Pacific Rim is a smash hit in China. People love it, even if the subtitles are iffy.
There is one subtitle translation in particular that has made the evening news in China. The on-screen subtitle for Elbow Rocket, Gypsy Danger‘s rocket-powered punch, reads “Pegasus Meteor Fist” in Chinese.
And since Saint Seiya has a sizeable following in China, some theatergoers were either confused or amused by a well-known Saint Seiya combat technique appearing in Pacific Rim. Others were angered, saying bad subtitles made the film worse.
If you know Saint Seiya, for example, the subtitle makes it seem like Pacific Rim is ripping off the famed manga and anime series.
However, that wasn’t the translator’s intent. Xiuyan Jia, who did Pacific Rim‘s Chinese subtitles, said (via China News Network) that, since Guillermo Del Toro is a big anime fan, she borrowed the move’s name from Japanese animation. Jia is not a novice. The translator has done subtitles for numerous Hollywood movies released in China, such as Men in Black 3.
According to Jia, “It’s paying respect to Japanese animation.” A straight-up translation of “Elbow Rocket” does sound like awkward gibberish in Chinese (to be honest, it sounds awkward in English too).
“Guillermo Del Toro has said numerous times that this movie was a love letter to Japanese culture,” said Jia. “Even the end credits have loads of thanks to various Japanese people. The reason I went with Pegasus Meteor Fist is because I felt that Seiya is representative of Japanese anime and that the punch is very similar.”
This doesn’t seem to be the film’s only questionable translation. Online in China, there’s a list of all the discrepancies between the Chinese subtitles and the original English.
One particularly damning flub incorrectly substituted “polluted Hong Kong” instead of the correct text “populated Hong Kong.” This is certainly not the image the movie’s creators want to send to Chinese moviegoers. Jia, however, said the script she was working from read “polluted.” If so, then it’s possible the line of text was changed during filming or in post-production.
Warner Brothers found out about the Pacific Rim subtitle kerfuffle and began looking into the situation. As of today Sina Movies is reporting that Jia has left the movie subtitling business for the time being to go to graduate school.
Eric Jou contributed to this article.