Crunchyroll criticized for using subtitles made with AI

Crunchyroll criticized for using subtitles made with AI

One of the most anticipated titles of the Summer-2024 season, "My Deer Friend Nokotan (Shikanoko Nokonoko Koshitantan)," has gotten off to a bumpy start amid widespread criticism and debates about the quality and origins of its subtitles. In particular, major streaming service Crunchyroll has received heavy criticism for its alleged role in keeping the anime's low-quality translations up.

Crunchyroll criticized for using subtitles made with AI

The English, French, and German subtitles have been especially criticized on the various platforms that stream the series, noting that these translations did not pass the quality review standard that fans are accustomed to. Veteran voice actors have highlighted the strangeness of this situation, as the voice actors seem to be using a script almost identical to that of the English subtitles. Although both scripts, both the subtitle and dubbing scripts, are designed to match the lip movements of the characters, the use of identical scripts has led some to say that the voice acting feels unnatural, reflecting unfairly on the performers.

Crunchyroll has faced the lion's share of these criticisms by being one of the largest anime platforms in the West that streams the series. Although it is very likely that the subtitling was not done by Crunchyroll, many point to the licensor REMOW (owners of Anime Onegai) as responsible for handling it, other services such as ADN in France remade the subtitles, while Crunchyroll has so far kept the initial ones. Crunchyroll's history of using lower-quality third-party captions resurfaced as criticism from fans, while others recalled the debacle of "The Yuzuki Family's Four Sons," which the company removed from the site but denied using AI.

Despite the controversy, "My Deer Friend Nokotan" continues to generate great anticipation for its future episodes. The opening song "Shikanoko Nokonoko Koshitantan" went viral and sparked an online trend. Released five days ago, the uncredited version currently has more than 9 million views, while licensor REMOW hopes to make the series "the most widely available new anime of 2024," streaming on Crunchyroll, Amazon Prime Video, DNA, Anime Onegai, and many more.

Shueisha, Shogakukan and others recently invested in machine translation start-up Orange, which hopes to take 50,000 titles overseas in the next five years. Both companies are also backing another start-up, Mantra, which provides official AI-powered translations for "One Piece" and "Spy x Family" in select territories. The Japan Translators Association (JAT) recently spoke out following the news of the investment in Mantra, outlining serious concerns about these moves.

  • "I've seen a few clips of the dubbed episode and it's no joke, the script for the Japanese subtitles AND the script for the dubbing are 100% identical! So this is not only affecting the subtitled version, but also the dubbed version!"
  • "I don't think Shikanoko's translation is AI or machine translated. It's sloppy, yes, with odd punctuation and capitalization, but a computer wouldn't have been able to localize "ノツ" as a greeting ("upside-down horn" in Japanese) like "nroh", this is pretty witty/human. I think it was just a rushed job."
  • "The lack of oversight for third-party captions has been a known issue with Crunchyroll since basically its inception as a legal service 15 years ago and they haven't done anything about it at all in that time, so I wouldn't count on that changing anytime soon."
  • "Crunchyroll really needs to think twice before agreeing to stream an anime licensed by someone else without having oversight over the translation. When a show comes in with someone else's dubbing subtitles that literally haven't been checked for even basic grammar, it only reflects poorly on them."
  • "I saw it in German and they felt very strange. I knew they were outsourced since they didn't have credits, whereas Crunchyroll Germany usually does. Also, while I can't say they were machine-translated, they definitely smelled like a relay translation, the subtitles are probably automatically translated from English. They accidentally left an internal editing note, which for some reason is in English."
  • "I felt like I was going crazy, haha, they seemed pretty weird when I was watching it (in English subtitles)... I'm not skilled enough in Japanese to judge the actual translations, but I had a lot of grammatical issues. Missing capital letters, commas, and so on. I've never seen that before on a Crunchyroll show. (Apparently it was the case in previous seasons with Migi & Dali and Tonbo as well, but I didn't see those, so I can't say much about it. It seems to have something to do with the distributor REMOW)."
  • "Don't those stupid distributors realize that if they provide shitty machine translation, we might as well pirate the program with our own shitty machine translation? The main point of the service is to provide subtitles and they're saving on that, the greedy slackers."
  • "Again with these subtitles provided by the shitty licensor? It's The Yuzuki Family's Four Sons all over again."
  • "So I wasn't the only one who noticed it? Ok, I'm glad to hear I'm not crazy. Those subtitles were terrible... At the beginning of the episode, everyone asked her if she was "shoujo" and the subtitles translated to "lady", which totally lost its meaning... Then, a few minutes later, the same joke again about "shoujo" but this time correctly translated to "virgin"... Those subtitles, in addition to being terrible, were very inconsistent... I can't believe people pay for a service like this... Even fansubs are better! (Although I miss fansubs)".
  • "This is probably true, but I must point out that it is not at all uncommon not to credit translators. His work frequently does not receive credit in anime, video games, and others. Sometimes the name of a translation firm is mentioned but not the name of the individuals, sometimes nothing at all."
  • "If this is the same version I saw, the translation was really bad and full of errors. Fortunately, I understand most of what they say in Japanese, but I feel sorry for anyone who doesn't have a clue."
  • "MTL = Machine TransLation, means that someone put it through something like Google Translate (I just found out that Google Translate has been using AI for a while now, so it's not a good example of MTL to use) instead of having a person translate and localize the dialogues. ADN is a German (I think) French anime streaming site."
  • "This is why the localization industry is a nightmare. Not because of what the profiteers of the culture war are proclaiming, it is bad because we are in the hell of sublicenses where everyone is competing to reduce costs. Just a dozen intermediaries subcontracting to other intermediaries until we reach some interns by passing a script through DeepL and calling him one day."
  • "Anti-localization people are very quiet now that we have shitty AI subtitles to replace real translators."
  • "Crunchyroll is a disgrace. I'm so sick of them cutting so many corners in a service that people pay for. It's like they want anime fans to sail the seas."

Source: Reddit