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Localization refers to the practice of translating a work into local idioms and phrasing, often altering accents and even short exchanges to local variants as well. A work which is translated in this way is said to be localized.

Localization is one of two main competing theories in professional translation and academic translation studies. The goal of this style of translation is to seem as natural to the target audience as possible, preferably to the point where the translation itself appears "invisible", or the work seems like it might be native.[1] This form of translation is heavily used in dubs.


Common forms of localization include:

  • Changing character names, as was done with Cardcaptors[2] and Transformers: Galaxy Force (aka Cybertron)[3].
  • Forcing consistent names on characters, as is sometimes done in translations of classic Russian or Japanese novels.[citation needed]
  • Replacing original idioms with idioms from the target culture.[citation needed]
  • Changing common or short phrases to match the cultural expectations of the audience; e.g., to match gender norms.[4]
  • Shifting one accent into another; for example, it is currently common for the Osaka variant of Kansai-ben to be translated for North American audiences as an American Southern accent.[5][6]
  • Cutting material that doesn't match the altered storyline or audience expectations. For example, Astro Boy's final episode was never aired in the United States,[7] and the Dark Horse's version of the Narutaru manga left out several pages[8].
  • Adding material that supports the altered storyline, as was done with Battle of the Planets.[9]
  • In print media, reversing the direction of the work, e.g., left-to-right or right-to-left, as in Viz's InuYasha release.[10]

Examples Wanted: Editors are encouraged to add more examples or a wider variety of examples.


Localization allows audiences to grasp the storyline (or a version of the storyline) quickly. Compared to more literal translations, it requires less (or no) previous knowledge of the original culture and is thus popular for commercial works aimed at mass audiences.[citation needed]


Another school of translation thought argues that translation inherently alters and violates the original work, and that to localize and make the translation "invisible" is to deceive the audience even more.[4] Fan translators have often used less localization than professional translators,[11] in many cases because their audiences demand it.[12] Audiences for fan translations in particular tend to be more interested in accuracy than ease of understanding,[13] and many fan translation groups find their work in demand outside their local areas, and so adapt to provide more neutral translations.[14]

At times, localization may be associated with or used as an excuse for censorship.[9][7][8]


  1. Anime Fansub Documentary PART 3 Accessed Nov. 25, 2012.
  2. Cardcaptors: Renamed Characters Examples: 'Kinomoto Sakura' to 'Sakura Avalon' and 'Tsukishiro Yukito' to 'Julian Star'. Accessed Dec. 14, 2012.
  3. Galaxy Force "The general plot and storylines remained very similar (with the exception of the usual differences in character names)." Accessed Dec. 14, 2012.
  4. 4.0 4.1 For an Abusive Subtitling, article by Abé Mark Nornes in Film Quarterly, vol. 52, no. 3 (Spring 1999). Accessed Dec. 14, 2012.
  5. Kansai ben "While the Kansai dialect can be considered roughly analogous to the American Texan accent, the general consensus of anime fans is that attempting to convey this cultural distinction by dubbing Kansai characters into English with southern U.S. accents sounds incredibly phony and is a very, very stupid idea. Despite this, they keep doing it. Ironically, the grating Brooklynese voice of Naru Osaka from Sailormoon (and Osaka herself in ADV's manga translation of Azumanga Daioh) is more accurate." Accessed Dec. 14, 2012.
  6. Kansai Regional Accent "Depending on the country, preserving these dialects through translations and dubs can be tricky. The usual British equivalent is Cockney, though a Northern accent might represent the geographic and societal differences better than a dialect of the capital (and for Osaka-ben specifically, Brummie might be more accurate, being that Birmingham is Britain's second city, with a gritty industrial image and a local accent with markedly different intonation patterns and pronunciation from those of the southeast; Scouse may be even more appropriate, since it combines the gritty industrial image with a reputation for good humour). In American adaptations, Kansai usually translates to either a Southern or Texan accent (comparisons between Osaka and Houston as large, business-oriented cities with rowdy reputations in the southern part of their respective countries are perhaps not without merit), or a nasal New York or Boston accent (closer in terms of the actual nasal sound of the accent, and New York's fast-paced reputation isn't far off from Osaka's). The location of the company making the decision seems to be more than a little important in which gets chosen. They're considered stupid like rednecks, but rude and brash like New Yorkers. A good approximation for a thick one would be a Brooklyn accent a la Tony Soprano, while a softer one might be good as a North Jersey accent (a real one, not the stereotypical and completely inaccurate "Joisey" one)." Accessed Dec. 14, 2012.
  7. 7.0 7.1 A Global History of Anime "Then, as now, the US broadcasters complained (quietly at first) about the violence in the shows, and that characters might actually die during the course of a story. This, as Uncle Walt had taught us, was a medium for children, and children could not be trusted with an advanced concept such as death. That the Japanese were exposed to these stories and more was not relevant, and American audiences never saw the last episode." Accessed Nov. 30, 2012.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Even More Carnage (Narutaru Vol. 10) "Dark Horse’s translation censorship in Narutaru is some of the most egregious I think I’ve ever come across. Drawn-on underwear, whole chapters missing, etc. It was all apparently just too much for the US comics industry’s delicate sensibilities! Stuff like changing “Vagina Dentata” of course reflects the typical mindset of American comics readers (who are not necessarily the same as American manga readers). It’s an image that the industry and comics lovers say they want to change, but aren’t willing to execute on (see: the fracas surrounding DC’s treatment of female characters in their recent reboot)." ~Otou-san in comments, posted Dec. 7, 2011. Accessed Dec. 14, 2012.
  9. 9.0 9.1 BotP: Battle of the Planets "The flight to Spectra and the rec room the team hung out in when they weren't off saving the galaxy were also added by Sandy Frank, and showed up in the Gold Key comics as well." Accessed Dec. 14, 2012.
  10. From a copy of Freelance-Manga's letter; accessed July 29, 2010. Link courtesy of Inside Scanlation.
  11. Otaking! I CHALLENGE THEE!! "Fans of anime want to develop an appreciation for the Japanese language so that they can better appreciate the shows they're watching. Fansubs are created by fans for fans, so naturally they attempt to give fans what they want. As a result fansubs are less accessible to casual viewers, but such viewers are not the target audience." ~Pilkman, accessed Nov. 25, 2012.
  12. Is there a Fansub Brouhaha? Really? "This might deter newcomers of course, but if the majority of a fansub’s customer base desires that style, it’s only natural that they serve it up. It’s a simple demand and supply thing." ~Riuva, posted June 11, 2008. Accessed Nov. 25, 2012.
  13. Controversial Fansub Documentary: #92 "The audience for fansubs is not the mainstream anime audience and it never will be; it hates localization with a passion and on the whole prefers honorifics." ~Cyprene, posted May 29, 2008. Accessed Nov. 26, 2012.
  14. breve historia del anime en Chile Accessed Dec. 12, 2012.