Hey, Answerman!by Zac Bertschy, Mar 9th 2007
We had a bit of a dust-up last week concerning my answer to the Anime Music Videos question; apparently unless you say only positive things about any given corner of anime fandom, whoever it is you're remarking on will crawl out of the woodwork so they can be all offended and defensive.
Just to clarify, I've seen plenty of cool anime music videos, but I stand by my comments in last week's piece, which were pretty benign if you consider the history of this column.
Enough of that, though; let's get to work. Thanks to Dieko [last name removed by request] for this week's banner.
A simple question which might need a little explanation: have the people at Geneon lost their minds?
I'm referring to the recent news that they'll be releasing Higurashi no Naku Koro ni (or "When They Cry - Higurashi" to use their preferred English title) in the States. I don't want to re-open an old can of worms here, but during the whole "lolicon" debate a few months ago, you made the point that there is a danger that at some point, somebody from the mainstream media is going to notice some of the more stomach-churning things that make it into anime, turning it into a major scandal and re-inflicting all anime fans with a "pervert" reputation that has only recently begun to dissipate.
I agree with this entirely. Indeed, I believe that it is more a case of "when" than "if". Now, with the announcement that Higurashi will be getting a US release, the "when" has been answered.
This is a series that contains, to just scratch the surface, violence against children - including young children, violent murder by children (both in and out of a school setting) and, on at least one occasion, vicious torture inflicted by a teenager on a young child.
Now, despite the series's artistic merits (and it does have some), I had always assumed that it would be impossible to market in a culture where even Battle Royale was long considered too sensitive for a DVD release. The idea of the show getting a US release is terrifying. If I were a Jack Thompson-style ambulance chaser looking to bump up my media profile, I would be salivating at the thought.
So, what do you think? Have Geneon lost their marbles? Are they putting a short term profit (the series was very popular when the fansubs were circulating) ahead of the long-term well-being of their market? Or are they just planning to cut the series down to about half its current length to leave something that can be released safely?
While your concerns are legitimate, I think you're overreacting a little.
It's true - Higurashi is a pretty dark, violent and sometimes disturbing series that centers on kids and teenagers, and if you showed it at your local church bake sale, you'd likely be branded a heretic of some variety and banished from town. It has some of the elements that any sensation-seeking news hack could easily turn into an "Anime fans: violent child rapists or just child rapists?" news item. Do I think that's going to happen? No, not this time.
The truth is that while anything is possible - and your doomsday scenario isn't one I'm willing to write off completely - the odds that anyone in the mainstream media will even hear about Higurashi's release are somewhere between .1 and zero. This is a low-profile, hardcore fans-only release; Geneon will likely not spend a lot of money promoting it, and I doubt the print run will be very high. It's an obscure title aimed at an obscure audience. Nobody outside of hardcore anime fandom will notice or care when it comes out.
My main argument during that whole extended lolicon debate was that all it would really take for us all to be painted with the pedo brush would be for some enterprising journalist to "investigate" anime fandom far enough so they discover the whole lolicon side of it. Once someone out there in the world of cable news hears about that, you can guarantee we'll see a series of sensational news reports on how the "underground anime culture keeps perverts happy and endangers our nation's children" or whatever. Higurashi might be mentioned in a report like that, but the show isn't exactly pornographic and I'd bet they would be more likely to target shows with more obvious lolicon overtones.
So I wouldn't worry about the sky falling yet. Higurashi is a very low-profile release and I seriously doubt it's going to garner any attention from the mainstream - not to mention that the show is more violent than it is sexual, and if there's one thing you can count on about the American news media, it's that sex is always a bigger deal than violence. Wait until some misguided company decides to start releasing lolicon porn en masse; then you'll have a real reason to be worried.
