Home > Blog-related, Fandom, J-Dramas, Johnny's Jimusho, Ramblings > The Importance of Knowing English?

The Importance of Knowing English?

My sister and I watch a bunch of Johnny’s dramas. (Rather, I watch, and she tags along.) By Johnny’s dramas, I refer to ones specifically intended to market the pretty boys, where the story’s got little drive (each episode is only linked by a common theme and the characters) and the selling point is undeniably the actors’ day jobs, their musical careers. Stuff I’ve watched that I would shuffle into this category: Yukan Club, Sushi Oji!, Yamada Taro Monogatari, Kuitan, Remote. Sure, you can argue that some of them had a decent story and better acting, but at the end of the day, what was supposed to sell the drama was the lead actors’ faces.

Lately I’ve come to the conclusion that a Johnny’s drama just wouldn’t be complete without the butchering of another language in some way. Luckily for the two of us and our American upbringing, that language is usually English. (We get bonus points if the language being mutilated is Chinese, though. Oh, Kuitan. I will never be able to thank you enough )

So we were watching Yukan Club‘s episode 7 and I was being amused at Mike He’s accent when speaking Japanese… and then the antagonists of the episode spoke. It was clear that for all their foreign looks, English was not the first language for all but one of them, or even one that they were used to. And then Akanishi Jin’s character slid in and had three lines of English roll off his tongue with more vocal fluency than the ones who were supposed to speak English, and my sister and I died.

Clearly that time in America wasn’t completely wasted partying his drunk ass off.

Not to sideline Kashii Yu, either, who had the perfect tone of a newscaster and only stumbled a bit during her “translation” part. I wanted to get in some giggles at Taguchi Junnosuke, who said “Friends” with too much of a Japanese accent in contrast to his son-of-the-Swedish-ambassador character, but just seeing him blond and blue-eyed makes me want to snort in ridicule so I think we’re even.

(And then hereon, we’ll be ignoring the fact that Yukan Club‘s ratings were pretty low because quite frankly – even Kaga Takeshi couldn’t save it from the ridiculous suckage that it became. Also it never comes up in this post again.)

English and other languages are sneaking in more and more into Japanese pop culture. At the same time, that whole expansion through East Asia thing is going on in the music industry as well – and the US has always been a fairly popular destination. There are a lot more artists who are fluent in English, or have a decent grasp of the language, and a lot more traveling overseas is occurring.

When Crystal Kay first broke the market, despite some powerful vocals and obviously good English, along with one of Japan’s better composers (Kanno Yoko) backing her, she didn’t get anywhere. Now there’s a lot more vocalists in the Japanese music industry like her (melody., Arashiro Beni, Ito Yuna, Rie fu, EMYLI, MONKEY MAJIK, etc.) – and actually, they’re scattered around the market. H!P’s Coconuts Musume got pretty much nowhere – but Ayaka and Mika managed to brighten their respective careers in the fold by exploiting their English capabilities because it was a novelty gimmick. BoA’s English versions of her single tracks died out after Every Heart – back in 2001. Sure, Utada Hikaru’s EXODUS album hit highs in Japan, but she had to start out attracting with her Japanese lyrics as well. Her speaking English only made her more accessible in the States, really. English hasn’t had a very good run in Japan in the past – and now it’s become the boom.

So are the leaders of Japan’s entertainment world attempting to ease out? (Which leads to – is the entire industry a giant conspiracy where they buy high-end champagne with overseas fans’ rapid ridiculous spending in our attempts to get notice?) Is this the influence of groups like m-flo, who’ve worked artists who do have more of a Western sound, and the general American music craze in Japan?

Should Kimi stop typing up posts at 1:52 AM after a fairly disappointing day? (I bought a duplicate issue of Myojo at full price WHY? D: Dammit, there must be someone up there working against the idea of my buying two Japanese pretty boy magazines in a week.) Tune in tomorrow to find out. (You all know that’s a lie.)

Also – I really ought to come up with better year-end (for me) posts. See you guys in 2008.

  1. January 1, 2008 at 2:34 am

    I’ve noticed most translation programs, at best, produce a raw translation. However, it does give the non-Japanese speaker and reader at least an idea of what’s going on. Google’s translator is not bad, better than AltaVista’s Babelfish, and there are some Japanese that will noty go through Babelfish at all.

    I have a ebetter solution: Learn Japanese, which is what I’m trying to do now!

    http://radicalpatriot.vox.com

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