I Work in the Anime Industry and Everybody Hates Me!
The next several days were simply a blur for both Joy and Liam. As Joy remained deeply focused on her work to keep her mind off the upcoming event, Liam was quite seriously dedicating his time to creating the most incredible subtitled show even he had ever seen.
One unfortunate issue with Joy’s work on Monster Nursery was that the translation she had been given had been quite rushed in order to make it to her on time. For that reason, there were a handful of grammatical and spelling errors in the text. Every few lines, as she adjusted the timing of the subtitles when a character spoke, she found some new misspelling or punctuation error, causing her to have to make adjustments. It slowed her process down, and she wondered whether or not she was going to have a tough time making her deadline this week.
Thankfully, she had been doing this job long enough now that she’d learned a few shortcuts. Keyboard shortcuts were crucial. This helped her to move a single line of subtitle on the timeline to the exact position she wanted without having to go in and move the subtitles around by hand. Move the time marker to the exact moment you can hear the character start speaking, and BAM, BAM—it was that easy to snap the next line of dialogue right into place.
While she worked, she also ensured that the streaming platform was already ready to go with the video. That required just a few minutes of editing, cutting out the empty commercial break spots that had come along with the original raw video from the client. When that editing had been done, it was easy to have the final exported video begin uploading to the streaming platform server in the background while she continued to do her timing work. By being able to multitask, there was almost nothing Joy couldn’t do even on such a strict deadline.
There were only a couple of hours remaining when Joy had completed timing and editing all of the subtitles. After giving it a final look over to ensure that even she had not missed anything, she began exporting the subtitle data as well. A separate spreadsheet Joy updated kept information on the name of the TV series—in this case Monster Nursery—the name of the episode she was working on, the episode number, the date of release, and the episode description. All of this needed to be updated so that someone watching this later on Toon Motion’s streaming platform would be able to tell exactly what it was they were trying to watch.
Although “subtitle editor” was Joy’s official job title, being able to deliver those subtitles to their final destination involved several steps that most people would not think of by the time the subtitles reached their audience.
Before she knew it, it was 6:00 o’clock PM on Friday night, and all of her necessary deliveries had been made. After sending an e-mail to notify the streaming team, her work for the week was finished. If everything had been done correctly, Joy would be able to sit and appreciate her work when it was scheduled to go live to the public tomorrow evening, at the same time as it was airing in Japan.
Joy sat back in her office chair and stared somewhat blankly at her e-mail inbox. Every time a close deadline like this came through, she always managed to surprise herself with how quickly she was able to complete her work, even though she’d already been doing this for three years now. It was still a relief to scrape in just before the deadline every time.
After a stressful week, Joy boarded the bus back to her apartment and sighed in relief knowing that it was the end of an extremely overwhelming week. With any luck, she wouldn't have another week like this ever again.
Meanwhile, Liam's week was much less relaxing. The more he stared at his monitor, the more stressed he became. It was like all of the audio and the visuals of this first episode of Gyudon no Hou ga Daisuki were all blurring together. Nothing made sense anymore. Didn't he understand Japanese better than this? He had been listening to in through anime for years. Why weren't the English words just coming to him?
This was a trick. It had to be. Joy was hoping he'd have a rough time and then suddenly give up.
Well, that wasn't going to happen! Even if he had to spend every waking hour of the rest of the week on this project, he was gonna complete it. He knew Joy's game. Expecting him to simply burn out? She obviously didn't know him well enough.
Liam shook off his insecurities and pulled open two tools to continue his work. One was an online Japanese dictionary, and the other was an automatic online translator. From this point on, he figured translation should be a breeze. Even if he came across a word he didn't understand, all he would have to do is plug it into the dictionary, then plug the whole sentence into the auto translator. Simple!
With his new plan ready to go, he went back to the beginning of the episode and listened to the first line of dialogue.
