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Setting Fire To Your Dreams Since 2013

by Justin Sevakis,

A few years ago I bought this LG Blu-ray player, the BD670, because it was the most full-featured player out there. It had wi-fi, it did Netflix and Amazon and Hulu Plus, it played video files over my home network. For the first month, all was well.

And then little things started happening. The first LED on the front display burned out, so now the display said things like, "ELLO," "LAY" and "JECT." Every time I played a DVD it would pause every time it got to a new chapter, and display the chapter number on the screen, as it it was proud that it had gotten so far and wanted a cookie. And every few days the whole machine would freeze up so badly that I had to physically unplug the power cord.

Over time, it lost the ability to play Netflix without crashing, would forget how to play certain kinds of video files, would make strange noises for no apparent reason. This week I tried to hook it up in my bedroom, only to discover that it now made a faintly audible high-pitched beeping noise whenever powered off.

This is the worst piece of electronics I have ever bought, and yet... It still works! I'm not sure I can quite bring myself to throw it away, knowing it's still useful. But on the other hand, I don't actively hate anyone enough to give this thing away. I don't know what to do with this thing.

Anybody else out there have electronics horror stories? Hit the comments thread, 'cause I want to hear 'em.

Ashlie asks:

just recently turned 17. I've been watching anime my whole life. Earlier this year, my boyfriend told me he was leaving for the NAVY. And I sat there one night thinking about what career I'd want to do and commit to. I was watching my favorite anime Soul Eater and I heard one of my favorite voice actors Chuck Huber and I thought to myself "how cool would it he to be able to chill out and voice over anime all day with that guy?" He's one of my favorites. So I thought about it for a few hours and came to the idea that I wanted to be an anime voice actor for english dubs. I'm in 11th grade, starting 12th next year. Aside from taking a drama class, like all of the things have said online, is there anyway I can just... try out to be a voice actress for anime?

As a total amateur, the only places where you will be able to get an audition will be contests, which are usually held at major anime conventions like AX. The prize might be a single role in something, but honestly, very few of the winners of those things have gone on to make a name for themselves.

The cult of celebrity that has opened up around voice actors at anime conventions has long struck me as bizarre, and a little bit off-putting. The actors are the closest thing fans can meet to a living embodiment of their favorite characters, and they get worshipped for it. And yet, unlike other jobs in the entertainment business, it's a job that nearly everybody thinks they can do. YouTube is full of "voice reels" from wanna-be young voice actors, and an entire cottage industry has opened up for those wanting to pursue careers in voice acting. Unlike regular acting, which requires a lot of craft and good looks and decent skin and moving to New York or Los Angeles, voice acting seems on the surface to be a lot more approachable, and those beginner's voice actor events seem to promise a fun, easy job of hanging out with voice actors, recording anime, and getting paid for it.

It is not. Statements to the contrary are ridiculous and disingenuous. Leading kids on that they, too, can become a successful voice actor isn't a lie in and of itself, but anyone actually aiming to make a career for themselves is in for a monumental amount of work and luck and hustling with an end goal of borderline poverty. Anime qualifies as "foreign language dubbing" and is one of the lowest paid fields in acting, clocking in at around $65 an hour (far less for some non-union dubs). That might sound like a good wage, until you realize that you might only be in the booth for 2 or 3 hours per week. Your work in the booth is solitary -- you hear the director occasionally through headphones, but that's it. It's pretty rare to ever see another voice actor because each person is scheduled to come in separately to record their lines.

Here's some truth for you: the vast, vast majority of voice actors have day jobs and cannot make a full-time career out of voice work. Of those that do, they tend to be a) trained actors who have gone to acting school and learned various acting technique and can do on-camera roles as well; b) diversified well beyond anime and occasional original cartoon acting -- sometimes as an ADR writer or director, or as a motion capture artist, or some other vocation; and c) are usually still JUST barely eking out a middle-class existence. Many voice actors are doing anime only because either they're a fan, or as a quick gig between better paying roles, and quit as soon as they're able.

The idea that any of these people have somehow "made it" or are in any way "stars" outside of an anime convention is absurd. The idea that they can market tips on achieving what they have to young and naïve high school and college kids, while understandable on some level, is leading them down a pretty questionable path career-wise. There once was a time where being a big anime fan and working hard meant you could be in a lot of anime dubs, but that era is long over. Not only are few dubs being made anymore, but the few that are have budgets and schedules so tight that directors just don't have the luxury of trying out new and untested talent. There just isn't much room for a new voice actor to break in.

