08 am Reply with quote
unready wrote:
Lord Geo wrote:
I remember back when digital fansubbing was in vogue, and any anime that didn't have on-screen lyrics for the OP & ED were generally translated by ear, which resulted in often incorrect words, lines, & even entire songs; ...

The fansub lyrics to Mami Kawada's "Borderland" for Jormungand where practically psychedelic by comparison. "Reality and dream" got subbed as "We are the killing team" to name one. "Eeny Meeny Miney Moe" seemed to confound the subbers utterly, so they just let it go without even trying to guess.

Although I found Log Horizon to be fairly mature for a story, even with most of the main characters as adults rather than kids, I was amused that the studios subbed the song lyrics in kanji with furigana, which you'd expect for an audience composed of kids under 10.


Log Horizon air time was around 4 PM (or 5?) on Saturday, and in NHK-e, no less. Children are definitely part of their expectation.
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CandisWhite
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Joined: 19 Apr 2015
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PostPosted: Thu May 09, 2019 12:10 am Reply with quote
Commander Cluck wrote:
CandisWhite wrote:
I can't speak to a broad industry trend but I do know that Sailor Moon has both the locked in place translation of 'Senshi' as 'Guardians' and the official demand that certain lyrics NOT be translated because "people can feel the lyrics". They'll just get it, man, if they feel hard enough.


Doesn't the transformation song literally call them "Sailor Soldiers" in English?

Yup. Very Happy

The ADV sets used 'warrior' and IIRC the Pioneer sets used 'soldier'. The 2003 live-action series has long been referred to using 'guardian'.

It is my belief that when there was the big Sailor Moon revival around the 20th anniversary that there was a concentrated effort by Toei et al. to pick one unifying translation in English for branding purposes. And that choice was Guardian. So now even the Crystal series uses that English word in the original Japanese.


Last edited by CandisWhite on Thu May 09, 2019 11:25 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Triltaison



Joined: 03 Jul 2011
Posts: 288
PostPosted: Thu May 09, 2019 1:00 am Reply with quote
OjaruFan2 wrote:

Shiroi Hane wrote:
Pretty sure the former has been explained here before.

Yep, it has indeed been explained here before: animenewsnetwork.com/answerman/2017-09-01/.120752

^This explanation is to what I was referring. The music licensors in Japan didn't used to care so much what translations were used overseas, but I'd rather have a substandard attempt than nothing at all.
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eely225



Joined: 23 May 2006
Posts: 96
Location: West Lafayette, IN
PostPosted: Fri May 10, 2019 12:05 pm Reply with quote
Quote:
remember, karaoke has been a popular past time in Japan for a very long time

Here's something pedantic:

The word is spelled "pastime," not "past time."
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Nanto



Joined: 09 Feb 2014
Posts: 5
PostPosted: Sun May 12, 2019 8:53 am Reply with quote
Justin Sevakis wrote:
In the past, virtually every anime TV series had its opening and ending themes subtitled in Japanese.
For the first two decades of broadcast anime (roughly 1963-1982) most shows had on screen lyrics in the OP titles, but not in the ED credits. On-screen lyrics for the end credits seemed to catch on after the Space Fortress Macross used them, possibly because that show spawned such a successful series of soundtrack albums.
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