I spent the last week subtitling the newest Makoto Shinkai film because I like it and I wanted something to do.
Also because the official subs are awful.
General philosophy throughout:
- Retain as much of the original text as possible
- Retain japanese honorifics, otherwise some lines don’t make sense
- Don’t force direct translation of familial words. A character using “nee-chan” shouldn’t mean they’re translated as saying “sis”. If you do this someone saying “nii-chan” as “brother” a lot sounds like a moe hulk hogan.
- No scrubbing of culture. If japanese festivals are featured, use their proper names. Speaking to you, mr official translator changing “obon” to “august 15th”.
- Tone matters. Radio broadcasts should sound like radio broadcasts.
- Do not subtitle insert song lyrics - these are used to set a mood with the visuals. The last thing I want to do is encourage viewers to look at the lyrics and not take in the mood of the animation.
- Readability over style-matching
- Allow subtitles to end before the line ends if there’s a scene transition. especially if there’s an action. we want the next scene’s animation to hit as hard as it was edited to.
- Generally abide by the BBC’s accessibility guidelines
- 20 characters per second maximum
- Give lines some flair. There’s a common theme with officially-licenced subs where the given translation is very literal, except when the character could be seen as “swearing”. Give characters character.