On boredom: alternatives to property destruction


Some time ago, I got really. Really. Bored. Like shooting-the-wall level bored. Then a nearby DVD case caught my eye, which got me thinking. I watched the movie in that case three times - once in the original Japanese, and once in each of the other languages it was translated into. There were two scenes (some readers may recognize the movie from these descriptions) that particularly stuck with me, and not in a good way. In one scene, the main character, a preteen girl, was trapped by an enormous baby in a red bib. She showed him a palm coated with blood in order to get him to let her go. The original dialogue and the French dub both said the word straight out - this is blood. The English dub, however, changed the word to germs. In another scene, the girl was talking to a bathhouse attendant about an uninvited guest. If I remember correctly, both the original Japanese and the French dub gave the girl’s line as ‘I may have invited him,’ while the English one has ‘I did invite him.’ These are just two examples of things I worry about in translations. In the case of ‘may have’ versus ‘did,’ the basic message remains the same, while the mood changes. The French translation was closer to the hesitant sound of the original, while the American English dub eliminated that hesitation. In the case of ‘blood’ versus ‘germs,’ it feels more like censorship. This girl’s terrified for her friend, whose blood is on her hand. Why would she need to change that word to get the eight-foot-tall baby to let her go? Are germs really that much more frightening than blood? Would a girl the same age as the main character have the presence of mind to craft a little white lie, in order to protect the sensibilities of the oversized infant that’s this close to crushing her wrist? For me, this particular film raised the question of how far a translator goes to make a message in one language suit an audience that speaks another. How many changes are translators willing to make to get the target audience to accept that message? How closely does the resulting message resemble the author’s, or in this case animator’s, original intent? The changes in the film mentioned above may be understandable, considering both the country in which the English dub was made and the company that brought it over from Japan. Doesn’t mean I have to like those changes, though. I preferred the French dubbers’ choice to keep closer to the tone and wording of the original. Although to be fair, I wouldn’t have known about the animator and his films if it hadn’t been for the English dub, so thanks for that. Have you got similar examples in mind?

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