I Work in the Anime Industry and Everybody Hates Me!
Joy couldn’t think of a time she had been more intimidated than she was at this moment. This house was absolutely absurd. Walking through the gate and up the clean pale gravel driveway led first to a an enormous marble fountain with clear filtered water and a pale blue floor. Following behind Liam, the mansion spread past her peripheral vision to her left and right nearly farther than she could see. The house was surrounded on all sides by tall, lush green, well-maintenanced topiary. The landscaping bill must have been absurd.
The house itself? Now, that was just ridiculous. Most of the front of the three-story abode was built with an open concept. Walls on the first floor were scrapped, and in their place were giant windows from floor to ceiling. The inside lounging areas could be plainly seen, simple and elegant, with pure white sofas and cushioned chairs.
The doors were guarded by who Joy could only imagine was the butler of the house—a man who appeared to be about in his sixties wearing a tuxedo with tails, hands fully gloved. If she wasn’t seeing it for herself, she would have thought this was some sort of cartoonish joke. It was like somebody brought the wealthy homeowner stereotype to life right before her eyes.
“Welcome home, Mr. Roberts,” the tuxedoed man said warmly in Liam’s direction. “Have you brought a guest with you this evening?”
“Hmm? Yeah, I guess. Whatever.” Liam was extremely dismissive, still peeved that Joy had followed him all the way home. The irony, considering he had performed some pretty severe stalking of his own, had not quite dawned on him yet.
“Very good, sir. I’m sure Ms. Brighthouse will be thrilled to hear you’re having company.”
“Psh, I doubt it.”
The butler swung open the glass door and motioned his hand toward the inside. “Please, miss, make yourself at home.”
Joy blinked, barely able to voice a response. “Oh. Yes, uh, thank you very much.”
The young woman cautiously entered the home. It was truly incredible. Such high ceilings! An immaculate white banister along the stairs leading to the second floor. A distant open kitchen that, as far as Joy could tell, had every amenity needed for a three-star Michelin restaurant. Absolutely flawless marble flooring. A gorgeous crystal chandelier and other beautiful lighting fixtures dotting the property. It was enough to make Joy’s head spin. She thought she might faint before she took another step.
“Well, hurry up! Let’s get this talk over with! Or are you just gonna stand there staring at everything all night?”
Before she knew it, Liam had already walked halfway up the stairway to the second floor. She gasped to herself and rushed up the stairs so as not to lose sight of him. Liam scoffed and continued on upward.
The halls on the second floor were equally as intimidating and seemingly endless. Gone were the wide open panes of glass and instead were wide hallways with countless doors down either side. As if part of some cruel joke, Liam’s room was all the way at the far end of the hall. Joy surely imagined it, but it felt like it took them a full five minutes to walk all the way to that last door.
Liam stopped abruptly before entering the door. “Listen to me. You’re not gonna touch a single thing when you come in here, all right? You’re gonna sit down and have whatever talk this is, and then you’re gonna get the hell out of my house. Is that understood?”
“Uh, yeah, fine by me.” Joy definitely didn’t want to be here any longer than she needed to be, either.
With that, Liam turned the doorknob, entered the room, and clicked on the light, Joy following directly behind him.
She gasped. “Whoa…!”
This room, aside from already being much larger than her studio apartment, was absolutely nothing like the rest of the house. The walls were covered in posters and wall scrolls, all featuring art from well-known anime franchises. Tall glass display cases were placed in the far corners and featured extremely detailed anime statues and model kits, many of which must have been incredibly expensive. Numerous shelves lined one wall filled with volume after volume of manga after manga, many of which were the original Japanese publications. She wondered if Liam could even read them. The same could be said of the shelves filled with DVDs and Blu-ray copies of popular anime, many of which were impressive Japanese releases. And if they were in fact the Japanese publications, more likely than not, there wouldn’t even be an English translation on those discs at all. A computer desk was pressed against the far wall with large dual monitors. Countless books and discs were stacked high on and around the desk, indicating to Joy that he had been watching and reading these materials but had not bothered to take the time to put them back. A massive wall-mounted OLED TV hung on the wall to the left, with a short tower of disc players and video game consoles sitting underneath, and across the room on the other wall sat Liam’s enormous king-sized bed, sheets and pillows pulled back and strewn about. In the nearest corner sat a laundry bin. From the looks of the dirty clothes that had hit the floor next to the bin rather than landed inside it, it seemed more like Liam would toss his dirty clothes at the bin and let God decide whether or not they hit the floor.
Liam grunted as he dropped his backpack next to his computer, rolled his computer chair away from his desk, and stopped it in front of his bed. “Well? You are gonna sit, aren’t you?”
Joy nodded and complied. She had come all this way, so it was finally time to get everything straight.
