I’ve been watching a fair bit of anime the last year or so, and people always seem surprised to find out (and I, likewise, have been surprised to find out which friends of mine have already been watching a lot of it as well).
Maybe I’ve been poisoned by the mainstream TV networks in the US, and admittedly, I don’t get out much beyond what’s on TV, but the cartoons we have in the US just don’t seem hold a candle to the stuff they’re putting out over in Japan (and this includes most of the imports from Japan that have made it to the US, which the US networks that are carrying them have usually done a good job of butchering up either the plot lines or the music, or otherwise making unnecessary changes to “westernize” them). There are many Japanese shows (even the stuff aimed at kids) which impress me with the depth of the characters and the detail they include in the stories. You just have to live with reading subtitles, unless you know Japanese.
One of the most-detailed and heart-tugging of these (that I’ve seen) is the original Futari wa Pretty Cure series, and its followup series Pretty Cure Max Heart. This show is aimed at kids, and it’s definitely a kids’ show, but even with that in mind, we get to explore the entire community that the main characters live in. The other students in their class at school actually exist, and aren’t just there to fill the extra seats in the classroom. We get to hear almost every student’s name at some point in the series. A large number of them have important roles in at least one or two episodes. The main characters have a family life outside of school, and we learn a great deal about their siblings, parents, and grandparents. And every episode is a heart-tugging demonstration of learning to always trust in each other and never give up, a moral that they almost go overboard with, but you can’t help loving it anyway. Yeah, it’s magical girl genre, and they fight bad guys, but out of each 25 minute episode, they usually spend about 5 or 10 minutes on fighting bad guys, and the rest of the show is all about their relationships. I’ve never seen anything like it broadcast in the US.
Lots of people when they hear “anime” automatically think of “mecha”. Transformers came out of that genre after all, as did Voltron, and the various Gundam stuff (and although it’s not exactly anime, you can’t leave out the Power Rangers and their Zords). The Japanese seem to love their giant robots. But there’s a lot more to anime than giant robots, and I’m not that much into the robot stuff, personally. My watch list tends to have more magical girl and drama type stuff in it.
Stuff I’m currently watching:
- Chocotto Sister (drama/romance)
- Higurashi no Naku Koro ni Kai (mystery/suspense/thriller)
- Lucky Star (high school comedy)
- Nanoha StrikerS (scifi/magical girl)
- Ojamajo Doremi Sharp (comedy/magical girl)
- Potemayo (comedy)
- Powerpuff Girls Z (magical girl)
- Pretty Cure Max Heart (magical girl)
- Pretty Cure Splash Star (magical girl)
- School Days (high school drama/romance)
- Sky Girls (mecha/drama)
- Sugar Sugar Rune (magical girl/fantasy/drama)
- Umisho (high school drama/comedy)
- Yes! Pretty Cure 5 (magical girl)
Other stuff I’ve watched in the past:
- Fairy Musketeer Akazukin (fantasy/adventure)
- Futari wa Pretty Cure (magical girl)
- Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight (high school drama)
- Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya (scifi/high school drama)
- Nanoha (magical girl)
- Nanoha A’s (magical girl/scifi)
- Ojamajo Doremi (magical girl)
- Ojamajo Doremi Naisho (magical girl)
- Rocket Girls (scifi/adventure)
- Starship Girl Yamamoto Yohko (scifi/adventure)
- Tokemeki Memorial (high school drama/romance)
- Venus Versus Virus (scifi/thriller)
And yes, I have actually bought DVDs with English dubs. This is fantastic and entertaining art, and well worth supporting the artists and producers when given the opportunity, and a good way to encourage them to continue to allow worldwide distribution of the subtitled versions (it’s the best form of advertising after all).
So hopefully that’s a little insight into my artistic likes these days.
This last week, we set up a bunch of the IT infrastructure at Mozilla’s new Chinese office. My primary part of the process was setting up their phone system. We used Asterisk, of course, seeing as how we already use that for our phone systems in Mountain View and Toronto. Asterisk has a really cool feature that lets you put localized sound files in for the voice prompts, and each device and incoming phone line can be set up to default to a particular language. It will use the localized files for that language, if available, and fall back on the English ones if they aren’t. You can also allow users to change which language they get with a little careful scripting (“Press 1 for English”, etc). We set it up so that dialing from any phones in the Beijing office will get Chinese prompts, dialing into the Beijing office from outside will get Chinese prompts, and dialing into the Beijing office via the links to our other offices will get English prompts.
One of the difficulties we’ve run into is that there’s no official Chinese language pack for Asterisk, and the only unofficial Chinese language pack we could find is fairly incomplete. You’ll be listening to something in Chinese (like the instructions for voicemail) and suddenly get a word or two of English in the middle of it. I ended up spending a fair portion of this week trying to set up a nice friendly web app the folks in the office can use to easily see which files have been localized and which haven’t, and allow them to record their own localized files and have them automatically go where they need to go. Other folks might find it useful, so I’ll try to get it posted somewhere once I get it fixed up a little (it’s a bit of a quick and dirty hack still right now, but it’s getting there).