I've heard from various people that the license for Key's things have been way too expensive but from others I've heard they don't want to risk the money for somethings that is so niche. Recently Japan has been experiencing an influx of Slice-of-Life genre type animes (check '06 Fall Season and try and tell me I'm wrong) and, while I know that many dislike the genre, there are probably at least as many that enjoy them. Another thing I've heard from various peoples is that there too many translation discrepancies that could occur in the adaptation. The last one, I've always thought, is complete bull, they have a Sub track and linear notes for character speaking patterns and such and companies will deviate from the script to make it fit. I know that fans will cry foul for messing with such a well known (in Otaku circles anyways) series but for those who probably haven't seen it, it's the message of the story not all the stupid Otaku stuff you can cram in.
So, in (not-so)short, will we ever see a Kanon or AIR or whatever else Key has up their sleeves in the US/UK/Canada/wherever else I can't think of? If so, when do you think they would (ever) bring it over here?
I've been getting this question a lot over the last few months so I suppose I should finally take a crack at it.
You manage to do a pretty good job summing up why shows like AIR or Kanon are unlikely to be licensed for release in the States, actually. From what I've heard speaking with various and sundry industry folk involved in such things, the licenses for those shows are pretty overpriced - especially so considering the nature of those series, which would have a very limited audience here. The Japanese license holders are overestimating the profit potential, I'd wager.
The other big hurdle is that all those complaints you're talking about, which I'll note seem to have been described to you as "reasons AIR and Kanon won't be licensed", are more accurately described as "reasons AIR and Kanon won't sell". Those nitpicky mega-otaku who see vast depth and meaning behind every utterance of "UGUU~" are the only people who would potentially buy these shows; they're the target market, and as you described, they're pretty particular about what they want and generally are happier with the fan translations, living under the notion that fansubs are "always" more accurate than official subs. That "stupid otaku stuff" is precisely what attracts a certain (small) portion of the population to these shows, and if there's any discrepancy between the fansub and the official release, they'll likely cry foul and call for a boycott. It's lose-lose for any company looking to actually make a buck off the license.
That's not to say it'll never happen, though - there are a handful of shows that are roughly in that genre now being released, like Rumbling Hearts. If series like that can manage to move more than a hundred copies, then the potential that more shows like it will eventually be licensed increases. I don't know how Rumbling Hearts is selling (surely their "Betrayal is a bitch!" slogan is making the title fly off the shelves!), but if it's even a modest hit, odds are at least one American company will investigate these other shows.
I'm a pretty big fan of anime and manga...dont a die hard uber-otaku and I don't think I have a fox inside me (ha!) but a fan none the less. My husband watches a few things on tv with me every now and then but isn't what I'd call a fan of it. Every now and then in comes up in conversation (usually when selecting language tracks on DVDs) that I prefer subtitles to English dubs because they are more accurate. I use Spirited Away as an example as it's a movie he's seen a lot since our daughter likes it. The subtitles, in the official release, not a fansub) are vastly different from ther dialogue in the dub and I tell him I prefer it because it is more true to the original story and that they changed a lot of it for the English speaking audience and I not only dont like original works being changed but I just plain don't like the altered story as much.
He asks me how I KNOW that the subs are truer to the story (and I dont just mean Spirited Away, I mean everything) and I just kind of stare blankly and look stupid. I don't speak Japanese so I really don't know if the fansubs I tend to watch are more accurate or if the studio-produced dubs are. My argument is usually that fansubs are a labor of love and that they don't have any reason to "americanize" the stories but he comes back with the idea that these are not done by professionals and they could just be traslating poorly.
Another dumb look from me since I dont know anyone who fansubs or what their background is.
I usually base my argument on the untranslatable things. Honorifics and such that just don't work in English but, with a basic understanding of the culture they come from, (for me) enrich the story and make it ultimately more satisfying.My long winded question(s) is(are)...Which is actually more "accurate"? A fan-made sub? A studio-made dub? A studio-made sub?? And just why are the subtitles in Spirited Away so different from the english audio? Was it not traslated by the same people? I want to, at the very least, be able to explain why I prefer subtitles and have a smattering of something to back it up with.
Your husband is raising some interesting points; this is an age-old debate, and I can tell you it won't be resolved here, but I'll do what I can to help.
