Can You Feel The Music?

by Justin Sevakis,

You never know when you're going to accidentally find out something you didn't know about the anime business. A few months ago I got asked why we don't have something like Crunchyroll for hentai anime. I knew there were many issues on the Japan end that were probably preventing such a venture, but it wasn't a definitive enough answer to publish in the column. "Why not" is usually a very hard question to answer in any authoritative way.

This week I was putzing around on Netflix, and ended up watching a very dirty documentary called Kink, about a (live action) bondage porn company. I do not recommend it... it's basically sanitized scenes from their shoots, intercut with long, dull, barely-coherent ramblings of the porn directors and casting people. It's good for a laugh here and there (or perhaps shock value, if you haven't been listening to Howard Stern for decades like I have), but it's completely superficial and not interesting.

But then I got to a scene where the company president is discussing how often they get asked for animated porn by their customers. The owner laments that he just can't make it work. As it turns out, the major obstacle to such a business is actually the credit card processing companies! Most of them have varying levels of comfort with different types of adult content, but all of them completely draw the line at tentacles ("it's bestiality") and rape. And that covers pretty much 95% of the adult anime ever made.

So there you go! A definitive reason why we will likely never have a streaming adult anime website. Now onto some more G-rated questions.

Miles asks:

With the recent news of NIS America releasing the first and second season of Love Live! School Idol Project with an English dub in North America, there has been much question and speculation whether the songs within the anime will actually be dubbed into English. I know NIS America's previous English dub release of Toradora left a certain Christmas song intact with its original Japanese audio, and other companies' releases of shows like The World God Only Knows, AKB0048, Angel Beats! and K-ON! did the same. I know this may take extra licensing and approval from Japan to go about, and may possibly be inconvenient, but if I may ask: how feasible and likely is it in today's anime industry that American anime licensing companies and audio post-production studios go about translating lyrics and recording insert songs into English? Any particular reason why we don't see this happen often in American domestic releases?

I was already pretty sure that NIS wasn't going to dub the songs to Love Live!, but just to be on the safe side, I asked them for an official response for this column. And, sure enough, I was right:

"In order to keep the authenticity and overall feeling of the series, audiences of Love Live! The School Idol Project English dub will be able to enjoy the songs in its original Japanese tracks. Currently, there are no plans for the songs to be dubbed in English, or any other language (Tagalog, Chinese, Thai, etc.)," is the official response.

Of course, this should be expected. While it was fun to try and dub anime songs, the practice is pretty rare these days. For a very music-oriented show like Love Live! or AKB0048, it's simply a non-starter. Why? Because one of the main reasons shows like this get made are to promote idols and voice actors. The singers' agencies and record labels are often on the production committees, and they're putting money into the show because they want to promote their singers and sell their music. If their songs are to get dubbed over by a singer they have no control over and no stake in, the whole point of their participation is moot.

Further, the music producers put a great deal of money and effort into making those final vocal tracks sound EXACTLY the way that they do. Mixing modern pop music is a very unique art, and the vocal end is very technically different from dubbing anime dialogue. Properly dubbing vocals ideally requires a larger recording booth with different acoustic properties, as well as different equipment and VASTLY different engineering and software. Very few places that do anime ADR can even do proper music recording. Sure, they can sort of get the job done, but it will never sound as good as the original. Especially since, as they're likely recording to a karaoke mix of the original song, they don't have as much control over the sound as the original producers.

There is simply no incentive for the producers of a music-focused anime to allow their songs to be dubbed, and many, many reasons for them to never allow it.

Hugo asks:

I have been a fan of Seiyuus for a very long time; not because I think that subs are better than dubs, but because I truly admire the performance that they deliver. Is there a way a fan from outside of Japan can relay their feelings to them by say sending them a nicely worded letter to them? Do some Seiyuus have a place like a PO box to send things to or would we have to send it to their agency and hope it gets to them? Is there some well known way to write to them and I have simply been under a rock? Please enlighten me.

It's difficult to get a traditional fan letter to a Japanese talent without knowing any Japanese, simply because it's hard to know where to send it. The best way of sending fan mail to any actor is through their agent or management office. Most English language resources don't list who this is directly, although ANN's encyclopedia usually links to that actor's page on the agency's website.

