Nick and Chris weigh in on the vitriol and misinformation swirling around AI usage and localization in anime and manga translation.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the participants in this chatlog are not the views of Anime News Network.
Spoiler Warning for discussion of the series ahead.
Chris, since our reboot discussion went so swimmingly last time, I think it’s only suitable for us to put our brains together yet again and solve another long-contentious facet of the anime industry. And by that, of course, I mean we’re going to finally, definitively, and once and for all solve every single argument anybody has ever had about translating one language into another.
As much as some people can’t understand some languages, I can’t understand why agreeing about anime translations is so hard! Fortunately, a couple of close nakama like us are just the ones to have a nuanced discussion like this go all according to keikaku
There are a lot of angles to this topic—some much more legitimate than others—but we might as well begin with the news that kicked off the most recent online firestorm. What would otherwise be an unequivocally welcome announcement that The Ancient Magus’ Bride would be returning with a simulpub was complicated (i.e., marred) by the mention of an AI-assisted translation.
“AI” has already been a contentious buzzword both in and out of the manga and anime spheres. Concerns have been ongoing over artists’ works being used in training datasets without their consent (translation note: that means “stealing”), alongside auto-generated pseudo-artwork encroaching on creators’ spaces. Bringing the technology in as a quick, cheap substitute for the long-standing job of human translation and localization of manga was pretty much guaranteed to be a big ol’ machine-operated boot to a hornet’s nest.
There’s no way for us, a pair of non-experts, to break down every single thing wrong with machine translation, but the simple fact is that it does not work. It will misinterpret nuance, spit out gobbledygook, and sometimes be just plain wrong. Anyone who has used the auto-translate feature on Twitter should know this. It can undoubtedly give you the gist of a message occasionally, but it’s not the kind of tool I want anywhere near art and entertainment.
The amount of time we’ve been in this fandom is probably a point we’ll be returning to a few times regarding this debate. Still, I have to point out that my recoiling at Bushiroad
‘s decision regarding The Ancient Magus Bride
comes from having been around just the last few years. I have been seeing cruddy machine translations put out from fans and ill-advised official publishers alike for a while now. I’m aware that this ain’t it.