You say you have a problem with English dubs because they "change the story", and that the subtitles are "closer to the original story"; you then use Spirited Away as an example. While I understand that the dialogue in the English version of Spirited Away is different - redesigned, as it were, to flow better in English - the story remains exactly the same. Dialogue changes, when they're not altering the intent or the meaning of the Japanese dialogue, are entirely cosmetic. They're supposed to sound better in English; in fact, Disney's Miyazaki dubs are largely considered some of the best around precisely because they expertly rework the dialogue so it sounds more natural in English without compromising the storyline. Hell, I prefer the English dubs to the Japanese tracks on those films; Howl's Moving Castle benefitted greatly just by having a few lines of simple exposition added to the dub.
The fact is, dubs that actually change the story of the anime are few and far between these days. One Piece was the most recent example, but by and large, most anime dubs you'll hear are as close as they can be to the original version, with cosmetic changes made to the dialogue so it sounds like the characters are actually speaking English rather than a rough Japanese translation.
That's not to say your preference for subtitles is misguided; there's nothing wrong at all with preferring subtitles, but unless you're watching one of those rare shows where the English dub has been completely reworked and changes the story, it's mostly just about personal preference rather than one being "accurate" and one being "inaccurate". I can't argue that watching something subtitled isn't the best way to get "closer" to the show's native language, and yes, some knowledge of honorifics will help you understand the show better in terms of its original context. Generally, however, the relationships between people made obvious by the honorifics are implied in the dub anyway, so you're not missing much.
As for which is the most accurate, you'll never know unless you actually learn Japanese and even then you will likely have issues with every single translation you come across, fan-made or no. Translation is largely a subjective art, one with a million different options for each word; rarely have I seen two translators agree with one another 100 percent on anything, and having seen plenty of subtitled anime in the presence of translators, suffice to say I've never even been able to get through a fansub without hearing some complaint from my Japanese-speaking friends. The whole "labor of love" thing with fansubs seems to be enough to get a lot of otaku to intrinsically trust them over any studio-produced sub, but I personally always trust the experienced, paid professionals that companies hire to do their translating. That said, I don't think one is inherently much better than the other; I simply have a preference, and I'm also not very picky when it comes to subtitles. So long as I get what's going on and the English is readable, I'm good. There are a lot of people out there like me.
In short, you'll likely never convince your husband that the subtitles are always a million times more accurate than the dub, largely because that isn't true and it sounds to me like he simply prefers to watch things in his native language. If you're really sincerely concerned about the accuracy of the translation you're watching, my advice is to start taking Japanese and learn the language yourself. Then you'll not only be able to determine the translation's accuracy on your own, you won't even need a translation in the first place.
Your unscrupulous friend there is talking about "scanlations", which are pages scanned from tankoubon or Japanese manga anthologies, translated by an amateur fan team and released in certain corners of the internet. It's common but not at all ubiquitous; it's nowhere near as widespread as fansubs are, largely because (in my estimation) reading long-form comics on your computer screen kinda sucks compared to holding the physical comic in your hands.
And yes, it's just as illegal as fansubs are.
Also, watching anime on YouTube sucks and is the equivalent of watching someone's crappy camcorder copy of a movie that's still in theaters. I'd rather pay a few bucks and have some clarity to the image and be able to appreciate the animation rather than watching a postage-stamp sized, pixellated, hacked-up copy of some ancient fansub on YouTube. I don't understand how anyone can tolerate the quality on those things.
you are a disgrase to anime fandom and you are not a real fan. how dare you make fun of anime music videos and anime fans who beleive they are anime charas, who are you to judge anything, you should step down and let a real fan write this column, someone like me who respects all anime fans. i would never mock anyone and if someone thinks they are sailor moon well who knows maybe they are, it is not our right to judge them. also fansubs are the best fan expression there is nd you shuld not speak out against them, they are real fans bringing anime to people everywhere. you are truly a disgrase. step down answerman and let a real fan do your column.
