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Hey, Answerman! - Chances In Hell

by Brian Hanson,

Greetings and hellos, internet friends! I am Brian Hanson, this is Hey, Answerman! This is an introductory statement!

Let's get things rolling along here, since I am a Tired Terry this week. An Exhausted Xavier. A Sleepy Slevin. But! We've got an interesting mix of questions this week, so here we go:

In some anime series, I've noticed several occasions where characters who aren't Japanese seem to speak "proper" English, as opposed to the so-called "Engrish" that sometimes feature when Japanese voice artist speaks the language. Examples I've seen have included Giant Killing, [C] (which featured an odd situation where a one-character spoke in good English whilst a recurring American character, who normally spoke in Japanese, replied in "Engrish"), Squid Girl and perhaps most prominently, Eden of the East. Yet for some reason there seems to be something slightly 'off' about their vocal delivery. This leads me to my question.

Where do the production companies get voice actors who can speak English convincingly when it is required? Do they have contacts in the US who can 'phone in' their performances, do they bring in Japanese voice actors who can sound very convincing at voicing a non-Japanese character, or do they just find random foreigners living in Japan to do the voice-overs? I'm really curious to find out.

This is a case where Occam's Razor really bears fruit, pardon my jumbled-together analogies: The simplest explanation is the correct one in this case. They simply find English-speaking "foreigners" living in Japan to record a snippet or two of dialog.

Here's a fun bit of trivia: All the vocals for PaRappa The Rapper were recorded by English-speaking foreigners who were living in Japan at the time. Interesting!

There's enough expatriates living in Japan who are fluent in English to cover any needs that anime companies have, limited though they may be, to record fluent English dialog should the need arise. That's not a problem. English is, as we all know, the most common language in the world. Even then, it's not exactly in high demand - in fact, there's only one major talent agency in Japan that explicitly corrals "foreign talent," and since they're the only game in town, they get away with a lot. Namely, they pay their actors next to nothing, they charge exorbitant rates, and their vetting process basically boils down to, "they're foreigners!" So they don't exactly deal with the highest caliber of talent.

The weird part, as you've noticed, is when characters need to be fluent in both Japanese and English. This is simply a case where casting is an issue; This isn't going to shock anyone, but hiring a popular seiyuu to provide a voice for your anime series is a major coup, and can lead to increased exposure and so forth. If a character needs to speak both Japanese and English - like, just pulling out a random example, Tina Foster in Ai Yori Aoshi - the popularity of the actor/actress is going to outweigh their, uh, fluency in English. And really, the fact that the character is American is just a tossed-off plot point, a flimsy excuse to shoehorn a buxom blonde girl into the harem cast. And Satsuki Yukino is a popular actress! No big worries if it is unconvincing to the English-speaking ear when she yells "HEY, WATCH-AH STEP!!" because that's not going to strain the suspension of disbelief for the majority of the viewing audience. Same thing with Yakitate!! Japan, basically.

Of the shows that I've seen recently, the closest I've seen to it being done right is probably Eden of the East, but even there it's pretty obvious that whoever was directing the ADR sessions... doesn't really understand the nuances of the language. Lots of flat English line-readings, there. But at least it's not Engrish.

And that's sort of the problem. It'd be nice, actually, if, when the need arises to have actual English dialog in an anime production, they would simply send it over to an English dubbing studio. But most anime companies like to keep things as in-house as possible for its initial production, so of course, to us, it's going to sound unconvincing. To the core Japanese audience, the one they're devoting the overwhelming majority of their focus, they're not as trained to the subtleties of the language, so it doesn't really matter a whole lot to them, I'd wager.

Either way, this gives me an excuse to post this clip again. NSFW language!

Dear Answerman,

I'm just curious about this whole issue of premiering an anime series, something as major as the Sailormoon reboot. They did mention a worldwide simultaneous release of the said series, and many Moonies here in the Philippines are hoping they'll get to see the premiere along with the rest of the world, but on a local anime channel. But I myself have doubts, like, never in the history of anime in the Philippines has any local cable or TV station has done an anime world premiere.

