Is It Intimidating For Japanese Guests To Visit American Conventions?
by Justin Sevakis,
When these Japanese anime voice actors[actresses] come to an US anime convention, do they take a translator with them? I'd imagine it'd be pretty scary coming to a country you've (probably) never been before, without even knowing how to speak the language. What does the voice actor/actress actually think about it? Is he/she just doing it because he's/she's told to by his/her agency or does he/she express interest in going? And how does the convention staff decide on who is popular or notable enough to warrant an admission for a specific VA? I mean, I'd imagine its hard to even know how the US fans perceive his/her, at least from VA's perspective(or his/her agency, if they are the ones that set this up). I'd appreciate a little insight on this.
It can definitely be a little intimidating to visit America when you don't know any English at all (or barely remember the crappy English you learned in high school). But it can also be a dream come true, especially if you're a relatively new artist or creator and aren't quite so blase about all-expenses-paid international travel yet. Put yourself in their shoes: let's say you create a comic that hits big in Japan, and you get invited to sparkling Tokyo for a weekend to meet your fans and get paid. Sounds fantastic, right?
That said, not everyone jumps at every chance to do an American convention. Some are scared of flying. Others have internalized too much bad TV news and consider all of America to be terrifying and dangerous. The West Coast of the US can seem much easier to travel to (it's the difference between a 10 hour flight and a 16 hour flight, and 3 extra hours of jet lag -- which is a lot to ask when you'll literally only be in town for a weekend). Anime cast and staff often talk amongst themselves, and if someone they know had a good or a bad time at a particular convention, that can definitely sway someone's decision. That, whether or not your schedule allows you to take the time off to travel, and the input of your management, are all things that Japanese guests must take into account.
Well-run conventions make the process as easy as possible for their guests. The convention picks them up from (and deposits them back at) the airport, they are chaperoned to tourist spots of their choice whenever they're not making appearances, and every meal is paid for. The chaperons usually know enough Japanese to get the guest what they want or need, although occasionally you get a weird one: some chaperons are a little too big of a fan, and get a little territorial and creepy. Most guests have a good time. But it can be a little stressful: if something goes wrong and you miss your connection or something, I can only imagine the panic of being stuck in an airport, unable to speak the language and unsure of anything you're supposed to be doing.
Not all people travel well. I've heard stories about Hayao Miyazaki literally packing instant ramen before traveling to New York City to promote Princess Mononoke years ago. Other guests have called their chaperons in the middle of the night asking how to use a hotel vending machine. There are bad guests, bad conventions, and a whole lot of really nice great times with good people to be had, which don't make for good stories. I'm guessing in the real world, there's mostly the latter.
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Justin Sevakis has worked in the anime business for over 20 years. He's the original founder of Anime News Network, and owner of the video production company MediaOCD. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap.
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