I Work in the Anime Industry and Everybody Hates Me!
“Next Wednesday night? Why do you ask?” Minato spun his office chair from facing his table to facing Joy who had been standing behind him.
“Oh, it’s nothing too big, but there’s something I was hoping I could get your eyes on. Just a little project I’ve undertaken, that’s all.”
Joy was extremely hesitant to tell the translator Minato the full details about what she was actually doing. If he knew that she was working with Liam on a subtitling challenge, he was more than likely to flip his lid. After all, Liam was the very person who just yesterday had tried to walk out of Toon Motion Studios with a hard drive full of sensitive unreleased anime materials. Not only that, but on an even more personal level, he had stolen Minato’s badge to get inside the building. Thankfully, he was able to get it back once the police had taken Liam into custody. But there was no way Minato was going to take this information well if she told him everything with complete honesty.
“Oh, is that so? Well, I was going to be working on some projects of my own, but I think I can spare one evening this week.”
“Oh, thank you, Minato! You’re the greatest!” And just like that, Joy had already found that Minato had disconnected from the conversation, rotated his office chair back to face his computer, and had gone straight back to work. She supposed that was to be expected. Minato was one hard worker, and a true asset to the team. She couldn’t even be mad that he had already disengaged with their talk. By now Joy knew not to take it personally.
On her way back to her desk, she passed by Chris’s workstation, the other subtitle editor in the office, who stopped her in her tracks.
“Holy crap, Joy, are you doing okay? I’m surprised you even came back into work today.”
“Yeah, I’m fine. Thanks, Chris.”
“Man, you’re like some kind of hero around here after yesterday. You really tackled that guy in the street by yourself? That’s crazy!”
As if thanks to super-hearing, Ajeet from the tech team poked his head around the corner. “Yeah, and when the hard drive got back to us, the case was all scuffed up! How am I supposed to work with this?”
Joy winced a little with guilt. “Then are the files corrupted?”
“No, and you better count yourself lucky that they aren’t!”
Lisa, who was working nearby, immediately jumped in at Joy’s defense. “Ajeet, I know you’re protective of your hardware, but this wasn’t Joy’s fault and you know it. It’s only thanks to her that we got the drive back at all.”
Ajeet grumbled a little, quietly accepting to himself that Lisa was probably right and that he was taking his irritation out on the wrong people, then sulked back behind the corner from which he had appeared.
Joy couldn’t help but laugh. “Thanks for that, Lisa, but I know he’s just mad at the situation, not necessarily at me.”
“Hey, you’re not wrong. But you definitely deserve better than that. After all, if it weren’t for you, that creep wouldn’t be in jail right now!”
“Ha, ha! Yeah… jail.”
That was another thing Joy hadn’t told anyone about yet. She already had been too embarrassed to tell everyone that she’d had some sickening run-ins with Liam over the past weekend and hadn’t wanted to get them involved. Now the angry young man had forced himself into the building and rightfully gone to jail (again), but despite this, it seemed there was just no keeping him there thanks to his super-lawyer mother. As mad as Joy was about this, she had to work with him on their secret project if she had any hope of making Liam disappear for good. If jail wasn’t going to work, she was going to have to hit him in his pride.
She just had to hope that this plan was going to work.
“Oh,” Chris jumped back in, “did I hear you tell Minato you had some project you’re working on?”
“Huh? Oh, uh, yeah. I guess I did say that, heh.”
“Is it something you need any extra help with?”
Joy considered Chris’s offer carefully. She really didn’t want to involve that many people from the office in the interaction with Liam. But Chris was another subtitle editor, just like Joy. She considered for a moment that if she didn’t include another subtitle editor that Liam would likely just accuse her of being especially and personally biased against his work. Truth be told, there was going to be no avoiding that. After all, Liam did directly affect work at this very studio yesterday. But if Joy let Chris in on examining the project, Liam might be more willing to listen to any input they may have on his work.
After thinking it over, it seemed worth the risk.
