The Problem with Nagatoro’s “Sus”

The Problem with Nagatoro’s “Sus”

The “Sus” That Started It All

It’s been a good 9 months since Don’t Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro aired, so I think I’m finally ready to write about Nagatoro’s use of the word “sus.” And while this article is going to focus on Nagatoro, my arguments apply to any anime that use short-lived slang in their translations.

So, let’s start by revisiting the fateful “sus.” As shown below, Nagatoro says “You’ve been acting sus this whole time.” to her senpai in one of the episodes. This caused chaos in the community online. And while I don’t necessarily think this is the worst offender, it’s an example of one of my issues with liberal translations.

I tend to prefer translations that are more literal. And while subtitles tend to be more literal than dubbed lines, translators still take liberties with them. Nagatoro’s “sus” is one such liberty.

Nagatoro saying "sus" from the anime series Don't Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro
Nagatoro saying “sus”

In the official translation of the manga, Nagatoro refers to her senpai’s actions as “super weird.” And in a fan translation, she says “totally suspicious.” Based on that, “sus” isn’t a terrible translation for the anime to use. It means the same thing and it’s recognizable as being short for suspicious.

What makes this a “bad” translation choice in my eyes is the reasoning behind it. If we’re being honest, the only reason “sus” was chosen as the translation is because of the slang word’s rise in popularity due to the game Among Us and the memes it spawned.

If Among Us memes didn’t take the internet by storm, this translation wouldn’t have happened. Unfortunately for the anime, by the time it aired, Among Us memes were outdated and “cringe,” as the kids would say.

Cheap, Short-Term Victories

If Among Us and the memes spawned from it were still at the height of their popularity when Nagatoro aired, her use of “sus” probably wouldn’t have been as divisive. People would have thought it was funny (some people still did).

But since the meme had already died and the majority of people had moved on from playing Among Us, this translation got a lot of backlash. And that’s the risk taken when using short-lived memes within translations. They can increase popularity within a very short window. But outside of that window, they’ll typically be viewed negatively.

Let’s use another meme as an example. The whole Harambe thing lasted for a relatively long time as far as memes are concerned. But would anyone really think it’s funny if Nagatoro referenced Harambe in an episode? I don’t think so. The time for that is long gone and now it would just be viewed as desperate.

Sakura, Maki, Nagatoro, and Yoshi dressed as cat maids from the anime Don't Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro
Sakura, Maki, Nagatoro, and Yoshi dressed as cat maids

Using a meme that’s out of style has a very “how do you do, fellow kids?” vibe to it. I’d also say that anime these days feel much more corporate. There are huge companies, like Sony and Amazon, buying up series left and right. And that definitely plays into what makes the appropriation of these memes feel even more disingenuous.

Did you watch The God of High School? It was a Crunchyroll (which is now owned by Sony) “original” anime that had Crunchyroll ads placed throughout the series. Imagine if an anime like that also attempted to rely on memes for cheap wins while already selling out.

I’m sure we’re going to see more anime do this in the future. If some random seasonal anime that will be forgotten in a month anyway happens to use a meme while it’s still relevant, it’s going to be a huge talking point (which, to be fair, still happened with Nagatoro).

Dating an Anime

The other issue I see with using memes and short-lived slang in translations is that it can date an anime. And unfortunately, when I say “date an anime,” I don’t mean it in a good way like “date an anime girl.”

What I mean is that it causes anime to show their age. Obviously, anime show their age in many ways. The visual style of a series can tell you when it was made. Or maybe if you see characters in the anime with flip phones, you know it was made, or at least originally written, in the 2000s.

With memes, however, anime can be dated on much shorter timespans. It’s no longer a matter of being able to tell which decade an anime is from just by looking at it. Now you can tell what year, or even season it came out in.

Nagatoro's cute smile from the anime series Don't Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro
Nagatoro’s cute smile

Let’s say you’re watching Nagatoro in 2022. Nothing about it would really tell you when it was from. That is until you reach Nagatoro saying “sus.” Then, you’d have a good idea that it came out shortly after, or maybe even during, the Among Us craze.

And I think tying anime to events in the real world is somewhat detrimental. It breaks the immersiveness of a series, in my opinion. When I’m watching an anime, I don’t want to be reminded that Among Us was a huge online phenomenon. It’s kind of like how the translator for Netflix’s Evangelion subtitles added in modern politics. Nobody wants that.

One last thing I’ll mention in regards to dating anime is that some of these jokes simply won’t make sense in the near future. Sus will still make sense because it’s just slang for suspicious. But if the Harambe example I mentioned earlier was real, that would make no sense to a lot of people today.

Harambe died 6 years ago, by the way. Kids are watching anime now, and maybe even reading this, who have no idea who that is.


What do you think of adding memes and time-limited slang in anime subtitles? Should series do it? Or should they stay away and go with more traditional translations? Let me know in the comments.

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Finally, I’d like to thank Roman and Toma for supporting at the Heika tier this month, as well as Key Mochi~ for supporting at the Senpai tier. To learn more about how you too can become a supporter of this blog, check out

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One Reply to “The Problem with Nagatoro’s “Sus””

  1. I think it’s perfectly fine. (Commenting here because I also translated キョドる as “sus” for a manga and was researching what it gets commented as.)

    Not all memes are created equal, and I think that includes ‘sus’. Let’s take into account the examples that you provided, “Harambe” and “How do you do, fellow kids?” it’s obvious that these can’t stray very far from the source material. Harambe will never not be about that gorilla in the zoo, and “how do you do, fellow kids?” comes from such a specific and distinct situation that it’s unlikely to be able to lend itself well to other situations without knowing the source material.

    “Sus”, from observing it’s usage over the years, seems to have taken on a life of its own outside of the source material. It’s a shortening of “suspicious”, and bares no direct reference to Among Us. I’d go out on a branch to say quite a lot of people who have heard or use “sus” are not familiar with its roots in Among Us, and since it’s a derivative of an existing word, a native english speaker can hear “sus” for the first time and can more or less immediately understand within the context of the sentence that it’s slang for suspicious. Again, not all memes are created equal, and I firmly believe sus is a breed apart.

    As for the argument that it “dates” the anime, I would argue that’s exactly what makes sus a perfect choice. Nagatoro was created in the late 2010s. “Sus” came to prominence in 2020 during the lockdown. The word キョドる which has been translated as “sus” by Funimation is also a fairly recent 若者言葉 slang word. There is no specification as to what time period Nagatoro takes place in, but due to them using smartphones, it’s gotta be in modern times. Interpreting the feel of a modern japanese slang by using a modern american slang from the same time period (which is distinct enough to be understandable even if one is not familiar with its source material) seems pretty much like a 1:1 to me.

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