WMU News

Expert on Japanese films discusses fan subtitling of anime

March 12, 2003

KALAMAZOO -- American anime fans have taken matters into their own hands.

An expert on Japanese film will be on the Western Michigan University campus this month to discuss how stateside fans of the Japanese animation form known as anime have formed collectives to translate and subtitle their favorite works.

Dr. Abe Mark Nornes, coordinator of the Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival in Tokyo, will present "The Abusive Subtitling of Anime Fandom" at 5 p.m. Wednesday, March 19, in Room 1118 of Rood Hall. The talk is free and open to the public.

"Especially in America, the film translator is anonymous," says Nornes, an associate professor at the University of Michigan. "An elaborate technical and institutional apparatus ensures that subtitling conforms to a certain style and that it is the exclusive domain of anonymous professionals.

"Thus, what a pleasant surprise that American anime fans have taken that apparatus into their own hands, forming collectives to undertake the translation and subtitling of vast numbers of their favorite anime. My talk will celebrate the work of these collectives by, ironically enough, looking closely at the translations to demonstrate how they are, shall we say, abusive."

The fan translators, Nornes contends, have tapped into a major shift in viewers' relationship to audio-visual material and provide a positive example for professional translators who want to keep up with the times.

Nornes teaches at the University of Michigan in film and video studies, and Asian languages and cultures. The film courses he teaches include Asian Cinema, Japanese Cinema, Film Theory, Documentary and Anime. Nornes is the author of the forthcoming book "The History of Japanese Documentary to 1945" and seven book chapters in both English and Japanese, and he has edited or co-written three other books. He earned his bachelor's degree at St. Olaf College and both his master's and doctoral degrees at the University of California's School of Cinema/Television.

The Nornes presentation is part of Focus Japan, a WMU project funded by a two-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Led by Dr. F. William McCarty, professor of finance and commercial law in the Haworth College of Business, and Dr. Hideko Abe, associate professor of Asian and Middle Eastern languages, Focus Japan aims to strengthen the University's study of Japan's language, culture and business environment.

Media contact: Jessica English, 269 387-8400, jessica.english@wmich.edu

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