Liam casually fell into a seated position on his bed with little regard of how much weight he was throwing into it. “So get on with it! Or do you want me to have the staff come and get you?”
“No way! I’ve got tons of things I want to ask you!”
“Oh, yeah? Like what?”
As Joy glanced around the room, she realized she was now even more confused about several things than she was before she had arrived here. In her wildest dreams, she didn’t imagine that Liam’s family was absolutely loaded, or that his mother’s position as a lawyer enabled his atrocious behavior.
“Well, for one thing, you are, like, beyond wealthy. Why on earth would you spend so much time trying to ruin other people’s lives when you have everything you could possibly want at your fingertips?”
“Everything I want?” Liam chuckles, once again dismissively. “I know you still basically live in poverty, but if you think money is gonna solve everything, you’re dead wrong.”
Joy was slightly taken aback. She knew he wasn’t wrong. In fact, she was kind of impressed with how mature that response was, even if it was overly snarky.
“Okay, fine, that may be true. But what could your life possibly be missing? If it isn’t money, then what is it?”
“I don’t think you and I know each other well enough for me to just give you that answer.”
Joy gritted her teeth and snarled. “Hey, I came here specifically to get answers! You can’t just dodge me like that!”
“And I’m telling you it’s way too early to be answering those kinds of questions, so pick another topic already!”
“Ooh… fine, then!” Joy adjusted her glasses and regained her composure. “Then how about this: Why are you so convinced that you need to save the world from professional English localizations or whatever? You really don’t have anything else more important going on?”
Liam lurched forward. “Anything else?! What, you don’t think this is important? No wonder you and those like you are ruining translations of Japanese media, if you don’t think your work is important!”
“Oh, come on, that’s not what I said, and you know it!”
“You may as well have! You take all of the Japanese culture out of the shows, and then you replace it with your own western politics and ideology, you colonizing scum!”
Joy lifted the palms of her hands to face Liam defensively. “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Don’t you think you’re going a little overboard? Do you even know what ‘colonizing’ means? Do you know what it means to localize at all?”
“You know what? Maybe real anime fans don’t want a localization! Maybe they just want a translation!”
Once again, Joy was left floored by Liam’s ignorance. “You want a translation, but you don’t want a localization?”
“Yeah! That’s right! How hard is it to just take a Japanese word, put that word into English, and then just leave it alone? When I see a Japanese family sit down for a meal and say, ‘itadakimasu’, I don’t want to have to read something stupid like, ‘Rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for the grub’! In fact, you may as well just leave itadakimasu alone!”
“Okay, hold up. For one thing, we definitely would avoid, ‘Rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for the grub’. In fact, most shows that played fast and loose with translations like that were left behind in the ‘90s. Aren’t you too young to be worried about mistakes made from a generation ago?”
“WHO ARE YOU CALLING A KID?!”
“...I literally didn’t say that this time.
“And on top of that, you seriously just want to leave random Japanese words just hanging around in the translation?”
Liam threw his hands enthusiastically into the air? “Well, why the hell not? I mean, we all know what konnichiwa and senpai and kawaii are anyway, right? So just leave ‘em alone!”
“Maybe you do. But we can’t count on the idea that every single viewer is as knowledgeable as you about common Japanese words. For all of the anime you have consumed, if we’re translating a show, that might be somebody else’s very first anime. There’s no way of knowing. English speakers aren’t just gonna know the same Japanese words you do because you think they should.”
Liam lifted a threatening fist. “Are you calling anime fans stupid?!”
“What?! How the hell did you jump to that conclusion? Why do you hear something and decide it has the most extreme possible connotation?”
“Because there can’t be any other explanation! You don’t care about your job, and you think fans are just stupid!”
“Liam, is it at all possible that you’re just projecting your own insecurities about yourself onto other people?”
The young man snarled, curling his upper lip, with just a hint of Joy having struck at least a small vein of truth.
“How dare you? You said yourself that I have access to everything I need. Why would I have anything to be insecure about?”
Joy crossed her arms with confidence. “And you said just a while ago that even with your vast wealth, you don’t have everything you want. Sounds to me like I hit the nail on the head.”
Liam snarled, knowing full well Joy was at least partially correct. He started metaphorically kicking himself in his head. How was it that he just keep letting her talk him into a corner like this?
“I don’t know what’s going on with you,” Joy said in a cool tone, “but whatever it is, it’s spilling over and affecting other people now. That’s pretty uncool, guy.”
A part of Liam knew perfectly well that Joy’s interpretation of his outbursts was right on the money. But truthfully, he just couldn’t accept that as truth, and he most certainly couldn’t let her know she was actually on to him. All he could do was remain defensive.
“All right, look, I didn’t let you come in here to be some kind of armchair therapist, so stay on topic. What I’m telling you is that real anime fans would—and have—done a better translation job than your official translations ever could.”