“Well, sure! It’s just some personal subtitle timing project, that’s all. Not that I don’t trust myself, but another pair of eyes might not actually be a bad idea. You know, just in case you see something I missed!”
“Hey, that’s so cool! Great, then I’ll head over to your place next Wednesday after work.”
“Sounds good. Looking forward to it!” Joy said that, but honestly she was really nervous about all this. Obviously, having the skills of both Minato and Chris would be great assets on this kind of a challenge, but she had a sinking feeling that nobody was going to be pleased when they learned the circumstances of the situation.
Better to just go back to her desk and get to work, she thought to herself.
When Joy returned to her workstation, she opened up her E-mails, finding herself lost in a sea of communications that had been missed since the day before when she left work early. Most of the E-mails were sent to the entire team and did not necessarily apply directly to her. It was relieving, but it meant she had to slog through a bunch of mails that didn’t apply to her just to make sure she didn’t miss anything.
A new anime title was scheduled to be recorded in English next week. Some requests came through to localize some trailers for shows scheduled to air next season. Some shows that Joy was not personally working on had their finalized materials delivered to the streaming platform to launch over the weekend. All fairly standard stuff.
That’s when she caught it. “Monster Nursery simulcast”. Oh! That was the simulcast Joy was working on this week! She quickly opened the E-mail to catch the update. It was an E-mail from the freelance translator Michelle. Translation for the first episode was finished, which meant Joy could finally get to work timing and editing the script. It was going to be a tight turn around with only two days to complete it, but she was confident in her ability to get it done.
Joy started by downloading the translated script. The file was small enough, as it was just a spreadsheet file. Opening the file revealed hundreds of rows of various characters’ lines translated into English, labeled by which character was speaking. With a little bit of finagling, Joy could then import this document into her video editing software, where she had already loaded in the completed video of Monster Nursery episode one.
From there she would spend an exhaustive amount of time moving each line around to be timed and synched perfectly to the character speaking. Not only that, but she would have to ensure that one clean, uniform font was used throughout the subtitles, and that every word could fit on the screen. It was a relatively delicate balance. Too many words on the screen could mean that the text might threaten to get cut off on some viewers’ monitors, and could also make it harder for a reader to keep up. Not only that, but if the line disappears too quickly, that could also mean that text could come and go far too quickly for anyone to catch it without having to go back and pause the episode. And finally, Joy would ensure as she read through the script and the subtitles that everything was spelled properly, was grammatically correct, and that all show-related nouns and terminology remained consistent throughout the series. The goal was to create a nearly identical experience to what a native Japanese viewer would feel when sitting down to watch this show. If Joy did her job correctly, English viewers should almost forget they were reading subtitles at all.
Joy managed to stay fairly focused on her work throughout the day, despite the panic in the back of her head over what she’d actually gotten herself into with Liam. The truth was, she really enjoyed her job, and when she got into a good working groove, she could largely block everything else out of her mind. Plus, she had to admit it was pretty cool seeing episodes of an anime fairly well ahead of the rest of the general public, including Japanese audiences.
Though unfortunately, she couldn’t say that Monster Nursery was the most thrilling thing she had ever worked on. The show was utterly adorable, featuring cute monsters being raised to go out into the world as full-grown scary beasts, but for now they were nearly babies with cute character designs, sweet baby monster noises, and adorable baby problems that needed solving every week. It wasn’t exactly intelligent or engaging, but it was incredibly popular. Because of this, it wasn’t necessary for Joy to like the show for her to enjoy working on it. Knowing it was going to make countless people happy once it hit streaming platforms was motivation enough for her to keep doing what she was doing.
Joy kept at her work for a solid two hours, moving, shifting, and adjusting every single spoken line of dialogue in the episode, easily losing track of time. Eventually the production manager Ryan entered the room to check in with everyone. This was the first moment Joy had looked up from her computer monitor in hours.
“Hey, guys! Just wanted to see how everything was coming along. Anybody need anything?”
