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Oops! All Quick Answers!

by Justin Sevakis,

Samuel asked:

What pros and cons are there from learning the Japanese language from Japanese entertainment (anime, manga, non-animated television as well as motion pictures, light novels, visual novels, etcetera)?

You can't really compare learning Japanese from something that's solely an audiovisual medium (anime, movies and dramas, audio dramas) versus a written medium (manga, light novels). You do need both. You won't get very far learning Japanese if you don't learn hiragana and katakana, and while I've met some people who can read Japanese but not speak it, those skills won't get them very far socially if they went to Japan or had to watch a Japanese film without subtitles.

Manga and light novels are decent "starter" things to study. Manga is a little less useful, since you're less likely to come across longer and varied kinds of sentences -- most of what you're getting will be dialogue. (Also, the sort of language in Shonen Jump or Ribon will be far simpler than what you'd get in a cerebral seinen or josei manga.) Conversely, light novels are specifically written to use very simple Japanese. So while both have their plusses and minuses, neither one ticks all the boxes. And without verbal practice, it is very difficult to stay engaged or pick up a language fully. I do know one guy whose autism came with a gift that allowed him to learn Japanese extremely well without any oral training whatsoever, but I think that was a unique talent that most people couldn't possibly emulate. (And to be honest, I did struggle to understand his spoken Japanese.)

While the Japanese you hear from live action movies and dramas are far more realistic than what you pick up from anime (I've written about the perils of learning Japanese from anime before.), what kind of movies and dramas you're watching matter a lot. If you pick up Japanese from period pieces, you'll end up talking like a samurai. If you watch too many gangster movies you'll talk like a yakuza. But obviously none of these make a up a complete language study diet either. You'll only get the words that make up the drama that takes place, and few of the mundane things that make up the bulk of everyday speech. Depending on what you're watching, you might also end up sounding like a bad actor.

None of these take the place of proper language study. You simply need real Japanese study materials at some point. But if being into Japanese pop culture helps you stay engaged (the toughest part of studying), by all means use them. But do recognize their shortcomings.

Matthew asked:

About a year ago there was an announcement about an anime music streaming service that would feature Japanese artists and touted having the full library of Love Live! music, which would separate itself from services like Spotify and Apple Music. It was supposed to release sometime by the end of last year but I never heard anything beyond the initial announcement. Whatever happened to the service and will it ever see the light of day?

ANiUTa sent out a press release about a year ago, and promised a Spotify-like streaming service for anime and Japanese music. Launched by FlyingDog CEO Shiro Sasaki and Shunji Inoue from Lantis, the service boasted partnerships with most of the big anime and music publishers in the country. Since an English press release was disseminated, lots of Western fans were hoping for a worldwide service.

Unfortunately, that has not happened. The service DID launch, including apps in the iOS App Store and on Google Play. The site boasts a catalog of over 50,000 songs, and touts many of the top themes from recent shows. Unfortunately the service is limited to Japan only; the app isn't even listed in the US App Store. We can only hope that someday they might make a splash overseas.

Matthew asked:

I was recently watching an episode of the anime Overlord, and they were introducing a new character who seemed to be multi-classing. The way the show was describing it how his powers worked, it sounded more like someone describing their Mulit-class character from a table-top rather than from a JRPG as would be the norm in Isekai anime. I was wondering, to what extent does Tabletop RPG's like D&D, Pathfinder and Warhammer have a presence within Japan?

Tabletop RPGs enjoy a fair amount of success in Japan, much as they do in the US: a small nerdy thing to do with your friends, and not something that gets a huge amount of attention outside of that realm. Japan International Gamers Guild hosts regular events in Tokyo and Kansai. There are dedicated retail chains stocked with RPG stuff (mostly translated into Japanese), and even Games Workshop locations in several cities.

The influence of Dungeons and Dragons on 90s anime is unmistakable, but was perhaps most obvious in Record of Lodoss War. However for the past few decades trading card games have been far, far more popular, to the point of being pretty much mainstream. (We see plenty of anime tie-ins for those too.) These days, I've heard that most of the tabletop gaming community consists of foreigners, but I don't know how true that is. Perhaps someone in the forum can enlighten us.

James asked:

It seems to be unlikely that there shall be a physical release in the west of Pokémon uncensored with its original Japanese audio in the near future, so what are the chances of the original uncensored version of Pokémon being available in the west for streaming online?

Equally low. The differences between the Japanese and International versions of Pokémon are not drastic but are significant, and The Pokémon Company International spends quite a bit of money on localization to make sure that the version we get here is as digestible as possible to as many people as possible. All of the unique things that only Japanese people would get (or pervy things that only Japan would think is OK to put in a kids' show) get ironed out, names get standardized, and no problems are had.

Pokémon is, first and foremost, a kids' property, and maintaining the trust of parents in the Pokémon brand comes before everything. There is very little benefit to making the original version available, which would only satisfy a handful of otaku but runs a real risk of making a handful of pearl-clutching parents VERY LOUDLY upset. That might impact sales, and even the smallest impact on sales for a brand like Pokémon typically means a loss in the millions of dollars -- far more than streaming a subtitled version could ever hope to bring in.

I mean, never say never, but I certainly don't see it happening anytime soon. And if I were running Pokémon Company, I certainly wouldn't seem like sound business to me.

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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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