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Anime Translation: Keroro Gunso & The Mongols bY Translation Company Japan

My daughter is our bell weather. She has fantastic sense, so if she gives a thumbs up, you know it’s good, make that real, good!

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Keroro Gunso

Thus, when she decided to use her daily 30 minutes allotted cartoon time to watch the Keroro Gunso (Sergeant Frog) anime series, I took note.

Keroro is hugely popular in Japan, and has a decent fan base in international markets such as Europe, the Americas, and Asia being dubbed or subtitled in many different languages. Naturally, the series also appears in English; but, we’ll get to that a little later.

The long and the short of the plot is a vanguard of super intelligent frogs from an alien world bent on enslaving Humanity gets stranded on Earth. The tables are turned when Keroro’s platoon is forced into servitude doing house chores by their captive human family. Read a more detailed description on wikipedia The series has an interesting twist: Much like the invading Mongols of the Yuan Dynasty in the 13 and 14 centuries who became enamored with Chinese culture, Keroro and his platoon are charmed by human culture. Whether this is intended by the author(s) is not clear.

Keroro has legs, it’s got staying power! My daughter has worked through all the popular kids’ anime in Japan, such as Anpanman, Doraimon, Precure, Nintama Rantarou, Pokemon, and Sazae-san to name but a few; however, 4 years on Keroro still commands her attention and her daily ration of cartoon time. It was then with more than a little anticipation when I finally capitulated to her entreaties and agreed to watch an episode together. Keroro did not disappoint -

In Japanese it is truly a master piece of comedy couched in contemporary pop culture, wordplay, humor and irony.

But -you probably expected the other shoe to drop at some point- the English subtitles are a disaster. No. It’s worse than that, far worse. The Japanese-to-English translation of this anime has butchered a truly brilliant piece of art on par with the best of Japanese anime.

The comedy becomes lame, embarrassingly lame -- This essentially destroys the show. From there the translation sins pile up. Japanese words that non-Japanese speakers would not understand or appreciate are far too numerous. Dialog changes. Jokes are added (which is not at all necessary given the excellent jokes in the original Japanese script). And -yet another nail in the coffin of the English version- the characters change (essentially turning Sergeant Keroro’s lovable, bumbling character into a despicable conniving sneak). The list goes on…

Given the torturous journey this anime series has had to take to publication in the American market, it is perhaps understandable how competing goals and agendas, translation styles and methodologies could have hobbled this project. It does not, however, excuse the ruination of an excellent piece of artwork with poor translation! This is unfortunate, because Keroro Gunso had (has?) the potential to be one of Japan’s truly great exports…

About the Author
Ivan Vandermerwe is the CEO of SAECULII YK, the owner of Tokyo based Translation Company Japan Visit SAECULII for the latest professional case studies, articles and news on Japanese Translation Services

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Tags: Anime Translation · Japanese Translation Company · Japanese Translation Services · Japanese-to-English Translation · Translation Company Japan · Translation Company Tokyo

5 &DISCUSS response(s)

  • 1 » Ellie Wojoxa (2017-08-20)

    Love Keroro! Reading this article, though, I get the sense that if I understood Japanese I would be able to enjoy the series much more. Anyone got ideas for learning a language fast? (Duolingo doesn't work for me.)
  • 2 » Andrew C. (2017-08-20)

    Why is it that Japanese anime are (mostly) such global hits? I know that Japan has a long history of anime and it's part of the culture...still, I think there is a lot to learn here.
  • 3 » Osnug K. (2017-08-27)

    Japanese translation to English of manga and anime is really tough! For example, the English title "Sgt. Frog" just does not have the same ring to it as the Japanese title "Keroro Gunso". Translators of the series referenced American pop culture (as opposed to the original Japanese pop culture) in translation; sometimes the intended nuances are captured. However, more often than not, it comes through as weak or, God forbid, not at all!
  • 4 » F. Avis (2017-08-27)

    Well written article that gets to the heart of the matter!
  • 5 » Mario Largosa (2020-05-31)

    I haven't seen the sub-titled version of Sgt.Frog, however I bought the English dubbed version Season One box for my daughter's 11th birthday and it's great! We were both laughing out loud.