For my question: When an anime premieres, which territories are definitely included, say North America, Asia, Japan, Europe, etc.?

Unfortunately! Here's how it's (more than likely) gonna be: You get to watch it, "worldwide," online. Just like the rest of us, of course. Simulcasting! Hooray!

The chance to see it on TV is... pretty slim to none. For the sake of a second opinion, I asked Justin Sevakis about it, and this is what he said:

Justin: There's an outside chance in hell (Animax Asia, their only hope, has been trying to 'close the gap', but it's a lot of trouble to do simulcasts and their bread and butter is in dubbed content). "Never say never" but I don't think it's going to happen.

The important thing to understand is that "Worldwide Simultaneous Release" never actually guarantees that something will be literally "Worldwide." Essentially, "Worldwide" means that the three major first-world markets - (most of) Asia, (most of) Europe, and (most of) North America - will get it, day one. That's cool. Elsewhere? Cross your fingers, because there's a good chance they didn't factor in your particular territory. For a number of reasons, all of which have been covered before, to the consternation and (rightful) anger of people living in those particular areas.

Still, if you're not opposed to watching things online, there's a better-than-decent chance of watching the Sailor Moon reboot, subtitled, along with the rest of the world. Getting it on actual television is something that's unlikely to happen anywhere outside of Japan, though pigs have been known to fly before, so to speak.

Hi Answerman!

We all know you have a high standard for every piece of literary media (to the point of elitism to be quite honest.), but I'm curious to know your other side. What series do you fall back to when you just wanna turn off your brain and have fun? Everyone has their guilty pleasures, I'm sure you do too.

Woah, elitism! Somebody called me the "e" word!

I'm just going to put this to bed right now: having "high standards" and "elitism" are not the same thing. "Elitism" would imply that anyone who doesn't share my "high standards," to a figurative T, are wrong. And, as I took great pains to explain last week, I don't think that people who love their placating fluff are wrong. This is entertainment, folks. Nobody's ever really "wrong" when it comes to entertainment.

That said, I think having "high standards" is kind of important, to a degree. I value my time. I find it to be in short supply these days. I juggle a lot of different projects at any one time, and factor in a full-time job, my ability to consume a boatload of entertainment options is more than a little bit daunting. So I need to be judicious about it - I need to put a smidgen of thought into what I'm going to spend my time watching or reading. So, yeah, I'll go see The Master instead of Dredd 3D. No slight against Dredd 3D - I know Tim Maughan is a fan - but if I'm going to spend the time it takes to make the trip to the movie theater, I'm going with something I know will tickle my core a little bit.

"Elitism" would mean, to me, that anyone who "wasted their time" watching Dredd 3D is wrong, and I am right, for I made my choice, and it was clearly the correct one. But it was the correct one for me, and Dredd 3D was the correct one for Tim Maughan. It really is that simple, everyone!

With all that out of the way, here's the deal - I actually spend most of my leisure time enraptured in those creature comforts you mention. Finding those truly mind-shattering works of genius can be a chore in and of itself, and more often than not, I don't have the time nor the energy to devote to finding it in the first place. So, let's see, it's 11pm, I need to head to bed for an early morning at work, and I need something to relax with as I fall asleep. What do I watch? What do I read?

Chances are, I'll be watching Gamecenter CX. Not anime, I know, but it's Japanese and nerdy enough that it warrants at least a mention. (Can't wait for that Region 1 DVD set!) If that's not what I'm gravitating towards, usually my second choice is to scrounge around Hulu to find something. CONTROVERSIAL OPINION: Bubblegum Crisis still holds up! It's still cheesy fun! The music is great! The animation is superb! It's still wonderful! Un-ironically! Or I'll be watching Captain Harlock, because Leiji Matsumoto's works are one of those major gaps in my anime-fan knowledge bank.

