This was never really a big issue. It’s only last season with some comments from various fansubbers regarding Machine Doll that it really hit my ears.
Which is better, AE or WE?
American English, arguably, is a ‘streamlined’ version of World English. Now, I’m not saying I agree with this, but I can’t deny those us in words like colo(u)r or rumo(u)r weren’t really adding all that much. But the difference in words? Biscuits, cookies, chips, crisps, pants, trousers… is that really that big of a deal? Terms and phrases being different across each side of the Atlantic isn’t really surprisingly. If you go state to state they’ll be different words and bits of slang that people use regularly. Hell, you go from one town in England to the next, you’ll be hearing completely different stuff. Granted, the majority of this is slang, and AE vs WE isn’t, but it’s the same sort of principle.
So, let’s step back a bit. Your target audience is anime-fans. Fansubbers aren’t actually bothered what nation they’re from. Now as far as I can tell from the limited visitor stats I’ve seen, most anime-fans dial in from an American IP. More over this is over 50%. Right before we even start talking about the rest of the world, most of our leechers are North American. But, let’s ignore that fact for a moment.
Different countries are taught different types of English. You’d be led to believe they’re all taught World English, given it’s name, and while that might be what the teachers believe they’re teaching, they’re not. I remember reading a post from an English teacher that went over to Japan on the JET program. She taught some crazy-weird concoction between the two, basically whatever the students felt most comfortable with. I’m not saying this is right, or it’s what every English teacher outside of the US/UK is doing, but I suspect it’s quite a high number.
Next we move on to Hollywood. Hollywood blockbusters make millions across the entire globe. A large number of these films are set in the US… so US customs and words stick. I bet most people, even Brits, know that to an American pants are trousers. So, we’re only further supporting American English.
Now, obviously I’m not forcing anyone to chose either one. You can sub in whatever the hell you like, but I’m pointing out, whether we want to admit it or not, AE has more place in the current fansubbing scene than WE.
Now, let’s look at Machine Doll specifically. Most groups that did this, to my knowledge, sub in American English, and have done so for every other show they did previously. Yet, much to my disdain I am aware that at least two of these groups had serious discussions about switching this one show to World/British English. I can not for the life of me fathom this one out. The show is set in England with a bunch of English characters, yes, but it also has them all speaking Japanese. Your group subs into American English, why would you change the language all of a sudden? It’d be like subbing something set in Italy in Italian when normally you do English subs. It might not seem that drastic, because it’ll still be understandable to an American, but it’s the same logic. Now, the next argument is the characters are English… so? Are you telling me you’ll sub the American characters in American English instead? Nonsense. Using English words might make more sense, stuff that exists in American English but isn’t commonly used, for example, jumper vs sweater. But even then, it’s a thin line.
In short. It doesn’t really matter what you sub in, just stick to it. The only thing to remember is that although grammatically AE might not be as far spread in schools across the worlds, it’s terms and phrases are through Hollywood. That, and most leechers do appear to be North American.