“I finished the translation for My Magical Talent Class episode one and have already moved on to episode two today.” Minato truly was a workhorse. Joy often found herself jealous of his fluency in two different languages.
Chris then jumped in. “Minato already sent his work to me, and I’m about done timing the first episode.”
“I’ve been keeping up with studio videos for the English recording sessions on Choose Me Instead of Him,” Lisa said. “I’m currently all caught up.”
“And I’ve been using Lisa’s videos to stay on top of writing the closed captions. All good so far on my end,” exclaimed caption editor Tom on the far side of the room.
“I finally got the translation in for Monster Nursery from Michelle,” Joy chimed in enthusiastically. “I’m currently in the middle of timing the subtitles.”
“That’s good news, Joy. Glad to hear it’s moving along. Do you expect to be done by tomorrow’s deadline?”
“Yes, sir. No problems here.”
“That’s great. And you’re doing okay otherwise after your exciting episode yesterday?”
Joy giggled in response to Ryan’s question. “Aw, I’m all right, sir. I’m just glad to be doing what needs to get done today.
Ryan nodded in confirmation. “Okay, well, don’t hesitate to let any of us know if you need help getting anything done.”
Joy responded simply with a thumbs up, ready to get back on her business.
“Right, well, I’ve got a phone meeting in a few minutes and I just wanted to make sure I could report back that everybody’s on top of everything. Keep up the good work guys!” With that, Ryan left the video department so that everyone could get back to their work.
“Hey Joy!” Tom waved at the young woman from his desk. Joy leaned back in her chair to get a good look at him. “Remember when I was telling you about The Legend of Kick Fist the other day?”
“What, you mean that manga getting turned into an anime?”
“Yeah, that’s the one! Anyway, there’s already more news about it. They chose a production studio to make the anime!”
“Oh, yeah? Who’d they manage to get?”
Tom was on the edge of his seat, nearly ready to launch himself out of his chair with excitement. “That’s the best part. You’re never gonna believe this. They got Activate Animation on this thing!”
Well, now Joy was curious. Although she still hadn’t gotten the chance to read The Legend of Kick Fist—as popular as Tom insisted it was—she was well aware of Activate Animation’s work. That studio’s animation quality was unrivaled. In the last ten years or so, they had become one of the most-well-known studios for their fast-paced action sequences and their highly detailed and fluid motions. Their dedication to remaining hand-drawn in an industry that was swiftly becoming a blend of CG and 2D art was impressive, especially for a time in history in which CG had become much cheaper than doing all the work by hand.
“Huh. No kidding! I loved the work they did on Murder Plus Murder!”
“Right? I’m super hyped for this. Wouldn’t it be great if we ended up working on this? Ah, I would love to hear Junji’s voice in English!”
“Well, hard to say at this point. Sounds like whoever’s gonna land that license is probably going to be paying a pretty penny. It’s definitely a slam dunk as far as marketing is concerned, but it’s gonna be incredibly expensive.”
Tom slouched forward slightly in his chair. “Yeah, you’re probably right. I’d bet a localization studio like Ramen Media is a shoe-in for nabbing that one. They’ve easily got enough money to handle it.”
Joy hadn’t intended it, but she got the feeling that she had just accidentally crushed Tom’s dreams. Feeling slightly guilty, she made an attempt to bolster his spirits. “Well, hey, it’s still early yet! There’s no telling how the localization’s gonna go down at this point. Do me a favor and let me know if you catch any more news about it, okay?”
Tom definitely looked uplifted by Joy’s encouragement to let him talk to her about his newest obsession whenever he wanted. “Aww, thanks Joy! I’m gonna keep a news tab open about this twenty-four-seven!”
Joy chuckled nervously. That wasn’t exactly what she had meant, but she was glad Tom was feeling a little bit better now at least.
