Anime streaming giant Crunchyroll is releasing another batch of English anime dubs to its collection. One of the most notable to date is the dubbing of Given. On its first broadcast, Given was highly praised for its gripping story and modern take on same-sex relationships. The series has touched many hearts, and now the voice acting allows it to do the same for an even wider audience.
However, a crucial piece of the series was left untouched. The song Mafuyu sings in Episode 9 titled “Fuyu no Hanashi” or “A Winter Story” in English, retains the original Japanese audio. Comments on the episode on Crunchyroll are split on this decision. Some are happy that the song remained as is, while others lament that it was not translated. Both sides present a compelling argument.
Not translating and performing the song follows the current trend with anime dubbing. In the 90s and early 2000s, it was common for dubbed anime to have English opening and ending songs to match the new translation. The English version of Yu Yu Hakuho“Smile Bomb” and Ouran High School Host Club“Sakura Kiss” are a few iconic examples that fans still adore today.
Currently, however, this practice is more difficult to find. OPs and EDs are left alone more often, either to preserve the original show as much as possible or simply because reworking the song for a new language isn’t a priority. Only some still do, like cells at workThe dub cast perform “Mission! Health Comes First.”
Mafuyu’s “A Winter Story” is different from an opening song, however. This is the emotional climax of the season, where he finally finds a way to let his emotions out. It was one of the moments that made the anime so popular, being so personal and heartbreaking for everyone who followed it while it aired. Whether or not the audience read the lyrics in the subtitles, they felt the emotion Mafuyu unleashed in the song. Her Japanese voice actor, Shougo Yano, did a great job of conveying Mafuyu’s pain in a way that transcends language.
That said, knowing what he’s saying only makes the song more powerful. Its references to winter and saying he can’t just leave Yuki further solidifies the song’s place in the story. You could say that the audience misses part of the experience by not knowing what Mafuyu is saying. Crunchyroll itself doesn’t help the situation by omitting the subtitles, which means the audience can’t read the lyrics even if they want to.
What’s most annoying for fans who wanted the song to be in English, however, is the fact that it already exists. Mafuyu’s English voice actor Brandon McInnis performed an English cover of the song and released it in February 2021. Although the lyrics may be clunky in places, McInnis’ cover is a very faithful version of the original song and hits the same emotional notes. In other words, this decision wasn’t made because reworking the song would be too much work or because McInnis couldn’t perform it.
So why was the song left alone? It was very likely that the original Japanese production would remain intact as much as possible. Western anime and manga adaptations have only changed what they absolutely need to in recent years. Manga pages used to be flipped to match English read left-to-right, but now they remain as-is to stay as close to the original as possible. Anime dubs used to change character names and remove any Japanese elements they could to appeal to a wider audience, but this practice has also largely ceased.
The respect for the original product, whatever the medium, is higher than it has ever been. More care is taken to ensure that the translations are as close as possible while still letting the release have its own twist. “A Winter Story” was likely left out of respect for the work that went into it and the impact it has in any language.