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Subtitling Underwater Love

Underwater Love: A Pink Musical  UNDERWATER LOVE ~おんなの河童~

Woman riding her kappa 河童をまたがる女

Often, the most difficult part of subtitling is dealing with elements that are specific to a particular culture. When faced with objects, customs or references that simply have no equivalent in the target language, should we as subtitlists try to explain what it is? Or do we offer the original Japanese word and hope that audiences will recognize it?

In subtitling Underwater Love: A Pink Musical, which opens today in Tokyo and October 17 in Germany, I was confronted by these dilemmas on numerous instances.

First of all, the film is a love story between a woman and a kappa, a half-man, half-turtle creature found in Japanese folklore. The kappa are often translated in English as “water sprites” or “water imps,” but needless to say, that becomes cumbersome when the name comes up frequently in the film. Thankfully, the film begins with an expository voiceover describing the kappa. (more…)

Festival season in Japan

Monsters Club 『モンスターズクラブ』

October and November have become the unofficial “film festival season” in Japan. The Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival (Oct 6 – 13), the Tokyo International Film Festival (Oct 22 – 30), and TOKYO FILMeX (Nov 19 – 27) are all squeezed into this two-month window. And this year, they’re joined by the SKIP CITY INTERNATIONAL D-Cinema FESTIVAL (Oct 8 – 16), which pushed back its dates from its usual July slot due to the effects of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. It’s quite an orgy of films. If you’re a cinephile in Japan, I don’t know if this is a welcome feast or simply overkill.  (more…)