Frequently Asked Questions-

English lyrics for Japanese anime songs... why, God, why?

It's been a long time since anime fans were subjected to anime songs performed in English, often resulting in convulsions and mass riots (see the next question). For those of you who were introduced to anime in the last couple years may not even be aware that such a feat has been attempted before. Granted that there has been little success to produce a produce a quality dub of a song, why does this site try?

The answer is that songs are translated from language to language all around the world, and are often very successful works at that. The musical Les Misérables was originally French and has since been translated into several languages, including Japanese (Chairman Kaga from Iron Chef played Jean Valjean!). The difference with anime is a question of effort- most failed attempts treat English lyrics as a translation for business purposes instead of the poetry any song needs to be to thrive. Furthermore, re-recording a song into English is expensive, and generally goes against the marketing strategy of most North American anime distributors. While I would like to see more dubbed lyrics incorporated into dubbed anime (and anime OSTs), there is a low demand for them in the anime community (as opposed to dubs themselves).

The potential for these English lyrics, however, lies with fans who want to sing their beloved songs in English. All of the lyrics on the site pass the "karaoke" test and correspond easily with the original song. They are designed for performance, and visitors have recorded songs, used them in music videos, and received offers to perform them in concert. Distributors such as Geneon have shown interest in the lyrics, and many can have mainstream appeal. Whether you perform them at a convention's karaoke room or prove to your parents that it's good music with a sound message, they are yours to bring to the world.

These are pretty good, but I've heard professionally dubbed anime songs before and all of them suck. WTF?

Back in the day, many North American distributors (Viz and Pioneer in particular) thought that their dubbed productions would appeal to a greater audience if the music was also in English. So they wrote English lyrics (just like I do now) and recorded an English version over the original music. Unfortunately, the vast majority of these songs suffered from a combination of three problems. 1) The lyrics were written using a very strict translation that failed to consider the poetic elements that makes us enjoy music to begin with. 2) The translation itself was the problem, and either didn't capture the overall meaning of the song or completely abandoned it. 3) The actual recording process was flawed, and/or had a singer that either wasn't appropriate to the song or (in more cases that you'd think) simply had no talent to begin with. Some dubbed products, like Tenchi Muyo's "Pioneer" and El Hazard's "Back in Love" (which abandoned the premise of the song, but still sounded good) sounded pretty good, but unfortunately those were in the minority.

Since then, anime distributors have taken the A.D.Vision approach of abandoning the mass market in favor of targeting genuine anime fans, who certainly can tolerate music in Japanese (and often would have it no other way). Companies that do try to appeal to a larger audience (like 4Kids Entertainment) typically will produce their own music written to attract whomever it is they're trying to attract, although Pokémon occasionally will have a dubbed song from the original Japanese show... usually to the same success as the stuff ten years ago.

Same as the above question, only remove "These are pretty good" and add "English lyrics are stupid and are a disservice to the original Japanese lyricists."

You watch subs, don't you? The argument over the faithfulness of English lyrics falls into same realm as the dub vs. sub debate. I'm not going to get involved in this battle, as this site doesn't attempt to cater itself to subtitle-only "purists." The case for English lyrics is the same case for dubs- in listening to something in your native language, even with a translation in front of you, you're likely to miss something in the way it was said. Like dubbed anime, these lyrics try to provide an English approximation while keeping the original melody (just like a dub's need to "fit the flap"), at the risk of straying from the original message. Furthermore, just as there are people who can't read subtitles and still follow the action, there's a lot of people can't sing in Japanese.

How long have you been doing these, and what are your credentials?

I have been writing these lyrics for about four years now, although many of my earlier works were not very good and are not available (although "Be All Right," often considered one of the best lyrics on the site, was one of the first songs attempted). As for my credentials, I have a minor in English, performed for four years in my high school chorus, and have mastered most of the 9-foot songs on Dance Dance Revolution.

I'm assuming you don't speak Japanese, ne?

I took a semester of Japanese in college, but that isn't qualification enough to do the strict lyric translations. With the exception of "Fire" (the one song I translated myself), all direct translations are found online through various sources. My limited knowledge of Japanese, and a handy dictionary, help me sort through the grammar of some verses and verify the accuracy of some translations.

Interestingly enough, while I don't *speak* Japanese, I'm perfectly capable of *singing* Japanese, which is more crucial to writing English lyrics than you'd think.

How may I use these lyrics?

The lyrics are designed for you to sing. So sing them, dang it! You don't need my permission for that. However, if you plan on performing them in public (other than karaoke), arranging your own cover of the song, or recording the song for any kind of distribution, please contact me ahead of time. If there's no money involved, I will always give my permission; I just want to know about it, and will try to publicize it on the site. In fact, I may even start uploading some of the better recordings I get.

If money's involved, you may not use these lyrics without contacting me first. Lyric translations like these fall in a very gray area of copyright law, and I haven't seen a court case calling these guys fair use (and I have seen cases calling them copyright violations, but there are other circumstances involved). Point is, I'm not letting my babies get into trouble behind my back. 

I love {insert song here}! Can you do English lyrics for {insert song here}??!!

It doesn't hurt to send in the request, but after running the site for two years I find that I have little time to devote to lyrics. It's a very delicate process and given the negative reputation "dubbed" anime songs have, I refuse to post anything less than a quality product. Other factors such as the availability of the song and a direct English translation, as well as the fact that some songs just don't work in English, may not get the song done. But I definitely want to know what songs you'd like to see, so send any requests to arpulver@yahoo.com and I'll see what I can do. 

At the moment, these songs are pretty high on my to-do list, so if you really want to see one of these, let me know and I'll make it a priority.

  • "Raspberry Heaven" from Azumanga Daioh
  • "Wakatte Itahazu" from Fushigi Yuugi
  • "Yakusoku" from Love Hina
  • "Hesitation" from Saber Marionette J
  • "Little Wing" from Scrapped Princess
  • "Ano Hi Ni" from Video Girl Ai

Will you put one of my songs up?

See the Submissions page. Go here for a guide to writing English lyrics.

What's up with all the Digimon and Cardcaptor Sakura?

Much of my anime music collection started with Digimon, and it was the first series I started writing English lyrics for. Say what you want about the series itself, but it has an excellent selection of very diverse music. Furthermore, a few of the songs are works commissioned by a group called the Digimon Music Fan-Dubbing Group, now known as Anime Music Dubbing, that also records the English songs. There are as many as a dozen songs I've written that are not on the site (feel free to ask about them if you're a Digimon music fan and want to see them).

As for Cardcaptor Sakura, much of the music originates from a character album- one of the first import CDs I purchased. I had made a goal to write songs for the entire album, but that seems to have stalled at five.

What kind of anime are you into?

Here's my top ten favorite series, just to give you an idea of my broad interest range:

  1. Martian Successor Nadesico
  2. Kodomo no Omocha
  3. R.O.D. the TV
  4. Love Hina
  5. Serial Experiments Lain
  6. Fushigi Yuugi
  7. Princess Nine
  8. Slayers
  9. Digimon (Tamers is my favorite series)
  10. Azumanga Daioh

The list actually goes up to twenty, but I don't need to throw in Eyeshield 21, Haibane Renmei, or Jungle wa Itsumo Hare Nochi Guu. For those, check out my page devoted to my Top 20 series.

Will you answer my infrequently asked question if I e-mailed it to you?

After much soul-searching...  yes. Go to arpulver@yahoo.com for your portal to the answer.