Room 208

Elaborate Burn

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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, and Industry.

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’

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. Did somebody say something about Miyuki Sawashiro? No? Oh. I just thought… well. Another time, maybe. clears throat

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

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.