It may seem like an atrocious practice for many anime lovers around the world but I mostly watch my Japanese animation programs through Netflix. I know there are so many other better services out there wherein they offer more updated anime as well as making sure the shows they have in their library are treated with love and respect. Those other streaming services, however, require you to pay a separate subscription service, something which I’m not willing to do at this moment as I’m more of a sporadic anime viewer than a dedicated okatu nowadays.
There is one anime in particular which caught my eye: Komi Can’t Communicate. The trailer of Komi Can’t Communicate popped into my YouTube feed for one reason or another but there was just something about it that made me really want to see it. Maybe it was the gorgeous art style. Maybe it’s the fact that it was about a shy introverted girl who just wants to make friends but can’t really talk and I can totally relate to it. Maybe it a combination of those factors and others I can’t put my finger on. Whatever the case, I was so relieved it was coming to Netflix.
I eagerly awaited for the first episode of Komi Can’t Communicate to pop up on Netflix and, last week, it did. I knew there were already some fansubbed versions of the anime going up a couple of weeks ago since Netflix, for some arcane reason, isn’t releasing each episode as it comes out. I figured it was to really make sure they get the translation and localization as good as possible. I really did enjoy the first episode of Komi Can’t Communicate and I did understand the general story and the humor is on point.
Something felt off, though. I was getting most of the story but there was just a feeling I was missing something. I then skipped to several scenes from the first episode and, when we got to the scene where Komi and the main male character Tadano were “talking” to each other using the classroom blackboard when it hit me. I didn’t understand what they were writing! This seemed like a pivotal moment in the scene. While you don’t really need to understand what they were saying as all of the words on the board just means they were having a long discussion, it definitely would’ve added a whole lot more if viewers who don’t understand Japanese could understand what both Komi and Tadano were talking about.
So I popped onto YouTube just to check if the fansub version of Komi Can’t Communicate did translate the blackboard scene. Lo and behold, the fansub version does! Not only that, the people who worked on the fansub did an incredible job of not just putting the translation as a simple subtitle at the bottom. They went the extra mile of superimposing the text onto the screen, finding the most appropriate font to look like it was someone writing as well as coloring the text to make it look like it was written on chalk! It just looked so cool and it was made with high production values in mind!
After looking at this scene, I went back and watched the fansubbed version of Komi Can’t Communicate’s first episode and I really noticed how much I missed out on! The Netflix version did give us the most important points and localized what was necessary for viewers to understand what was happening between the two, so there’s that. I still cannot fathom why Netflix, with it being this worldwide company and having millions of subscribers all over the world, which translates to millions and millions of cash on hand, can’t do as good a job of a small handful of dedicated fansubbers! I can’t help but feel cheated by the production values and perhaps some of the other animes I did watch on Netflix, such as Food Wars!, Cells at Work! and Kaguya-Sama: Love is War, had these subpar subtitle jobs. This also makes me question if I should even consider watching Cowboy Bebop on Netflix as it hit the streaming platform a week ago since I’m afraid they might have butchered it a bit.
I do know Netflix hasn’t done right by some animes. I remember when Netflix got the entire Evangelion series. Fans were relatively excited for it and waited on pins and needles for this legendary anime to be released on the service. A whole new generation was going to experience the mind-bending emo-ness of Evangelion and see what all the hype was about. Then it was released and, apparently, Netflix made some significant changes to the show and some of the messages it conveys. I personally didn’t see these changes to be too egregious from my point of view. Then again, I’m not a longtime fan of Evangelion so it’s not exactly my place to state if these changes are as transformative as these hardcore fans think they are. It could be the hardcore fans are exaggerating or they could be totally correct. I can’t say for sure, however , the message is clear and Netflix can and will make changes that may slightly or greatly deviate from what’s actually being told.
I’ve decided to skip Komi Can’t Communicate on Netflix and just bite the bullet and watch the fabsubbed version because of how richer the latter comes across. Getting to see the text posted right next to the thought bubbles just seems so intuitive. If a group of anime fans with a shoestring budget can do it, I can’t see why Netflix can’t put in the effort to do so as well. Will it cost more? I’m fairly sure it will but should it matter? If Netflix wants to be this one stop shop for every kind of program, including anime, then they can’t really just do a subpar job and think fans will just swallow what their offering. If there are other services, even some that will do it without having to pay for a subscription, are going to get the job done with better production values and even in a more timely manner, then why go to Netflix?
I still love Netflix as it still has the biggest catalog of movies and programs that are on offer here in the Philippines. However, there seems to be this miscommunication with how they decided to release Komi Can’t Communicate. With an anime all about a girl who can’t seem to get her words out, it almost seems ironic for Netflix to not translate some of the stuff she’s trying to say. Basically, I do hope Netflix realizes they need to work a little bit harder to keep up with the fansubbers and put in as much time and dedication they have to make them the destination for anime lovers as well. If they can start with Komi Can’t Communicate, then I’ll be a happy camper.
I’ll shut up now.
What do you think of Netflix’s anime translation/localization projects? Let me know in the comments section below!