Deep Analysis: ‘Animegataris’ is Sharp Critique of Localization

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Another week goes by, and that means yet another episode of this season’s popular show Animegataris — a show about a group of high school students who seek to reestablish their school’s anime club. One of the distinguishing characteristics of Animegataris is the myriad anime references, specifically title drops. But instead of actually saying the real names of the various anime referenced, the show replaces the titles with similar sounding knockoffs such as “Haritaro” for Hamtaro, or “Cinnamon Roll Z” for Dragon Ball Z.

Why is this? You may be inclined to believe that this is due to Japan’s totally archaic and nonsensical copyright laws, but the truth is obvious if you dig deeper. Animegataris, if that is even the real name of the show, is actually criticizing the practice of localizing anime titles.

In reality, Animegataris takes place in another country, where anime is imported from Japan. This is evident by the fact that several characters such as Arisu or Minoa have hair colors that are not common among Japanese people. Japanese culture appears to be popular in this named country, as they even have an imitation Akihabara that characters visit. But even in this country, licensing companies feel the need to change the sacrosanct titles of anime from their original Japanese.

Take for example “R: 0”, an anime Arisu mentioned in episode 1 that is obviously Re:Zero. Could it be that the native language of this country does not have the letter ‘e’? Does the re-branding of Hundred into “Thousand” demonstrate that the unnamed country in which Animegataris takes place puts an emphasis on larger denominations? Is the localization of Bungou Stray Dogs as “Gaka Stray Dogs” a clue to what “gaka” means in the unknown native language of this strange and apparently very weeb country?

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But it goes deeper. Arisu mentions the anime “Hero School” upon meeting Minoa, but everyone knows that no matter what a true otaku would call the show by its true name: Boku no Little Witch Academia. So are these characters actual anime fans, or are they posers? Think back to the anime club at your high school. Would you call them well adjusted, knowledgeable anime fans?

Finally, let’s discuss the most stunning detail of all. Sometimes to uncover the truth one has to use all their senses. So instead of watching and episode and reading the subtitles, close your eyes and listen. Japanese. The characters, who live in a strange land that imports anime and localizes the titles of anime are speaking Japanese.

Those familiar with director Kenshirou Morii know that he’s considered somewhat of a misunderstood genius in the anime industry. His narratives often focus on thematic symmetry: subtly reversing metaphors and playing with complex imagery to present a thesis, as demonstrated in Shingeki no Kyojin Picture Drama and Wake Up, Girl Zoo!. So by subverting the dubbing process and dubbing the unknown language of this unnamed country into Japanese, is Animegataris a critique of the dubbing process?

So what does this all add up to? In the second episode, Animegataris features an extended parody of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya. That same episode, the light novel is referred to as “The Melancholy of a Happy Vuvuzela”. Vuvuzelas gained massive attention in South Africa during the 2010 World Cup. 2+0+1+0 = 3. Animegataris is waving its hands and screaming, desperately trying to tell us something. The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya season 3 is confirmed.

About the author

Editor-in-Chief, CEO, and Fearless Leader of Anime Maru. He was trained by the North Korean People's Institute of Journalism and Media. kevo follows voice actresses on Twitter and pretends to understand their Japanese tweets. Twitter: @kevo31415