"☟︎♓︎📪︎ ✋︎🕯︎❍︎ ☟︎♓︎❒︎□︎⬧︎♒︎♓︎📪︎ ♋︎■︎♎︎ ✋︎ ●︎□︎❖︎♏︎ ♑︎⍓︎◆︎♎︎□︎■︎✏︎ ✋︎■︎ ⧫︎♒︎♏︎ ♒︎♓︎⬧︎⧫︎□︎❒︎⍓︎ □︎♐︎ ♋︎●︎●︎ ❍︎♋︎■︎🙵♓︎■︎♎︎📪︎ ■︎□︎ ♑︎❒︎♏︎♋︎⧫︎♏︎❒︎ ♍︎◆︎●︎♓︎■︎♋︎❒︎⍓︎ ♍︎❒︎♏︎♋︎⧫︎♓︎□︎■︎ ♒︎♋︎♎︎ ♏︎❖︎♏︎❒︎ ♌︎♏︎♏︎■︎ ♏︎⬧︎⧫︎♋︎♌︎●︎♓︎⬧︎♒︎♏︎♎︎✏︎"
I… I didn't catch any of that! How am I supposed to even use my dictionary if I don't know what word to start with?!
Panic set in. What was he supposed to do about this? If he couldn't catch what words were being said, his work was at a standstill.
In his video player settings, Liam set the video to play at half speed. Finally, it seemed like he could catch something.
"Konnichiwa! Boku wa Hiroshi desu!"
Oh! Oh, those were words he could understand! So the main character just introduced himself as Hiroshi! Nice, this was just what Liam needed.
Little by little, the young anime fan progressed slowly through the episode, syllable by syllable, plugging word after word into the dictionary, piecing together where he thought he heard sentences, and jamming those sentences into the automatic translator when he couldn't comprehend the whole sentence himself.
He finally had something he thought would work. All the same, it was still going to take countless hours to work through a half-hour episode.
The days passed. Liam trucked along on his project as best as he could. Back at Toon Motion Studios, Joy had moved on to timing the second episode of Monster Nursery. Everything on her end was moving smoothly, while Liam hardly slept while he slaved over his challenge.
Until finally, Wednesday came.
Chris had kindly offered to drive Joy back to her apartment for the event. She was grateful, but by this point in the day, it was difficult to mask how nervous she was about the whole thing.
"Hey, you feeling okay?" Chris asked. "You're kinda quiet. How's your work been going?"
"Huh? Oh, y-yeah. No, work has been great, actually."
"Ah, good to hear. You know, my work this week was actually pretty hard. I wasn't sure I was gonna get my episode uploaded by the deadline today!"
"Oh. But you're good, right?"
"Oh, yeah, no worries. I don't know why I ever stress out about it, but I never wanna get too comfortable, y'know?"
"Ah. Yeah, I know what you mean."
"Hey, this is the place, right?"
Chris pulled up to the dingy apartment building and parked in a vacant space on the sidewalk. Joy led him up the stairs to her unit, nervous both about allowing her coworker to see where she lived, but also because this meant that they were one step closer to watching this whole mess unfold.
Joy had purchased a few more cheap fabric folding chairs and clustered them together in the middle of the room in front of her computer. The room would be cramped, but with any luck, everyone would be able to watch the final episode Liam would be bringing over soon.
As Chris was getting comfortable, there was a knock at the door. Joy opened it to find Shauni waiting on the other side, with Minato along with her.
“Hi, girl!” Shauni cheered as she glided into the apartment. “Looks like your coworker rolled up at about the same time I did.”
“Shauni, Minato, come on in!”
Minato followed along behind and looked the apartment once over. “You know, your place reminds me of my old apartment in Tokyo. It’s very cozy!”
“Haha, thanks, Minato. It’s okay, you can just say it’s small.”
Shauni knew that Joy could have a tendency to be sensitive about what sort of amenities she had access to since it was only a step away from getting into a conversation about how her finances were going. Time to get in there and steer the conversation in another direction.
“So, hey, I’m glad I was able to get my shift switched around at work! I’m super excited to see what it is you’ve been working on!”
