Japan Trip Wrap-up

March 28th, 2010

It was a whirlwind tour as always, interspersed with a lot of shopping.

We visited most of the things we wanted to do, with a few exceptions. Mostly because my wife’s foot is still broken and my feet plain old suck, we just didn’t have time to get to the Sanjusangendo in Kyoto or the Benten or Inari shrines we like in Tokyo. Other than those, we got to every other shrine (and store) we wanted to, as well as several we stumbled upon randomly. My wife got herself a book for shrine stamps and had fun amassing a collection of shrine stamps and calligraphy. Tangentially, I find that calligraphy really bugs me. In both Western and Eastern characters. Dear calligraphers – just because it’s unreadable, doesn’t make it “artistic.” Humph.

Based on what I saw shopping and at TAF, anime merchandising remains the only profitable bit of the industry. Genres that are doing well are still Action, Moe and Boy’s Love, retreads of already successful series – and monster/youkai stories are having another revival. When Mizuki Shigeru is on TV, you know it’s time for more monsters. The wife and I are totally down with that. And what an interesting guy Mizuki is! I was so exhausted when the interview with him was on, but wanted to stay up and keep watching. Maybe next time we go back, we’ll make it out to Sakaiminato to see the town’s celebration of his work. (Also next time, Kamakura, not for Aoi Hana, but for Yoshiya Nobuko’s house, which is now a museum. It’s time to thank her personally.) Given the amount of people at TAF on the industry day, things are still slow. Western fans may think that scans and subs are great, but when there is no more anime industry in Japan – what are they gonna sub? This is not a rhetorical question, but a real possibility. And young people who say they want to get into the industry are honestly not prepared to do any such thing. The crushing hours and low pay is not glamorous or cool – and it doesn’t get better as you rise in the ranks.

On the other hand, manga seems to be slowly getting more independent and intelligent. Sure, there was a lot of same old same old, but magazines like Ikki, Comic Beam, Morning and Morning 2 are really making a mark in the “Whatever we feel like” category of publishing – the genre I like best. :-) Also, small publishers are doing surprising and strange things. It almost seems that the moe craze is more confined to stuff that comes from games than the purely manga stuff, but maybe I’m projecting. Certainly there’s still plenty of moe to be had.

Based only on what I saw and what I’m guessing, Yuri/GL is holding steady, maybe slowly gaining. It’s a small genre still, and will probably remain a small genre for some time to come. I foresee the trend we’ve seen to continue – once every few years, we’ll get a popular series or two that pushes GL up in popularity, then it will sink back slightly as people move on. Basically – Yuri trending up every other year, then a steady year, with a “gateway” series every 5 years or so.

More people than ever before spoke English. In Kyoto there was nowhere we went where people did not, even at the shrines; and in Tokyo, it was only one or two restaurants where no one did. I still need to be learn to say “Ginger Ale” better. It was a little vexing, because I’d try and order in Japanese, (or ask directions, or whatever) and would get an answer in English. Geez, folks, I need to practice, could you help me out here? As always, I was just getting into the rhythm of comprehending most of what I heard about the time we were headed home. Also noticeable – people are significantly taller in Tokyo than they were even in 2002. When I first went, I was about average height among women, now I’m just as short as I am in New York. It’s not just heel height either. Both the wife and Bruce noticed it too.

As usual, we didn’t have a bad meal the entire time. Can’t understand people who can’t find something to eat in a *city*. When you travel, have a open mind. Just try stuff. If you don’t like it, don’t have any more. If you’re gonna insist on food you eat at home, why travel?

And lastly, I think that if the Japanese anime industry was smart, they’d just do their own multi-language translations, stream the anime and cut out the foreign companies completely. Overseas fandom would get what they want, and companies could market their merchandise directly with advertisements on the site and in the stream (y’know, like on commercial TV,) and sell DVDs directly. It wouldn’t be hard to have several language tracks for DVDs and it would avoid tedious, time- and money-consuming negotiations with foreign countries. If they streamed for free, fans wouldn’t be able to complain and those who will cough up for DVDs could buy multi-language track versions. It would suck for foreign distributors, but it might save the Japanese anime industry.

My sincere thanks to translator Ana Moreno and the Pixel Maritan crew, Rob Pereyda of Crunchyroll, Bill Flanagan, Komatsu-san and Kazami-san, for your kindness and generosity. Extra special thanks to translator extraordinaire Mari Morimoto and my unending thanks to Bruce. My wife and I had a great time and we thank you all!

I’ve got piles and piles of stuff to read and watch, so I think that’s it for this Yuri Empress. :-)

Pictures of the trip live here, here and here.

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2 Responses

  1. BruceMcF says:

    If TV Tokyo is putting $750k into Crunchyroll, I hope that at a minimum they would do what they can to stop dicing and slicing overseas markets country by country … working to avoid license terms that interfere with being able to license streams everywhere outside of Japan.

  2. Frea says:

    I’m glad you guys had a good time! I’ve noticed that in the big cities, too. Everyone is so darned eager to use their English. Even with the ones that initially speak Japanese to me, if I didn’t hear something and ask for them to say it again (in Japanese,) they’ll say it in English when all I really wanted was them to repeat the Japanese. It’s the smaller cities where you can really get the practice. It’s sink or swim there. Although, gestures sure go a loooong way.

    Another thing is what you mentioned with the ginger ale. It may sound similar with the katakana English, but if you don’t say the syllables just so then you get a completely blank look. I had the same problem with “ginger ale” and also “mayonnaise” Many times I thought I said it the right way only to find huge globs on my sandwich. I can only imagine what they thought the strange gaijin was babbling about.

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