The translation is always better than the original

People are weird about translations. “I only watch subs, but for Cowboy Bebop, the dub is better.” “You really have to read it in the original language to fully appreciate it.” “It’s so funny seeing dubs; the words don’t match their lips!” Me? I’m completely normal.

JK Kimora. I am OBSESSED with dubs. They’re one of my special interests.

There’s a whole genre of so-bad-they’re-good dubs. There’s the Finnish dub of Digimon Adventure, that was so awful they had to redub it. There’s the scansion nightmare that is the Japanese dub of Skyrim. And who could forget WOW I’M REAL, MY GOSH?

Which only comes in second to the Singaporean dub of Yu-Gi-Oh! Why not wear a silver bracelet or sum’n?

But I’m also one of those weirdos who enjoys dubs for dubs’ sake. Mostly this takes the form of Disney dubs, because there’s something so cromulent about comparing the different language versions of a song. I’m not the only one. There’s long been the practice of ‘multilangs’, where fans compile several language dubs into one video, so much so that Disney has even started doing official ones:

They could’ve gone the extra mile and picked the lines so they rhymed, just saying

Another guilty pleasure: I go to charity shops and hunt through the DVD section, looking for familiar American films with dubbing tracks in languages I’m learning or interested in. If I an actual foreign film, rather than a dubbed one, I usually ignore it. One language track? Rubbish! The real gold is finding a film with three or more foreign language tracks, and even better when there’s a more obscure one thrown in, like Hindi or Arabic.

This shit is my lifeblood

This interest doesn’t extend to English dubs of anime, however. Japanese has such a hilariously evocative tradition of voice acting that it’s a crime to butcher it with Vic Mignogna.

The one exception is opening themes. I love it when fans adore a show so much that they’ll dub the opening into English, or better yet, another language. It presents a unique challenge: Japanese songs are much more syllable-heavy, making it very tricky to construct English lines that scan well and don’t sound like lyrical madlibs. And how to adapt the English phrases smattered among the Japanese words, often stressed incorrectly and with extra syllables added in?

Christina Vee’s rendition of Hare Hare Yukai was the gateway drug to this interest, with its charming Spidermen-pointing-jpg tactic of taking a Japanese phrase from the original: suki deshou?

The scansion is charmingly mediocre

There’s even, you know, actually good English translyrics of anime songs now, but it’s still a pretty niche area, cf. Caleb Hyles, the bassy daddy of shonen bops:

Teenage me was far too attracted to people like this

Another layer of abstraction: English fandubs of Vocaloid songs:

Through all of this time immersed in dubs, I’ve picked up some weird, niche facts. For example, did you know that the Italian dub of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX uses the American 4kids dub as a base (music, names, characterisation), but switches to the Japanese dub on the last episode of season 3? This is because the American dub ended one episode before the season 3 finale, due to the coming release of 5D’s, but the Italian crew decided to keep the show running. Can you imagine how jarring it would be to see 155 episodes of a show with cheesy guitars and hackneyed dialogue, and then to hard-shift into the self-serious and somehow simultaneously sappy soundtrack and tone of the original? Maybe this sounds boring, but to me it’s fascinating. Compare the dread guitars of the English dub with the going-fishing-with-your-anime-friends chillout from the original.

Anyway, suffice to say, all this of this knowledge is stored in the back of my mind, waiting to be activated by the poor sucker who dares to wonder if there’s a French version of the Club Penguin songs. If you didn’t already have a picture of what an autistic special interest is, it’s hopefully very clear for you now. I couldn’t get through this article without singing along to several multilanguages and fandubs, and delving into YouTube searches of “Has XYZ song been translyricked yet?”.

The sad thing about all this is that I don’t spend much time on it anymore. Having special interests is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s a literally endless source of addictive amusement. On the other hand it’s, well, addictive. Once I stick my head into the rabbithole of YouTube, I might emerge hours later, having completely lost all concept of time.

Since starting this article, I’ve been once again filled with the long-lost urge to start a YouTube channel where I do fandubs of, for example, the Pokémon theme in Croatian, and my own Esperanto translyrics of Disney songs and anime OPs. I’m not an amazing singer, but I can hold a tune. I taught myself to sing after I discovered fandubbing, incidentally for the most part, and if I dedicated more time to it, I could probably get pretty good.

But would it be worth the time? I’ve invested a lot more into writing, and I’m currently working on teaching, both of which are infinitely more bankable than… singing the Pokémon theme tune in Croatian.

You’re always told to do what you love, follow your passions etc. Well, what if my passions are irrelevant to most people’s lives? And to be completely honest, even if I could make a living off the above, the addictive, obsessive nature I mentioned isn’t exactly conducive to a healthy work style. My heart is beating with a manic energy after this passion bath, and I only really dipped my toes in.

This dilemma is the “Like, duh” of my whole existence. I may have only realised I was autistic five years ago, which, given I was in the height of my fandub mania far before that, is hilarious; but I know this rodeo damn well now. The world of work is never going to be fair for us autists, and for the most part I’ve made peace with that.

What I do wonder is whether I should shut my weird, niche special interests away, or let the storm rage on. Because potentially the only thing holding me back is the disdain of “normal people” towards such geekery, and potentially I’m locking a large part of myself away.

Sigh. Where’s the self-help shelf for us?

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