Random Thoughts: Lost in Translation

One of the things that bother me, and the reason why I choose to use the Japanese title for my posts rather than the English translation is because I always feel that something is lost in translation.

One of the best parts of being multilingual is seeing the differences and sometimes the subtlties that comes with a phrase. As mentioned before, I am Korean with living in English speaking country for about 15 years. Fortunately for me, Korean and Japanese are very similar in structure and pronouciantion, in addition, I studied Japanese for 3 years, so hopefully I know what I am talking about.

When I see titles translated to another language, especially ones I am familiar with, I always make note of the change in meaning. Unfortunately, when these changes are made, they are usually for the worse. When I say worse, the definitive of the title has changed in meaning, in perspective, or in emphasize, let’s see some examples.


Image result for shingeki no kyojin

Shingeki no Kyojin is one of the hottest anime out now, and the English title, Attack on Titan, has always rubbed me the wrong way. In both Japanese and Korean, the title means Titans of Advancement. This emphasizes that Titans are coming, the it brings to focus the threat that is coming of Titans. But the English title, similar in content, focuses instead on attacking the Titans. This emphasizes the human retaliation rather than the coming of the monsters.


Image result for shokugeki no soma

Shokugeki no Souma is a similar case. Its English translation is Food Wars, which is is the first part of the original title, but it leaves out the focus of the original title, protagonist Souma. The original title translates to Souma of Food Wars, the focus being on Souma. The show is not entirely abut Food Wars, rather Souma’s growth to become the best chef in school, and the English title misses this.


Image result for youjo senki art

Youjo Senki translates to War Chronicles of Young Girl, while the English title is Saga of Tanya the Terrible. Unlike Shingeki no Kyojin, the focus is still on the protagonist Tanya, but the subtley is lost. Imagine if Jungle was titled Jungle Adventure of Mowgli…


Image result for when they cry

Higurashi no Haku Koro ni has one of the worst translations. The original title is When the Cicadas Cry, but the English translations is, wait for it…. When They Cry… who’s They? And the original title was not about the crying, rather the time period. When cicadas cry refers to the time loop the characters are stuck in, the ever repeating end of summer. To escape this point in time is the goal. The original title conveys the eerie atmosphere of the show as well as the setting and the intent, while the English title…. makes no sense. Do English speakers not know what cicada is? It took one of the most unique title and made it generic as fck.


Image result for poco udon world

Udon no Kuni no Kiniro Kemari‘s English title misses the mark. The translation is something more like: Golden Furball of Udon Country, while the English translation is Poko’s Udon World. If you look at the English title and think like me, you would think it is going to be a show about Udon…. it’s not. The title is misleading. The original is still misleading, but the focus is about Poko, not the Udon region. And this slight change of the focus makes the original title make a lot more sense.


Image result for shigatsu wa kimi no uso

Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso is like the previous example. The title translates to April is Your Lie rather than Your Lie in April, see the difference? The original title suggests that the entire month of April is a lie, while the English title suggest there was a lie in April.


Let’s change gears a bit, because it sounds like I only have problem with English translations, this is no the case.


Image result for spiderman

I cannot confirm this entirely as it is based on my Dad’s memory before internet was a big thing in Korea. According to him, Spiderman was not always called Spiderman in Korea, mostly because no one spoke English in Korea back then, so it was called Gumi Wang (King Spider), because why not.


Image result for gankutsuou cave king

You might have heard of an anime called Gankutsuou, it is an anime adaptation of Count of Monte Cristo. English speakers might think that is a weird title, but for Korea and Japan, Gankutsuou (or Akgulwang in Korean, they have the same kanji) was the original title for Count of Monte Cristo, in fact my Dad who reads endlessly had no idea what Count of Monte Cristo was, but knew immediately when I said Gankutsuou (the Korean version I mean). Gankutusou translates to the Evil Cave King, emphasizing the mental state of the Count, the anime references this translation.


Image result for captain america in korea

Before the crazy Marvel movies, I don’t think anyone knew who Captain America was…. And I don’t think anyone out side of United States really cared either. So the Korean, possibly the international, title for the movie was just The First Avenger, look at the poster above, there is no mention of Captain America anywhere.


Image result for 바람의 검심

Then there is Ruruni Kenshin, which is just called Swordsman of the Wind in Korean. And something like Zettai Karen Children, which translates to Absolutely Lovely Children, is called Psychic Squad…. since the regular translation is somewhat questionable. And some have to do with legal reasons, for exmaple how the Bio Hazard series is called Resident Evil.

Well I hope you liked it!



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