Finally, the moment Joy had been dreading talking about was right here in front of her. How could she gently talk about this to everyone, now that they were all here?
“Ah, yeah, about that. So, uh, let me start by saying I have been tasked with administering something of a difficult challenge.”
Shauni tilted her head. “A challenge? What does that mean?”
Chris chimed in as well. “Yeah, you’re going to have to elaborate a little bit.”
Joy became visibly uncomfortable as she slowly stumbled her way through describing the situation. “Well, basically, I met someone who’s a bit of a… localization enthusiast.”
“Huh. I’ve never heard of an anime fan being called a ‘localization enthusiast’ before,” Minato said with genuine confusion and curiosity. Was it a term he just hadn’t familiarized himself with?
“Yeah, well, you know! They really wanted to understand just how difficult it was to do our job. He’s still pretty young, so he’s probably not gonna be working on anything in any capacity for… uh, a long while.”
“How young is he?” Chris questioned. “If he’s in college, he might be able to get an internship so he can get some real world work experience.”
“Oh, I don’t think he’s, uh, realy to make that step yet.” Joy chuckled nervously. Every time she opened her mouth to explain the situation, it seemed to only add more to the mystery and confusion.
Shauni jumped in with the next question. “Okay, so what kind of a challenge did you give this guy, anyway? You say it’s supposed to help him understand how the industry works?”
“Yeah, so basically, he unfortunately thought that the jobs that we do are a little easier than they actually are, to say the least. To challenge him, I gave him exactly one week to translate and subtitle an anime of his choice. Tonight’s the night it’s due, and I was hoping to have each of you here to help evaluate his work. Minato, you’re a translator, so I thought you’d be pretty good at gauging his translation skills. Chris, you’re a subtitle timer, too, so I thought maybe you could give some unbiased opinions. And Shauni, you’re basically just an average consumer, so I wanted to see if you could give a general opinion of how much you liked and understood what he was able to come up with.”
“Wow, Joy, that actually sounds pretty fun!” Joy was surprised to hear Shauni was actually kind of digging this. “When’s he supposed to get here?”
Joy looked nervously at her phone to catch the time. 6:55 PM. Last week, Liam and Joy had agreed that 7:00 PM was the time his challenge was due. If he didn’t show up in the next few minutes, he would have lost before even getting the chance to have his work critiqued.
“Actually, he’s supposed to be here within the next five minutes. In fact, that was another part of his challenge. Basically, he has to start by learning how to turn his projects in on a deadline, just like us. If he can’t get it in my 7:00 PM, he’ll already be done for.”
“Ooh, yikes. You’re a pretty tough teacher, Miss Darwin!” Chris was pretty amused at everything he was hearing. “You haven’t heard from the guy yet?”
“No, not at all. It’d really be a shame if he didn’t make it!” She said that, but she didn’t mean it at all. If Liam didn’t make it through the door in just a few moments, it would immediately mean she could dismiss everyone. They’d never even have to know she was working with Liam at all. And on top of that, it also meant that he would have to abide by their agreement and leave Joy and her coworkers alone for good.
It was at that moment that she heard three swift poundings at the door.
Shauni gasped with excitement. “Oh, wow! Is this him? I can’t wait to see what he worked on!”
Joy’s heart sank. He actually showed up! How much time was left on the clock? She glanced down at her phone once again.
Joy considered stalling for time, but she knew it was impossible. Even if she approached the door slowly to open it, the apartment was way too small for her to cross the room over the course of a full three minutes. Everyone would know something was wrong.
It was all over and she knew it. It was time to bite the bullet. Joy exhaled deeply and walked over to the door.
“Okay, guys. Time to introduce you to our… localization enthusiast.”
Her hand shook nervously as she placed her hand on the doorknob, turning it somewhat awkwardly in her palm. She swung the door open without making eye contact with the young man standing on the other side, eyes to the floor.
Liam stood there, mouth downturned, clearly irritated that he had to be there at all. “Sheesh, took you long enough to open up.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small thumb drive. “I’ve got your project right here. I know you thought you could spook me off, but I’m here to prove you and everybody you know wrong. Get ready to say goodbye to your jobs!”
