Where can I get the best subtitles for My Neighbour Totoro?
April 4, 2008 12:37 PM   Subscribe

Where can I get the best subtitles for My Neighbour Totoro?

I have the Studio Ghibli Japanese DVD, which is ruined by dubtitles. (The translators felt the need to fill all the silent bits with chatter.)

I've ripped the DVD to AVI, and can use VLC or Perian to play it with any .SRT subtitle file. I've downloaded these, which seem to be very closely based on this translation.

Unfortunately, the timings are full of mistakes -- too many to rectify -- and the translation of the opening theme is rather weak -- not as good as the version at the end of the above file.

Does anyone know of better .SRT subtitles for My Neighbour Totoro?

Bonus question: Lately I've been spoiled by the excellent subtitles on fansubbed anime, including surtitles, attractive fonts, translation notes, and music lyrics in both English and Romaji. (Will *official* foreign-language releases ever approach this kind of quality?) Is there any subtitle format and media player that can do that with standalone subtitle files?
posted by snarfois to Media & Arts (16 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
That all sounds unnecessarily complicated. Is it not possible for you to purchase the DVD version with the proper English subtitles?
posted by Koko at 12:46 PM on April 4, 2008

Response by poster: Then I'd be purchasing it twice. (The Japanese import -- which I got years before the Region 2 English DVD was released -- was pretty expensive already.)

Besides, one of the great things about the internet age is that it has democratised the business of creating subtitles and movie commentaries. I've been so impressed with the quality of fan translations compared with ofiicial versions, that I'd seek them out as first resort. Maybe I'm unusual in this respect, but I rather like the more literal translations, over ones that have been adapted for a Western market (see comparison here) -- the insight they yield into Japanese culture is a great part of my love of anime.
posted by snarfois at 1:06 PM on April 4, 2008

Best answer: I have yet to see a commercial release in America that can match the original Japanese. The translations are often shoddy, they don't translate signs, don't explain nuances or jokes, you name it. Good fansubs fix all of those shortcomings and will give you karaoke on top of it. Don't get me started on dubs. I could do a better job drunk and stoned.

To find good fansubs, start with anidb.net, search for "totoro," and hit "show all" under the list of fansub groups. Consenseus seems to be KAA or ZX. I'd go with KAA's version myself.

As for players, Media Player Classic combined with directvobsub for subtitles should cover it.
posted by pandanom at 1:51 PM on April 4, 2008 [3 favorites]

SlightlyofftopicFilter: Funny you should mention this title specifically. I rented Totoro from Blockbuster Online, and enjoyed it immensely with subtitles. A few days later, I thought I'd give the dubbed track a shot, seeing as it had been done by a proper child actress (Dakota Fanning) and her sister. I had to turn it off about ten or twenty minutes into the movie...

...so hopefully the answer to your bonus question is 'yes'.
posted by recoveringsophist at 2:05 PM on April 4, 2008

Could the timing issue that the ones you downloaded are 25 fps and you may have ripped the DVD at 29.97 fps? Maybe you could patch the srt to the correct framerate?

Another version here. Or is it the same?
posted by sharkfu at 2:37 PM on April 4, 2008

SlightlyofftopicFilter(2): I have a 2 year old obsessed with this movie. Since dub is the only option with him, we've watched the Dakota Fanning dub. I fought it initially, but I've come to like it and I enjoy not having to take my eyes off the beautiful animation.
posted by sisquoc15 at 3:21 PM on April 4, 2008

Response by poster: pandamon: Thanks, that's great advice. Some possibly naive questions:

(1) The KAA version doesn't seem to have a standalone subtitle file -- the only distributions of it I could find consists only of a .mkv and some urls. I'll get that if that's the only way, but I really just need the subtitles.

(2) is DirectVobSub a lot better than what VLC or Perian does out of the box? (I.e. does it approach the quality of hardsubbed fansubs?)

And (3) I'd prefer to use my Mac rather than my PC -- is directvobsub still an option then?

sharkfu: Unfortunately those are even worse than the dubtitles. I can't comprehend why anyone would subtitle laughter.

I found more links to subtitle sites here, and will investigate those too.

sisquoc15: :) I'm still wondering what's going to happen in our house. My daughter is only 1 year old now. I really hate dubbed anime, and fear ruining my favourite movies for myself by letting her watching the dubbed versions over and over. Or do I attempt to show her subtitled movies, possibly saving them for when she's a little older? I once watched Panda! Go Panda! with a 5-year old, and we both enjoyed the storytelling-like experience of it, with me pausing every now and then to explain what's going on.