Before getting back to her subtitle timing, Joy realized she was going to need one more person to help her with the challenge she’d assigned to Liam. She pulled out her phone and pulled up the contact listing for her best friend Shauni. While she didn’t work in the anime industry herself, Shauni had always loved anime just as much as anyone else. If Liam was going to be working on subtitles that were supposed to be entertaining for an average viewer, Joy was going to need the opinions of another average viewer. Joy composed a text asking for her friend’s help.
“Hey girl! Got a question for ya. What are you up to on Wednesday evening?”
Thankfully for Joy, Shauni was pretty good about replying quickly. “Wednesday? Ooh, I dunno, I’m pretty sure I’ve gotta work a shift that night.”
“Oh, no! See, I’m having a couple people come over to my place to take a look at a little project I’m working on, and I’d love to get your opinion on it too, just as somebody who doesn’t work in anime.”
Joy was disappointed, but she realized she was really asking for a lot out of her friends and coworkers by suddenly springing this event on them. At the same time, if she couldn’t get the right judges to look at Liam’s work on Wednesday, this plan to keep him out of their business was going to fall apart.
That was when Joy felt the vibration of Shauni’s next text message.
“Hmm, well, no promises, but I’ll see if I can’t switch shifts with somebody else. Gonna have to talk to my manager tomorrow morning. I’ll let you know what happens!”
For now, that answer was gonna have to do the trick.
“Hey, well, thanks for trying! Yeah, keep me posted. You’re the best! Love ya! <3”
“Luv ya, girlie! <3”
While Joy didn’t have an answer yet, she did feel quite relieved knowing Shauni was going to try to work things out anyway. She really did have the best friend in the world, after all. Shauni didn’t have to change anything around in her life for Joy, but she tried to do it anyway, even despite it being a last minute request. She wondered sometimes what she did to deserve such a great friendship.
Work moved along steadily at Toon Motion Studios for the remainder of the day. Despite knowing that in less than a week some of her coworkers might end up really mad at her once they saw her associating with Liam again, she managed to put that to the side for the time being to get the work done.
Meanwhile, Liam hadn’t left his room since the night before. After having found the first episode of Gyudon no Hou ga Daisuki through a Japanese digital streaming service, he managed to rip his own private copy from the web browser and download it to his own hard drive. His first step in trying to subtitle this show would simply be to watch the episode from beginning to end to see what he could pick up on his own. He pulled out a notebook and took notes on words he’d heard that he could already pick out and identify. He started making a list of several character names as he heard them come up throughout the episode. For the first time, Liam had to admit it was kind of frustrating how little Japanese he could truly understand without the assistance of subtitles, but he was sure he would be able to work through it with little effort by the end of the week.
Though loath to admit it, Joy had truly touched a nerve when she was talking to Liam about respect and acknowledgement. Even with all the wealth his family had acquired, there were a lot of things missing in his life. When Liam first started getting involved with Joy’s business over the weekend, he hadn’t expected that she’d so quickly recognize a part of himself that he had tried so desperately to ignore and suppress.
And yet, now while he was trying to work on this project that he knew he should have been pouring all of himself into, he found himself unable to keep the memories from pouring in…
Liam’s family hadn’t always been poor. He was only eight years old when his father heartlessly left him and his mother behind. He never completely understood why. All he knew was that one day his father was there, and the next day he was gone. His mother, Monica, was inconsolable for weeks. At the time, the two of them were living in a modest middle-class home. But when Liam’s father left, he took what little money he made along with him. The roof over their head followed soon after. All Liam’s mother could manage was a dingy little apartment for the next two years.
Monica had started off with only the best of intentions. She hated the life she felt like she had been giving her son, and believed that the only way she could combat it was if she went back to college now as an adult and got a better job to give her son the life she believed he deserved.
That was when Liam started to see less and less of his mother. On top of her low-paying day job, she started taking night classes. He started learning to prepare meals for himself at a young age. Everything he did was for himself. And when he did see his mother, it was only briefly as she walked her aching feet through the door and went straight to bed. If she was awake while she was home, she was far too busy studying. At the time, Liam was able to accept it. He just wanted her to hurry up and get through school so that she would have more time to interact with him.
