Laser Time – Lost In Localization


Special guest Greg Moore joins us to discuss the art of localization, bad old anime dubs, and how famous movie catchphrases are bungled in other languages.


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21 thoughts on “Laser Time – Lost In Localization

  1. I’m not 100% sure off the top of my head, but I believe Japan is a corruption of the Chinese name, riben. It’s also where we get the nickname Land of the Rising Sun, since literally translated ri ben means “the Sun’s origin”.

    1. Nihon (or Nippon,) the Japanese name for Japan, means the origin of the sun, too. I’d heard Japan is from Portuguese.

      1. The meaning of the characters came from the Japanese adoption of Chinese hanzi (called Kanji in Japanese). Besides the fact that the term is older in Chinese, you can tell the origin of the term is Chinese because the sun rises from Japan from the point of view of China, but from the point of view of Japan it would rise from the Pacific Ocean.

  2. One important thing that Greg almost got into is the amount of space localizers have to put in the new language. Anime sounds so crappy sometimes because they have to fit the new words into the old lip movements. Games can adjust the amount of words they can fit in more easily, or cut stuff out without us noticing, so they don’t sound as bad. Books can have just about as much space as they need to accurately translate the original thoughts.

    1. Good point! Japanese is a much more space-efficient language than English, and this can create new challenges for J-E conversion.

      Twitter, incidentally, is like a completely different platform in Japanese for the same reason.

    1. I’m sure we’re all aware of the reasons for the bomb drop. Regardless of your opinions on the use of nuclear weapons, many innocent lives were lost and it’s important to remember the perspective of the Japanese people, and to know that not everyone was pro-war or “the enemy.”

      1. Japanese war planning actually completely assumed annihilation by the Allied powers, Japanese war games done in 1940 had Tokyo being completely firebombed by 1943 if they had entered a war against the West. The Pacific War is one of the very few wars in history where one of the sides knew it was an almost impossible to win war but went into it anyway because in their eyes there was no turning back from the chain of events they started. They were so mired in the war in China that in order to gain supplies to continue fighting in China they had to take resources from the Dutch East Indies, but in order to gain those they had to protect their flanks by gaining naval supremacy in the region and in order to do that they had to neutralize the British and American bases in Singapore and the Philippines, and in order to gain that they had to strike at Pearl Harbor to destroy American battleship and carrier forces so they couldn’t counter-attack once the assaults on those countries happened. The only reason why the war wasn’t seen as completely hopeless was because of the fact they assumed some sort of divine intervention would take place, literally God would help them win the war such as the famous Kamikaze storm against the Mongols.

  3. That animated movie that graphically depicted the Hiroshima bombing that Chris was talking about was most likely Barefoot Gen.

    Also it’s interesting to hear the localization of “Hasta la vista, baby” in T2 when in King of Fighters, Ramon just Engrishes “Hasta la vista”. Well, it’s originally Spanish so does that make it Japanish?

  4. Thanks again for having me! Hope y’all liked the episode!

    A couple supplements for the curious:

    The original blog post in which I documented Army of Darkness’s Japanese one-liners –

    A blog I did about localization for Capcom Unity –

    And the companion podcast episode we recorded with special guest David Crislip, who helped pioneer Capcom’s in-house localization department –—localization

  5. Always awesome to hear Greg on LT!

    Being a big Raimi/Campbell fan, the translations of the famous Army of Darkness lines were particularly funny to me. At conventions I’ve seen Japanese posters for the movie and wondered how it was popular over there with the main allure to most of us being the duo’s weird brand of humor so it’s nice to see it discussed a bit somewhere.

    1. Kind of weird that I didn’t even think to mention that Army of Darkness was titled “Captain Supermarket” in Japan–at least in some versions. I believe they also originally received Raimi’s cut ending where Ash sleeps too long and ends up in the dystopian year 2000(!!) instead of his intended 1900. On a side note, I don’t care for that ending.

      The Evil Dead flicks, incidentally, are called Shiryô no Harawata, meaning something to the effect of “Ghoul Guts.” Army was eventually renamed “Shiryô no Harawata III” for subsequent releases (DVD, etc), but we never got our “Medieval Dead” title in the States. =/

      1. The alternate ending is kind of funny as a “what if?”, but mostly just because of how insane it is. I’m glad they stuck with what we got (plus that kept things open enough for future installments).
        “Medieval Dead” is a pretty fantastic and punny so I was kind of disappointed when I heard that was the proposed name, but at least the title card of “Bruce Campbel vs the Army of Darkness” is bad ass. Nice to see it at least got a connected title in Japan eventually. Ghoul Guts is strangely fitting (plus, gotta love literal titles).

  6. If you feel lukewarm about Ponyo (especially the dub), watch it with a 5-7 year old. That movie talks directly to my kid on a level that I can’t understand, but she’s entranced despite multiple watchings.
    Take it easy on Studio Ghibli dubbings by Disney! Despite the occasional weirdness, it is by far the best dubs of any anime out there in America.

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