The subject will be Escha & Logy no Atelier – Tasogare no Sora no Renkinjutsushi again. The anime adaptation again. This release again.
This time, the problem’s quite an interesting one. The honorific used is “senpai“. Senpai is what you call people in higher school grades. For instance, you’re 5th grade, they’re 6th and maybe 7th – should be in the same kind of school though, middle or high school for example. And people in your company that have joined it ahead of you. You don’t call your boss like that.
It shows the kind of respect you’d pay a senior at school. Not the kind of respect you’d show a superior. It still shows a kind of closeness, so to say.
In anime in general, we’ll often see minors do their things. It’s safe to say that they won’t call their seniors in school “Miss” or “Mister”. It’s a bit more complicated here, since it is also a workplace of sorts. So how would you behave on your workplace? Usually, you’re having a kind of closer relation to the people close in age but longer employed than you are. It’d be the typical “senpai” relationship. Do you call those people “Miss” or “Mister”? Rather not. If that person was your superior of sorts, that’d scratch the “senpai” already, so no need to discuss that.
The age difference of them here is rather big (if memory serves right) – say, a handful of years. Judging by the personality of the character talking here, she could be referring to them rather politely, which could imply a “senpai” used on the upper scale of the possible respect chart, hence justifying a “Miss” or “Mister”.
Of course the whole dilemma originates from the simple fact, that there is literally no equivalent to the idea of “senpai” as it is used by the Japanese in the English language. In most cases, the safest method to translate it would be to simply leave it off. But haha! Not with dem witty anime. Here we’ve got the second dilemma with localization faggotry: the scene further plays on the honorific, so the editor had to act, or else it would’ve gone nonsensical. Basically, it went like this:
“Hi, I’m NAMEGOESHERE. I’m really young and all, so how to call you… NAME2GOESHERE-senpai and NAME3GOESHERE-senpai, I guess?”
“Senpai?! Oh, right, I guess I am her senpai, huh?”
So, what’cha gonna do, localizationist-senp- pardon, Mister Localizationist? Now that it has to be translated, no matter what, and for the weirdest reason honorifics are out of question, the faggotry unfolds itself. The only valid way is to come up with some kind of honorific used in English that might – or might not – fit in a way. In this case, it’s not really that bad. It kind of fits her character and doesn’t feel as alien as “big bro”. But it cools down the whole atmosphere in a way that is not intended by the Japanese nuance. Having a little girl call you senpai has a rather warm feeling to it. It’s, well, cute. Having a little girl call you “Miss” or “Mister” feels like you’re a stranger she should rather not take sweets from. Localization dilemmas.