Note: there are very minor spoilers here, as it addresses something in the first half hour of the movie.
Your Name (named 君の名は Kimi no Na Wa in Japanese) is an anime movie and pretty big hit here in Japan, and doing well overseas too. It has gotten an official English dub that had been released outside of Japan sometime after the original version.
When I heard there was going to be a dub, I got curious about how they would handle translating some things. One of them was that a scene in the Japanese version that relied on pronouns in Japanese as well as dialect inflection.
So, when the dub came out, I hunted down the scene to see how they handled it. Let’s take a look!
Brief context: The scene happens at about 21:00 into the movie. Taki, a rough male high school student, has swapped bodies with the soft and more cultured girl Mitsuha. Mitsuha as “Taki” meets with his friends at school where this exchange happens:
The relevant parts are the part in bold. Scroll down to the translation for those who cannot read the Japanese.
Friends: “You got lost?”
Friends: How the heck did you end up getting lost on the way to school?
Taki: “W-well…I (watashi – formal/feminine))
Taki: “Er – I (watakushi – super formal)
Taki: “I? (boku – masculine, soft)
Taki: “I! (ore – masculine/super informal)
Friends: “Mm-hmm *nods*”
Taki: “I was just having fun! Every day is like a festival in Tokyo!”
I italicized the “I” that “Taki” uses. As you can see in English they would literally all appear the same, but in Japanese they each have very different meanings behind them, noted in the parentheses. Taki, who usually refers to himself with the informal masculine ore would appear to be acting very strange if he came in saying watashi or watakushi to his close friends. They had to keep glaring until he got it right!
So when I saw this, I wondered, “How are they going to handle that in English…?”
Official English translation:
Friends: “You got lost?”
Friends: “Wait a second, how’d you end up getting lost on the way to school?”
Taki: “Uh… well…a girl…”
Friends: “A girl…?”
Taki: “Er-a gal!”
Taki: “I-i mean…!”
Taki: “A guy!”
Taki: “Y’know guys just wanna have fun! Everyday’s a festival when you’re living in Tokyo…as a guy.”
So this was interesting. You can see they stuck with wanting to refer to the gender by using third person rather than first person. But, I found it a little awkward, when you think of natural English. Here’s why:
In a roundabout way, English speakers do say things like “A girl/guy just wants to have fun” to refer to themselves in the third person. So in this case, obviously he would realize his slip up, going to “gal,” then “guy.” But, when the context and friends are considered, it comes off as an odd way to have a conversation (odd not in the sense that Taki isn’t Taki, but what the friends assume).
Someone like Taki saying “a girl” to start as a reason for getting lost would probably tip his friends off that some other girl was involved (with how they treat Taki already), rather than assuming he was referring to himself, considering the situation that they would be unaware of the body swapping. Yet, going by how they nod him along to say “a guy” without prying more into what he may have meant rather than wondering if a “gal” or “guy” was involved in getting him distracted is a little strange.
Basically, in a natural English conversation, if someone like him started off by saying “a girl” –his friends would likely assume he was talking about someone else and not himself. Yet, the friends somehow knew he was talking about himself.
It can’t be helped in some ways, of course. Dubbing can be difficult as both words and mouth movements have to be considered in the translation. An alternative way may have simply been to make Taki stutter more than usual, but not really say anything, such as:
*Friends continue to stare*
*Friends stare more intensely*
“I was uh…”
“I was just fooling around”
“You know every day is a party in Tokyo!”
The above isn’t really fitting in terms of lip sync, but it gets an alternate idea across. There is no gender reference here that would lead to the issues I noted above, yet the stuttering and delays that may still be unlike Taki to make his friends wonder what’s wrong with him, until he comes up with a Taki-sounding reason. So, while it is a bit more of a liberal translation, the idea is close to the original without being as awkward.
There are of course better solutions than mine above. It’s just an example of what else could have been done.
The official translation did a good job sticking to the original tone and finding a way around the gender pronouns by replacing first person with third person –but then ends up coming off a little awkward in the wider context of natural English when you consider how the vague third person pronouns should have steered the conversation a different way than the direction it went in.
Did you watch this movie in English? Did that part feel natural to you? Do you have any alternate solutions to the above? I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions below!