Joy responded with an equally serious tone. “I suppose you’re referring to fansubs?”
“Absolutely! No decent fansubber would insert their own personal ideas or politics into a show where they don’t belong! They wouldn’t put cringeworthy English slang into their translations. And they always look way cooler, too!”
“So you really have never stopped to wonder why it is we make any of the decisions we make when it comes to localization?”
“I already told you, you shouldn’t even be localizing in the first place at all!”
Joy sighed. “Do you even know what it means to localize something?”
“Sure I do! Localization teams go in and take away Japanese food items like rice balls, and then instead of calling them rice balls—or even better, onigiri—you end up calling them something stupid like jelly donuts! And why do you do that? You do that because you think we’re too stupid to know what a rice ball is! You Americanize everything you touch!”
“Okay. Once again, I think you’re thinking of problematic stuff from ten or fifteen years ago. While we do try to make sure that the local English-speaking audience understands the concepts of what’s happening in the show, you’re giving a pretty severe example that’s almost as old as you are. Who is out there telling you that this is still even happening?”
“Everybody knows it! All you have to do is get on social media or VidTube to see people talking about it all the time!”
Joy knew exactly what Liam was referring to. By this, he meant that social media influencers were regularly taking singular lines from various anime shows completely out of context, and then sharing screenshots of them with each other. Manufacturing outrage among a rabid anime fanbase was incredibly easy as of late, even though anyone with half a brain could tell that the bad eggs were cherry-picking examples and giving very little background for why the localization choice was made at all. The fact that people were choosing to believe influencers over industry professionals about how the job was done honestly made Joy feel like anime fans were being done a damaging and immeasurable disservice.
“So what you’re telling me is that you believe all this because somebody on VidTube told you it was true?”
“It’s obviously true!”
“Yeah, but how do you know? You don’t speak Japanese. Do the VidTubers you watch speak Japanese?”
Liam was only briefly taken aback by this question. “What do you mean? Why would that even matter?”
“Because if your trusted source doesn’t even know the language, then it’s the blind leading the blind. They’re just telling you they don’t like it based on preference, not based on any factual information.”
“Well… sometimes it’s just that obvious when it’s wrong! You don’t even have to know the whole language. You can just tell! I mean, at this point just about any true anime fan could translate an anime episode better than the so-called professionals do. Hell, I bet even I could do it better than you!”
Joy’s jaw dropped. This kid, who barely knows a word of Japanese, thinks he’s even remotely qualified to do what we do for a living? She secretly wished to God that she had the confidence of this kid, to be able to just barge into anything she wanted to do in her life, qualifications be damned.
But then at that moment, a deeply amusing thought crossed her mind. In an instant, Joy began scheming up a plan that was simply way too good to pass up. Joy grinned, chuckling quietly to herself, and finally addressed Liam.
“So, you think you have what it takes to do the job of a localizer?”
“Absolutely! One-hundred percent! Not a doubt in my mind!”
“Then how would you feel about a little challenge?”
Liam’s interest was piqued, but he was cautious with his response. “What kind of a challenge are we talking about here?”
“Given how good you say you are, it should be really simple. I want you to subtitle an episode of an anime for me.”
“Huh?” He was taken aback. This was unexpected. How was he supposed to answer? “You’re going to have to explain to me how this is supposed to work.”
“Okay, then. I’ll lay down a few ground rules,” Joy began explaining in full-bodied confidence. “I’ll let you choose one anime that is airing this season, but it must be one that none of the American studios have licensed. Now, I don’t usually condone this, but I’m sure you’ll be able to find a place to download a copy of any of these shows. You and I both know you don’t have to look very hard to find it. Once you’ve picked your show, you have one whole week to be able to translate, edit, and time the subtitles to the video. After all, that’s about the maximum amount of time we usually get in the industry to translate something and have it ready to go for a simulcast. Translate and subtitle the episode completely before the week is up, and I’ll even give you a shot to sit a couple of other people down to watch your work. If you’re as good as you say you are, not only should this be easy for you, but you should really blow all of us away with your final product.”
Liam put his hand to his chin and thought about this challenge for a brief moment. It seemed to him that he was in no position to lose anything other than time and perhaps sleep from working on this task. “And what do I get for doing this little project of yours?”
“You know, it looks to me that there’s nothing of physical value I could provide to you that you couldn’t acquire yourself through your mom and your money. So what I’m offering you… is respect.”
Liam’s heart leaped in his throat. “Respect?”
“That’s right. Something tells me that it’s a thing you’ve desperately been missing in your life. You need something else that makes you feel whole. It’s the only reason why you’re attacking perfectly qualified people for the work they do every day. But what I can offer is respect that you can follow through with your task, and that you actually have in fact absorbed enough knowledge about the job through the osmosis of being absorbed in it because you love it so much. I’ll validate your arguments and your criticisms. And I’ll never argue against any opinions you bring to my attention ever again.”
