Answerman
Quick Answers Part 5

by Justin Sevakis,

It's been a while, and I've gotten some good questions lately that have pretty brief answers, so it's time for another lightning round!

Branko asks:

With the wave of sexual harassment reports spilling over into the Hollywood animation industry, it begs the question: how much sexual harassment is there in the anime industry?

We'll likely never know the answer to that, although if you asked me personally, I'd wager it doesn't have as much of a problem as Hollywood. In my experience and based on what I've read and have been told, the field doesn't attract quite as many domineering bullies as Hollywood does; there's a limited amount of showbiz glamour involved, the type that attracts sociopaths and contributes to the grotesque power imbalances that happen all the time in the movie business.

That said, it absolutely does happen. When it does, it likely happens most on the more glamorous talent side of things, with voice actors, idols and singers. The J-pop scene in the 80s was notorious for how badly it treated talent, including horrible things like forced prostitution, extreme overwork, sexual and physical abuse and harassment, and all sorts of blackmail and intimidation. The scene was far more under the thumb of yakuza in those days. In the early 2000s similar allegations were made at Johnny's Entertainment in its treatment of its (largely underage) male performers. While by most accounts the J-pop world is nowhere near as bad as it once was, I have no doubt that sexual harassment and other awful stuff still happens. In the early 2000s K-pop was rumored to be as bad as J-pop was in the 80s.

But among the animation staff? We are unlikely to ever get a clear answer on this one, since Japanese culture makes public accusations like this very shameful for everybody. However, I know for sure it does happen. One licensing executive from a well-known anime production company was so skeevy that American partner companies got employee complaints whenever he visited their offices. He was the worst that I know about, but I've heard of others. (That person no longer works there, as far as I know.)

No industry is free from these problems, in any country, but glamorous businesses like entertainment and fashion tend to be far worse than others.

Speaking of K-pop...

Hiroki asks:

Why do Western anime fans, as well as their websites and conventions, also seem to be into K-pop? K-pop doesn't have anything to do with anime, or even Japan (even if the acts are sometimes popular there).

Anime fans tend to like K-pop because it's cool and fun, and different enough from Western media to capture the imagination of fans. It's also very approachable to Westerners, since musically it's not very different from Western pop. The aesthetic of Korean and Japanese pop culture are similar, with its pervasive cuteness and its bright and shiny idealized look. K-pop also has great production values, both in its music and its related videos. If you're into anime, chances are your mind is open to other stuff from Asia, so K-pop is simply a natural fit for the same audience.

Phil asks:

What do Japanese fans think of our English dubs of anime? Do they ever watch/hear them in the first place? I often hear fans say that Japanese actors have more emotion than English actors in anime, and while I think that's dumb to say if you don't even know Japanese, it makes me wonder if the same might be true from the other side, if Japanese fans would find English acting to have more emotion, or maybe even prefer English acting for another reason.

Most anime fans in Japan seem to think of anime as something "by Japanese, for Japanese," and don't really think much about fans overseas, or the releases we get (unless they're cheap to import). Also, while most Japanese people know SOME English, it's seldom enough to comfortably watch a TV show in English without subtitles.

English dubs are occasionally released in Japan with Japanese subtitles, usually for a best-selling show, as something of a collectible or bonus item. Most fans are interested in how their favorite character sounds, and might like watching a scene or two, and then move on. It's similar to how Western Harry Potter fans enjoy watching those movies in other languages. I've seen this in other fan circles as well. (Personally I've been enjoying clips of the Japanese dub of Rick & Morty. Keisuke Chiba makes for an amusingly compelling Morty... or maybe I'm just conditioned by years of anime viewing.)

As for the creators, their opinions vary. Some like to hear English versions of their work, particularly if the show is very international in cast, or they're dissatisfied with the Japanese voice work. Others wish dubs weren't a thing. (Satoshi Kon famously once said that most people wouldn't bother with a dubbed live action film, and he wished the same respect would be paid to anime.) But most I've spoken to are indifferent. "Oh! My characters are speaking English! That's so weird!" is a reaction I hear a lot.

Abdullah asks:

I have read a lot of articles talking about the process to license anime, but I couldn't find any good articles explaining how the manga licensing process works. Is it same as the anime, or does it have a different approach?

It's very similar, in that deals are initiated the same way, negotiated the same way, and there's a contract that lays things out in largely the same way. However, since manga doesn't have a production committee, a prospective publisher would be working directly with the artist's management and/or the original publisher. As a result, things usually move a bit faster, but they're also less insulated from the artist when they or their people get a little eccentric and ask for unreasonable things.

Additionally, manga series tend to be licensed by volumes of tankoubon (usually not all at once), and the license terms tend to be shorter -- sometimes as little as two years.

Chris asks:

How do the grade names (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior) used in countries like the US that have four-year high schools correlate to three-year high schools like in Japan? I've been wondering for a while now, as the usage seems inconsistent from one anime/manga to the next, and I couldn't find any online sources that explain how the terms are supposed to fit. Or do they not apply at all IRL, and are just used in subs/dubs to seem more relatable to Westerners?

Those grade names (freshman/sophomore/junior/senior) are purely English colloquialisms, and there is no Japanese equivalent. They just say 1st, 2nd or 3rd year. The names you mention are used by translators to make the English scripts sound more natural.

That said, the Japanese school structure is based on how American schools were structured during the post-war era. The US used to have 3-year high schools as well (covering 10th-12th), with elementary school covering grades 1-6 and junior high covering 7-9 most commonly. I'm not old enough to know first-hand and I can't find if those schools skipped "sophomore" or "junior" (my parents didn't remember). But that doesn't have anything to do with Japan, so I'll just move on.

Montiel K. asks:

So I just checked Inuyashiki's first episode and just as in Gantz (go figure) there was a scene where a gang of teenagers intended to beat up a homeless guy. I have seen this featured in quite a few grim series now and was wondering. just how common of an issue is this in real japan?

It's a bigger problem than you might think for the relatively safe Japan. In 2014 the problem had gotten so bad that Tokyo governor Yoichi Masuzoe had to address the problem from within school systems. According to a non-profit study of 300 homeless people in Tokyo around that time, about 40% of them had been attacked, usually by two or more youths armed with rocks, fireworks, steel pipes or just their fists. Some had their possessions set on fire. It's hard to know how seriously the police are taking these attacks. Support services for homeless people in Japan are notoriously bad.

This trend isn't new, but it is growing, unfortunately mirroring similar attacks in the US (which often cross into murder).


Thank you for reading Answerman!

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Anime News Network founder Justin Sevakis wrote Answerman between July 2013 and August 2019, and had over 20 years of experience in the anime business at the time. These days, he's the owner of the video production company MediaOCD, where he produces many anime Blu-rays. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap.


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