February 19th, 2021

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Annoying Anime Titles

Things are sometimes lost in translation - I understand that. Cultural references can't always easily be preserved. Quite a lot of anime titles in English are not exact translations of the Japanese original, and that's fine.

But there are some cases where they seem to have gone out of their way to shoot themselves in the foot before sticking it in their mouths. And I want to take a moment to rant about a couple here.

Attack on Titan. When I first saw this title, I assumed that it was an about an attack on Titan, the moon of Saturn immortalised by Kurt Vonnegut. Or, if not that, an attack on a titan from Greek mythology. Or just on something very big.

In fact, it's about giants (many of them) attacking a small remnant of humanity. Japanese doesn't have plurals, so there is indeed an ambiguity in the title Shingeki no kyojin (進撃の巨人), but the natural translation is surely "Attack (or Charge) of the Titans"?

Then there's Weathering With You, about a girl who is able to control the weather. In Japanese, this is Tenki no ko 「天気の子」, which translates as Weather Child - a perfectly adequate name in my opinion. Whereas, in English the word "weathering" suggests, at best, a stone being worn away over time. It might be appropriate if the film were a tribute to an aged Baucis and Philemon couple who'd gone through thick and thin together, who'd weathered storms and come out of it a bit weathered themselves. But that is not a good description of the film's teen protagonists. The English title is awkward, unnatural and confusing.

In both those cases, you wonder how much trouble it would have been to find an English speaker to run those titles past.

I also have a third grumble, though in this case it's no fault of the Japanese. The letter at the end of Dragonball Z is, naturally enough, pronounced "zee" by Americans, but in Japanese, where they take their hint from British pronunciation, it's "zetto." What is slightly annoying is that even British and Australian fans invariably pronounce it "zee" - even when they are also fluent in Japanese (yes, Joey the Anime Man, I'm looking at you). What gives with that?

Yes, these are trivial matters, but I have a lot of marking to do, so I had to come here and write about all this instead.