I don't blame the voice actors for feeding into this. For a struggling actor, the idea that some convention wants to fly you to their event, give you a per diem, give you a panel full of fawning fans, let you sign autographs for an hour, and feed you good food is too good an offer to pass up, and as actors tend to be people-pleasers, most of them are all to happy to jump on stage and entertain the crowd, politely patting the kids on the head when they say they want to be a voice actor. But there is nothing to put the hysteria in check. The actor excites the crowd, the crowd gives the actor the applause they crave, and together they shout, "Yes, YOU can do this too!"

Good reasons to pursue a career can include, "this work fascinates me, I'm good at it, I want to spend the rest of my life doing it," or "people will pay me a lot of money to do this right now." Wanting to hang out with famous people is perhaps the single worst reason to pursue a career that there is. Setting aside the fact that you don't actually know them and you probably wouldn't end up actual friends with them, their lives are not really that glamorous, they are often not that well-paid, and some of them are actually, in reality, not that great of people. (Full disclosure: I am good friends with several voice actors who are absolutely awesome people. Never met Chuck Huber tho.)

If living in Hollywood as taught me anything, it's that glamour is always a construct of a third-party observer. Everyone's life is mundane up-close. Stop chasing glamour. Do what you are good at, that you can make money doing, and live well. Forget about the rest of it, you can make friends anywhere.

Rachel asks:

Many Americans know that the Nielsen rating system determines which show stays on television and which show goes off the air. This is how many networks make or lose money. But not everyone knows that it doesn't just apply here in the United States it applies worldwide including Japan. My question is how does Japan apply the Nielsen ratings? Are they more strict than United States? And why?

That's not true exactly. Nielsen Company is the media research powerhouse that surveys audience members, keeps track of the demographics of who is watching what television programs (and when), and then deliver several reports detailing how many people they estimate have watched a particular program. The Nielsen Company actually does a ton of different media audience metrics and analysis (they also are the publishers of SoundScan and VideoScan sales tracking tools), but their TV ratings are by far their most famous product.

But Nielsen's research power doesn't extend beyond the USA, and every country has their own dominant analytics company that tries to keep track of who is watching what. Japan's is a company called Video Research Ltd. They have their own ratings system that works a little differently, but basically measures the same things: how many people are watching, their respective demographics, and what percentage of the total viewing audience they comprise.

In most cases, a TV show lives or dies by its ratings. Higher ratings (especially within a desirable demographic, usually ages 18-34) means the network can charge more for advertising, since more people are watching. Poor ratings usually get a show cancelled, unless there's some other reason to keep it around (and with ratings dwindling across the board, the American TV networks are getting more and more creative about that). That's true of ratings worldwide.

As for how those ratings effect anime? Well, they are sort of a different beast. The only anime that really gets treated like a normal TV program is stuff like Naruto and One Piece (and Doraemon and Sazae-san), which is on during normal human hours. Those long-running "mainstream" shows are definitely dependent on having good ratings to stay on the air, although most of the income from those properties comes from merchandise.

Most anime is shown late at night, during hours rented out by the producers, and the programs are shown as infomercials. The TV networks don't really care how many people watch, and since the airing is really just meant to advertise the home video release (where the money REALLY comes from), having low or high ratings doesn't really affect the producers much either. It's mostly just used as a metric to see how well the show is connecting with an audience.

Douglas asks:

Living in North America I view most of my anime from online sites such as crunchyroll, and recently Daisuki.net. There have been many instances where anime episodes have been released in other languages such as Spanish and Italian while English episodes are significantly delayed due to "production delays". Is there a difference in subbing shows in different languages or is there another reason of why episodes become delayed?

Anime TV production schedules are insane, and often times a new episode is finished only hours before it's supposed to premiere. That isn't enough time to translate, timecode the subtitle script, proof-read, submit for approval, wait for any changes from the licensor, implement those changes, and export. It's just not. Hence, simulcasts occasionally get delayed.

There are occasions where a non-English subtitled version gets put up before the English one. I'm not entirely sure why this is, but I do know that most licensors don't have staff that speak every language (usually just English), and so the approvals process for those languages is probably greatly diminished compared to English, if they even have to get approvals at all.

With that step removed from the subtitle process, things would indeed go a lot faster, and result in a lot fewer delays.

And that's all for this week! Got questions for me? Send them in! The e-mail address, as always, is answerman (at!) animenewsnetwork.com.

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.

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