bambooXZX's personal blog, mostly dedicated to song lyrics translation from Japanese to English.

[2015-04-12] Spring 2015: Reflection on TV-size Translations, Week 1


Half on a whim, I’ve decided to jump into TV-size translations. I’ve done this in the past with mixed results – it worked out fine for things like OreImo, but mistakes have happened, ranging from terrible (e.g, Valvrave) to hilarious (e.g, Railgun).

I thought I’d go into a little more detail about those songs here. I’m not opposed to translation notes for song lyrics, but there’s a point where you start splitting hairs that no one but the translator cares about, and it turns into a wall of text, and then it breaks the reader’s sense of immersion (which isn’t even as deep as with visual media) and no one needs to deal with that shit. So, I’ve kicked the details to this page. It might be a little dry, but I hope it would be of interest to those of you who are interested in the interpretation process.

==DanMachi opening theme [Watch]
『Hey World』/Yuka Iguchi

Seemed fairly straightforward to translate. Not much else to talk about here – just that I still can’t really find a good-sounding way to word 今日も (if you don’t get what I’m talking about, don’t worry about it).

Basically a forward-looking song of adventure – get to the new world, don’t let the small failures bring you down.


==Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu ending theme [Watch]
『Arigatou, Daisuki』/Chihara Minori

My feelings on this translation are about the same as the above: probably no significant problems, just a few things I wish could be worded better (伝える this time). Also not sure if that’s ‘ara’ or ‘aa’ at the end of the first verse, but that’s not especially important (at time of writing, I have it as ‘ara’).

Just a sweet song from Yuki-chan’s point of view.


==Plastic Memories opening theme [Watch]
『Ring of Fortune』/Sasaki Eri

My Japanese word identification is a bit more tenuous here than in most of the other songs I’ve done, but I’ll take the gamble for now. Too bad the full version doesn’t come out until late May – I’m going to be sad if this turns out to be wrong.

There are two words in particular that lead me to say this.

Verse 2 line 2, ‘tataete’: I’ve encountered one word with this reading a few times (讃えて, to praise), but it didn’t really fit. 湛えて (to fill) seems to be less common, but not unheard of in combination with the ‘eyes’ in the same sentence. From what I gathered, though, it’s mainly used when abstract emotions fill the eyes, rather than something as definite as memories. It still seems plausible from where I stand, though – hopefully that’s not a result of my inexperience.

Verse 3 line 2, ‘toraete’: Assuming ‘kanransha’ (観覧車, ferris wheel) of the previous line was correct, ‘enclose’ makes sense as far as meaning goes. (It’s a hug!) It’s just hard for me to hear ‘toraete’ distinctly.

I can sense the feels coming.


==Gunslinger Stratos opening theme
『vanilla sky』/Ayano Mashiro

I’ve made a number of small edits to this TL over the past few days, but nothing huge. Mostly just waffling over identifying the words in Japanese by ear. I think it’s fairly correct now.

For a while, I heard the phrase ‘hoshikage keshite’ (星影, starlight, and 消して, erase) at the beginning of the chorus, but I’ve switched it to ‘hoshi kakikeshite’ (星, stars, and 掻き消して, drown out) after repeated listening. The meanings are fairly similar (note that ‘keshite’ is contained in ‘kakikeshite’) but the subtleties are a little different – to “drown out the stars” would entail producing a light/colors great enough to render the light of the stars insignificant. This ties in nicely with the overall theme of the song – you are in control of your own life, and you bear the responsibility for your own life, so you need to be the best that you can be, to burn brighter than anything.

The other word edit? The ‘kitto’ just before the chorus used to be ‘kimi to’. Changed for :reasons:.

Not really satisfied with how I worded the last few lines. (Currently: “Our future, / Our tomorrow / Our destiny… / They’re always that way – it’s up to us.”) The issue is how the そう interrupts things. It led me to split that last part with a hyphen, but it doesn’t feel right, since ‘that way’ implies reference to something that was already mentioned close by, when it actually references what comes after. Not fatal, but unsightly. Expect it to change very soon.


==Gunslinger Stratos ending theme

And here we have the first big mistake of the ones I’ve detected so far (in this post, not chronologically). I know, I said I was ‘fairly confident’, but I did also say it was a possibility, and the possibility happened.

The problem was near the very beginning, rooted in the word ‘kakaekomu’ (抱え込む, ‘to carry / to bear’). I think what happened is that I went on autopilot and found reverse sentence order where it didn’t exist. (Just in case: ‘reverse sentence order’ is when the subject/object/etc of the sentence are placed after the verb, when they would normally be placed before in Japanese grammar.) I originally took the next part of the song, ‘kimi no warui kuse’ (‘your bad habit/s’) as the object of ‘carry’, where the speaker was the subject, but I’ve since realized that this is implausible; if the speaker were trying to express her own future actions using reverse sentence order, there would probably be a clear sentence-ending particle like ‘yo’ in between, or a verb suffix that would make things clearer.