To say nothing of my slavish devotion to Case Closed, which is my favorite of favorites. I think I'm on the back of a box somewhere, saying something to the effect of "I love this show and want to marry it." Maybe. Either way, when it comes to anime I like to watch when I need some fun in my life, nothin' beats Case Closed. Formulaic? You bet. Satisfying? Every time.

All of this, though, boils down to the premise that what we all mean by "turn off my brain and have fun" really means... "I just want to watch/read something I already know I like." There's nothing wrong with that whatsoever. I mean, I didn't "turn my brain off" when I watch The Tatami Galaxy, but I "already know" that I'll like it. Meanwhile, the original Captain Harlock TV series doesn't require an immense intellectual commitment, but I don't really "know" that I'll like it. That's all it is. That switch in your brain to "off" is more or less an impulse that you activate that says "I don't even want to think about the possibility of Not Liking what I'm about to put into my brain, so I'm going to stick with what works for me." That's fine.

Not to stoke the Elitism Fires any further, but my problem comes from people who never turn that switch back on. The mere act of finding something even relatively outside their comfort zone is alienating and confusing to them. I find that to be an honest-to-God shame. And not because I want to rub my intellectual superiority in people's faces! But because I can't fathom how people willingly deprive themselves of things they could love! I understand that the sheer size of Tolstoy is "intimidating," but how "intimidating" is it, really, to open a book and read a few pages? It's not, at all. And what if you love it? What if it speaks volumes to you? Everyone often bags and rags on me for not being "open minded" about some of the dross that gets draped around every anime season that fans nonetheless cling to, but how "open minded" are you, really, if you're so completely unwilling to challenge yourself even in the slightest?

There I go, off and railing again about personal taste and preferences. Yikes. Well, anyway, to sum up: nobody's wrong, I'm not wrong, we're all right, everything's all right, but seriously: challenge yourself as often as possible. It's fine that we all like to unwind at the end of the day with what's safe and what works, but you never know what you might like if you stop "turning your brain off" all the time. And that doesn't make me an elitist.

And even if I was an elitist, it's time to listen to other people's opinions that aren't my own!

Last week, I wanted you all to respond to something that sort of bugged me, and I got some very different responses:

We start with Mark, whose good-hearted ribbing gives us all a chortle or two:

Hi, Brian! Long time listener, first time caller...

(I'll just assume I'm tremendously clever at having written that, and not that you've read it dozens of times before.)

Anywho, "types" of anime fans? There's a word for dropping people into homogenized groups, isn't there? I think it's "stereotype."

People much smarter than I have spoken and written at great length about how stereotypes are a normal part of establishing your social identity and baselining interaction, but can lead to prejudice and discrimination if left unchecked, so I won't dive into all that. It can be fun to call out the quirks and foibles of certain types of fandom for a (hopefully) good-natured chuckle, and share a self-deprecating laugh at our own shared idiosyncracies; trying to take it seriously limits your ability to perceive people in all their diversity.

I get deeply involved in mecha anime like "Gundam" and "Macross", but my absolute favourites are the works of Studio Ghibli and I can't get enough of "K-On". I'm an ardent sci-fi fan, but my favourite movie is "Lost In Translation". I manage to love Type O Negative, Enya, Gorillaz, Yoko Kanno, The Vaccines, Brian Eno, ABBA, and Def Leppard all at the same time. I play Dungeons & Dragons but have an actual social life and talk to real women! I think by any rules of stereotyping, I should implode in a quagmire of internal conflict or be excised from reality as a cancerous "thing that must not be". Since everyone else I know has similar diversity to their tastes, I think it's the stereotyping thing that must be wrong. Or maybe I'm stereotyping my friends and family as "diverse individuals". Is that an oxymoron? I can't tell anymore.

So, no, I don't believe in "types" of anime fans.

No, Lise, I asked YOU!

