Japan Statistics Bureau: Nearly 100% of Anime Voice Actors Without Obviously Accented English Remain Jobless
CHIYODA, Tokyo, Japan — Employment opportunities for anime voice
actors with native-sounding English continued to hover near zero in the
month of October, according to figures released Friday by the Ministry
of Internal Affairs and Communications. Jobs numbers remained
stubbornly low in spite of government initiatives targeted at the hiring
of competent English speakers, including the addition of characters who
“basically screamed for someone with better English than a potato,”
according to an anonymous source inside the Ministry of Economy, Trade,
In one prominent failure, the role of Kouki Saiki, a Japanese
returnee from an English-speaking country in this season’s
WWW.Working!!, ended up going to voice actor Yoshimasa Hosoya,
whose English has a distinctly Japanese flavor. “For this to happen
when Saiki’s native language was explicitly changed to English, from the
Web manga’s original Korean, is nothing short of a complete repudiation
of the program. It’s as if no one in the industry cares,” said Kenzou
Takamiya, professor of labor studies at Tokyo University.
The Statistics Bureau expects the hiring of VAs who don’t need a
katakana reference for English text to remain low in the coming months,
especially given the now-likely demise of the multilateral Trans-Pacific
Partnership trade agreement, or TPP. Provisions in the TPP would have
lowered barriers to work visas for Japanese Americans seeking voice
roles in anime, but the election of the staunchly anti-trade Donald
Trump as president of the United States has effectively closed the
possibility of the deal’s ratification.
Reaction from English-speaking anime fans has been muted, with some
expressing disbelief that voice actors’ Japanglish was ever a concern.
“I don’t think I’ve ever noticed,” said 33-year-old Kent Wentworth of
Toledo, Ohio. “I mean, it all sounds like Japanese to me. I’m too busy
reading the subtitles to really pay attention to their voices anyway.”
Some notes on the Windows version of ‘Zero Time Dilemma’
As you might imagine, given that the game was primarily developed
for the 3DS and Vita, the system requirements listed on Steam are
overkill. I mean, 8 GB RAM? A GTX 650 or HD 7700 with 1 GB VRAM at
minimum? It was almost playable in a VirtualBox instance that requires
software emulation of DirectX 11! I’d guess most any computer released
in the past three years, and even some older ones, should be able to run
Zero Time Dilemma with few issues. Just turn down the
resolution and antialiasing if you run into problems.
Speaking of settings, the game’s launcher is a Node.js app using
the Electron framework. Seems like overkill for something that’ll only
ever run on Windows, doesn’t it? Hmm.
There are a few UI artifacts indicating the game’s origin as a
handheld console port, most visibly the mentions of hardware buttons on
the menu screens. Since the 3DS supports stylus input, which translates
well to a mouse, the mildly lazy conversion doesn’t hurt gameplay that
much. It’s a little irritating to have to use the on-screen keyboard for
puzzles that require text input, though.
Much hay has been made of Zero Time Dilemma’s
introduction of random elements to the typical visual novel choice
system, but I suspect that they’re not in fact all that random. I’d love
to hear from anyone who doesn’t get the dice roll in exactly three
attempts, for instance. Yeah, when you know what the odds would actually
be, they sure feel awfully hopeless, but it’d be pretty stupid
for the game to insist on adhering to them.
Did somebody say something about Miyuki Sawashiro? No? Oh. I just
thought… well. Another time, maybe. clears throat
Really, the most jarring thing about Zero Time Dilemma,
coming from the first two games in the Zero Escape series, is
the shift to fully-3D cutscenes. It’s a far more demanding mode of
presentation than the models of Virtue’s Last Reward, which
animated a small palette of gestures and nothing else, let alone the
visual novel–style 2D sprites from Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine
Doors. Unfortunately, Zero Time Dilemma’s visuals hint
that the budget wasn’t increased to match. This is especially noticeable
in the PC version, where the low-resolution textures and plasticky
character animations stick out like a sore thumb.
Which is a real shame, because Rui Tomono did a great job with
reinterpreting the character designs for this final game in the trilogy.
They do lose the more baroque fluorishes of Kinu Nishimura’s work from
the first two installments, but that’s in keeping with the generally
more subdued mood of Zero Time Dilemma. Gone are the moments of
calm that housed comedic bits like Junpei’s cat-related verbal tic. It
shows that Koutarou Uchikoshi has learned how to preserve the sense of
urgency throughout a story. Contrast this with the interludes of chicken
sandwiches and kick-the-can games in Ever17 — though the
newfound seriousness can occasionally get rather suffocating.
Between the replacement of visual novel narration with cutscenes
and the leaner plot, Zero Time Dilemma cuts a third to a half
off the playtime of Virtue’s Last Reward. It’s hard not to feel
a little disappointed by how the game pulls back on throwing revelations
out of left field, even though it makes sense for the last game in a
series like this one — especially this one — to try and wrap up
all of the loose ends it’s introduced. Still, the basic framework of an
Uchikoshi story hasn’t changed: you get yourself very confused, and in
doing so you manage to save the lives of all of the main characters. It
doesn’t even merit a spoiler warning at this point, but I’m fine with
that. The journey is what counts.
Shows I thought were cool in 2015
It’s been too long, but I don’t really have much to say, so let’s
have another list like I did two
years ago. Maybe this time with some more words.
In approximate order from best to even better.
Your Lie in April (Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso).