Shauni was the first one to speak up out of a room filled with dead silence.
“So, uh, hello. Nice to meet you. I’m Shauni. Joy, aren’t you going to introduce us?”
Chris looked on in confusion. On the day Liam had broken into the office, he hadn’t seen him sneaking around. But Minato glared at Liam from across the room. He never caught a glimpse of his full face, but his eyes seemed familiar.
“Wait a minute. Do I know you? Have we met somewhere before?” Minato tried to be polite, but something felt off about this entire situation.
Liam scoffed as he stepped through the door. “Oh, hey. Yeah, I recognize you. You were a big help in getting me through the front door at Toon Motion. If it hadn’t been for Joy here, I would have been in and out of there without any trouble. Sorry about your badge, though.” He wasn’t necessarily trying to speak down to Minato, though he was absolutely pig-headed with more pride than he had rightfully earned.
With a slow realization forming in his mind, Minato’s blood began boiling.
“You! You’re the guy who took my badge! The guy who tried to leave the building with our hard drive!”
“Hey, I’ve got a name you know! The name’s Liam, and you better remember it well, ‘cause one day everybody’s gonna know it!”
“Liam?” Shauni turned to look at her friend. “Joy, isn’t this the guy you had that series of altercations with during the weekend of All-Out Anime Festival?”
Chris was struck with realization at that moment. “During the convention? Joy, does that mean you met this guy before he even snuck into the office?”
“She sure did! Shauni got attacked by this guy during the con, and when he escaped the cops, he followed her home before she had him officially arrested again.”
Minato was fuming. “You mean he was arrested before?! Then what was he even doing at Toon Motion in the first place? Hell, why is he here now? Joy, I thought you caught this guy and even went with the cops to make sure he was in jail!”
Joy finally found her voice to speak up, though she still didn’t have the strength to look any of her friends in the eye. “Well… I learned that Liam here actually has more money and power than you could possibly imagine. His mom’s a wealthy lawyer. She’s so good at her job, she keeps getting him out of all kinds of things. Loathe as I am to admit it, I don’t think you could keep this guy behind bars no matter what he did.”
“So, what, you just started befriending this asshole?! Even if you can’t keep him locked away, Joy, this is bullshit!”
Liam finally slammed the door behind him as he stepped into the middle of the conversation. “Hey, watch it, man! I have no desire to ever be friends with some westernizing colonizer like Joy!”
Chris was bothered by this, but more than anything he was just confused by everything escalating around him. “Joy, what is Liam talking about? What’s this about being a westernizing colonizer?”
Joy finally looked up to give Chris eye contact. “He means that he hates official localizations. The reason we even crossed paths in the first place is because he’s trying to make sure everything he doesn’t like about English translations gets removed from localizations entirely. In fact, he may be anti-localization industry all together.”
“Then make this make sense to me, Joy,” Minato interjected. “Why in God’s name is he here? If he hates what we do so much, and if that’s what motivates him to stalk members of the industry and try to break in and steal our work, why is he even standing in this room?”
“Because it’s the only shot we’ve got at getting him to leave us alone!” Joy shouted back, finally desperate to make the situation clear to her colleagues. Minato was taken aback by her volume. “Liam has agreed to this task under a certain set of conditions. If he could produce a localization of a show that could impress even us considering his lack of skills and training to do our jobs, there may be nothing we can ever do to be rid of him. However, if he fails to impress us on all fronts, he has promised to get out of our business and never bother us ever again.”
Chris tilted his head. “You really think this is gonna work?”
“No way. It’s insane!” Minato was having none of this. “If Liam’s already done this much, there’s no way a guy like him’s gonna stick to his word!”
“Oh, I’ll stick to it all right!” Liam shouted back, holding up his thumb drive for everyone to look at. “I’m more than confident in my work. If you’re not amazed by what you see by the end of this episode, I’ll gladly shut my mouth.”
