Mark My Words: An Analysis of the Translator’s Impact on Media

Well, something went wrong while extracting the text from the Viz dub and I only noticed too late, so I had to cut it out to keep our comparisons clean.

Still, this left me with quite a few lines of dialogue.

Of those lines, however, we could only use those which contained at least four words, due to the Tone Analyzer not being able to analyze anything shorter.

Total lines (lines >3 words)DiC: 770 (564)ADV: 1099 (704)Viz (Dub): 1128 (753)Viz (Subtitle): 1250 (717)Once I fed these 2,738 lines of dialogue into the Tone Analyzer, it returned a nice… well, massive wall of numbers.

Finding the Signal in the NoiseEvery line is given a score across 12 different “tones” (Anger, Disgust, Fear, Joy, Sadness, Analytical, Confident, Tentative, Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness), with the score ranging between 0 (none) and 1 (strongly present).

Anything less than 0.

5 is deemed inconclusive, so I chucked those scores out.

Next up, I wanted to know what the primary tone was, so I took the categorized each line of dialogue by their highest score.

Finally, I threw out Anger, Disgust, and Fear since they one appeared a few times (if at all) in each episode.

ResultsBefore I go through my final conclusions, I thought it would be good to show what the results look like on an episode-by-episode basis.

Episode 24 (Naru’s Tears: Nephrite Dies for Love)Tone Analyses for Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Episode 24Anyone familiar with Sailor Moon probably best knows this episode as “the one where Nephrite dies.

” I figured this was a good starting point due to the more sadder themes of the episode.

Most interesting to me is that the subtitles seemed to have put more emphasis on this this than either of the dubbed versions, with a whopping 8% of ADV’s and 4% of Viz’s subtitled dialogue being tagged as largely conveying feelings of sadness.

Episode 25 (Jupiter, the Powerful Girl in Love)Tone Analyses for Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Episode 25What stood out most to me about the results from this episode were just how similar the DiC version (a completely rewritten localization) and the Viz subtitles wound up being.

I can’t really say that I have any theories about how it ended up this way, but it is interesting that no matter what approach you take toward translation, a lot of the story is dictated by what appears on screen.

Episode 26 (Restore Naru’s Smile: Usagi’s Friendship)Tone Analyses for Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Episode 26Here we see pretty much the opposite of the results from episode 25: the ADV subtitles and the Viz dub dialogue are pretty close to each other in terms of the emotions expressed.

Episode 28 (The Painting of Love: Usagi and Mamoru Get Closer)Tone Analyses for Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Episode 28Both of the Viz translations are pretty similar to each other here, though I’m honestly surprised that this isn’t the case the more often.

Considering it’s done by the same company, I would assume that the same translators/editors would be at least sharing notes, if not the same people.

General ObservationsOne thing that I found interesting from analyzing all of these episodes wasn’t just how each translation stacked up against each other, but how they stacked up against themselves.

How so?Well, I was curious at just how much “variability” each adaptation showed from episode to episode.

The results were as follows:Emotional Range (average / minimum / maximum)Note: Bigger number = larger differences between episodesDiC: 3.

8 points / 1.

5 (sadness) / 6.

3 (extraversion)ADV: 5.

4 points / 3.

8 (agreeableness) / 9.

1 (tentative)Viz (Dub): 4.

0 points / 1.

5 (agreeableness) / 9.

5 (openness)Viz (Subtitle): 4.

0 points / 1.

2 (confidence) / 7.

1 (openness)What this essentially means is that the DiC adaptation showed the least amount of variability between episodes, which would make sense when you consider their target audience and that the show was meant to just be a simple early morning cartoon for kids.

On the other end of the spectrum, the ADV subtitles showed a lot more variability between each episode.

I won’t comment on if this makes for a more (or less) accurate translation without comparing it against the original Japanese dialogue, but it at least was interesting to me.

A true English MastarClosing CommentsWhile I obviously can’t say definitively if viewers of a show are affected differently depending on which translation they’re exposed to, I think that there’s at least enough information here to make a solid argument that the translator can change the overall theme of a piece of media.

Where can we go from here?Going forward, I’d like to do a similar analysis on a manga that’s been translated several times, and ideally I’d like to use a larger data set.

Finally, since the Tone Analyzer API now supports Japanese, I’d like to run the original Japanese dialogue through that and see which adaptation comes closest to the source text.

In case you’re interested in playing with the data yourself, I’ve uploaded the results to a Google Sheets file that you can download, copy, or mess around with at your own leisure.

(Note that all dialogue has been removed as the translations belong to their respective copyright holders)Want to see more content like this?.Why not check out my other blog, Tuxedo Unmasked, or follow me on social media at @t_unmasked on Twitter and TuxedoUnmasked on Facebook!.. More details

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