Of biker gangs and translations

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012 by makhazol

So, as mentioned in the release post for episode 16 of Carranger, we’d like to discuss one translation choice we’ve made in greater detail, since it seems a fitting time to do so. This episode features the “Bowzock” spelling of the bad guys’ faction name that you usually see on websites. Basically, this spelling is a joke, but it’s a very meta joke that only works if you already know what the bad guys’ group name means.

We went over in earlier translator’s notes that the group is named “bouzokku” in Japanese, which is a garbled derivative of bousouzoku (or biker gang). Bousouzoku is typically written with the kanji 暴走族, while bouzokku is written ボーゾック. Bousouzoku is written with kanji, Chinese characters that form the backbone of the Japanese language. Bouzokku is written with katakana, Japanese characters typically used for representing sounds phonetically and for writing foreign words.

In Sentai, katakana is typically (but not always) used to write the name of the main villain faction, even if that villain faction’s name is based on a real Japanese words (although, more often than not, they’ll just be cool-sounding nonsense). Some examples from the shows that predate Carranger include バラノイア (Baranoia, the Ohranger villains); ゴーマ (Gorma, the Dairanger villains); and バイラム (Vyram, the Jetman villains).

You get the “Bowzock” spelling out of ボーゾック if you romanize it as if it was a “typical” Sentai villain faction name, something meant to sound foreign and cool. The joke is that it’s not, of course. Carranger’s villains are just idiots, and the best bad guy name they could come up with involved being a biker gang called, basically, byker gang.

The thing is, if you just write “Bowzock” in English without this context, it just looks and sounds like a normal Sentai villain faction name. Since that’s clearly not what the show’s creators intended, we decided to call them Bykergang, even though that will sometimes clash with onscreen text like the posters in Signalman’s Kobaan Base.

For purposes of watching the show, it’s most important to remember that Carranger’s villains are so dumb they have an incredibly dumb and obvious name. This is a rare case where using an official spelling would actually work at cross-purposes with the show’s writing, because of English’s limitations as a language. That’s not to say the official spelling is wrong and you should never use it! It’s just not something that works to help convey the show’s sense of humor.

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