There’s a word for this in Japanese.
ちょうれいぼかい. Choureibokai 1, for the uninitiated. Literally, it means: “morning orders changed at sunset”. It usually has a negative connotation. Flip-flopping. Sort of a Mitt Romney thing.
Well, I am going to do what Romney could not. I am going to say it loud. I am a flip-flopper and I’m proud. 朝令暮改 for life, son!
And you know why?
Because 朝令暮改 is about admitting that, while preternaturally handsome and horrifically intelligent, I am not omniscient; I am not so perfect that I get everything right the first time. My decisions are not so perfect that they cannot benefit from being changed. My writing is not so perfect that it cannot be edited. Far from it.
So does this mean I should be president of those united states? No. But this isn’t politics.
Back on topic: Are English subtitles the devil?
No. English subs are not the devil. Romaji is the devil 2. English subs are the devil’s handmaiden. Or cousin. I don’t know; I don’t check these metaphors; I just spew them out.
My original position was essentially a 100% rejection of L1 subs. I’m off that train now. I was wrong. This is me eating humble pie. Savor this moment. I’m anorexic when it comes to humility pastries.
Which is not to say that I’m riding 100% in the opposite direction: you do want to avoid L1 (English) subs as far as possible. I know too many people who’ve been watching substantial amounts of subbed anime for a long time and don’t have much actual Japanese knowledge to show for it; that, indeed, is the origin of the thoroughgoing rejection of subs. At the same time, it is better to watch Japanese with L1 (English) subs than to watch no Japanese at all. A lot better. Some Japanese is better than no Japanese. Infinitely better. So don’t get anal about it. If it takes L1 (English) subs to keep you 3 engaged and involved in Japanese, then so be it: go with the L1 (English) subs. But do try taking them off as often as is possible and sustainable for you.
There are many possible L1 subtitle usage schemes. Here are just a few:
- Read L1 synopsis, then watch without L1 subs
- Watch first with L1 subs, then without L1 subs
- Watch first without L1 subs, then with L1 subs
- Turn L1 subs off but turn them on occasionally
- Turn L1 subs on but turn them off occasionally
- Watch with L1 subs
Stay in the game. By any means necessary. Avoid L1 subs if you can, but don’t be too hard on yourself. If you feel you need them to stay interested, then turn them on. Maybe try one of those subtitle usage schemes up there from time to time. And, of course, L2+ 4 subs are always cool.