gg’s Bizarre Adventure

For the franchise’s 25th anniversary, the first proper TV anime of Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure was announced to air this autumn, and last night the first episode was released on various torrent websites. One of the first groups to sub the episode was gg, and I have a few problems with their release. I’d like to explain why, so allow me to whisk you away…

The scene is Houston, TX. Japanese astronaut-in-training Nanba Mutta is sat in a restaurant with Mr. and Mrs. Smith, two local dog walkers who he has come to know in his time in the States.

Mr. Smith: “Okay, Mutta… How many guys are in this here diner?”
Mutta: “Including us, eight customers and three employees. And one dog, under the table.”
Mr. Smith: “Right on, Mutta.”
Mrs. Smith: “Darn tootin’!”
Mutta: “This is similar to the training Hibito’s doing. The airlock isn’t as big, but there are just as many details to remember.
[Mutta describes the appearance and mannerisms of the other customers from memory.]
Mr. Smith: Dang… That brain o’ yours is awesome, Mutta.
Mrs. Smith: That’s hot stuff.
Mr. Smith: I’m fixin’ ta head down to the casino, Mutta.
Mrs. Smith: Dear, what the hell are you up to now?!
Mr. Smith: I’ll cough up for that bag you wanted, in all three colours.
Mrs. Smith: I only need two.
Space Brothers, episode 7, 18:39-20:14.

Except, that’s not how this exchange goes. Here is the real conversation:

Mr. Smith: “Okay, Mutta… How many people are in the restaurant?”
Mutta: “Including us, eight customers and three employees. And one dog, under the table.”
Mr. Smith: “That’s correct, Mutta.”
Mrs. Smith: “Indeed!”
Mutta: “This is similar to the training Hibito’s doing. The airlock isn’t as big, but there are just as many details to remember.
[Mutta describes the appearance and mannerisms of the other customers from memory.]
Mr. Smith: Wow… Your memory is incredible, Mutta.
Mrs. Smith: It must be a gift.
Mr. Smith: Okay. Let’s head down to the casino, Mutta.
Mrs. Smith: Dear, what are you up to now?!
Mr. Smith: I’ll buy that bag you wanted, in all three colours.
Mrs. Smith: I only need two.
Space Brothers, episode 7, 18:39-20:14, CommieSubs.

Note, if you will, how the liberal translation ruins the feel of the scene. This conversation’s only purpose is to set up a confrontation between Mutta and a criminal trying to rob the establishment, but with the slang it seems like a weak attempt at comedy – a stereotype, and a lazy one at that. Fast forward five months, to the premiere of the new Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. The first story – the Phantom Blood arc – takes place in Britain in the 1800s. The fansub group gg are known for being liberal with their translation efforts, but their script for episode one felt like self-parody. The dialogue is filled to the brim with British slang, but it’s patently obvious that no one involved with this release has ever heard said terms spoken aloud.

I’m not here to dissect the entire script – who do you think I am, Dark_Sage? – but let us consider the most egregious example.

Dario Brando: “Dio! Come to me, son! Dio! Come to my side!”
Dio Brando: “What do you want? Medicine?”
Dario: “Don’t be a ninny! The medicine does nothing for me! Whiskey! Use your quid on the whiskey, not medicine!”
Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, episode 1, 2:27-2:53, gg Fansubs.

Leaving aside the fact that “ninny” really isn’t a 100% suitable translation in this situation, read that final line again. “Use your quid on the whiskey, not medicine!” We need to talk about countable and uncountable nouns. Countable nouns can be modified with a numeral without specifying a unit of measurement, while uncountable nouns cannot. For example, “chair” is a countable noun: “there are four chairs around the table.” “Furniture” meanwhile is uncountable: “our dining room contains five furniture” makes no sense at all. Can you think of another uncountable noun? I can! “Money” is uncountable! (Except in the case of discussing multiple currencies, but clearly this doesn’t apply here.) So if I were to instruct my son to buy whisky for me instead of medicine (and if I were to adopt the American spelling of the word), I might say to him: “use your money on the whiskey, not medicine!” See how that sentence makes sense? The English language is a glorious thing, no? I mean, no one speaks like that, but at least it makes grammatical sense!

So, let’s say I wanted to British that sentence up. I could be really lazy and add “guv’nor” on the end, or make reference to poor standards of dentistry, but let’s suppose that I can tell the difference between stereotype and reality, and realise that this would be inappropriate. There must be some slang term for money that those wackos across the pond use! How about “quid”?

Stop right there! “Quid” is a noun, and therefore it must either be countable or uncountable. Do you want to guess which it is? If you guessed that it’s uncountable, to the back of the class with you. “But wait,” you might retort, “surely we can’t substitute an uncountable noun for a countable one?” Well, you’d be right. It wouldn’t make sense. And that’s not even considering the fact that “quid” is not a slang term for money. “Quid” is a slang term for a £1 coin, or for money totalling £1 in value. So what Dario is actually saying to his son is that he should spend exactly £1 buying whisky for him. What an odd thing to shout on one’s deathbed.

In the past, I’ve barely noticed gg’s localisation efforts – this is as it should be. I shouldn’t notice, because the subs should feel natural while accurately reflecting what was said in the original language. Sure, they added the swear words du jour into Jormungand, but it felt appropriate given the tone of the show. But with Jojo, it’s clear that no one knew a thing about how these slang terms are supposed to be used. Shitsub groups like Hadena boldly fuck up where no group has fucked up before by having no native English speakers involved in the process of English translation, but with groups like gg who are highly regarded by some, at least, there’s no excuse for this shoddy work.

6 thoughts on “gg’s Bizarre Adventure

  1. Reminds me of getting annoyed at Giant Killing’s subs. To someone with no idea of footba-sorry, I mean saaawwwccuuurrr, it seems fine. But to someone who knows what these terms are, it sounds all wrong.

  2. Jojo was so campy anyway that the bad/wrong use of British slang just kind of added to the experience.

    May switch to Nutbladder next week, but maybe not just for the amusement it brings.

  3. “One of the first groups to sub the episode was gg, and I have a few problems with their release. I’d like to explain why”

    No need to explain, we all know what gg is, and what they are not.

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