(Initial translation of the first verse)
It’s alright,
I’ll carry all of your bad habits by myself.
I wonder if you’ll ever be cured of them.
Today, as always, our hands are linked in the quiet.

So, based on how Japanese verbs can modify nouns, now I’m fairly sure that everything before ‘kakaekomu’ describes what the ‘bad habit’ actually is.

(New translation)
You always have that bad habit
Of bearing everything by yourself and saying that you’re alright.
I wonder if that part of you will ever change.
Today, as always, our hands are linked in the quiet.

Honestly, I think part of the reason this happened was the way I divided the lines. With the new interpretation, the ‘daijoubu’ at the beginning (maybe the whole phrase until ‘kakaekomu’, even) would basically be an unmarked direct quote, which I’ve written about before. (And who knows, when the official lyrics come out, maybe it’ll turn out to be marked.) The split between ‘zenbu’ and ‘kakaekomu’ that I made may have obscured that possibility. That’s my tip of the day: Line breaks and spacing matter to interpretation of the meaning.

Also carelessness.


==Shokugeki no Soma ending theme [Watch]
『Spice』/Tokyo Karankoron

This was one of the most difficult songs to transcribe that I’ve tackled so far, but I’m quite satisfied with it. Aside: I deliberately used commas in the kanji where most songs would have spaces, based on the lyricist’s past works. I also tried to imitate his line spacing to some extent, but I’m fairly sure that’s going to turn out to be wrong.

This is the kind of song where rhythm and atmosphere are key. I like some parts of how I handled this more than others. Oh well, it’s an eternal struggle.

There has been one significant change since publishing: the handling of ‘gouka na shina’ (豪華な品) in the chorus. ‘Gouka’ basically means ‘luxurious/splendor/extravagant’, but ‘shina’ is one of those nebulous terms that can encompass several different concepts, most commonly ‘goods’ (as in for sale or consumption). Initially, I translated this as ‘luxury goods’, which I’ll admit was pretty bad in terms of rhythm and atmosphere. The real problem, though… I had suspicions fairly soon after publication, but it didn’t fully hit me until I started episode 2 of Shokugeki no Soma.

Note the way the chapter titles are set out.
Note the specific words that Erina uses in her dialogue.

‘Shina’ is how they refer to the dishes that they serve.

And so I made the simple change. Now, there are still a few things to worry about. First, there’s the possibility that ‘dishes’ will be interpreted as the literal dishes that the food rests upon; I don’t think it’ll be a big problem, but I’ll be mulling it over in my head. Second, it might shut out interpretations of ‘shina’ not based on the song’s tie-in to Shokugeki no Soma, but given the undeniable dinner table metaphor that’s already in the song, it’s hard for me to consider any other way as correct now.

One last thing – the last line of the TV-size cut currently reads, “That’s the spice.” I was sorely tempted to translate it as “That’s the meaning of spice.” but I was hesitant because, while it’s much more beautiful, I’m not sure if that would be entirely fitting for the meaning. Another thing I’ll be thinking over.


==Kekkai Sensen opening theme [PV]
『Hello,world!』/BUMP OF CHICKEN
Single release: April 22 (10 days from the time of writing)

Whoo boy.

Okay, let’s get this out of the way before anything else: this song contained the other big mistake of this week. It was really fucking terrible.

Let’s look at the last two lines of the first verse.

>Ohayou kore kara mata maigo no tsudzuki
Minareta shiranai keshiki no naka de
Good morning – from here, I’ll go back to being lost,
Going through this this unfamiliar, unknown landscape.

>Minareta shiranai keshiki no naka de
Going through this this unfamiliar, unknown landscape.

>Minareta shiranai
unfamiliar, unknown

Oh, dear.

Nope, no negative on that ‘minareta’. It’s ‘familiar‘, not ‘unfamiliar’.

Just kill me now.

In some ways, I regret this more than the huge mistake with MIRAI. Sure, it’s just one word, and its place in the song is much smaller. But at least with MIRAI, the cause for error was nontrivial, and I’d actually taken the time to mentally lay out my interpretation when I noticed things were iffy, so I understand how I let that one slip. With this mistake, there is no excuse. I went too fast and translated a word to its complete opposite. Pure carelessness. Rule of thumb: if a mistake could have been avoided just by looking the words up in a dictionary, it’s fucking terrible.

I haven’t even attempted the ending theme of Kekkai Sensen yet because I still regret that mistake, it was so bad.

Okay, I think I’m done flagellating myself now.

Now, I’ve made such a big deal out of that small part, but I’d like to emphasize that this was overall the most difficult song in this post to transcribe and interpret, even ignoring that bit. Part of this was due to the sound being partially obscured by dialogue in all sources early on, but that wasn’t a huge problem, because the bits that were hard to understand were not obscured.

