Spice Up the Subtitles

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
What happens when subbers get bored.[1]

So your favorite anime is coming over from Japan. You've followed this show almost religiously using fansubs and are interested in how the localizers will handle it.

What's this? The Double Entendre dialogue and UST has been replaced with No Hugging, No Kissing. That one character who always launched a Cluster F-Bomb is using Unusual Euphemisms instead! Surely the American distributors are to blame for this Macekre!

They aren't. The show is a more-or-less faithful translation of the original. The dirty jokes and language of the fansub was added by the fansubber in an attempt to "improve" the show, or to cover up the fact that they're not as fluent in Japanese as they want us to think.

This also happens frequently to official releases that want to get out of the Animation Age Ghetto as fast as possible by adding as much family-unfriendly material as they can to the subtitles. The translator wanted to Spice Up the Subtitles.

Much of this confusion is caused especially by the Japanese expletive kuso. This word is an all-purpose expletive, and as such can be translated to many things, including, but not limited to: "rats", "darn", "crap", "shit", "fuck", "dammit", "damn", "damn you", "oh shit", "god dammit", "crisse de tabarnak", "drat", "crud", "not good", "this is bad", "oh no", or even, in some cases, "help" (when you don't actually expect it). Needless to say, fansubbers will usually utilize the more explicit ones, whereas dubs tend to lean on the tamer side.

See also: Obligatory Swearing, Avoid the Dreaded G Rating, Animation Age Ghetto. May cause Misblamed. Related to Fun with Subtitles.

