Weekly Round-Up, 26 May – 1 June 2021: Ace Attorney Localization, “Cool Japan,” and Gendered Translation

By: Anime Feminist June 1, 20210 Comments
A girl in a school uniform looking at floating images of her school memories

AnFem Round-Up

The Girl with the Healing Kiss: How Talentless Nana explores gender, morality and the savior complex

Avanya Manickum unpacks Michiru’s arc and how it implicitly plays into tropes about “good” women who sacrifice for others to the point of self-harm.

Genderless Gemstones: The pros and cons of Land of the Lustrous as non-binary representation

Alex discusses the relatively sparse state of non-binary rep and how Lustrous shines despite being another unfortunate case of non-binary=non-human.

Who’s a character you love from a series you otherwise disliked?

Sometimes there’s a shining star in that trash heap.

Beyond AniFem

Sailor Moon Got Me Into This Business and I’m Exhausted (Anime News Network, Lynzee Loveridge)

A tour through the poor localization and cash-grab entries in the Sailor Moon franchise over the years, capped with alleged rapist Todd Haberkorn directing the new Eternal dub.

Speaking of Netflix, I’ll round out this history of snubbing Sailor Moon to its most recent release, the Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Eternal films. Finally! A release available globally, within a reasonable timeframe of the original, and I can happily report that it looks great. I’ll elaborate more about the films themselves within a proper review, but suffice to say I was very excited for this release. The Sailor Moon Super S and Sailor Moon Stars seasons arguably differ the most from their manga counterparts, so a new adaptation could very easily be entirely different stories. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a competent telling of Sailor Moon without dodgy releases, heavy rewrites, and being mired in disappointment?

What, you made it to the end of this and thought you earned reprieve? Remember the start of this, where I likened Sailor Moon to a personal moralistic figure that greatly informed my identity? I guess we have to talk about that a little to put this into perspective. Long-time readers (and haters) probably know me best for writing a piece about Vic Mignogna, which was later entered into court evidence during his failed lawsuit a few years back. While that report was an arduous task, it isn’t the only one I’ve written. I actually spent a large amount of time immediately after it looking into an alleged rape by voice actor Todd Haberkorn.

Translating gender from Japanese to English (Leocalization, Leo McDonagh)

A short theory on approaching gendered language in translation outside of pronouns by a trans professional translator.

Though translators must endeavour to be unbiased and faithfully translate the original text, there’s always going to be some degree of adaptation in the translation. With regards to gender, this becomes increasingly fraught when the history and culture of gender and sexuality in Japan and English-speaking countries are quite different. There is a temptation to assume gender or assign labels (such as “trans” or “non-binary”) when they were never explicitly stated as such in the original, because that’s what we would conclude based on our own cultural upbringing.

This is especially tempting when encountering Japanese gender words that are exclusive to Japan, such as x-gender (neither male nor female) or onabe (people assigned female at birth with masculine gender expressions who may identify as trans men, drag kings, lesbians, crossdressers, butches, non-binary, sexually dominant lesbians, etc, with a different meaning to every individual who identifies with it, created within the queer community to accompany the often derogatory alternative okama, which is similarly vague and means– see, how am I supposed to fit this into a translation note?!).

Engaging with the task of translating gender in discussion with post-colonial theory is particularly intriguing to me, as texts have often been sanitised and culture erased through their translation into English throughout history. However, to what extent is this avoidable or not? It depends on the purpose (called “skopos” in fancy translation theory) of the text and its translation, its individual challenges, its format, its intended audience (and their politics), and a bunch of other factors.

Ramseyer and the Right-Wing Ecosystem Suffocating Japan (Tokyo Review, Paula R. Curtis)

A concise summary of the backlash to Ramseyer’s academic article attempting to claim (falsely) that all Korean “comfort women” trafficked by the Japanese military were in fact consenting volunteers.