Minato grunted, feeling like there was nothing else he could add in the moment. Shauni cut in, trying to get this whole thing started so they could end it just as quickly.
“Look, if this is the only way we can end this thing, why don’t we just sit down and get started? Don’t you wanna get this done with?”
“Good point, Shauni,” Chris said enthusiastically as he took his seat in one of the fabric folding chairs. “Truth be told, I’m really interested in seeing what kind of localization a guy who hates localization ends up creating.”
“Honestly, I’m here for the entertainment of it all, too.” Shauni agreed and took her seat. “Liam, I’m absolutely not thrilled that you have repeatedly caused harm to my best friend. But if this is gonna help her, then just show us what you’ve got.”
All that was left standing in the room was Minato, gritting his teeth. Joy tried her best to coax him into participating.
“Minato. I don’t disagree with how you feel one bit. I’m extremely upset that we’re in this position at all right now. But if we don’t participate, this is gonna go on for a lot longer than any of us want, and I think that includes Liam.”
Liam clicked his tongue at this notion. “Hate to say I agree with Joy of all people, but…”
Minato gritted his teeth and clenched his fist. He hated being put in this position, but what more could he do?”
“Ugh, fine! Hurry up and plug in the thumb drive! The sooner we start this, the sooner I never have to see this bastard’s face ever again!”
“Heh, you’ve got a lot of confidence for somebody who doesn’t even know what kind of work I can do.”
“That’s enough! Everybody sit down!” Joy shouted her command, and her guests all took their seats in the folding chairs. Joy took the thumb drive from Liam’s hand and inserted it into a free USB slot at the front of her computer. Browsing through the folders, she came to a video file titled “gyudon1_english”. This had to be it. She opened the file in the video player and ran back to her bed to watch her monitor from the opposite end of the room. If nothing else, this hypothetically would prove to at least be some kind of entertaining.
When Liam’s episode of Gyudon no Hou ga Daisuki was over, the room was absolutely dead silent. A mixture of facial reactions could be seen across the group, none of them looking especially thrilled at the result. Mistakenly, Liam took everyone’s silence to mean they were so impressed that they were left speechless. He turned in his chair to face the rest of the room.
“Yep, I know! I’m awesome!”
The other four people in the room all let out collective groans. Liam was less than pleased.
“Hey, what’s all that groaning supposed to mean?”
Joy lifted a notepad and pencil. “Well, I had been taking a few notes of my own the first time, but I think maybe it would be best if we got some opinions from the other members of the group first. Since this whole process starts with the translation, Minato, why don’t you go ahead and get started?”
Minato winced at the idea of having to speak up first. “Well, for starters, I have to admit, you were probably at a pretty big disadvantage. For one thing, I’m sure you didn’t have the official script to work with.”
“You mean you guys work with the scripts the seiyuu get to use?!” Liam interjected, feeling incredibly inconvenienced. “I knew Joy had this whole thing rigged from the start! If I’d had that script, that would have made it way easier to put into my translation programs!”
“Well, see, that’s the thing, Liam. It’s possible Joy did you a favor.”
“By that I mean, it’s painfully clear you don’t actually understand Japanese. If you’d been working off of an official script, you would have leaned on it entirely too much and let some auto-translate engine do the work for you, which also would have resulted in a bad translation. As it stands, I can tell you already leaned on a computer program to do the bulk of the translation for you.”
“Well, what exactly is wrong with that, anyway? You’re just replacing Japanese words with English ones.”
“No, translation is a whole lot more than just replacing words. There are subtle cultural nuances that you can’t entirely understand unless you’ve lived in the culture where the original language came from.”
“I think from as much anime as I’ve watched, I’m already pretty damn familiar with Japanese culture!”
Minato glared at Liam from across the room. “Are you really going to look me, a Japanese person, in the eye and tell me you understand as much about my culture as I do because you watched our cartoons?”
“I can’t believe you would deface your own culture by calling anime by a slanderous name like ‘cartoons’!”