The only response I have for this is that I never made fun of anime music videos, and hey, maybe you're right; perhaps I "shuld" let someone with your sparkling writing talent take this column over.
Now I feel better.
This week's rant is courtesy of Abby Ebelherr. The following is in no way representative of the opinions of Anime News Network, Zac Bertschy, or anyone else save the person who wrote it.
My college, like many other colleges, enjoys partnerships with universities outside of the United States. One partnership is with a Japanese university from which we receive about twenty visiting Japanese students every February and a couple of exchange students each year.
Interacting with these students is a rewarding experience. I felt it was common sense that I should not barrage our guests with questions about the latest anime or J-pop I liked. When I took a Japanese student for a roommate, I did not bring my huge wall scroll to school or hang up the countless fan drawings I own.
Most anime fans will tell you that they understand that anime popularity in Japan is not the same as it is here in the States, but I really wonder how many fans actually get it. My reason for writing this is because my roommate was approached by some anime fans who only wanted to be her friend so they could talk about their favourite series and J-pop singers. When they realized she had no interest in these things, they simply stopped being nice to her.
I imagine it's similar to going to another country and having everyone want to talk to you about some popular American sitcom. You know what they're talking about, you've probably watched a few episodes of the show, but to you it's nothing novel, and frankly, you just don't care.
I'm not saying you have to hide a part of yourself when you meet someone from Japan. My roommate knows I like anime. So did many of the visiting students. They found out because I would be reading a manga or maybe because I'd ask them a question and they would wonder how I knew about that part of their culture. If they wanted to talk about it further, they would continue the subject. But if not (and there are quite a few who aren't interested...I've honestly had more involved conversations about manga with a Chinese exchange student than with the Japanese ones), there were so many other things to talk about.
I'm being lengthy, but this leads to another very important point. That is, exchange students don't come here for your personal research. Yes, it is wonderful to approach someone from another country and ask them all kinds of questions about their culture. And yes, they really do want to share their experiences and culture with you. So ask away.
But don't stop there. I cannot stress enough that these are /people./ They have things in common with you as well as their differences (such as being human, for instance...). Perhaps you don't care a lick about Vietnam, but the Vietnamese student is having a really hard time in professor so-and-so's class, and you thought he was a jerk when you took him last year too. Look, something in common. Alternatively, you love Japanese culture, right? This does not mean every Japanese person you meet will be your best friend. If you don't like Americans who love to gab on the phone with friends, chances are there's a Japanese equivalent who will grate on your nerves the more you pretend to like her.
There's a whole lot more where this can go with the differences in Eastern and Western thinking that most people do not prepare themselves for in these situations, but I've rambled enough. I suggest that if you really are interested in communicating with people from a different culture, put down the remote and pick up a book.
One without pictures.
Whew. So what do you think? Do they have a point? Sound off on our forums and let the discussion begin!
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I sat down to write the column last week and decided I was pretty sick and tired of staring at Howl. So I cracked open Photoshop to craft a new banner for Hey, Answerman!, but the inspiration just didn't come!
What's the obvious solution? Ask my readers to do it for me!
Here's the deal. You take this banner:
And, using those same dimensions, make something crazy or creative or funny and submit it. Each week I'll pick a new one and post it. You don't have to use any specific anime character (in fact, you don't HAVE to use an anime character at all); go wild! Animated banners are A-OK, too.
A few rules:
1. Don't use real people in the banner, no matter how famous they may be.
2. No profanity.
3. The banner must have the Hey, Answerman! logo in it featured prominently, although you may change the font to whatever you like.
4. Submissions must use the same dimensions as the current banner, in terms of pixel width and height. A little bigger or smaller is OK, but don't go overboard.
Every week a new banner will be chosen and posted at the top of the column, along with a credit so the creator can bask in his or her amazing fame and glory. What's the prize for winning, you may ask? Well, every week a new banner will be chosen and posted at the top of the column, along with a credit so the creator can bask in his or her amazing fame and glory!
Email your submissions to answerman (at) animenewsnetwork.com. Good luck! Have fun!
See you all next week!
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