Hey Brian,

I see the stupidity of classifying people based on a shared interest endures. This is one of my biggest pet peeves, and you get it from people both inside and outside the fandom. From the people that are only familiar with the negative stereotypes of anime fans, if you don't fit that image in other peoples' minds, it's all "wow, you don't look like someone who would be into anime because you are a girl/ dress fancy / interact with other humans in a semi-normal fashion". From those inside, it's all judgement about what kind of anime you say you like -- as though I can't be into Lucky Star and Kino's Journey? Please. I read the blog post the user was referencing in last week's column, and I can't for the life of me figure out who wastes their time trying to sort people in the fandom into different groups. The only reason to do something like that would be to try to make yourself look smarter, dare I say superior to other fans. I guess that I must be at the other end of this bullshit spectrum from the Sorting Hat Fan, because I don't want to have anything to do with the fans that are interested in creating divisions where none should exist. Aren't there enough divisions in regular life already? Can't we all be united by our mutual enjoyment of the medium? I ask you!

Here's Black Mokona, lurker extraordinaire:

Hey Answerman,

I do think that there are different categories of anime fans, depending on how they interact with anime and with other fans but it's all going to be Venn diagram and sliding scales.

There are casual fans who follow only a few select series based on their interests, not just the big ones like Sailor Moon. I have a friend who reads Trinity Blood, what's that even? Then there's everything between the guys at ANN and the casual fan, like the one who's specifically, but really, into Ghibli stuff for example. That's including the old new school situation.

Another distinction I can think of is how you talk back to culture. You can haunt message boards or make fanart or AMV or fanfiction or cosplay, or any combination thereof or just lurk, like me.

Anime fandom is interesting in the way it's also divided by how we consume the materials. Buyers tend to look down on pirates, and some pirates like to pretend that buyers don't exist.

I believe that these ways of categorizing fans are not only valid, but they are also pervasive in that we keep in mind at all times where we are on the Internet and in real life because specific attitudes dominate specific places.

As for me, I am more into manga than anime, I do fanart and fanfiction, but mostly I lurk, and I pirate in order to make informed decisions.

Here's Cheng, who is... um... I'm straining really hard because he said he was a "Mecha type" and I tried to work that into some sort of pun using the word "Newtype" but my brain sucks so nevermind:

Hi Brian,

After a long session of thinking, I have come to the answer that I personally think that there are no specific "types" of anime fans as I myself am interested in several different genres. I remember the first time I came in contact with anime, it was Neon Genesis Evangelion. Despite the fact that I didn't understand half of it since I was probably too young to understand, I really enjoyed the mecha aspect of it. Due to that I continued to watch many anime of the mecha genre like Macross, Gundam, RahXephon etc. As I grew older and continued to only watch the mecha genre. I have thought that I only liked this specific genre and therefore I was of the mecha "type". However I was proven wrong, by no one else but myself when I stumbled upon Kara no Kyōkai one day, which is very far different to the mecha I used to watch. At the beginning, I was not really that interested in it but after watching the first movie, I couldn't believe that it actually grew on me. From there on I explored many other similar ones up till today and I have to say that I am a proud and huge fan of anything that's well made, be it drama, moe, mecha, action, mystery or anything else that I haven't yet explored.

Anyways after a long history lesson of my anime life, I just want to say that I think people, who say they are interested in one or two specific genres only, are probably only narrow minded and it stops them from exploring the other animes that might actually interest them just as much. That's however just my humble opinion formed from my own experience, which means it doesn't apply to everyone or anyone.

And finally here is Melissa, to whom I will say - hambeasts belong to many storied fandoms throughout time and the cosmos:

Hey Answerman,

I definitely thing there are "types" of anime fans. Certain stereotypes come to mind: the rabid yaoi fangirl, that creepy moe body pillow guy, mecha lovers, weeaboos, hambeasts, etc. However, all of these are really narrow definitions that can actually be quite insulting. Instead of categorizing based on what GENRE of anime you like, I use a system based upon the general level/attitude towards anime. My friends and I devised this system while running our college anime club, and I can say it proved instrumental in understanding demographics and how to reach out to the general university population.