“It’s comments like that that tell me you haven’t even begun to truly study either our language or our culture. Look, let me give you an example from the show you just worked on. In the show, the main character Hiroshi loves gyudon, and he wants to share it with everyone. The problem he runs into is not everybody thinks beef bowls are so great. He meets a classmate, Kouta, who is dismissive of beef bowls because he likes different kinds of food. Kouta tells Hiroshi, ‘Juunin toiro’. You translated it literally as, ‘Ten people, ten colors.’ Yes, that’s literally what those words mean, but you don’t say something like this in English, do you?”
“Huh? If it didn’t literally mean ‘ten people, ten colors’, then what was he trying to say?”
“He was saying different people like different things.”
“Then why didn’t he just say that?!”
“Come on, don’t be an idiot. Don’t you have idioms like this in English, too?”
Shauni jumped in, feeling a stroke of understanding. “Oh, I get it! We do have idioms like that all the time! Like, ‘every cloud has a silver lining,’ or ‘give someone the cold shoulder’! When you think about sentences like that, we’re not literally talking about silver clouds or cold shoulders. What we mean to say is, ‘even a bad situation has something positive,’ or, ‘I’m ignoring this person’. I guess we don’t always mean the literal words we say in English, either!”
This was a concept Liam had never thought about. Even if he had heard every word in Japanese correctly, there was no real way of knowing whether or not he had caught their nuanced meanings based on context.
Minato continued on. “It’s for reasons like this that your translation comes off as barely understandable. In English, it’s all just gibberish.”
“I kind of have to agree,” Shauni added. “I sorta had a basic understanding of what’s going on, but it wasn’t exactly much better than just watching the episode raw, without subtitles at all. Even without your subs, I probably could have gotten the gist of what happened here. The bad translation actually made some parts of the dialogue pretty confusing.”
“There’s quite a lot more I could say about the translation,” Minato added, rounding out his thoughts, “but it would be difficult to explain them without giving you a full-on Japanese lesson. More than just misheard words and misunderstood idioms, there’s a lot of grammar you don’t understand, so even if you put the right words in the sentence, the sentence structure was all wrong, leading to a frankly flat-out incorrect translation. You’re going to need a few more years of practice if you’re going to be able to do this.”
Liam winced. He already was off to a bad start. How could it not have been as simple as just literally translating the words? None of this was making any sense.
Joy glanced at her notebook and spoke up again.
“All right, now that we’ve got the translation stuff out of the way, Chris, what can you tell us about what you saw as far as the subtitle editing is concerned?” Joy was very interested to hear what Chris had to say. She had a lot of thoughts of her own, but wanted to make sure she didn’t speak over anybody else just yet.
“Well, geez, where to start?” Chris scratched the back of his head, wishing he wasn’t put in such a difficult position. “Uh, well let’s go with your timing. It’s… kind of all over the place. Sometimes your subtitles start really early. Sometimes they end really early. Sometimes they hang out on screen for a really long time, even after the character was done speaking. Sometimes they’re on screen for such a short amount of time that nobody would be able to read them fast enough.
“Now, one thing I can tell you’re really talented at are graphics. Do you edit videos in your free time?”
Finally, Liam felt like he was getting some modicum of praise. “Yeah, that’s right! I splice together music videos and goofy joke videos for social media all the time! Motion graphics are definitely my specialty!”
“Yeah, you should definitely find a job doing that, because it’s not what we use subtitles for at all.”
Liam’s stomach felt like lead. Wasn’t Chris just praising him? Why did it sound like he just ripped that praise away, turned it around on him, and turned it into criticism?
“You’ve chosen a different font and a different text color for every character that speaks. It becomes really difficult to read pretty quickly. And during big action sequences, you’ve turned the font into huge, flowing, moving text that blocks the screen. Like when Hiroshi prepares his Super Beef Blast, you’ve got the words growing, moving, shaking, and sliding across the screen. Not only is it nearly illegible, but you also can’t see the anime behind it. The point of watching an anime is to be able to see as much of the artwork on the screen as possible. If you're a big anime fan, don’t you think it’d be better to respect the artist’s work that you’re putting your subtitles on top of?”
