Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

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”.


And this one might be the worst offender of them all...

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?


At least it's better than "A secret makes a ooman, ooman"...

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.

Out of anything, I wish they explained the franken-dog. They need a spin-off about him.

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.

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Well all know them.  The popular anime series that continue running for hundreds and hundreds of episodes due to the popularity of the series.  Perhaps the creators intended for such shows to be shorter but as the series grew more and more popular, they had to cater to the needs of the public.  And what the public wanted was more of the series.  Or perhaps the plan was to have an ongoing series from the beginning.
These shows tend to be guilty pleasures for a lot of us.  We all know someone who’s a large fan of Bleach, Naruto (I lump Shipudden and Shounen Hen in this group), or One Piece.  We get hooked on these series early, become invested in the characters, and put in considerable time following it that perhaps we feel that we must finish the series…or at the least follow it as long as we can until we completely tire of it.


My guilty pleasure series is Detective Conan, a 617+ episode series about a high school detective (Shinichi Kudo) who is poisoned while spying on two men in black.  The poison backfires however and the result is that he is turned into a child and uses the alias “Conan Edogawa” so that no one (including his friends) can figure out his real identity.  Though along the way a few people end up finding out and of course his family find out.  As this post’s purpose isn’t to review the series in full, I don’t need to write a full description.  I’m just using this particular series as an example to show the problems that can happen with a long running series.


Detective Conan started off on at a rather steady pace.  And for the first 50 or so episodes, you can visually see the story going somewhere.  The basic gist of the story is that “Conan” (Shinichi) continues to solve various crimes in hopes that he picks up clues about the “Black Organization” and their drug, APTX 4869.  It’s a rather straightforward plot.  But the main issue is that the series continuously veers further and further away from the plot in order to drag the show on and on.  The smartest decisions they’ve made are to strategically insert nibbles of actual plot into the series when the series begins to veer too far away from the plot.  This keeps the audience interested by reminding them that they haven’t forgotten about the main plot.  It just takes a bit of time to get there.  The other smart decision is to insert something unique and interesting such as the London Arc or the recent insertion of a new detective named Sera into the manga.  This reminds the audience that the story can still be eye catching and interesting even when the main plot seems so far away.  Not to mention the addition of Sera spiced things up quite a bit.  As she’s a sudden addition and I want to know how her character will progress in further chapters.


But there is a grave downside to this as well.  While inserting nibbles of actual plot into the series is a great idea, the mistake with Detective Conan is when they do insert actual plot into the series, they quickly yank it away within a few episodes.  Right when you think the show might be going somewhere, it doesn’t.  Doing it a time or two is fine.  Just so long as it actually fulfill what it sets out to do.  But after 617 episodes, nothing has still happened.  They haven’t gotten any closer to defeating the Black Organization.  They haven’t gotten very many clues on the experimental drug.  Nor are they any closer to restoring Shinichi’s body to normal.  In fact, many of times I completely forget that Conan is Shinichi.  If you can delete a good majority of the series and leave just the parts that contain details that pertain to the plot, it’s a good sign that most of the series is unneeded.  Granted that would mean cutting some fun cases, but I would rather have the show (and manga too) continue to follow a plot rather than having cases that have no purpose.


I’m no storyteller.  In fact, writing stories is a weak point for me.  And I understand that writing long stories is easier than writing short ones.  It might be a normal thing for storytellers to write long stories in the beginning.  But part of the story writing process is cutting and editing out unnecessary details.  Getting rid of the parts that do not help further the plot.  And somehow this editing process was forgotten.


The public always knows what they want.  And the media should take into consideration what the public does want.  If they don’t, then their show, comic, song, etc. won’t be a success.  But don’t forget the integrity of the story in the process.  Don’t sacrifice what’s good to appease people.  If you have a good product, you will find an audience for it.  And just because a product has a large audience doesn’t always mean the product is good.  There’s nothing wrong with having a longer series.  But if you find that the show you’re making is more “filler” than plot, perhaps you should take a better look at your scripts and see if there’s anything your show can do without.

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