Japanese Subtitles: All is Not Well, say fans.
Tehanu @ 8:03 pm EST
OK, this is an endless can of worms, and feelings are running high. MANY Japanese fans have written to say that the explanation offered by Nipon Herald. Inc regarding their process in translating/subtitling the LOTR films is not as positive as it implies. They say nothing has changed; the cross-checking that Nippon Herald claim will improve TTT apparently existed before, and the results were still bad. I'm posting this letter as a representative sample of what we've received on this topic.

"I am Bunnyfoot in Japan and am writing to you for the first time. I subscribe TheOneRingNet maling list, which I always enjoy reading.

"Perhaps you are a bit weary of hearing each updated situation about the subtitles of LOTR films in Japan. Please let me have your patience for a while.

"Having read the two letters in defense of the Japanese subtitler Natsuko Toda in Dec. 28 edition of TheOneRingNet, I thought it is high time I tipped off some extra info regarding the case.

"The first letter is a fairly accurate translation of what we LOTR fans in Japan saw on Christmas Day on the Web page of Nippon Herald Inc.

"The Japanese fans were at first relieved to hear that Akiko Tanaka, the co-translator of the epic novel, was to be deeply involved in preparing the subtitles for TTT. Then the Nippon Herald announcement went on to say that the TTT trailer that we have already seen and were appalled by also had gone under Tanaka's check. The trailer subtitle is actually full of inexplicable expressions that a fan described as "a Zen dialogue," and we are very worried if TTT may suffer from a similar setback. I already saw TTT in Hawaii last week and found that there were a lot of changes from the original novel. So I doubt whether having Tanaka translate the script and check Toda's subtitles would be enough to make good subtitles.

"Yes, they may come up with a lot better subtitles for TTT than for FOTR, but now the argument has come down to the point that, unless we have someone else other than Toda to do the job, it's going to be like that we pay money to check subtitles, not to appreciate the film.

"The second letter on the same page, the one from Shiots, is a bit more controversial because he is right to a certain extent. As he says, Natsuko Toda is definitely the best-known subtitler in Japan, who boasts she can prepare the subtitle of a film in just one week (which she said she did with FOTR as well). [eeeek! -Tehanu] Yet she is also known for having made many unprofessional mistakes in the past (* See below) although it did not cause furor among the audiences until FOTR was released here. This is perhaps because LOTR fans are, er, a bit more sensitive about the story and the film they are in love with than ordinary moviegoers.

"But I think all this is a good step for the improvement of the antiquated movie industry in Japan. Toda was perhaps the best for a long time, but her days are now probably limited or over. After all she has been never good translating fantasy or sci-fi films.

"Shiots writes, "unless a huge Japanese Tolkien fan steps up and offers to translate the movie for her, she is the most capable person for the job." He probably does not know that a number of fans, including some professional translaters, already made timed subtitles for FOTR on their Web sites, and some even offered their hands to Nippon Herald, Inc.

"I hate to act like a telltaler, but really the fans would have been a lot happier if Nippon Herald acted more quickly to explain the situation even if they would stick to using Toda.

"Best wishes for New Year, and sorry for my bad English writing."

- Bunnyfoot

"*Toda's mistakes are many but here I write a few of the most recent ones. In "Gosford Park," she translated Welsh rarebit as "rabbit", which a vegitarian person orders instead of poultry in a restaurant. In "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secret," she mixed up Muggle and Mugblood at a crucial scene, which has reportedly onfused many in the audience. When the FOTR cast came to Japan for promoting the movie earlier this year, Toda acted as their translator. Orlando Bloom was asked what other character he would like to play in LOTR, and he replied, "Saruman," which Toda tranalated as "Solomon." No wonder the fans who understood English were left aghast. It was after she prepared the FOTR subtitles."