“Hey, man, what gives? I worked super hard on those graphics!”
“And again, I’m telling you you’re good at it. But you’re letting your pride get in the way here. It’s clear you want people to watch this and to remember you, but unfortunately, that’s not what our job is. If we manage to allow people to forget we even touched it, that would be ideal.”
“Actually, I’d like to add on to that thought, too,” Shauni said, ready to give her own critiques. “There were a lot of times where the screen was blocked because there was a wall of text describing a translation decision you made. Honestly, I might be in the minority here, but I actually really do like translators’ notes, although I’d usually prefer them in some booklet or some other text document that I can look at later. That way, all the text isn’t blocking the screen.
“Not only that, but your translators’ notes came and went way too fast. If I wanted to read those notes, I would have had to have gotten up and paused the video to read it, totally breaking the natural flow of the episode.”
“Right, and then there were all the grammatical and spelling mistakes,” Chris continued. “Honestly, even if I wasn’t correcting either the timing or what your graphics were doing, you at least needed to make sure your sentences sounded natural and were spelled correctly. Otherwise, even if the translation was correct, people still aren’t going to be able to understand what you were trying to say. I know that’s a lot to take in, but does all of that make sense?”
Liam didn’t have any words. All he could do was snarl. His hard work and effort were all slipping away from him.
“Well, maybe none of these things matter if the viewer didn’t understand what you were trying to get across,” said Joy. “Shauni, you already mentioned a few things, but did you have any other feelings on what you just watched?”
“Oh, yeah, just a couple other things of note,” she replied. “You picked a super cool show, and the opening theme is absolute fire! I liked that you had a translation for the opening lyrics at the bottom, as well as the Japanese lyrics at the top. A lot of official subtitles don’t always do that, but I kind of appreciate it.
“At the same time, though, you used your talents as a motion graphics animator to make the Japanese lyrics do this karaoke effect, where the words would disappear as soon as they were sung. There was no way I could keep up with the words or learn how to sing it that way.
“And then the only other thing of note was your decision to just leave some words in Japanese. Sometimes you had those translators’ notes, but other times you just left a word untranslated with no notes at all. I think maybe you figured you’d watched enough anime so you learned some really cool words. Maybe you think everybody should know what those words are. But actually, even though I like anime a lot, I don’t make it a habit to learn all the Japanese that I hear. Multiple languages just don’t stick with me at all! Heh, that’s my bad. I actually have always sucked in my Spanish classes in the past, too. Anyway, if you were gonna do that, I kinda just wish you had just translated those words. It would have made my life a lot easier.
Liam was floored. An anime fan that couldn’t pick up a few simple words of Japanese? She had to be lying. That seemed absurd to him. He didn’t understand the irony, that after years of watching anime, he still didn’t speak enough Japanese to be able to translate a TV show.
“So… that’s it, then? After all the hard work I put into this, after spending six sleepless nights trying to make this a reality, you’re just gonna dismiss everything I did just like that?”
“No,” said Joy. “It’s not that simple. It’s true that you’re not ready to do our jobs, and it’s also true that your work was hard for an average viewer to understand.”
She couldn’t believe she was about to say this, but she couldn’t let Liam leave it a fit of anger. Joy worried that if she came down on him too harshly, there’d be no telling what he’d do next.
“But honestly, in seeing the work you brought us today, it actually did showcase what your strengths are. Everybody was telling you the truth when they said you were a pretty talented graphic animator and editor. There are jobs for that sort of thing, even in localization. Sometimes, we need to come up with English graphics to replace Japanese ones, such as the title of the show or when translating important commercials and promotional videos.
“Furthermore, you were extremely dedicated to this project. Despite the fact that you were under-qualified in every aspect, you spent nearly seven days straight working tirelessly on this, and it shows. You don’t know Japanese, but you still came up with something. You don’t have the training to understand proper timing or proofreading, but sometimes the only way some people learn is by doing it wrong a few times first.
