25 April 2010

Subs vs. Dubs: Part Four

Domenig then asked Michael Arias if Tekkon Kinkreet is a Japanese film. Arias claimed that he doesn’t really think about the Japaneseness of his films. With regards to the discussion that proceded this question, he says that he doesn’t feel comfortable addressing the issue of historical Japanese films as it’s not his area of knowledge. On the subject of subs vs. dubs, however, he does make a number of interesting points.
First, he describes his experience watching Steam Boy (Katsuhiro Otomo, 2004). This he found difficult to watch in Japanese because of its ‘tortured katakana’ because of all the foreign words and place names. The dub, which used ‘the Queen’s English’ was a much more pleasant viewing experience.
Arias also tells the story of Stanley Kubrick firing the Japanese subtitler for Full Metal Jacket (1987) because her language wasn’t ‘dirty’ enough. Domenig and Asakawa are familiar with this story and say that it was the renowned Japanese translator Natsuko Toda. (The chapter “Loving Dubbing” in Abé Mark Nornes’ Cinema Babel: Translating Global Cinema describes what happened).
With regards to Tekkon Kinkreet, Arias describes the translation process that they had with their scripts. They started with the Japanese manga, which was adapted into an English screenplay, then translated back into Japanese for the production staff, and so on. At each phase of filmmaking the screenplay had to be retranslated. A lot of tweaking was done on the dub in the studio.

[Here my notes become a bit scattered – Arias made some kind of a point about the number of syllables (related to lip movement in animation) and meaning (what can be matched to the lip movement?) There was also a reference to a film that was literally translated by Natsuko Toda that Arias was watching, where the expression “to drop acid” was rendered in Japanese as if the person had literally dropped acid on the floor rather than taking LSD. Someone also mentioned the fact that Coppola always insisted on using Toda for the Japanese subtitles on his films. For my blog readers, I should mention here that people who do subtitles have a very different relationship with the public than they do in English speaking countries. Most people I know do not stay to the very end of the credits and make a mental note of who the subititler was. In Japan, subitilers like Toda are celebrities themselves with fan clubs]

Returning to the topic of Tekkon Kinkreet, Michael Arias admitted that the translator and producer may have been a bit frustrated by his imput into the English version. As a native speaker of English he was concerned that the nuance of the piece would survive the translation process.

Taguchi mentioned that his next project will be a collaboration with Alex Cox (Sid and Nancy, Straight to Hell, Mike Hama Private Detective) will apparently be the main actor in the film. [Listening to what Taguchi said and how the translator interpreted it, I was confused as to who was starring and who was directing – especially seeing as both men act and director. I haven’t been able to find out any more information on this film. Alex Cox’s website lists a screenplay written in 2003 called Kawasaki karas to gaki which will star Tomorowo Taguchi, but it isn’t listed on imdb – let me know in the comments section if you know more about this Taguchi-Cox project. Taguchi did of course star In Mike Hama Must Die! in 2002 which Cox directed.] Taguchi spoke of his desire to understand the relationship between the different releases of his films and to know what works well. He also voiced a desire to speak English better.

Roland Domenig spoke briefly about how in contrast to European film releases which prefer to dub into their own language to prevent the creep of English into their native tongues, the Japanese have historically preferred subtitled cinematic released that preserve the “foreignness” of the films

Shikisoku Zeneration / Japanese Movie
Japanese Movie

© Catherine Munroe Hotes 2010