A while ago I praised the quality of the subtitle translation on the Shakugan no Shana DVDs. Given that this seems to be a particularly difficult story to translate they seemed to be doing a pretty good job.
Unfortunately with the fourth DVD the translation seems to have taken a turn for the worse. And my main complaint isn’t even about the difficult poetic stuff; it’s something that should be really simple and straightforward: they’re spelling Wilhelmina’s name as “Wirhelmina”. I know that you could romanize the katakana that way, but why on Earth would you do that? Are the translators unfamiliar with European names? Are they relying on how Shana (Rie Kugimiya) pronounces it? (If so it’s a bad idea since we’ve already established that Shana speaks English with a heavy Japanese accent.)
Then there’s the matter of her title. Granted, the character titles are obscure and there isn’t necessarily one “right” translation for them. Nevertheless, how the heck do you get “The Specialist of Everything” from banjou no shite (万条の仕手)?
Sure that’s obscure but it’s not impossible. 仕手 is some sort of hero or leader. 万 is 10,000 (or a very large number.) 条 is a counter for paragraphs, stripes or lines. So in this context, especially given Wilhelmina’s fighting style, doesn’t something like “The Master of Ten Thousand Lines” make a lot more sense?
I won’t make an issue about translating de arimasu as “indeed” since there is no English equivalent. Having her say “thee” and “thou” might catch the flavor better, but it really wouldn’t be right.
In spite of this I still think that the DVDs are a lot of fun, and you’re still a lot better off with the subtitles than the English dub.
If you’re watching the DVDs, be sure to check out the “Naze Nani Shana” segments under the “Extras” menu. Not only are these funny, but they also sometimes contain useful explanations. Just be sure to watch the episodes on the DVD first.