“It’s a shame you put such black mark on your own future by repeatedly acting like a criminal. If you had just dedicated your time and efforts to learning how to better perform any one of these tasks, you surely would have had a place somewhere in the anime localization industry. But now, I’m afraid that mountain will be too hard to climb, even for someone with as much promise as you.”
Impossible! How could this be happening? Liam had poured everything into this challenge, even parts of him that he had been holding back from his own mind. He’d blocked out so many negative feelings from his past for so long, and somehow during the course of this past week, he’d allowed them to come flowing out of him as he worked.
But it didn’t matter. It was all for nothing.
“I get it,” Liam said quietly. “I get what you’re telling me. You think that for all of the knowledge I’ve gained through my years of consuming this media, I’m still not good enough to work on it.”
Joy answered him swiftly. “Not as you are right now, no.”
After a brief moment of silence, Liam leapt up from his folding chair, stomped over to the computer, and ripped his thumb drive out of the USB port, turning back around to face the group.
Joy was stunned by his abruptness, but more than that, she was alarmed by the look on his face. Was he… crying?
“I will concede that there may be a few things I don’t know!” Liam shouted. “But you said so yourself! There are several things I’m really good at! And you don’t have to tell me how dedicated I am. I’ve always known my own passion and level of commitment to something I care about.”
Liam pointed his finger at Joy, then panned it across the whole room so that Chris, Minato, and Shauni could also see it.
“I know what I heard out of all of you! There’s hope for me out there, and I’m gonna prove it to all of you! Sorry, Joy, but I’m gonna take that part of it as a win! I’m gonna go out there and get those skills necessary to do what it is you do. And that may take me a while, but don’t get too comfortable! ‘Cause once I’m back, I’m taking over this industry myself, in the name of all the English-speaking otaku in the world!”
With that, he took his flash drive and stomped towards the door.
“I might be gone for a while, but this isn’t the last you’ve heard of me!” Liam swung the door open and stomped outside, slamming the door behind him.
For several moments, the room was dead silent. Chris was the first person to speak up.
“So, uh, did that go the way you were hoping it was going to go, Joy?”
“Of course it didn’t!” Minato exclaimed. Didn’t you hear the kid? He said he was gonna be back!”
“No, don’t be too sure of it happening too soon,” Joy replied calmly. “Liam just got his whole world crushed, but it’s almost certain that some part of him understands what just happened to him. I know he meant exactly what he said. If he ever does show up again, it’ll be after he gets some education and practice in. With any luck, that will take quite a bit of time, and you can only hope that by the end of it all, he comes out of it a better person.”
Minato still wasn’t fully convinced. “You sure are putting a lot of faith in a guy who’s pulled a lot of crap with you. How can you even be so sure?”
“I have to be,” said Joy. “Because even if I wasn’t nearly as viciously obsessed, I was once a lot like him. And I had a lot of growing to do, too.”
Shauni had been Joy’s friend for a long time. She knew that what Joy was saying was true. “You guys had better believe it. It’s hard to break a young fan of their beliefs when they’re convinced they know everything before they’ve even begun to learn.
“Anyway,” continued Joy, “I’m real sorry to have inconvenienced you guys.”
Surprisingly, Minato was pretty quick to respond. “Well, I’m not thrilled about it, but if it means Liam’s gonna be off our backs for a while, then I’m glad you figured out how to settle it. You really owe us one, though.”
“You’re right, I do. You want me to get you guys lunch tomorrow?”
“Yeah! If all this was for a free meal, it was totally worth it!” shouted Chris. Honestly, he was pretty easy to please.
Shauni didn’t need to be bribed with food. “Hey, don’t worry about me. This whole thing was a blast. That’s payment enough for me!”
As the night began to wind down, Joy found herself feeling grateful for her great friends, wonderful coworkers, and a job she could be proud of. And even if the past couple of weeks had been the biggest nightmare of her life, she knew it was going to be an incredible story later.
She just didn’t know that the story wasn’t necessarily over.