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Japanese Anime Translation: Keroro Gunso & The Mongols


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!

Japanese Anime Translations
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 get’s 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 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 Translation Services Japan, Tokyo. Visit SAECULII for the latest professional case studies, articles and news on Japanese Translation Services

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Tags: Anime Translation · Japanese Translation Services · Translation Services Japan · Translation Services Tokyo







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