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Anime translation is a niche, but increasingly popular, application of translation. Whether you’re excited about the newest episode of One Piece, longing to rewatch one of your comfort Studio Ghibli films, or vaguely familiar with the name Naruto, chances are you’ve at least glimpsed some form of anime over the past few years.

Japanese animated media has increased in popularity across the world. It gained traction in the United States, Taiwan, South Korea, Canada, and many other countries. However, many overlook the processes of anime translation.

Streaming services like Crunchyroll or Netflix have made accessing media from other countries easy. These services often offer media with subtitling or audio options in multiple languages. As anime rises in popularity, the demand for its translation also increases. Streaming services devote more effort to localization and translation as a result. 



Beginning the Process 

A large number of translators who work in the anime industry are contracted workers. A few companies have in-house translators, but the majority of animation companies simply contract freelancers to work on a series. Translators receive files through a subtitling software. The program gives them both text and timing cues for an episode. From there, they can proceed with the translation. 

According to an article on translating anime by Crunchyroll, sometimes anime translators don’t choose either full localization or literal translation during a project. Instead, they use a mix of the two styles. In order to best adapt the content into the target language, sometimes they use completely literal translations. Other times, they account for cultural differences and contexts to make sure the phrase is fully localized for their target audience. 

Translating one episode can take anywhere between two to eight hours. This amount of time depends on the amount of dialogue, and how much research is needed. A slice-of-life show about daily life in Japan won’t take as much time to translate because everything is familiar and common. A fantasy show based on medieval Europe or a sci-fi show with lots of technical terms will both take longer to translate.  

Conducting Research

Research is an essential step in the translation process for those who work with anime. As mentioned beforehand, the amount of research necessary to produce a high-quality translation can greatly affect how much time the translation takes. 

As a result, some companies even hire researchers to work alongside translators. They search for answers in advance for upcoming projects. This way, the translators have the information and resources they need when they begin the translation process. 

Another part of research includes reviewing the source material. Many Japanese animations originate from their comic-book form counterparts, known as manga. The manga is then adapted into an audio-visual form for television. However, this transition sometimes contains differences. In order to fully understand the intent of the original author, translators should also read and analyze the manga. 

Settling on Details

Sometimes, reviewing the source material and researching isn’t enough. In some cases, translators are able to work directly with the licensor or author. The licensor is the company in charge of the rights for the series. If a translator is still uncertain about how to proceed about a certain issue, they can discuss available options and ask questions to these sources. 

Some common elements agreed upon by both translators and licensors include the spelling of character’s names, how and when song lyrics should appear, and how to translate names of people or places that contain puns or hints relevant to the plot. 

After Translation

When a translation for an episode is complete, it goes through several more steps before it can be released. A worker called a subtitle-timer receives the translated script and matches the lines to the video. Additionally, anime sometimes contains additional writing that does not appear on the script. This may include visuals such as signs or writing on a blackboard. Subtitle-timers create and format the translations for these small, unique details. 

Once subtitles are in place, an editor sits down with the translator to discuss how well the translation matches the tones, personalities, and quirks of the original characters. They also ensure that all punctuation, grammar, and formatting of the subtitles is high quality. 

Final Steps

Another final team of reviewers watches the episode even after the translator and editor analyze the episode together. They make any last-minute adjustments to either subtitling placements or translations. Then they approve the episode for release. If the series will be dubbed, they send the script to an ADR (automated dialogue replacement) team for future production. 

The Takeaway

The demand for quick and accurate anime translation increases with each new release. Fans are desperate to get content in their own language. They want to be up-to-date on their favorite stories, and translators play an essential role in bridging the language gap so that fans worldwide can connect over shared enthusiasm. 

Anime translation is a unique section of the industry that involves much more research and collaboration than expected. As demand for this translation increases, the need for translators will rise, and translators who work with this kind of media will receive more recognition for their hard work. 

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