Examples of Spice Up the Subtitles include:
  • Early Dragonball Z fansubs added almost hilarious amounts of Obligatory Swearing. The original didn't have that much.
  • DeJap's Tales of Phantasia. While Arche wasn't exactly an innocent little flower in the original script, the translation made her so horny that she was practically the Dirty Old Man of the party (although she was neither old nor a man). The much, much, MUCH tamer official translation was one of the (numerous) problems that players of the Fan Translation had with the GBA version.
  • Manga Entertainment, particularly their UK branch, was notorious for this as well in their earlier days. This sort of translation even gained the nickname "fifteening", for the age rating that resulted.
  • There's at least one Bleach fansub out there that gives Nnoitra constant F-Bombs.
    • This also happens in some manga scanlations.
  • Shinsengumi Fansubs added quite a bit of cursing to its fansubs of Flame of Recca and Rurouni Kenshin.
  • Spanish Fansub AnimeUnderground seems to work by the following rule: "If there's the chance of using slang/swearwords instead of a normal word, then do so, no matter the context or who's saying it. (Unless it's a very polite character. Emphasis on very.) They especially are fond of using the word "joder" (Spanish for "fuck"), which they seem to find a way to work into just about every circumstance, even if the Japanese word is something like the rather mild "shimatta", or isn't even swearing (Like "Impossible!" or "This is bad!"). Fortunately, other than that and translating Lolicon as a word that means "Child Molester", their translations are alright... Too bad they release series when they feel like it and incur some Narm when leaving some perfectly translatable words untranslated.
  • An unusual example from an official release - Disney's dub of Princess Mononoke took a harmless line ("This soup tastes like water!") and punched it up ("This soup tastes like donkey piss!"). This was later admitted to have been an error in attempting to determine how "rude" the choice of phrasing originally was. The subtitles use the original phrase.
  • A group called "Your-Mom" fansubs took some liberties with their Code Geass translation. In addition to the gem pictured above, there was also the wonderful spectacle of Viletta Nu angsting about "having wild sex with that Eleven," and contemptuously sneering "why would I have wondrous sex with you, Eleven?"
    • There's also an infamous scene with Shirley Fenette being particularly explicit when it was really out of character for her...
  • The official subtitles of Hellsing are significantly more subdued than the dub; the dub has its share of Cluster F Bombs, while the subtitles are generally profanity-free. Yet the dub is the more faithful of the two translations—as those who viewed the series in fansubs will know, Jan Valentine's dialogue was vulgar enough in the original Japanese to be bleeped out in the original Fuji TV airing.
  • Evident in fansubs of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, where the main characters would yell out "Who the fuck do you think we are?!" The line is more accurately "Who the hell do you think I am?"
    • Also, the BSS fansub group had Kamina call Viral a "fucking furry". The original was more along the lines of "cocky bastard."
  • One Bobobo-Bo Bo-bobo scanlation changed "underwear" into "gay pants". Yes.
  • Fansub group gg has a history of this, especially when they start to get bored with the show they are working on. Their Axis Powers Hetalia and Baka to Test to Shoukanjuu subs are the most extreme examples.
    • Example: Hetalia Episode 48- Italy (after "growing up" from Chibitalia) says "Koe hen na no" or "My voice sounds weird." Subs read "I sound like a fag."
    • Funnily enough, Funimation's official dub isn't much better; their dub of the above scene is almost identical, except with "fag" replaced with the slightly more PC "homo".
    • Another Hetalia one: "These rumors are spreading like AIDS!"
    • Don't forget this Bakates line: "There are people dying in Haiti, you know?". Also "Damn you liberal America"... on a show set in Japan.
  • Much like gg above, CoalGuys is... Huh... Like this trope. Especially apparent on their B Gata H Kei subs, though not the only ones.
  • While not exactly in every episode, TV-Nihon's Samurai Sentai Shinkenger subs often offer us some "bastard"s and "bitch"s... in what is very clearly a children's show. One of the most particularly jarring examples is seeing Yamato Nadeshiko wannabe Mako reacting to a striking revelation with "This is bullshit".
  • Here's a fun game to try. Look around for a fan-translated item - anime, manga, video games, anything will do. Try to find even one fan translation that doesn't translate any of Japan's various expletives as "damn" or "shit" at least once, regardless of how family-friendly the translated item is otherwise. The number will undoubtedly be in the single digits.
    • Japanese is notoriously low on "dirty language", but the word for shit, "Kuso", is fairly low level.
  • Ayako's fansubs for NEEDLESS are known for doing this. As well as adding swearing, they also added ridiculously long "TL notes" which explain the "science" behind the techniques used in Needless.
  • Polish fan-translations of Web Comics and Newspaper Comics do that sometimes, changing generic lines in the original by spicing them up with wacky slang and Polish memetic references.
  • Some scanlations of Naruto have Killer Bee often dropping the f-bomb, probably, because he fancies himself an rapper and rappers are expected to swear worse than the cliché demands it from Marines.
  • Done in the subs provided by Kirbys Rainbow Resort for Kirby: Right Back at Ya!. Especially jarring is that, aside from the occasional Nightmare Fuel and the Fumu-tan segment (which, it should be noted, made it into the official dub mostly unedited), the show is relatively family-friendly.
  • Whoever did the subtitles for Limbo of the Lost was a bit cracked. The subtitles are peppered with demented laughter, regardless of the fact that the dialog contains none whatsoever.
    • Mind you, the subtitler was working on Limbo of the Lost. Being a little unhinged and doing stress release by insane laughter, even if it's by text, is only to be expected.
  • The CSCentrl sub of Hikari Sentai Maskman takes a Okelampa, a "character" whose only role is to Make My Monster Grow and then say "Good grief!" (Yare, yare!) Once an Episode and makes him a Deadpan Snarker of a Punch Clock Villain. It got straight translated (and then different acceptable translations for the same term) a few times, but once CS got bored, yare, yare could become "I need a raise!" or "Why don't the Maskmen shoot me first?" or even "Baraba's mom is Rita Repulsa!" It was something different every week.
  • Unusual live-action and official example: the official English subtitles for the first season of Forbrydelsen on The BBC caused complaints from Danes, as whether down to ignorance or laziness every Danish profanity from mild to extreme was translated as some form of "fuck", giving a misleading impression of the dialogue and characters.
  • Another rare official example, the subtitles of Red Line contain many instances of the word 'fuck', even when what's actually being said is a good deal milder. Bear in mind this is not a fansub, it's the official DVD release. (And oddly enough, the fansub was actually cleaner!)
  • Horrible Subs' version of AKB0048 translates dialogue into Image Board memes wherever it can, and adds some slurs that the script wasn't even remotely implying.
  1. He wasn't actually saying anything here.