Anime Programming in the US
Making a Living in Manga in Japan with Felipe Smith
Lost in Translation
I've been so overloaded with work lately that I haven't had time to watch ANYTHING. It's really frustrating. I'd love to have time to watch anime, but I'm too busy writing about anime, making anime Blu-rays, encoding anime, planning anime-related projects, and typing credits for anime. I've had this problem off and on for years now, and every time I stop and think about it, I weird myself out. I feel like a diabetic working at a donut shop.
I got a question about technical video stuff this week, but I'm never sure about writing about super-technical topics. I always get worried I'm going to bore people, or half the audience's eyes will glaze over. I opted to not answer it this week, but it's a good question, and I'm sure other people have nerdy video related questions as well. How do you think I should handle this? Let me know in the forums. And thanks in advance.
Now, let's see what nuggets of truth we can dispense this week...
Until around 2006 or so, FUNimation included both the JAPANESE opening and ending credits plus their 'localized' English credits (DVD). Depending on the language one chose to watch the video in, the corresponding credits would play. With anime now being released on the Blu-ray format, there is plenty of room to have both Japanese and English credits. Look at Disney's release of "The Secret World of Arrietty" - a perfect job of including the ORIGINAL feature and English credits. Sentai Filmworks runs the English credits AFTER each episode - keeping the source material as it was intended to be viewed. Why FUNimation insists on altering their shows is baffling. The most upsetting fact of the matter is for persons wishing to actually support the North American anime market by purchasing physical video discs, they are FORCED to purchase altered materials if they want to view a film or episode (see EVANEGELION 1.11, 2.22). The excuse 'we are forced to change the credits because Japanese companies fear the re-importing of their titles' doesn't float. I was under the assumption that 'ALWAYS ON SUBTITLES' was the accepted method for North American Blu-ray 'anti-re-import.'
You're pretty worked up about credits! I can relate. I have personally retyped and re-rendered entire credit rolls for multiple movies for my own custom re-authoring jobs. Even when I was a little kid I insisted that we stay through the credits every time we go see a movie. They're important to me. But the thing is, I like to actually know what they say. I like reading the names, knowing who did what. That's what they're there for. There are some people out there -- some licensors among them -- that believe that credits should be understandable by the target audience (English speakers) and presented in the context of the original show. Font choice and stylings should come as close as possible to the original, of course, but the whole reason credits exist in the first place is to let the audience know who did what.
Funimation used to include both their retouched English credits as well as the original Kanji credits on all of their releases, by way of the alternate angle feature on DVDs. Unfortunately this method has technical limitations, and most of their DVDs from that era also look pretty terrible, so they stopped doing it. Making a similar feature just on Blu-ray these days is one hell of an authoring chore, and likely not worth the large amount of additional work. So now, they just include the retouched credits. And while a few people complain about that incessantly, they are pretty clearly a vocal minority.
Now, I do agree that sometimes English credits are missing something. Specifically, with the Evangelion movies, there are graphical treatments given to each line of the credit roll that Funimation didn't (couldn't?) recreate for the English credit roll. I do miss that, and I do wish the original was present in cases like that. But in most cases, the company does its damnedest to match the font and motion of the original Japanese credits, and they look pretty good. It's a hell of a lot better than what ADV used to do with their ending credits, which is throw a bland full-screen roll over the ending animation, covering up or defeating whatever the intended layout with the underlying artwork was in the original.
In other words, you have your opinion, the people in charge have theirs, and while you may disagree, you have been overruled. Japan has provided text-free materials to overseas distributors for far longer than they've appeared as DVD extras, so the creators clearly prefer it Funimation's way. I personally think that as long as the artwork itself is untouched, there's little to complain about.
Plus, I can't read Kanji, but I do love reading credits.
