© Alan Riquelmy
September 17, 2002
So you want to go to Japan for the sole purpose of finding all that quality
anime, the stuff you’ll never be able to find here in the states, the
OAVs of legend that are only hinted at in anime guidebooks. That’s what
I thought I’d find when I went there.
Eighteen long months I spent in Japan, searching uselessly for the kind of movies
and manga that I had always heard about, but never truly seen. All throughout
the Kansai region I plodded in a vain attempt to locate just one movie, one
DVD to wow my friends back home with. And did I find it? Did I?
Well, yes, I did. But there’s a big problem with anime and manga in Japan.
Maybe you’ve already stumbled upon the dilemma I faced when looking for
anime in the land of the rising sun. For some reason before I left for Japan
I had fooled myself into thinking that language wouldn’t be a barrier,
somehow I could muddle through a year, even more, without being able to speak
one coherent sentence in Japanese.
And I did. To this day I’m able to say, in Japanese, only two sentences:
“My name is Alan” and “I can’t speak Japanese.”
Bemoan my lack of cultural sensitivity if you will; live in Japan for over a
year and then empathize with me.
It’s easy to survive in Japan without knowledge of the language. At times
I thought even easier than living here in the United States where I do speak
the language. Fluently. But accessibility of different languages is not so prevalent
in Japan as it is here. Sitting in my living room I can find Spanish TV
stations, call my bank’s helpline and get assistance in different languages,
and go to the bookstore and find books, movies and magazines in a variety of
Not so in Japan. Oh, sure, it was easy enough to find some bookstores that had
a large English section. You could get all the John Grisham or J. K. Rowling
books that your heart desired. You could even find some manga translated into
English (poorly, at times). Right now, sitting behind me on a bookshelf, I have
quite a collection of "Love Hina," "Ah! My Goddess" and "The New Kindaichi Files"
in English. Great manga, but stuff that I could get in this country if I looked
hard enough. And probably for cheaper, too.
But try to find anime in English in Japan and you’re going to find yourself
up a creek, paddleless. The society, the culture is just too homogeneous to
translate all of its manga and anime, or even a fraction of it, into different
languages. It was simple enough to find flicks such as "Ghost in the Shell"
and "Blood: The Last Vampire" in English. But this is stuff that I’ve
already seen back home! I want something new, something distinctly Japanese
that we can’t get in the states.
Nigh-impossible. There’s just too much manga and anime produced in Japan
to translate even the tiniest portion into English—not that English would
even be their first choice of languages to translate it into. You’d be
surprised at how many German manga I found floating around used book sales over
there. And, again, cheaper than anything in English.
Think about some of the varied genres of anime that comes out of Japan every
year that we never hear about or see. Anime about tennis, about baseball, about
go even. Do you have any idea how boring it is to watch a 30 minute show every
week about people playing go? Why would something like that ever get translated
If you can imagine an anime, I’d put money down that it exists. Business,
cooking, any kind of sport, anime for kids, for adults, for adults who like
a bit of kink in their lives, about politics, history, anything, everything.
It’s all there, but completely inaccessible because there’s absolutely
no reason for anyone to translate all this stuff. For the most part we wouldn’t
want to see it anyway.
And even the anime that we would want to see you can’t find in English.
Why? Because Japanese people don’t want to watch their anime in English,
they want to see it in Japanese! Why pay extra money for a DVD with subtitles
or dubbing in a language that you don’t know? Sounds kind of silly, doesn’t
But I understand there are those of you out there that study Japanese for the
sole purpose of reading manga and watching anime in its unspoiled form. More
power to you. I met plenty of people in Japan that studied English for the sole
reason that they wanted to watch American movies without having to rely on subtitles.
But every single one of them told me the same thing: In the movies they talk
too fast, their accents are too difficult to understand, they use too much slang,
or cursing, or whatever, that makes it very difficult to comprehend what’s
Ultimately, it comes down to this: all the anime you want to see is already
at your fingertips here in America. The same with martial arts. The same with
manga. If you import it, you better speak—and read—Japanese, Cantonese
or Mandarin as the case may be. You know, I still haven’t seen "Crouching
Tiger, Hidden Dragon." I looked everywhere in Japan, and found it in a number
of video rental shops. But there was this one little problem about the subtitles
that I just couldn’t get around. . . .
|Alan Riquelmy used to spend his time searching Tsutaya stores for "Cutey Honey" OAVs. He now wanders the local Blockbuster asking frightened store clerks
where the hentai section is. |
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