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Funny Story About That Simulcast...

by Justin Sevakis,

Good news. The clouds have parted, the sky has brightened, and my workload has lessened. I am now 16 episodes into SHIROBAKO. I have developed an odd obsession with "Andes Chucky," even though that is not a real show. Life is good again.

The interesting thing about SHIROBAKO is how insanely accurate it is. Obviously things are punched up a bit -- real adults don't act QUITE that cartoonish in real life -- but the vast majority of the show is barely even fictionalized. Delivering a final master hours before air? True. Production committee meetings about things like casting dragging on for 14 hours? True true true. Indifferent editors and overworked and difficult manga artists holding up production? OMG TRUE.

Seriously, that show should be required viewing for pretty much anyone interested in how the anime business works in Japan. Plus, it's actually good.

Jitendar asks:

With dubbing seemingly on the wane, at least in terms of proportion of anime dubbed each year, if not numbers, are non-union dubs still a thing? Do voice actors still wheel out the occasional pseudonym for their work? And on a related note, what's the most ridulous, or just plain hilarious alias that you've come across? And have there ever been real names that you thought were aliases?

Non-union dubs are actually more common than ever, but that's largely because most dubs are now made in Texas, either by Funimation or by Sentai Filmworks. There aren't many union actors (or actors of any kind, really) that live there, so most dubs simply don't have to be union. And so, they aren't. There are also regular voice actors in Los Angeles that are non-union, that often get cast together. Making a production "union" requires a lot of additional paperwork, and requires the actors to be paid a certain minimum rate for their work, so producers avoid it if they can. It also makes it really difficult to hire non-union actors.

Funimation does occasionally bring in non-Texas actors to work on their stuff. If the actor they want to bring on is union, one option is to file paperwork with SAG-AFTRA and make the entire production a union-compliant production. Texas, being a "Right-To-Work state," legally strips SAG of the authority to prohibit the hiring of non-union people, so they can make the production Union and then hire mostly non-union actors. The other option is to keep things non-union, and let the voice actor worry about whether they'll get caught. Most voice actors who take that risk have been credited under pseudonyms in the past. If SAG-AFTRA does catch the union actor doing non-union work (and thereby not paying union dues on that work), they can be disciplined with suspension, fines and expulsion. Not only can this affect their ability to get new work, but most actors get their benefits and health care through the union.

These days I don't see so many established, SAG-AFTRA voice actors doing non-union work under a pseudonym. The internet makes it too easy for SAG to figure out who these performers actually are, and many just don't want to take the risk. But it still happens from time to time.

The best names, of course, were reserved for hentai dubs back in the day (and were usually not even the voice actors -- staffers would adopt names like Moe I. Yada and MegaKok). Most aliases that were actually used to avoid detection by the union were intentionally pretty vanilla sounding, to the point where it's easy to mistake the fake one for the real one. At the other end of the spectrum, there was one NYC-area voice actor who went -- even in mainstream anime -- by the name "Chunkymon." That always made me laugh.

Branko asks:

Following up on the accuracy of the Shirobako question from last week about how tight the schedule to complete an anime and deliver it to various TV stations across Japan within 24 hours of air date begs the question: how, in Gods name, is it possible to subtitle (in multiply languages) and upload an episode only an hour after its Japanese broadcast?

It's really, really hard. And occasionally, it's NOT possible!

Early on in a series' production, episodes tend to get finished quite early -- sometimes a week or more in advance. Those finished episodes are sent to Crunchyroll or Funimation or whoever, who has the translator go over them, the licensor approve them, and otherwise have lots of time to polish them before those episodes go live.

Then by the 5th or 6th week into a show, things tend to start lagging behind. New episodes are sent only a couple of days before air, so the translator basically has to be on call waiting for them to be delivered. They then have to crank out a script, and the licensor probably has to approve it before it gets posted.

By the end of a season, things are often lagging so far behind that the translating company only gets the final video an hour or two before it's supposed to post. And that's where things get sloppy. Everybody involved has to bang out that episode insanely quickly, and if the licensor is still insisting on approving every script, that might eat up some more time. If a simulcast gets delayed on some weeks, nine times out of ten, this is the reason why.