“If I satisfy your challenge, could you get me a job in your industry?”
Joy cackled. “Oh, God, no. After today’s events, when you tried to smuggle sensitive materials out of Toon Motion Studios? There’s no way anybody in the industry is ever gonna work with you.”
Liam gritted his teeth. The opportunity to do this challenge actually didn’t sound all that bad to him, and in fact in his entire life he’d never actually thought about working in localization. He always thought that the only way anime was ever going to be seen properly by English-speakers was if that anime was in the hands of the true fans. But now he felt like he was as close to something meaningful in his life as he had ever been. After all, he considered himself a true fan, far more than anyone he had ever met. If he had the opportunity to work on an anime, he knew exactly what he would do to present it correctly. If he had a chance to actually work in the industry, he might have the ability to make the changes he wanted to make. He could really alter the course of anime localization forever. He had never even considered that possibility until right at this moment. Was that thought really going to be all that fleeting?
“Although,” Joy continued, “if you ever ended up going the route of freelance work—and I mean, this is only after you somehow managed to earn some company’s trust in the far distant future—if you successfully pull this project off, I could see myself writing a letter of recommendation. Purely for your work, mind you. I could never recommend you as a person. But, hey, we all gotta start somewhere.”
“And… and what if I don’t pass this little test?”
Joy pointed her finger directly at where Liam was seated. “Then you have to come to your senses and acknowledge that there’s a point to all the work we in localization do. And you have finally back off. Stop harassing me and causing trouble for my place of business. Simply put, if you fail, you never set one foot near me or my coworkers ever again.”
Finally, Liam felt a burst of energy surging inside himself. “Is that all you’re asking for? That’s easy enough!”
He leapt up from his bed and started shouting with all the enthusiasm he could muster.
“Then you’ve got yourself a deal! I’ll take your challenge! I’ll give you the best damn translation you’ve ever seen! In fact, I already know which show from this season I want to work on!”
The young man dashed over to his computer desk and turned on both monitors. After a little bit of frantic typing and clicking around, he turned back to face Joy, still sitting in the computer chair stunned at his sudden burst of excitement.
“This is it! I’m gonna take on this show! Gyudon no Hou ga Daisuki!”
Joy scrambled her feet against the floor and rolled herself closer to the computer monitor. Liam had pulled up a VidTube video of the trailer for this particular show. It looked to be something that involved extreme cooking. The main character was a young man who was extremely passionate about beef bowls, and was determined to prove that gyudon was the absolute peak of the culinary arts. It was one of those fast-paced shounen-type shows that was sure to have a lot more to it than simply cooking food.
“Heh. Hey, this one actually looks pretty fun. It’s a shame none of the studios out here have this licensed.”
“Yeah, and that’s another thing! How is it that you always fail to license the right shows, anyway?!”
“Oh, my God, Liam, can you just stay focused on the one thing you’re angry about at a time?”
“Well, anyway, I’ve got my show picked out now!” Liam glanced at the clock in the corner of his computer monitor. “We’re coming up on 7:00 PM right now. One week from today, you’re gonna have the greatest subtitled anime episode you’ve ever seen in your life!”
“Heh, all right, then. I’ll arrange for an audience of a couple more people to join just. You be at my apartment one week from now, at 7:00 o’clock sharp with your translation. If you’re late, you lose.”
“Not a problem! I’ll be there for sure!” Without even thinking, Liam had extended his hand in Joy’s direction to shake on the deal. She gasped, shocked by the gesture, but quickly regained her composure and gladly gripped his hand to confirm the challenge.
“Deal. I’m looking forward to the work you do, kid.”
“I told you to stop calling me kid! I’m a grown man!”
“Ah, yeah, you’re right. I guess I did say ‘kid’ this time.”
Liam released his hand from Joy’s grip. “That’s it! We’re done here! Get out of my house!”
Joy rose from the computer chair and made her way towards the door. “Oh, believe me, I wouldn’t dream of staying here any longer.” She opened the door and stepped outside, turning back towards Liam to get one last word in. “I sure hope you’re ready for all the work you’re gonna be putting in. Have fun!” The young professional editor laughed out loud as she confidently closed the door behind her.
Liam sighed with relief, glad that experience was over. His mind was racing as he began to think about the possible steps he was going to need to take to pull off this challenge.
However, he didn’t get a chance to start thinking about it very long before he heard his bedroom door swing open once more, Joy’s discomforted face peeking between the door and the door jam.
“You know, uh, your house is really big,” Joy said nervously. “Can you get somebody to show me the way out?”