The neto uyo enlisted a campaign of contacting employers and institutions funding academics in Asian Studies to complain of what they interpret as hate speech and racism. As a historian of premodern Japan who supports the work of my colleagues and an active presence on Twitter, I found myself a target of online harassment from these right-wing circles. One ringleader used a Japan Foundation grant I received in 2015 to claim that Japanese taxes are being used to spread hate of Japan all over the world.

These are not hollow threats. Recently, a young Japan scholar was denied a prestigious fellowship due to concerns that her research proposal would draw the anger of the Sankei Shimbun and the program would become a target of right-wingers. Some of the tweets promoted by the neto uyo leaders even claimed that Jews were secretly running the Japan Foundation.

The toxic feedback loop of right wing social media was on full display when Ramseyer defended himself as part of a right wing video conference on Comfort Women hosted in Tokyo during late April 2021. Not only did he refer to his critics as Stalinists, but Ramseyer also alleged that the humanities in the United States harbors anti-Japanese bias. His comments played directly to the right wing’s rejection of scholarship that does not affirm their views and served to fill a crucial gap that the historical denialist community needs to legitimize themselves within and outside of Japan. What’s more, some of Ramseyer’s so-called sources are themselves dubious right wing blogs, the same blogs that revere his word as gospel and accept no alternatives. Ultimately, each feeds off the other, allowing the pernicious cycle of self-validation to continue.

The History the Japanese Government Is Trying to Erase (The Nation, Chelsea Szendi Schieder)

Context on the erasure of the “comfort woman issue” from a professor in Japan and its impact.

My students are often unsure about how to define a “comfort woman.” Most of them understand that “comfort woman” is a euphemism for women forced to provide sex to soldiers in the imperial Japanese military. Many of my students report they learned about “comfort women” primarily through the news, if at all, often in the context of contemporary Japan–South Korea relations, and often report that they can’t understand why South Korea keeps making demands when Japan “already apologized” and “gave a lot of money.” There also remains a great deal of confusion about coercion. Were “comfort women” “just” prostitutes? Didn’t the 1965 Japan–South Korea Treaty settle everything? Didn’t Japan apologize?

My students’ puzzled questions reflect the failure of the promise of the Kōno Statement to “never to repeat the same mistake by forever engraving such issues in our memories through the study and teaching of history.” The misogyny and racism embedded not only within the Japanese Empire but also within the victorious Allied Forces delayed a full accounting of the abuses of the “comfort women” system. The Allies only convicted Japanese officers involved in the forcible recruitment of white Dutch women in Batavia, in what is now Indonesia, but largely ignored the suffering of Asian “comfort girls,” as they were referred to in US wartime reports. Today, after decades of scholarship has established the brutal nature of the “comfort women” system, forces of misogyny and racism in the Japanese state align to deny the abuses.

In 2015, under Prime Minister Abe, the Japanese government doubled its “strategic overseas dissemination” annual budget to 41.2 billion yen (about $375 million), in part to counter South Korean activism on behalf of “comfort women” recognition. In 2018, the budget rose further to 59 billion yen (about $538 million) a year. Along with more general cultural diplomacy—cultural and academic exchange—this enormous sum is deployed to communicate “Japan’s correct stance” on territorial issues and historical issues, particularly that of the “comfort women.” The aim is the “cultivation of cohorts who are pro-Japanese and knowledgeable about Japan,” in the words of Foreign Minister Kishida Fumio, in 2016.

Asian-American Voice Actors Question Why White A-List Stars Are Still Voicing Anime (IndieWire, Kristen Lopez)

Three Funimation voice actors discuss the inequality and bias they’ve experienced during their time in the industry.

“Despite the fact that I actually spent a lot of time directing outside of animation no one was really looking at me until another director, a white guy, saw me, believed in me, and went to bat for me pretty hard,” Yu said. Because the pool is often so small for minority directors, Yu said, it’s not enough for white creatives to hold the door open for one — there is a need to expand the pool of talent in general so that those outside your immediate space can be included.

