The Translation of Graphemes in Anime in Its Original and Fansubbed Versions




Anime, audiovisual translation, graphemes, Kon Satoshi, fansubbing, fans


Anime, Japanese animation, is massive, with “60% of the animation in the world made in Japan” (Goto-Jones 2009, 3). Anime occasionally makes an innovative use of graphemes on screen, but this has not been studied so far. This study, then, describes and analyses how graphemes have been translated in anime, presenting a series of cases, but concentrating on three particular releases: Gurren Lagann, Kill la Kill, and Tōkyō Godfathers, products that feature a frequent and innovative use of graphemes in its anime. These graphemes are categorised into two types: (1) the ones that are part of the original anime and (2) the graphemes added in fansubbed anime. Much anime is fansubbed (subtitled by fans), and these fans are not constrained by the industry’s rules, meaning that they have complete liberty in subtitling, allowing for really creative forms of subtitling. Even if this freedom can sometimes be taken to the extreme—with subtitles covering the entire screen—fansubs have shown creative subtitling solutions, specially in the case of graphemes that cover a great part of the screen. After describing and analysing these graphemes and how they have been subtitled, this article concludes that, even if fansubs can frequently be excessive, they are at the fore of creativity, and present better solutions than official subtitles in the translation of graphemes in anime.


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Author Biography

Daniel E. Josephy-Hernández, University of Ottawa

Daniel E. Josephy-Hernández has a PhD in Translation Studies from the University of Ottawa, where he teaches translation courses. His gender-focused dissertation analyses the subtitles, dubbing and fansubs of the Kon Satoshi film Perfect Blue (1997). In 2014 and 2015 he spent a research year at Tohoku Gakuin University in Sendai, Japan. His research concentrates mostly on gender and audiovisual translation, the translation of anime and hentai (pornographic) anime, videogame translation, translation in Wales, and various other topics. He is an expert on gender in Japan, and has studied anime censorship, and the controversy around the distribution of illegal and banned anime. He speaks Japanese fluently, amongst several languages, and is a fan of anime, films and TV shows in general.