Localization is a difficult topic in the anime industry that people tend to have fierce opinions on. While I too am disappointed whenever the localization team falls short or sneaks in some strange joke, I enjoy my dubs too much to condemn the practice as a whole. I prefer to celebrate the great jobs rather than staying mad at 1 or 2 cringeworthy lines. But what do you do when the dub is fine and the problem lies in the title? That’s the curious case of Magical Girl Squad: Alice, formally known as… sigh… Tweeny Witches.
Call it a case of oversteering to avoid a puddle by driving straight into a lake. The Japanese title “Mahou Shoujo Tai Arusu” rolls off the tongue real nice and fits the show perfectly. There is a bit of a meta joke in there, as series protagonist Arusu comes up with the name and deliberately swaps the word majo (witch) with mahou (magic). It sounds mostly the same, but I interpreted that as a deliberate move on her part to emphasize her love of magic above the status and authority of witches themselves, as she regularly butts heads with those.
However, such jokes are difficult to translate into English and, from a marketing perspective, it may not be a good idea to put the name of a genre in the anime’s title. Especially when the anime isn’t even a part of that genre. So, when Media Blasters and Animax brought the show to The West, they went with an alternate title.
And I could make fancy arguments here, but the crux of the issue is just that Tweeny Witches sounds stupid. So stupid, in fact, that it actually deterred me from watching the show when I first found it. I came across it on the Dutch version of Netflix and thought it sounded kind-of childish. I had never heard anybody use the word Tween before and to see it here as “Tweeny” in all-caps, it felt weird and made it seem very out-of-touch with modern language. I took a quick peek to see what the show was about (Lord knows Dutch Netflix didn’t have much else) and dropped it partway through episode 1 because I just wasn’t feeling it.
And I am a fan of fantasy series like this. I love anime about witches and I take a liking to shows that break away from the traditional anime aesthetic to deliver a unique artstyle. Hell, I am a big fan of Soul Eater, which is the only show that’s vaguely comparable in terms of visual directing. I was absolutely the target audience for this anime and fell in love with it by episode 4, and I was still misled into thinking it wasn’t interesting just because of a shitty title change.
Considering their willingness to make such big changes, I am actually surprised they kept calling Arusu by her Japanese name. I actually thought this was a sub issue where they just butchered the name Alice. I had to rewrite much of my review when I rewatched parts of the series in English and discovered that Arusu was the intended pronunciation.
Whether it’s Magical Girl Squad: Alice or Tweeny Witches, this remains a great anime and a real hidden gem for fantasy fanatics to uncover. However, it is also a clear example of what happens when a localization team slips up. I wonder how many people, like me, skipped on watching Tweeny Witches just because it didn’t sound like their kind of anime.