The premise invites comparisons to Nodame Cantabile, which I
think do this show a disservice — it never professes to be as mature or
as musically rigorous, and holding it to that standard is rather unfair.
While the dramatic turns do sometimes get predictable and circuitous,
the show’s most beautiful moments make up for that. Yes, the intense
swells of the score help.
Prison School. On the flip side, this is a series that
no one in their right mind would take seriously at first glance. If you
can get over its unabashed attachment to the lowbrow, though, you’ll be
floored by how tightly the narrative is constructed, how the characters
play off each other, and how the lewd, lurid, and juvenile actually fit
into a plot where everyone seems to be a chessmaster. Prison
School is the sort of work that lulls you into low expectations
before proceeding to ambush you with competence. Or, as I put it on
Twitter, if some anime are junk food, this is Alton Brown teaching
you how to deep-fry Snickers.
Noragami Aragoto. Where the first series is overly
focused on the whiny teenage rebellion of Yukine, played a bit too
pitch-perfectly by Yuuki Kaji, the sequel gives us the shounen
battles of wills that we waited a whole season to see. The evolving
rivalry between Yato and Bishamon serves as the foundation for the rest
of the show’s events, and it gives us a great sense of scale as other
conflicts around them get broader and nastier. My only disappointment is
with the ending theme, which isn’t quite as good as the last one. Alas,
you can’t win ’em all.
My Love Story!! (Ore Monogatari!!). It’s what
love would be like if love were about being as masculine as possible
while simultaneously being as shoujo as possible. This sounds
clearly self-contradictory, but much like with Monthly Girls’
Nozaki’s anarchic approach to shoujo clichés, it’s why the
show works. The more ridiculous moments, like the protagonist saving his
girlfriend from a literal falling I-beam by just holding it up, give the
romance room to breathe without suffocating on an excess of
self-seriousness. At the same time, My Love Story!! never
stoops to mocking its characters — it really is just love, with a good
old infusion of very hot blood.
Shirobako. It’s an anime about anime, which could have
been a horrible exercise in navel-gazing, but ends up being the closest
thing to genuinely fun edutainment that the medium has given us since
Moyashimon. (If only the word “edutainment” didn’t sound so
stupid.) We get an only-moderately-exaggerated sense of how the sausage
is made, while P.A. Works gets in a sly wink and a nod about the foibles
of themselves and their competitors. Seriously, did anyone not
immediately think of Akiyuki Shinbou and Madoka?
Working!!! Just as fun as the first two seasons, except
things actually happen. I’d ordinarily shy away from spoilers, but come
on, we all know who’s finally shacking up. The important part is that
the warm, fuzzy moments come without betraying the adorably neurotic
personalities of the characters we’ve come to love. Or at least laugh
at in twenty-four-minute increments.
Owarimonogatari. I’ve mentioned before that my ability
to objectively evaluate the quality of any Monogatari Series
installment has probably long been compromised, but this installment
really does strike me as another high note, after the mildly muddled
mess that is the Tsukimonogatari miniseries. Marina Inoue,
mostly known for playing boisterous characters like Minami-ke’s
Kana, balances out her performance as Sodachi Oikura with a remarkable
vulnerability and nuance. The show’s second arc doesn’t shine quite as
brightly, but still brings enough twists and turns to keep us wanting
more — and, of course, that typographically-endowed flair isn’t going
See you in 2017! You should watch Erased, because unless it
totally squibs its ending, it’s going to be on this list then.
Also, I guess I lied about not having much to say.
And don’t let the door hit you on the way out
After ages of complaining about
Tumblr, I finally went and did something about it. This is something
I hacked up in a couple of hours using Tumblr’s JSON export and a static
site generator. Maybe someday I’ll post the source code.
You know where to complain if something’s broken.
We learned yesterday that voice actress Miyu Matsuki passed away from pneumonia last week at the age of 38. It’s a bit irresponsible to reduce someone with a résumé like hers down to a single role, but for me she left her greatest mark as the youthful, often-indiscreet homeroom teacher Yoshinoya in Hidamari Sketch. I can’t imagine anyone else bringing the character to life with quite the same irrepressible energy that made such an impression over four seasons and a handful of OVAs.
There’s this weird, conflicted feeling I get whenever I hear that a performer whose work I enjoy has suddenly died. Along with the wish that they hadn’t gone so soon is a little voice in the back of my head that tells me how callous it is to want someone to stay alive solely so they can continue to toil for my entertainment. It goes without saying, but that’s the only way I really knew Matsuki, as a disembodied voice on the other side of a television or computer screen. There’s a world of difference between that and the shock and grief of the people who have actually worked with her.
At the same time, I think Matsuki’s work was, like any other form of artistic performance, in part an expression of who she herself was, and it seems fair to wish that she had more time to do that through her voice acting. One should always be wary of reading too far into any similarities between actors and their characters, but I will note that, like Yoshinoya, Matsuki never wed and had more than enough vitality for someone half her age.
Matsuki’s final post to her blog reads, in part, “When I get over this illness, I’ll get married this time for real!” One of the last roles I heard Matsuki in before she died was Chimo, the cheerful proprietor of a local favorite okonomiyaki restaurant in Tamayura. In the most recent of the current ongoing series of OVAs, Chimo announces that she’s getting engaged. Matsuki is no longer with us to see her wedding.
Rest in peace, Ms. Matsuki. You will be missed.