Little Kuriboh’s Yu-Gi-Oh: The Abridged Series, where one man acts out the roles of (almost) every character with surprising skill and summarizes the absurdity of the English version of Yu-Gi-Oh Duel Monsters, has become quite an internet phenomenon. You are probably aware of this, but one thing that you may not be aware of is that it has reached back to its original source, as one Japanese fan has subtitled Little Kuriboh’s work and put it online. You can also see it on Nico Nico Douga under the names 遊戯王要約シリーズ or 4分でわかる遊戯王アニメ.
What is fascinating about this first of all is that we get to observe the other side of the fansub mirror. Normally, even the Japanese subtitles for English shows that we see are professionally done.
What’s even more interesting is observing how the translator makes various attempts to localize the translation just enough for the Japanese speakers. Characters’ names are in Japanese, but the subtitles point out that “Jonouchi” is speaking with a “Brooklyn Accent.” Characters’ unique speech is kept intact, as Pegasus, according to the subtitles, still speaks in random Engrish and says “de~~~su” a whole lot. “Super Special Awesome” is just “Super Special.”
And of course, one of the big challenes is puns and wordplay, and the guy does surprisingly well. One of my favorite examples is his translation of the famous line from the “evil” Kaiba, “You don’t stand a GHOST of a chance,” said by characters who are ghosts or at least resemble them. Translated literally it doesn’t make much sense.
The translation the subtitler went for is “勝利のチャンスは「霊」だ” (Shouri no chansu wa rei da). It literally means “The chance of you winning is “a ghost.”
Here’s the fun part: the word used for ghost is pronounced “rei.” There’s another kanji with a pronunciation of rei, 零, which means “zero.”
In other words, “The chance of you winning is zero.”
So bravo, Japanese Yugioh Abridged subtitler. Your wordplay kung fu is mighty indeed, and I bow to you.