Even then, according to Gann, the tribal mentality and being an outsider as a person of color remains. “I have my foot in the door now,” he said. “[But] it’s still a hard push to make myself a permanent fixture amongst that group… You just have to earn that trust and a lot of the time it’s harder for BIPOCs and women to make that leap.” Yu said there also needs to be more people of color in upper-management positions. “When you advertise how many employees you have… what about managers? What about upper level?” she asked.

Lo said it’s easy to stay sheltered and ignore the grander implications of the anti-Asian hate that’s swirling outside the world of entertainment. “Just the other day I heard a friend of mine was involved in something like that… they jumped in to help somebody who was being attacked,” she said. “It really made it hit home… there are still so many people [who] are still ignoring that it’s a problem.”

Japan teens turn to activism but no public display of protest please (The Asahi Shimbun, Mari Fujisaki)

A survey of Japanese youth 10-19 found 69.5% “wanted to join” social movements (primarily online), but many responded negatively to the concept of demonstrations.

A total of 52.5 percent said they see demonstrations as “giving bad impressions such as being terrifying and extreme.” Some 42.4 percent said boycotting had the same effect.

The negative impression rates for demonstrations and boycotts were even higher than the figures for other kinds of activities related to social movements.

“Challenges remain given the current situation where people prefer activities that can be done by a single person, because the trend could affect the sustainability of campaigns,” said Kyoko Tominaga, an associate professor of sociology at Ritsumeikan University, in a written comment on the survey’s results.

“Discussions should be held over how to present the significance of such social movements as organized actions and protests.”

The findings corroborate through numerical data the notion that those in their teens through mid-20s are taking advantage of social media to raise the issues of climate changes and gender equality in Japan.

Making Phoenix Wright Canonically Asian American and Why That is Important (to Me) (Video Game Choo Choo, Elvie)

A deep dive into the cultural tensions created by the decision to relocate the Ace Attorney series in America during translation.

It was clear that the series’ English-language localization needed a pivot under someone who had the proper background and touch to balance the game’s now fully embraced American setting while respecting its Japanese intent. When Janet Hsu took over localization of the games starting with Justice For All in 2006 (Adam Smith briefly returned to Capcom to lead the localization for Apollo Justice in 2008), she wanted to “recreate the feeling and experience Japanese gamers had in a way that is understandable to a Western audience”. Hsu has written several blog posts chronicling her localization adventures and communication with Shu Takumi, the creator of the series. By projecting her own experiences having lived in different countries as an Asian woman, she was able to approach the games that interpreted the world of Ace Attorney taking place in “an alternate universe where anti-Japanese sentiments and anti-immigrant laws were not enacted, and Japanese culture was allowed to flourish and blend into the local culture in the same manner as other immigrant cultures”.

In an effort to simply fill in the gaps previous localization decisions have created, Hsu redacted one of many ugly parts of American history in an effort to instead imagine a more idealized, but still imperfect society. As an Asian American myself, to see a lot of thought put into navigating a tricky canon by turning it into something meaningful for the Asian community is a huge deal.

There were slivers of this cultural flavor that constantly popped up in the games, and it remains unclear to me as to why dramatic changes to undo its presence were necessary. One example of this is the recurring joke that Maya Fey (Mayoi Ayasato 綾里真宵) is obsessed with burgers. In the original Japanese text, she is obsessed with ramen. Why was this necessary to swap out to begin with? Even if more authentic ramen and all of its variants are more commonly found on the blocks and within pantries of Asian communities, it’s safe to say knowledge of this food item is not unknown to our globalized world. As if ramen has not been a known food staple in the United States entering the latter half of the 21st century? As if college students everywhere don’t eat and breathe Nissin Cup Noodles as the high sodium fuel to procrastination?

VIDEO: Street interviews with Black Tokyoites about their lives in Japan.

TWEET: A statement from Naomi Osaka on her decision to withdraw from the French Open due to mental health issues.

TWEET: Syllabus for an open-access UCBLA course on unpacking the marketing concept of “cool Japan.”

AniFem Community

We all have that show we watched way too long for one character.

  Moroha from Yasahime should have been the protagonist. Of a better show.

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