Essentially, at one end of the scale, you have the "Casual Anime Fan." This is someone who has a grasp of anime as a genre, has seen a few (or more than a few) anime, but the defining characteristic is that he/she appreciates an anime for reasons OTHER than the fact it's an anime. Be that the plot, characterization, theme, etc, it's the idea that they watch the show not because it's anime, but for some other reason.

At the other end of the scale, you have the "Otaku" (I use this term in a more liberal sense and as a positive interpretation of "super fan"). This is someone who, like the casual anime fan, understands the genre, has seen any number of anime, but his/her defining characteristic is that he/she appreciates an anime primarily BECAUSE it is anime. This is not to say that otaku do not watch a show and appreciate the plot, characterization, theme and have a deep, meaningful interaction with the show.

However, otaku watch anime because it's anime, and will continue to watch anime simply for that reason. Casual anime fans may eventually become otaku and watch anime for anime's sake, but I have observed that in general, casual anime fans do not have the single-minded passion for anime characteristic of otaku (this is also not to say that otaku watch only anime for their entertainment). I think the anime community at large houses both types of fans and each type is well represented at conventions and such. This system is a scale with every shade of grey in between. Most people aren't 100% one or the other, though at the core, I do believe you are either a casual fan or otaku. Individuals who have NOT seen anime, nor have seen anything they would say they like fall outside of the scale.

But in working with the club and trying to figure out how to attract students to the club, we discovered that the otaku population was a given. They will show up to watch anime for that very reason. The series may or may not be important, but there is that sense of community found amongst otaku, that communal sense of "fandom." In contrast, casual anime fans were the hardest demographic for us to reach and maintain as members primarily because they are influenced by exactly what was being viewed. They lacked the sense of community and belonging with a larger anime group and didn't feel tied to the club in quite the same was as otaku.

I suppose a simple distillation of these ideas would be, using Cowboy Bebop as an example...

Casual Anime Fans enjoy Cowboy Bebop because it is a well-animated show with action, great characterization, and some killer music--and it just so happens to be anime. Otaku enjoy Cowboy Bebop because it's anime--that just so happens to be a well-animated show with action, great characterization, and some killer music.

Alright guys, that's enough of this non-judgement-ery; for next week's question, I wanna hear all your repressed judgment sprout forth, with enough intensity to strip paint. Sink your elitism-fangs into this question, everybody!

Now you've got this week's question, and it's time to get answerin'.

For those of you new to Hey, Answerfans!, I'll explain the concept.

Believe it or not, I'm genuinely curious what you think.

That's right; as much as I love the sound of my own voice, I do love to listen to what other people have to say on a subject. I'm finding that over the last few years, the attitudes, reasoning and logic that today's anime fans use eludes, confuses or astounds me; I have so many questions for you, and I'm dying to hear what you have to say in response.

Welcome to Hey, Answerfans!

Basically, we're turning the tables. Each week I'm going to ask you a question, and I want you to email me your answer. Be as honest as you can. I'm looking for good answers; not answers I agree with or approve of, but good, thoughtful answers
. People feel passionately about these subjects and I'd like to see that in the responses I get. I'll post the best answers I get, and maybe some of the crappy ones. Sometimes there may only be one or two good ones; sometimes five or more. It all depends on what I get in my inbox! Got it? Pretty simple, right? Start writing those answers and email them to answerman [at] animenewsnetwork dot com.

We do have a few simple ground rules to start with.

Things To Do:

* Be coherent.
* Be thoughtful.
* Be passionate.
* Write as much or as little as you feel you need to to get your point across in the best possible way.

Things Not To Do:

* Respond when the question doesn't apply to you. For instance, if your email response starts with "Well, I don't do whatever you're asking about in the question... " then I'm going to stop reading right there and hit delete.

* Be unnecessarily rude or use a lot of foul language.
* Go off-topic.

That's all for this week! Make sure to get those Answerfans responses and Answerman questions to answerman(at)animenewsnetwork.com! You can do those with your e-mail, I've heard! See you all next week!

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