Category Archives: Anime Analysis
Earlier this year, the English dub of the third season of Gintama was released on Crunchyroll. It’s the first time that this iconic comedy series has ever been available dubbed, and this has caused quite a stir among fans. Some have looked forward to it, while others have raised concerns that the Japanese cultural jokes and wordplay won’t translate well into an English dub—that something about Gintama is too “Japanese” to translate well, despite the fact that the subtitled versions have already proved popular among non-Japanese fans. There are some loaded assumptions behind the idea that Gintama is unsuited for dubbing, and I’d like to unpack some of those in today’s “Found in Translation” column, if you don’t mind.
A Certain Magical Index is based off one of the most popular light novel series in Japan ever. If you count the side story volumes and the New Testament sequel currently being published in Japan, the Index series has over 40 volumes in print—and this isn’t even counting the A Certain Scientific Railgun manga spinoff which has its own sprawling continuity. If you’re even vaguely familiar with anime and light novels, you’ve probably heard of the Index franchise.
Note: Ah yes, this article. Maybe it’s not good to say, but originally I was gonna be much more negative because the Fuuka anime is about on the same level as pig’s excretion. Naturally, I wasn’t allowed to say that on the site this anime is streaming on. Have fun reading this article and identifying all the euphemisms for “this is shit”.
Watching the first episode of the Fuuka anime made me realize how good the manga is at what it does. Fuuka is very much a typical teenage romance manga, complete with tsundere antics and a panty shot in the opening pages, but there’s also something irresistibly readable about it. In large part, this is due to the manga’s visual execution. Kouji Seo may be a controversial manga artist because of the often frustrating relationships he depicts in his stories, but he also knows how to capture a teenage boy’s viewpoint through his art. In the Fuuka manga, our hero’s confidence issues seep through his body language in every panel.
Watching the anime, however, has been quite a different experience so far. The first thing I noticed about it was its overall aesthetic. The colors clash with each other, and the 3D backgrounds have an oddly prosthetic and clinical look about them that doesn’t mesh well with the character animation. The production flaws are understandable, considering that the anime’s art director and color coordinator are both first-timers in these roles. Studio Diomedéa has also struggled to finish major projects on time lately, particularly the recent KanColle movie, and Fuuka was almost certainly a victim of a rushed schedule (sadly the norm for TV anime). The external factors were clearly not in the anime’s favor.
Note: After spending a week in the Kansai area (nothing work-related, just a brief sojourn), I thought it would be nice to bring out this old article. This is a repost of an article I originally wrote for Crunchyroll. As always, check my writer profile to see my latest articles.
In the second season of Blue Exorcist, the action shifts to Kyoto, the former capital of Japan for over a thousand years. In many ways, it’s an ideal setting for the Blue Exorcist story. The characters’ powers are often inspired by Buddhist motifs (Suguro, for instance, recites Buddhist chants in order to cast barriers). Given that Kyoto is famous for its historical Buddhist temples and imperial palaces, it makes complete sense for the setting to shift to Kyoto as the story delves into the characters’ backstories and the events of the past.
There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to Kyoto and how the city is typically portrayed in anime, but today I want to introduce you to one particular technique used in Blue Exorcist to help set the scene in Kyoto—the characters from Kyoto all speak with a dialect. This might be difficult to fully appreciate in translation because the differences in the characters’ speaking styles are not marked in the subtitles. Dialects are notoriously difficult for translators to handle in general, so how are English speakers meant to understand the Kyoto dialect used in the Blue Exorcist anime?
As an art, adaptation is a lot like translation—you can’t expect an adaptation to be exactly the same as its source material. Novels can be great at showing introspection and getting into the characters’ heads, while animation has to rely on visual shortcuts in order to get the same point across. Just because an adaptation omits something from the novel doesn’t mean it’s worse off for it. I find it incredibly fascinating to examine the choices anime directors make in order to bring a story to life through a visual medium.
With that preamble out of the way, let’s kick off the first issue by looking at a popular light-novel-turned-anime from 2014: No Game No Life! (This article contains light spoilers for the first four episodes, so be warned.)
Like many anime fans of my generation, I grew up watching Dragon Ball Z. At the time, I didn’t think of it as anime, or even as Japanese. It might have had a lot of funny names, but a lot of cartoons had characters with funny names. While I could vaguely sense that something about Dragon Ball Z was different from the other shows I was watching, I had a very limited conception of foreign cultures back then.
To date, I still haven’t watched Dragon Ball Z since my childhood. But my perception of the series has changed enormously as I’ve gotten older. Not only did I realize that Dragon Ball Z originated from Japan, I also realized that the series drew from a wide range of cultural influences, and that not all the things that struck me as “different” or “unique” about the series as a child were due to it being Japanese. The fighting styles and moves are loosely based off Chinese martial arts, and many characters have Chinese-sounding names or are named after Chinese foods and drinks.
I first read the My Teen Romantic Comedy SNAFU novels soon after the first season of the anime hit the airwaves, and it’s been one of my favorite light novel series since then. It’s hard to describe exactly what makes the series so appealing to me, but it essentially comes down to this: it’s the most true-to-life representation of the high school experience that I’ve encountered through fiction.
I finally caught up on the last chapter of Scum’s Wish today and… it was kind of lame.
Brief spoiler-ific thoughts below.
Let’s look at some of the stories that Makoto Shinkai referred to when creating Your Name. Below is a translation of a column written for the official Your Name guidebook. It’s written by Mizuo Watanabe, a manga critic and the main writer of the yearly Kono Manga ga Sugoi! guidebook.
My Little Sister Can Read Kanji is a novel I’ve complained about before. In a post from two months ago, I said that Siskan had an entertaining premise but was not a well-told story overall. I still stand by these opinions, even after reading the second volume.
And yet I haven’t stopped reading the series, nor have I stopped thinking about its themes. It makes me question my beliefs about literature, not because it’s a good satire, but because it’s a bad one.
This must be getting confusing for you, so let me take a step back and explain what the satire in Siskan is all about.