Keep on truckin’

When I last posted here, I had just finished posting all of the Little Charo scripts, and mentioned that I wanted to spend a few more weeks studying that material, and then try to find another project to get involved in.

Well, at first, I thought that I wanted to try making a parallel Japanese and English script to the game Mother 3. But… this turned out to be waaaaaay more difficult and time consuming than I had imagined. While there is a complete Japanese script already posted online, the only complete English script online is cut up into bit and pieces and distributed across tons of different files, making it difficult to find any particular text that you want. I eventually came to the conclusion that simply playing through the English version of the game and transcribing it by hand would be the most efficient method. But that turned out to be far slower than I had ever anticipated. I also questioned the genuine usefulness of what I was trying to do, and finally decided to give up before wasting too much of my time on it.

From there, my thoughts turned to just playing the game in Japanese for my own benefit. I intended to play through first in English, then start over and go through the Japanese version with the Japanese scripts in hand. But… after playing through the game once in English, I realized that I really don’t like this game enough to play through it a second time. Meh.

After that, I decided to turn to anime. I came across Shirokuma Cafe a while back, and have really been wanting to go through it thoroughly with Subs2SRS. So I decided to give that a shot. But you know what? Trying to use Subs2SRS on that also turned out to be FAR more difficult than I had anticipated, at least at first. But, through my hours upon hours of trial and error, I have finally gotten to the point where I can Subs2SRS with ease!

Let’s talk about the issues I faced with Shirokuma Cafe for a moment. First, I wanted to create Anki cards that contained both the Japanese subtitles, English subtitles, image, and an audio clip. The fansub group Orphan put out some releases from Bluray sources that contain English subtitles. And then I find some releases from an apparently Chinese group called Kamigami which had released episodes with Japanese subtitles, but these were sourced from the TV broadcasts rather than Bluray, so right off the bat the two weren’t going to sync up perfectly. But, with a bit of effort, I was able to get them reasonably in sync with one another and proceeded to create my cards in Subs2SRS, and then began studying in Anki. I thought it was a bit odd that some of the subtitles had emoticons in them, but I thought “hmm, I guess the show is just trying to be cute.” I mean after all, the subtitles in the opening animation contain an emoticon, so it didn’t seem completely out of the question. I came across several words and phrases in that first episode that I couldn’t really figure out the meaning of, but I just persevered,  and then went on to episode two. As I began studying this episode in Anki, my concerns were growing too large to ignore. Not only did the subtitles seem to have EXCESSIVE amounts of emoticons, but they also seemed to contain a lot of typos. At this point I started asking around, and I discovered that the Japanese subtitles that I was using were not the official subtitles, but were actually transcriptions that the Chinese group had written! It was at this point that I went back to a lot of the words and phrases that hadn’t made sense to me, and I was able to see that the words had just been written down incorrectly! So this was a fine mess. Here I was trying to learn Japanese using subtitles that were filled with errors.

At this point, I noticed that there were other Japanese subtitles available on kitsunekko for Shirokuma Cafe. These looked like official subtitles, and did not contain any of the typos that plagued the other ones I had been using. But the problem is, these subtitles are timed to the original tv broadcast, with space left in for commercials and everything. So, they would require a bit of effort to sync up with either version of the episodes that I had. Also, for some reason or other, the subtitles for the first two episodes were in the .ass file format, while all the later episodes were in the .srt format. [As an interesting side note, I am the person who actually came up with the idea and specifications for the .ass subtitle format way back in the early 2000’s when I was a fansubber, but that’s a story for another day.]

So here we are, and I have English subtitles that are synced up perfectly to a bluray release, and I have Japanese captions which are apparently synced up to the original tv broadcast. And not only does the sync differ between them, but the line breaks are completely different as well. I spent a lot of time trying to get the Japanese captions synced up to the bluray video, but it appeared that this was not just a simple time shift that needed to be done. When I had one line synced up perfectly, another line would be several seconds off! It didn’t make any sense to me. In order to get things synced up properly, I really would have had to go through and completely re-time the episode, which would probably take around an hour or two. At this point, I thought “welllllll, I really don’t need the audio clips to be on my cards. Just the Japanese and English text is enough.” So, I just adjusted the sync as best I could to get the majority of the lines synced up, then I ran the script through Subtitle Edit to clean it up a bit and erase some of the closed captioning parts that I didn’t need. Then I dumped it into Subs2SRS, and it actually turned out pretty good. I was really surprised at how well it matched up the Japanese and English lines with each other. Not perfect, but there was only a small handful of lines that I needed to fix up manually.

So once again, I finally made it through the first two episodes, and moved on to episode 3. As you recall I mentioned above, starting with episode 3, the scripts were in the .srt file format. I didn’t think much of it at first, but once I began trying to sync it up with the episode, I was pleasantly surprised for the first time throughout this entire ordeal. Now, it seemed that the timing of the lines was much better, and with just a little time shifting (once at the beginning, and again at the point of the commercial break), almost every line syncs up to the audio almost perfectly! Episode 4 worked out the same way! At this point, it looks like I can Subs2SRS all of the remaining episodes with only about 5 minutes of prep work for each one! I could even turn the audio clips back on if I wanted to. But really, I don’t want to. I prefer doing my Anki reps without having to listen to anything. I do frequently listen to the full episode audio though, for listening practice.

All in all, Shirokuma Cafe is a really fun and cute anime, with mostly easy Japanese. After a rough start, I am now really enjoying studying with this show! I imagine that I might work my way through all 50 episodes, but its probably going to take me around 2 years if I continue at a rate of two weeks per episode. But, I think I might be able to speed up over time? Maybe? In any case, it solves the problem of me floundering around not knowing what to do. I have something here which I can study, enjoy, and actually learn a lot from!

Maybe I should post up my re-timed scripts here? I don’t know, maybe I’ll think about it. From episode 3 on, its really not that hard to fix them up yourself, if you wanted to study this anime. But I’ll consider it if anyone is interested. (update: you can find my re-timed episodes 3-6 in the comments below)

And in the meantime, what am I going to post here? Hmmm… maybe nothing. I mean, I’ll be busy studying Japanese, after all.