Fun fact: I think I might have a tendency to hear ‘k’ sounds where none exist, due to the instrumentation. I first noticed this with ZAQ’s 『Kimi e』 from Chuunibyou Lite, when I could not unhear a phantom ‘k’ in the chorus – “owari nante (ki) konai”. At first I thought it was “owari nante kikoenai”, but the ‘e’ that would be required just wasn’t there. Then the official lyrics came out, and it was just “owari nante konai”.

This problem has resurfaced twice in this song.

The first place is in verse 1 line 2:  “Kinou dou yatte kaetta   ____ dake ga tashika”. I mentioned it in the lyrics post, but I think it’s worth repeating. You can tell what the basic meaning should be: everything about the moment that the speaker is in feels unnatural, and only a part of himself gives him a sense of reality. The transcriptions I’ve found on the internet all fill the space with ‘karada’ (身体, body), but I hear this phantom ‘k’ on the third syllable. To me, it sounds closest to ‘karakau’, which is a Japanese word, but I doubt it makes any sense in the full context. ‘Kono kao’ (この顔, this face) is the best possibility I can think of that does have a ‘k’ in the third syllable. The thing is, that ‘k’ could be completely imaginary on my part and it could very well be ‘karada’ in the space.

The second place is in verse 1 line 3: “Oha(k)you kore kara” – ‘kyou’ would mean ‘today’, and ‘oha’ could be either the English ‘Oh hi’ or an abbreviation of ‘ohayou’ itself. Both seem possible but unlikely, so I just went with ‘ohayou’ as everyone else on the internet did. The meanings aren’t significantly different, anyway. (Actually, you know what would be crazy? If it were “ohayou kyou”, where the ‘you’ of ‘ohayou’ is just fast and quiet enough to escape notice.)

Other uncertainties:
-Verse 1 line 1, ‘hiru no yoru’ (昼の夜, midday’s night) – not completely sure if I hear ‘hiru’. It’s an oxymoron, but oxymorons are a thing.
-Verse 2 line 2, ‘shinikiranai’ – I’ve mentioned this in the TL post.
-Verse 2 line 4, ‘kurushii’ – I’ve translated this as ‘hard to breathe’, but based on experience, ‘kurushii’ is more about the pain that’s commonly associated with the inability breathe. It flowed well, though, so I went with it. Will think it over.
-Verse 3 line 1, ‘kuroi me’ – mentioned in the TL post.

Well, the single gets released in just over a week, so we’ll find out soon enough.

Probably my second favorite anisong of the season so far, after 『Spice』.


==Owari no Seraph ending theme [Watch]

I’m probably not going to translate the TV-size; there’s just too much uncertainty for me to be able to post it with strong confidence that it won’t be bad for the readers. Instead, I’ll do a little exercise: at some point before official lyrics are released, I’ll keep a record of my transcription and see how it matches up. Fun.

I think it’s important that the audience be aware when shortcomings are likely. That’s why I have that disclaimer in all of my translations by ear, and that’s why I’m explaining my reasoning here. Still, if I am wrong, you have my apologies.

And still, I continue with this project. I believe I do have enough base skill to produce at a level of quality that avoids common pitfalls I’ve seen elsewhere, such as failing to take broader context into account – else I wouldn’t be here – so I think this will ultimately help me grow without causing too much collateral damage to my small audience’s understanding. When there is damage, well, that’s what posts like these are for. Hopefully, they’ll eventually become unnecessary. Just need to make sure I don’t go too fast.

I’ll continue to revisit these songs in posts like this until their full transcriptions are released, in addition to any songs that I translate after this.

Happy listening!

2 thoughts on “[2015-04-12] Spring 2015: Reflection on TV-size Translations, Week 1

  1. Holy sh**. Originally I wanted to just post something on the post where you started this project:
    [“Hopefully it’ll be of help to people who primarily watch subs of Crunchyroll origin and thus don’t get song translations already.”
    I think this is a good idea, especially because fansubbing is kinda dead by now.
    Will you revisit them once the official lyrics are out. ;)?
    A shame so many publishers don’t bother with lyric translation. More often than not the songs are made specifically for the Anime and can evoke powerful emotions as they pull you into the world and give context at the beginning and/or give you a good point relive the entire thing at the end and find closure.]

    But then I saw this post.
    God damn. Thanks for the insight. Very interesting read indeed.
    Reassured me once more of how good you are. And I mean that. When I see someone that ashamed over such a “little” mistake I can’t help but smile, because that usually means someone really cares for what he is doing and strives for perfection. :)

    On question though: Do you have tips on how to make things “unheared”? I always have the feeling that, once I heard something and *think* I recognized it, it is incredibly hard to hear something different. :/
    Stupid brain.

    • I definitely plan on revisiting once they’re released. It just wouldn’t be right to leave the job half done.

      Yeah, unhearing is hard. =/ Honestly, I’m not very good at it myself (and when I do manage to pull it off, I’m not fully aware of how), but I think one thing that helps is connecting what the words should sound like to what they mean.

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