For example, take actress Yuki Aoi, best known as Madoka from Madoka Magica. Her agency is a company called Pro-Fit, and on their page you can see her profile and listen to her reel. In order to get an address, you'd have to then go to Pro-fit's corporate profile page, find the address (written in kanji, of course), and translate that to Romaji that can be written on international delivery envelopes. And the letter you write should probably be in Japanese, since it's unlikely that person will be able to read something in English easily.

That's a lot of work, and probably over the ability level of most Western fans. But the good news is that many prominent Japanese voice actors are on Twitter, so if you're handy with Google Translator, there's a good chance you can connect that way. Sending them a quick tweet of praise from overseas could very well make their day. Just, do it in Japanese, and don't necessarily expect a response.

Michael asks:

I was wondering if you could explain the mindset behind why anime companies seem to be so secretive with their sales numbers. I could be wrong about this, but I don't see any benefit to not releasing how many units "title x" sold or how many people are streaming "title y". If a title didn't do well, it didn't do well. Would saying " we only sold 100 copies of this, but were expecting more" (or even the opposite) cause them to sell even less? I just don't know why the companies aren't more open with their numbers.

I hate to break this to you, but as much emotional involvement as we have in our favorite anime, the actual sales figures of a show are none of our business. No consumer company publicly announces their sales figures. None of them. The sales charts that we get from the Oricon charts in Japan and the sales charts in the US are coming from outside consulting firms, who have deals in place with key retailers to come up with a sales estimate. Those numbers are not actually being reported by their publishers.

There is no good reason for a company to divulge such sensitive information to the general public. If something is a success in the general sense, the company will absolutely want to crow about it. But if a show is just a middling success, or a bomb, there is absolutely no benefit in that being common knowledge. The fans will just jump all over you, telling you that you suck and that you did your job horribly and that's why the show tanked. The licensor will be embarrassed at the public failure. The retailers will start assuming that you can't pick hits, and start buying less of your product. Why would you invite that on yourself? Of course WE want to know, and other people want to know, but I can't think of a single reason why a publisher should tell us.

To further complicate things, it's not always clear, even to the publisher, how many discs have sold. They know how many they sold to Amazon and Right Stuf, how many went out to key wholesalers and major retail chains like Best Buy. But how many of those actually sold through to the end consumer? How many are sitting in their warehouses? How many might eventually get returned? The publishers have no idea. Months will have passed before they have to write a revenue report for the licensors. In the mean time, they'd just be speculating as to how many copies actually made it into the sweaty hands of the fans.

Ida asks:

Every once in a while, a series would delay airing episode by a week. Now, most of the times it is due to a sporting competition or holidays or whatnot that are scheduled in advance. But there are also situation where they get delayed due to current political situation (like Assassination Classroom), or they plainly don't make it in time (like Shirobako, I think?). Since they have a contract that stipulates that the show is going to be on air for a certain number of weeks, what happens with the production? I don't think they cut the content or reduce the number of episodes, but how do channels find room for the leftover episodes without delaying starting a new season?

On the rare occasion that a show fails to make air, that show is not rescheduled. The TV schedules are simply too tight to allow for that. There's just no room. Unlike a pre-empted prime-time TV show on an American TV network, they can't simply air them later -- these shows are already running in the early morning hours. There's nowhere else for them to go.

I've seen shows that were scheduled to run 26 episodes, and then fail to make air around episode 12 or 13. They end up having to air a recap in its place. With one less episode in which to tell the story, the writers then had to frantically rewrite the remaining episodes (specifically the later ones, that hadn't really been started yet), so an entire story would still fit within the allotted time left. Sometimes that's not possible, particularly if the failure occurred near the end of the run.

If the production can afford to finish the show, sometimes the remaining episodes are released later as "accidental" OAVs. (We can speculate which shows had their last few episodes accidentally turn into OAVs, but we'll never know for sure.) But some shows just end entirely abruptly. When a show ends that disastrously, the animation production company usually takes quite a hit on their reputation for it, and the sponsors of the series walk away quite angry. And so do the fans, really.

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

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 real, strange stories from the anime business, Tales of the Industry.

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