Unfortunately, that would never happen. Monica was actually a far greater student than even she knew. After a few years, she had completed law school and passed the California state bar exam with flying colors. Finding work at a law firm was fairly easy for her as well. Through that prestigious firm, she tackled several high profile lawsuits, and clients began asking for her personally. It was shocking how quickly she climbed the ladder, and how confident she became in herself, which led to her opening her own law firm. It was around this time that Monica reverted from her married name back to her maiden name of Brighthouse. She couldn’t believe how much her former husband had held her back from living her best life.
Monica Brighthouse, attorney at law, was now the personal attorney to several Hollywood superstars and powerful businessmen. The power and the money were addictive, though she also continued to tell herself that she was doing all of this to give her son a better life.
She invested well, and before long was able to buy a bigger house than even she could have imagined just a handful of years ago. Now she could truly say that her son would never want for anything. He had a roof over his head with every amenity he could ever need, could eat anything he wanted, wear anything he wanted, own any material possession he ever desired. Any problem Liam ran into, Monica never thought twice about throwing money at it. In her mind, this was what it meant to make sure her child was being raised to have every need met.
And yet, Liam was still alone. His mother had become absolutely obsessed with the work she was doing, addicted to the money and the power. She never did anything that Liam could truly identify as evil, but she definitely left him to fend for himself, lonely, missing his family. The hired help could never replace his parents. He longed for the mother that doted over him when they had been poor and alone together. Even with no money, she was much better to him then. She would still talk to him, still listen to him talk about his day, still cook for him and sing songs to him, even watch basic TV with him.
Soon, as a late teenager, Liam was finding ways to keep himself occupied. And it was in that time, where he didn’t rightly know how to socialize with anyone else even while he was at school, that he stumbled into anime.
Japanese animation was unlike anything else he had seen before it. It wasn’t like the western animation he saw on a regular basis. It wasn’t like Hollywood’s CG-animated films. It had a style and a flair all its own. Even using limited animation, the action and cinematography was deeply dynamic. The narratives he found in his favorite titles were far more mature than anything else he could find aimed at his demographic. It was unapologetically gritty and exciting. He found himself catching a small glimpse of a world outside of his own through the window of his computer monitor. He learned about foods and customs he’d never heard about before in his own daily life and was fascinated with it all. Slowly, he started hearing some of the same words over and over again in specific instances. He learned new ways to say hello, new ways to to pray for his food, new ways to announce he had just returned home… even if there wasn’t anyone there but the butler to hear him say it. To Liam, it was like he had found a magical world all for himself.
And it was in this magical, fictional world that now as a young adult, he still remained to this day.
Anime was there for him when no one else was. The kids at school didn’t understand him. And his own mother learned of his pastimes and did her best to avoid talking about it. He knew she thought of him as a failure. She had hoped that he would have seen the way she found power deep within herself and became motivated to do something just as incredible with his life. Instead, he stayed in his room at all hours of the day watching these Japanese cartoons. At this point, she thought it better to just let him keep doing what he was doing and simply say nothing.
It didn’t matter how wealthy his family was or how powerful his mother had become. The only thing that ever passionately moved Liam at this point in his life…
Liam realized he was focusing entirely too hard on the pains of his past. What he had right in front of him at this moment was a chance to prove that all of the time he had spent falling in love with anime was not for nothing. He genuinely wanted to be able to show off the skills he’d acquired by how much he had dug himself into the medium over the last several years. He was more than qualified to do this. In fact, he was definitely more qualified than Joy or anybody else at Toon Motion to do the work they do on a daily basis. This was the first time he’d ever thought his passions could work their way into something meaningful.
He shook off his insecurities and replayed the episode he was studying for the challenge. He figured at some point he was going to have to crack open a Japanese dictionary or something. But that could wait. For now, he was already busy opening up his video editing software. There were a lot of skills Liam was ready to show off, and he couldn’t wait to get started. Not even long enough to have translated the episode first.