Seriously, there's a small army that pretty much destroys themselves every week to bring you your weekly simulcast fix. These range from licensors and production people in Japan, to translators and subtitlers in the US working for Crunchyroll, Funimation, Viz, Bang Zoom, and their subcontractors. We should seriously have a national holiday to celebrate these people, but I'm afraid they'll just have to settle for constant internet nit-picking and disgust at their work.

Joel asks:

I've noticed over the last several seasons that a lot of shows getting simulcast on sites like Crunchyroll and Funimation seem to appear at the last minute. The sites will announce some shows well before their broadcast while other shows don't get listed until their first episode is already up. Are the streaming deals for some shows really not finalized until that close to release or do these streaming site have some reason for holding back information on certain simulcasts?

The streaming deals really do take that long to get finalized, believe it or not. There's nobody holding out intentionally.

In recent seasons, bidding wars between the major simulcast players have started becoming more of an issue, and so the jockeying for hot new shows can delay things even further. Any finished deal will then need to be signed off on by the entire production committee, the show's producer and probably the author of the original work. If there's some internal disagreement about the deal terms, that can take some additional time to iron out. Now that simulcasting has been around for a while, and most producers pretty much know how they're done and how those deals are structured, those are less of a problem than they've been in the past, but odd issues do crop up now and then.

It's not uncommon for final agreements to be signed off on the day the show premieres, or even afterwards. At that point it can take another couple of days to figure out who's going to upload the episode, how they're going to do it (and in what format), and who is responsible for signing off on the translation and marketing materials they make. Graphics elements need to be created and approved. Announcements need to be made. Non-Japanese names that appear in the show need to be officially Romanized. There's a lot that needs to be done before that stream can get posted.

So, when a new season doesn't start on time, it's almost always because of the above scenario. This is a very last-minute business.

another guy named Joel asks:

As an avid manga reader few apps have been more convenient for me than apps like Mangabox or the Line Webtoon app. Both of these apps have let me read some fantastic works (there is almost no limit to my praise for Tower of God, probably the best Webtoon out there) at zero cost from me! How on earth does this work? It can't possibly be free to develop the app, maintain the data, and of course translate the manga/ webtoons into English. I love these apps that give me so much free content, but I haven't been able to find any explanation on how they work financially.

The good news is that both Mangabox and Line Webtoon are legal, officially licensed ways to enjoy manga and manhwa. Mangabox is designed and run by Japanese software developer DeNA, and licenses manga from Kodansha, Shogakukan and other publishers, as well as publishes some new original manga. Its original incarnation was in Japanese and aimed at Japanese smartphone users, but the English site and apps were launched in late 2013. The platform uses in-app purchases to make its revenue: the first 100 pages of each series, as well as the most recent 12 issues can be read for free, but if you want to read the rest, you'll have to pay. And that's how they make their money.

Line Webtoon is the English webtoon site from the Korean company Naver, which launched their original Korean webtoon webcomics platform back in 2004. The webtoon format, which incorporates limited animation and special effects into a webcomics standard, became hugely successful in Korea starting in 2003. While originally aiming to be short and funny, many webtoons have become epic dramas, spanning thousands of panels over many installments. Many of the top titles have been scanlated by fans (or should we say screencaplated?), but Naver didn't launch an English language version of their site until last year. When they did, they went mobile first, and translated some of the best content on their site for English speakers. But Webtoons are actually user generated -- anybody can make one, and much like YouTube, they're used for everything from new, professional content to marketing, to little independent works made by amateurs.

Naver's rival in Korea, Daum, recently bought the American Webtoon platform Tapastic, and they're operating as a freemium content site: most of the comics are free, and some of the bigger works are available for a small fee. (There are ads as well.) Line is taking an even more ambitious route: they're offering revenue sharing with artists once a certain popularity threshold is reached, and even offering management services to sell the concept to everything from TV to merchandise companies. Time will tell if either platform is ultimately successful, but for now, all of these sites have a ton of interesting content and are well worth exploring.

(An earlier version of this story stated that Line is the English division of the Korean company Naver. Line is actually Naver's messaging platform; the US version of their webtoon service is known as Line Webtoon.)

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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