First, the J-List site went down for a couple hours on Tuesday night, U.S. time, due to a server hiccup, but all is well now. Very sorry if you were trying to check out our site during this period!
One subject that’s always fascinated me has been the tendency of Japanese singers to mix English lyrics in with Japanese music. When listening to a popular Japanese song, including many from anime, it’s quite common to hear a stream of apparently meaningless words or phrases, like “stay! stay! stay!” or “get chance and luck!” or “nice to meet you, good to see you!” or “un du trois!” (the latter is not even English, but no one here notices that). The words seem quite random and whimsical, but if you translate the surrounding Japanese lyrics, the meaning usually meshes together into some larger gestalt. The trend towards putting English in songs supposedly started with famous singer Yumi Matsutoya, who grew up near Yokota Base, one of the major U.S. military bases near Tokyo, and was fluent in English since childhood. During the 1970s, “Yuming” scored with many hit songs that mixed English with Japanese lyrics, such as “You don’t have to worry, worry, [I will protect you],” and the face of pop music in Japan has never been the same since. I believe the reason “decorating” songs with English words has proved so popular is tied to the emotional link that Japanese feel to the language. Since most every Japanese person has to study English for six years, or ten if they go to college, making use of phrases like “body feels exit!” or “I do my homework!” allows songwriters to push emotional buttons that wouldn’t be accessible with Japanese lyrics, even if the meaning is lost in translation.
Although Spike TV’s English-dubbed version of Hey! Spring of Trivia didn’t seem to get much traction with U.S. viewers, it’s still one of our favorite shows here in Japan. Here are some useless bits of Japanese trivia that aired on the show in recent months. In Osaka there’s a batting center with a Hello Kitty pitching machine in which “Kitty-chan” pitches balls at batters. The word “boycott” comes from a person’s name, Charles Boycott, an Irish landlord who was “boycotted” by the residents of his town over a land dispute. Flamingos are pink because they’re fed special food containing shrimp meal to make them that color. Edison proposed to his second wife in Morse code. In 1948, Nagoya’s baseball team the Dragons issued new uniforms with the name misspelled as “Doragons.” Oh, and papaya seeds taste like wasabi when you bite down on them.
Each country is different, and the kinds of subjects that make good drama or comedy on television are probably just as unique. In Japan, one popular vehicle for depicting human drama is “juken hell,” the period from summer to the following February when students in their third year of high school must study day and night if they have a hope of getting into their university of choice. Passing this test is the defining moment in the lives of Japanese students up to that point, and success means achieving your life’s goals, while failure means a clouded future. One of my formative anime series was Kimagure Orange Road, a story about a love triangle between two girls, Hikaru and Ayukawa, and a guy, Kyosuke, who happens to be an esper with super powers that he can’t let anyone find out about. The movie that resolves the long-running love triangle is set against the backdrop of Kyosuke and Ayukawa preparing for their all-important college exams, which adds an extra dimension of crisis to the story, since much more than just the feelings of the three people is at risk. There’s one scene that I like because it’s so uniquely Japanese, where a teacher yells at Kyosuke, “You in the back! Don’t you know you’re supposed to resolve all your problems d’amour by the second year of high school?” High school seniors in Japan are much too busy to worry about things like falling in love.
J-List is hiring! We’ve got a full-time position in our San Diego office for a motivated individual with skills and experience in the areas of marketing and managing wholesale accounts. Knowledge of the U.S. anime industry is a plus. For more information on the job opening, see this link. (While we usually only consider people already in the San Diego area, we are open to people who would be relocating from another part of the U.S., depending on your skills and experience in the anime industry.)
Here are today’s “really cool products” that I thought were especially noteworthy. Note: the J-List links below may be for adult products and should probably be considered “not safe for work.” To see all the J-List products, check out J-List or the JBOX.com updated products link.