[ return : true > paper ]

reinventing the wheel. . . badly.

Utena's among my absolute favorite series. Has been for a while. So. . . I'm biased. I really wanted the release to be perfect, and instead it was merely almost perfect.

First, animeondvd.com has a good review of this disc at http://www.animeondvd.com/reviews2/disc_reviews/582.php . I agree strongly with their review, but I'm not going to rehash what they've said.

See, although we don't usually do reviews, I was moved to write one by CPM's subtitle script.

The first time I saw this movie, it was a fansub, being projected at a little show in LA. I had the misfortune to really like the script used in that fansub. It was filled with memorable, polished phrases. . . subtleties, like 'high ideals' as opposed to 'high goals.' The dialogue may not always have been literally translated, but the translations fit the spirit and atmosphere of the movie.

The commercial translation, while able, feels flat by comparison. Truthfully, I think the rythym is off. They're not as subtle. Small complaints, like substituting 'the customer' for 'he', or translating 'bara no kokuin' as 'mark of the rose' rather than as 'rose signet.' My favorite line, 'Oh well. . . you can be dead while living, that's all.' became 'You just need to be a living corpse.' I think the first one is better by a considerable margin, but it's hardly the stuff of holy wars.

But then there are larger complaints, like the word 'scandalatious,' or the line, 'Cap'n, Cap'n, do you know?' At that point I began seriously to wonder why CPM hadn't simply licensed the fansub script. (And don't even mention Shiori's little rhyme. . .)

There are a lot of subtitle scripts, and not a few dub scripts, that suffer from similar problems. It's very hard to write a script that flows well, and harder still to do that and remain faithful to the original. Neil Gaiman did it for Mononoke Hime, but not one anime in fifty can even approach that level of craftsmanship.

And when a good script exists, why waste it? Yes, check it for accuracy, improve the grammar, correct the spelling. Even if, in the end, 70% of the script is revised away, the translator has still benefited from an alternate perspective. The difference between a good script and a bad one is in the details. . . in the emphasis that changes a word from 'captain' to 'wonder,' for example.

But the fact remains, this is a region 1 dvd, well-mastered, with great extras. The thousands of cg rose petals in the movie really need to be seen to be believed. Buy it, by all means. There are some really nice touches, like the ability to display lyrics translated, in romaji, or not at all. It's a very good idea, nicely implemented for the karaoke lover in all of us. In fact, there are no hard subs in the movie at all.

*sigh* I suppose it's rather silly of me to complain so. I would have considered this release very nearly perfect, though, if the script had been better.


with thanks to Ann, Professor Tomoe, Hawk, Ayumu-chan, Washuu Dryer, and the Utena Translation Project, who wrote the script I like so well.