After finishing my whole review about Detective Conan, I realized I’d forgotten to revisit one particularly interesting aspect of the show for either the “bad” or the “ugly” section. But while thinking about it, I realized that this isn’t a problem that is singular to that series. Other shows have issues with this as well. And what’s this problem that I’m talking about? I’m talking about characters who are supposed to know English, speaking horrible English. Also known as…”Engrish”.
Meet Jodie Starling. She’s American. She’s an FBI agent. She’s also posing as a high school English teacher in Japan so…no one knows she’s an FBI agent? I don’t really know how that one works but oh well. Unfortunately for her, she must not have gone to a very good school in America (or any good schools actually…) because her English sucks!
At least have some effort be put in. If you want to have an American living in Japan that’s fine. But when you cast for voices, you should make sure that the person you cast can speak with some sort of American accent. Doesn’t matter if it’s Southern, Midwestern, Texas, Boston…who cares. Her American accent comes first, then the Japanese one. She isn’t a Japan-born citizen living in America. She’s an America-born citizen living in Japan! Was it really too difficult to find one person in Japan who was born in America and is fluent in Japanese? Was it?
But the “Engrish” doesn’t stop there folks. Usually I can take a little bit of Engrish in songs. A little bit. It can be funny. Rarely can a stand a full song of Engrish. Red Fraction by Mell is pretty much as close as it gets to an Engrish song that I can take seriously. The top offender in this category is the songs of Beck Mongolian Chop Squad. At least the ones that are in English anyways.
The worst offender has to be the song “Moon on the Water: Full Moon Sway”. The version that Sowelu sings anyhow. Now Sowelu is a gorgeous singer and I’m not faulting her for her voice in any fashion. This song has the potential to be very gorgeous and lyrically it’s made more gorgeous in the English version (actually singing wise…it’s horrendous) because at least the effort was put forth to try to make sense of the song. Now I understand poetry is supposed to be symbolic and metaphoric. But symbolism and metaphors are no excuse for poor grammar. And being from another country is no excuse for it either, especially when you’re working in a profession or on a project that calls for you to know what you’re doing. I understand having a character mess up on words if they’re a student in an English class and I understand having a basic non-English speaking characters speak poor English. Those are deliberate choices made for those specific people. But if you’ve got songwriters writing a song completely in English I’m pretty sure that a line like “I was fool, I couldn’t let myself to go…” would get corrected somewhere along the way. I’m pretty sure the line is supposed to be “I was sure, I couldn’t let myself go” but what do I know…? I’m not a songwriter. What’s worse is that the series the band is marketed to an American audience and is apparently popular in America. In the real world this just wouldn’t be possible. Because most people would laugh at the blatant “Engrish” and pass it up for your basic song that actually make sense. Let’s face it…even the theme song to this show doesn’t make sense. I love “Hit in the USA” and I love the Beat Crusaders but really…can someone just tell me what any of these words mean?
“I never dreamed before
I’m gonna knock the door
Into the world of perfect free (you ain’t no lonely)”
Really? No one has a clue? I’m not surprised. Though if I’m going by the context of the series my best guess would be that the song is about following your dreams, breaking down barriers, and making it big (specifically in America). But there wasn’t anyone who could’ve written that song with better grammar? No one?!
Look, this doesn’t only go for anime. If you want to feature characters that speak various languages in your shows or write a song using a different language, by all means go for it. But people aren’t stupid. You’re show is going to hit another audience and having a native English speaking character speak broken English shows through. Or a native Spanish character speaking broken Spanish with a French accent. Those things make a difference. Take the time to learn a proper amount of grammar before you decide to write a character that speaks a language that you don’t know. Or better yet, hire or find a person that will be willing to help you out with your scripts and/or casting. It’s not a difficult task. It just takes a little more effort and if that means that your product is delayed a bit then so be it. Better a delayed product with clear effort put in it than a haphazardly done finished one.