Over the years, I've seen many voice actors stay in one circle only (Viz, Funimation, Sentai, or 4Kids). I've asked myself some questions and created scenarios in my head which gives an idea of the kind of things I've wanted to see, but have not or probably will not see. For example, why haven't I seen Johnny Yong Bosch on Yu-Gi-Oh! Zexal, Monica Rial on Naruto Shippūden, Stephenie Sheh on One Piece, or even Veronica Taylor on Fate/Zero? How do voice actors get from this anime to that anime are what kind of borders (if any) do face?
Most of the time, it's a physical distance issue. For a good, consistent sounding audio recording, it's generally a good idea to record your entire cast in the same room, with the same equipment. Each studio's selection of microphones, microphone pre-amplifiers, Protools plug-ins, and even the shape of the booth can all affect how a recording sounds, and it's important to keep everything sounding consistent. Also, you need to have the same director in the studio to supervise.
A lot of the actors you named simply don't live in the same state as the studios you wish were recording them. Funimation records in Dallas, Texas. Stephanie Sheh lives in Los Angeles. She might be able to fly in to record a movie role or something, but a recurring role in a never-ending show like One Piece? Forget it! Funimation doesn't have the budget to fly her out every week, and it's not a good use of anyone's time. People like Todd Haberkorn and Vic Mignogna, who used to live in Texas but now live in LA might fly back for a little while to record a sequel to a series they were in years ago, but they're not going to be Funimation's first choice for a show anymore. The logistics are too difficult, and airfare is too expensive. If they discover later that just one or two lines need to be re-recorded, but the actors have already flown home, they're screwed.
NYAV Post has studios in both LA and New York, where they were careful to buy identical equipment and have similar sounding rooms, but they're the only studio I know of that regularly straddles two locations like that. If a voice actor is visiting another city and knows someone on the staff of a show (Pokémon, for example), there's a chance they can drop in and do a bit part, or a guest starring role. But that's as far as it goes.
For actors who are less involved with the anime scene, there's also a tendency to just stay at one studio simply because they enjoy working with the staff, they are happy to do that one job for them and them only, and that's enough for them. Actors that aren't anime fans often just don't care enough to try and push into other anime studios -- unless they're otaku themselves, and into anime and the scene in general, their time is often better spent trying to chase down on-camera roles and other things that pay better and have more visibility than anime work.
I see people complaining all the time about a company not getting all of the ova's or trailers or the poor selection of artwork used for the covers. Sometimes there are complaints about the quality of the masters that a company is using to make the disc. What control does a company like Sentai or Funimation have in what materials they have access to when assembling a show for home media release? Is it just whatever the company hands them? Is it dictated by contracted or up to the studio?
Anime companies don't have much control over what a licensor hands them to use. In fact, in many cases, the contract states that they can ONLY use the artwork or materials given to them by the licensor. This is a big problem, especially for older shows. Many TV shows don't have a lot of good artwork from which to make DVD covers and promotional materials. A surprising number from the analog era, in fact, only have blurry, grainy 35mm slides of single frames of animation.
There was a time when some scrappy companies would dig through old issues of Newtype trying to find good artwork for whatever show they were bringing out, and scan it. However, nowadays with every step of the production process needing to be approved by the licensor, that doesn't happen much anymore. Artists might have drawn special commissions for a picture book or an art exhibition -- those works suddenly showing up on an overseas DVD cover would make them furious! (Not to mention, the copyright to that artwork probably doesn't even belong to the licensor.)
This sort of mess happens across the board, from DVD extras (which are often produced and owned by the Japanese home video label, not the master rights holder), to HD remasters of old shows, to the text in booklets. The publisher always does what they can to brow-beat the licensor into giving them the best materials available, but often there's a whole bunch of good stuff that's just completely out of reach, and they just have to make do. It happens every day, and it's one of the most frustrating things about this business, honestly.
As a fun activity some time, try to hunt down some American DVD covers that look like really bad traces of a random cel of animation. For every one of those you find, you can bet the art director at that DVD publisher spent a week of their lives wishing they were dead!
Justin Sevakis is the founder of Anime News Network, and owner of the video production company MediaOCD. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap, and check out his bi-weekly column on obscure old stuff, Pile of Shame.