August 28, 2005


Western otaku out here often have issues with the improper translation of anime dialogue - especially in subtitles. Not only subtitles often fail to convey the fine meaning of Japanese (that's understandable; some features of Japanese are unique to that language), but sometimes they almost make no sense.

I spotted an example of vary bad translation in Ghost In The Shell: Standalone Complex. It's in Episode 14 (¥€$ ) at timestamp 11:35. Major Kusanagi orders a Tachikoma to switch on its optothermal camouflage and follow her, and the Tachikoma replies "Yaya!" (or something like that, in Japanese) saluting with its robotic arm.

Tachikomas usually reply with a simple "Ai!" (Yes madam/sir!) or something quite informal, and that strange reply leaves Kusanagi dumbfounded and wondering what's going on with the Tachikomas (and watch Episode 15 to know).

Yaya! is translated with "Aye, aye Major!", which is the expression used by the US Marines. I don't know enough of Japan(ese) to tell whether Yaya is a special salute or what, but within that context the Marine expression makes sense.

But the subtitle says "I don't want to", which is a nonsense. First, the Tachikoma does obey the order a second later. Second, the Major would react differently to an open insubordination.


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