Anime has really gotten big in the U.S. in recent years, changing the face of popular culture as people are more in sync with the anime world. This isn’t a new phenomenon in Japan, of course, where animation has been a part of everyone’s lives since the old days of Mighty Atom, Giants no Hoshi and the original Gegege no Kitaro. One thing I’ve often noticed is that the voice actors — seiyu in Japanese — in anime are often extremely famous in Japan, with many of the top stars essentially becoming household names. When legendary voice actor Yasuo Yamada, who provided the voice of Lupin III, died in 1995, it was a national tragedy, and everyone grieved to lose the original voice of Lupin. (He was replaced by a comedian who did Lupin III impersonations on variety shows.) Some other voice actors who are well-known to the average Japanese person include Akira Kamiya, voice of Kenshiro from Fist of the North Star, the muscular Kinniku Man, and Ryo from City Hunter, and of course Tohru Furuya, who’s played Amuro Rei from the iconic Mobile Suit Gundam along with a host of other roles. Perhaps the most famous voice actor of all is Nobuyo Oyama, the voice of the lovable robot cat from the future, Doraemon. When she retired in 2005, my kids stopped watching the show entirely, since they couldn’t accept Doraemon with any voice other than the original. My wife watches lots of American TV dubbed into Japanese, and it’s quite fun to play “pick the anime voice actor” while watching an episode of CSI: Miami with her. Oh, that’s Inspector Zenigata!
One thing I’ve noticed is that people from all countries will reduce complex words into smaller chunks to make them easier to work with. In Japanese, it’s common for various words to be abbreviated and reduced, to make them easier to say, especially English words which can be cumbersome when rendered into the Japanese phonetic system. For example, the Nintendo Entertainment System was sold here as the Famicom, short for Family Computer; similarly, if you want to go out to eat at a restaurant like Denny’s or Coco’s, just ask for the nearest famires (family restaurant). Words that are hip with young people tend to get abbreviated the most — such as diji-kame (digital camera), ge-sen (game center) and sutaba (Starbuck’s). Often companies will go out of their way to get people to think of their products in these abbreviated versions, advertising names as Pure-ste (Playstation) or Dora-Kue (Dragon Quest) to make them more familiar to customers.
The Japanese are famous for being polite, even when visiting Presidents throw up in the lap of the country’s Prime Minister, as Bush I did on a visit here. It’s quite silly, but when I first game to Japan, one small bit of culture shock for me was feeling that stop signs were “rude,” because they used the informal command verb tomare (“Stop!”) rather than some longer, more polite form. Although the Japanese generally are considerate, there are times when foreigners like me might consider what they do to be rude. First of all, the Japanese love to read over a person’s shoulder, and if you’re typing something in Japanese on a laptop, well, don’t be surprise if a crowd gathers behind you. My mother taught me not to reach over people’s plates when eating dinner together, but to ask for someone to pass the item to me; apparently the Japanese didn’t get that memo, as it’s common here to reach across the table to get what you need while eating. Similarly, Americans don’t usually drink soup out of bowls, however it’s almost a requirement that you do so here, since there are no spoons. Oh, and while eating any noodle dish like ramen or soba (not spaghetti!), you’re expected to slurp your noodles as loudly as possible, and not doing so will likely elicit comments about how quietly you eat.
We’ve got some good news for fans of PC dating-sim games: the newest title from G-Collections, Snow Sakura, is in stock and shipping now. A super game that will appeal to a wide range of gamers, Snow Sakura puts you into the role of Yuuji, an average Japanese youth surrounded by a circle of beautiful girls (lucky guy). Although you grew up with your energetic cousin Saki, why Kozue, enigmatic senpai Rei, ditzy Misaki and your clumsy teacher Misato, for some reason you can’t remember much about those days, only that you made a promise to one of the girls under the magical Snow Sakura tree, which somehow blooms year-round, even in the dead of winter. A great game in the tradition of the best interactive visual novels from Japan (*cough* Kanon *cough*), that we recommend for its great story and characters. Best of all, we’ve decided to give everyone a little present, and have lopped $5 off the price of the game for all new orders as well as existing preorders. This super game is now it’s in stock — make your order now!