Or maybe I should just lighten up about it. I grew up enjoying animation that was almost always dubbed.
posted by snarfois at 4:04 PM on April 4, 2008

Just spotted this a few moments ago, I wonder if it will help?

posted by Blacksun at 4:18 PM on April 4, 2008

Sorry, forgot to do the HTML thing....
posted by Blacksun at 4:18 PM on April 4, 2008

Best answer: My favourite source for subs for asian films, animated or not, is KLOOFy.net (free registration required). A quick search of their database reveals about 5 different Totoro subtitle downloads, some even have more than one version in them.

Ooh I really feel like rewatching Totoro now :)
posted by milov at 5:18 PM on April 4, 2008

I purchased the Studio Ghibli DVD too, way back when, from Amazon Japan. It has a place of honor on my shelf along with the Porco Rosso Ghibli release. Muy expensivo, yes, both of them.

You mention that the subtitles include laughter. Allow me a counterpoint -- I'm deaf and use a hearingaid. I can hear the laughter, but it isn't always obvious to me that what I hear is laughter, if that makes any sense. Hearing and comprehending can be two different things.

In the US, most DVDs are released with subtitles that only transcribe the dialogue and don't describe "sound effects" (including, oddly, song lyrics). Closed captioning, on the other hand, is intended to convey the full aural experience -- including the bits between official dialogue.

One obvious example is "[knocking at the door]", immediately after which a character gets up from a chair and answers the door. Laughing, birds tweeting, water trickling, etc -- it informs the viewer's experience.

HD-DVDs (farewell) sometimes offer subtitles for both straight dialogue and the closed-caption-like whole enchilada, so... perhaps you can have an official choice in the future.
posted by Jubal Kessler at 5:52 PM on April 4, 2008

Or do I attempt to show her subtitled movies, possibly saving them for when she's a little older? I once watched Panda! Go Panda! with a 5-year old, and we both enjoyed the storytelling-like experience of it, with me pausing every now and then to explain what's going on.

In my experience, kids do fine with subs. They can usually work out what's going on without dialogue (well, maybe not if you're watching Akira... :) If they get confused, they will ask. Also, I think it motivates them to learn to read, and they get early exposure to a foreign language, which is always a plus.

Some good anime to watch this way might be She and Her Cat (a short film on the Voices of a Distant Star DVD, for this one very little words are necessary) and My Neighbors the Yamadas (there's LOTS of Japanese cultural stuff you could explain in this one, plus good family relations).
posted by vorfeed at 8:13 PM on April 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: milov: that's a great source of subtitles, thanks! It'll take me a while to try them out, but at least one of them seems very promising.

Jubal Kessler: You're right, of course -- subtitles intended for the hearing-impaired definitely have to include sound effects. But I expect subtitles that do so to be labeled as such, because it's very distracting if you're able to hear them.

vorfeed: It's good to hear of your experiences. I'm definitely going to give that a try. I have all the movies you mention. (Of course, I'd love alternative subtitles for Yamadas which include more background info.)
posted by snarfois at 3:40 PM on April 5, 2008

A couple of days late, but I'm seconding vorfeed. My daughter is almost 4 and has been watching subtitled Japanese videos (including the Studio Ghibli collection I bought on eBay a few years ago) since she was about a year old. She loves them and has never asked to see them in English. Go for it!
posted by chihiro at 6:29 AM on April 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

snarfois: I don't know of anyone who just supplies subtitles. All of the fansub groups I know of provide the whole thing. You could download the .mkv and strip the subtitle file out of it, but then you might as well just watch the .mkv. More and more fansub groups use softsubs these days and directvobsub is made to display those. I think it's a better solution that hardsubs because you can change font styles, colors, and sizes. This can be useful depending on your display type, resolution, and personal preferences. I hate over-stylized fonts and this lets me "fix" it on the fly.

Not sure about what you need for a Mac.
posted by pandanom at 9:52 AM on April 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: In the end, a torrent from [KAA] was my best option -- no setup issues, and a good translation. (Nicely between the literalness of the David Goldsmith translation and the overly Westernised dub, but unfortunately without translations of the songs or signs.) I own all the original Ghibli DVDs, so I've no conscience issue with downloading fansubs of them.
posted by snarfois at 7:06 AM on April 16, 2008

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