Update: Cyberpunk 2077 developer and Cyberpunk: Edgerunners producer CD Projekt Red contacted us today to let us know they’ve updated the subtitles for their (excellent) anime. We watched a few episodes before and couldn’t find any weirdness we’d seen before. Slang is spelled consistently and reads fluently. We still think the dub track is worth a look, but no matter which voice and subtitle track you choose, you should now have a good experience.
This type and aesthetic Cyberpunk stories have been on the fringes of the mainstream for decades thanks to stories like Neuromancer, Blade Runner, and Ghost in the Shell. However, it exploded in 2020 when CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077 hit consoles. No matter how any of us felt about that game, it was a big deal. Recently, the promised cyberpunk anime “Cyberpunk: Edgerunners” finally landed on Netflix. It was an absolutely gorgeous show by any measure.it has a killer sound both English and Japanese. It’s almost unwatchable when you watch it with subtitles.
No – this is not a subs-versus-dubs argument.
The world of cyberpunk, created by Mike Pondsmith for the original tabletop role-playing game, is rich in detail and full of creepy slang flows that are almost impossible to understand without a dictionary with you. “You can’t trust a company to pay you what you earn, choom. Don’t be a Gunk. Real edgerunners don’t even trust their ripperdoc. Did you check that BD? “
Let’s not pretend it’s well written, on paper, but it conveys the point: the world is full of slang, and it might as well be another language. If you make a mistake while watching a show, whether the dub is in English or Japanese, unless you’re very familiar with the language of the game world, you’ll be confused because the sub-track has more mistakes than matches. When watching the English dub alone without subtitles, it’s easy to see how well the actors have done a good job of grasping all these terms and making them feel natural.
But I habitually turn on subtitles while watching TV just to lower the overall TV volume in my apartment. Every time I look down at the bottom of the screen, I’m in awe of how bad the subtitles are. Choom is spelled correctly in some places and chume in others. The term IC, meaning Intrusion Countermeasures (aka Cyber Security), is presented as Eye. A character says Edgerunner – you know, the show’s title – and the subs read headrunner up.More than once they confuse “Ripper” and “Reaper” – not without Every occasion.
And it’s hard to tell what went wrong. Reading that “eye” error, we can chalk it up to a native Japanese translator getting confused hearing a similar-sounding word. But the more I watch the show, the less I feel that human translation really touches the subtitles.Sentences are often meaningless; they read less like a bad translation, more like machine translate. Some of these sentences have all the characteristics of “I’m texting my phone, but half of the words are wrong”, and the examples of words spelled in many different ways really highlight this possibility.
This affects not only the English subtitle track used to play Japanese dialogue, but also the English closed-caption text used for listening. It’s not worth it to dissect each error line by line here. It’s hard to believe that such a high profile show, from such a hot anime company, could be treated so sloppily. It’s clear that no matter what happened to make the subtitles end up like this, the show didn’t get any love from the QA team before it went live, or they just ignored QA’s notes to release it by a certain date.
Make no mistake: if you have any love for video games, tabletop RPGs, or even aesthetics, CyberEdgerunners is hell. It’s bright, loud, colorful and lively. It has all the sparkle of gaming, plus a compelling story and some of Studio Trigger’s best work. Just watch in English with subtitles off. Or maybe wait and hope Netflix fixes it. And make sure to check out our review before you dive in – it’s a special show.
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