5 Amusing English Fails in Anime & Manga
Along with German and Italian, English is a language commonly used in Japanese media to sound cool. Kids wear backpacks and shirts with random, nonsensical English words and phrases as a fashion statement. Frog Taco!!!!
Anime often uses English the way we might use Latin, Italian, Spanish, French, or German, to make something sound cool. But just as we might make some goofy mistakes when using other languages to add flavor to our own media, they also do it to us. So, here I found five instances of bad anime English which will make a native English speaker weep. Or cly.
5. Gankutsuo Theme: We Were Lovers
Although I really like the animation of this song, most Americans kind of hate the singing. I think the lyrics are heartwarming and capture the feelings associated with the titular Count in Gankutsuo: The Count of Monte Cristo, in which the classic French masterpiece is recycled in space with blue vampires, mech battles, and the whole thing looks like an art student's wet dream, on LSD. The theme is slow, gentle, and wistful, incongruent in some people's minds with the eye-popping visuals and fast-paced action of the actual show. But I think that it represents something that takes place in the Count's mind-space, it represents his regret over the loss of his first love.
While many people love the anime, myself included, even fans like me have to concede that this theme song is not sung that well. What strikes this listener in particular is how he manages to pronounce "harsh words were said" like "Auschwitz was sad". As one person on TV Tropes said, "The emotion that the singer puts into the song is great; but accurate notes would be nice too". Ouch.
4. Blame! - Bad Manga Title
The author of the manga for Blame! actually meant to call it Blam! after the sound effect in American comic books associated with a gunshot. The word "blame" obviously to an English speaker has another meaning, meaning to assign fault or guilt to someone. Blam! is also not the best of titles, because we associate those cheesy sound-effects with limp-dicked old comic books and that horrible old Batman TV show. Seeing as how this manga is supposed to be a dark, gritty, cyberpunk manga, it really doesn't fit thematically. Blam! would be the name of something wacky with Gun-jitsu, like Grenardier or the earlier episodes of Trigun. No one takes cartoon sound effect words seriously in English.
3. ExClaMation! ABUSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
If an anime title has a poor grasp of punctuation and capitalization, I usually write it off as low-quality. In English, just so you guys know, you never technically need more than one exclamation point! The exclamation point is used to indicate that a sentence conveys strong excitement, surprise, anger, or fear. That is why it is best when used in dialogue, and does not need to be used IN! THE! TITLE!!! at all. More exclamation points do not make me think the thing being punctuated by them is more intense or extreme. It just makes me want to slap the person who came up with that title. It's sort of like how dorks talk in ALL CAPS! in internet comments. Special mention to Keijo!!!!!!! which has 7 exclamation points!
Remember, wannabe manga writers - if everything is emphasized, nothing is.
Read this TV! TROPES! PAAAAAAAAGE!!!!! If you want to assault your eyeballs.
2. Beck: Mongolian Chop Squad
If someone asks me to name an instance of terrible English in anime, I would probably pull out this one, seeing as how Azumanga Daioh! does this for laughs, but Beck is completely serious. For starters, the anime doesn't seem to be aware that Beck is the name of a very famous American artist already, so the show having an "American" band called by that name, when it's very clearly something that could not happen in real life due to copyright issues is... weird. Second, there's the "I was made to hit in America!" English in the show's intro theme. What they probably mean is something like "I was made to be a hit/to make a hit/to have hits in America!" but you can't just use "hit" as a verb to refer to "hit" like a "hit song". When you use "hit" as a verb, it means "to strike". Every time they repeat that bungled line in the song (and it repeats A LOT), it just hurts. Were you made to hit American eardrums?
Third, this song overuses the "English words as a fashion statement" thing, and their supposedly American characters would not be comprehensible to an average American. They also seem to think a string of English swear words constitutes a basic English sentence. Baccano! also did this, with lines like "Thank you! Fuck you!". And, it stereotypes some Americans as thugs who pick on Japanese people because they're bigger than them. You're not getting a sizeable American fandom anytime soon, Beck.
Most of this isn't too bad, but it does have gratuitous cussing.
Letsu Du This!
1. Sailor Stars - Unfortunate Attack Name
I hate to break it to my fellow Sailor Moon fans, but the mere fact of the Star Lights being transsexual magical girls (boys who transform into magical girls) is not the sole reason that this final, controversial season of Sailor Moon never made it across the Pacific in any official way. It's also:
- The Star Lights' magical girl outfits look like fetish gear.
- There are a lot of hard to translate Japanese jokes in this season. Even fan subbers had issues with that. A dub would be a nightmare to make.
- This one is just plain weird, and might not be a success in the United States. For example, it makes otherwise fan-beloved characters Haruka and Michiru into jerks, it introduces mysterious (annoying) Poké-speaking girl Chibi-Chibi in lieu of Chibi-Usa, and in the beginning they do a really weird thing where Sailor Saturn gets reincarnated as a baby, who then rapidly grows to her usual child form. It's... interesting.
And above all that, there is the issue of translating their attack names, which are all pretty awful, but none so much as "Star Gentle Uterus". Yeah.
While I'm sure American weaboos make a mockery of the Japanese language too, a lot of anime becomes nigh unwatchable to English speakers when the English is bad. I think the two languages are so dissimilar that it's hard for someone to learn one from being a native speaker of the other. The accents are very different. English spoken with a heavy Japanese accent sounds sleepy or drunk, which is amusing to a lot of English listeners when it happens in anime, even if what they're saying is grammatically correct. My advice for foreigners trying to learn English is to learn pronunciation from American media, things like TV news and movies. Sometimes a problem with foreign language classes is, if the teacher is not a native speaker, she may be speaking the foreign language with an accent too, so it's a case of the blind leading the blind. I think English is not taught very well in many countries, even though the demand to learn it around the world is pretty high.
Keep trying, don't give up, and uh, don't sound like the people in the above videos.