View Full Version : Anime Industry Questions
01-24-2006, 06:05 PM
I'm a sixth year student at the Ohio State University studying Japanese and mechanical engineering. I have no clue what I want to do with my life and have been talking with career counselors for years. Most suggest that since I have a great interest in anime and manga (and nothing else), I should explore career options in the publishing industry (in America as everyone says it's next to impossible to find work in Japan). I have contacted the largest 11 publishers and have tried to get information, however only AnimEigo and Funimation cared enough to answer my brief questions. AnimEigo allowed me an informational interview, however, the person I spoke to isn't interested in anime so I don't know that his opinions towards career satisfaction and interest would relate to mine well. Does anyone have any recommendations on how I might proceed to learn more about the jobs available in the industry? Any help would be very much appreciated.
01-24-2006, 07:00 PM
Have you been studying Japanese for all of your 6 years? I took it all through college plus some grad-level courses, and I was able to get a well-paying translation job in Japan fairly easily.
Are you able to draw mechanical things proficiently? Working as an assistant for a manga-ka might be an option, as most of them don't draw the detailed mechanisims and backgrounds that appear in their manga.
01-24-2006, 07:28 PM
I'm only in my third year of Japanese study. I also tutor Japanese students using the language. As far as drawing, I've drafted for years and have won many awards, however these are mechanical drawings meant to convey information rather than artwork. I have some artistic talent, but I don't know that I would be interested in simply doing an assistant's job (especially with years of schooling and many, many loans). Do you mind if I ask you about translation? Do you ever feel that it closes you off from the rest of the world? Are you challenged constantly? Do you feel a strong sense of satisfaction? Thanks very much for your reply.
01-24-2006, 09:03 PM
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I'm a sixth year student at the Ohio State University.
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OH man for one min I thought you played football at THE ohio st. /images/graemlins/devil.gif
01-25-2006, 06:36 AM
I do both a weekday in-house translation job and the occasional freelance subtitling job, so I don't get closed off from the rest of the world. I get challenged with new material every day and sometimes it can be tough to come up with an English equivalent of many Japanese phrases and sentences, but my job's not so tough that I get stressed out. I usually have at least an hour or so total between incoming work to goof off on the internet or work on my freelance work each day, too. During slow periods like late December, I usually don't have hardly any incoming work so I'm basically paid to just come in and work an hour or so and then goof off. A pity I can't watch digisubs like I could at the library evening manager job I had in the US, but I get paid three times as much as I did there, so it's a fair tradeoff.
My job pays very nicely for someone my age and my coworkers respect my abilities, so I feel very satisfied. My kacho is a real nice guy, as is the shacho. There's several /images/graemlins/noseblef.gif oneesama as well, especially the one who seems to enjoy showing me her cleavage when she comes and leans over my desk to explain the work she brings for me. Pity she's a smoker.
There's plenty of otaku-related technical drawing work you could get over here, so I wouldn't brush that aside just yet. The competition is going to be fierce though, but depending on the job and the company you might also be able to serve multiple roles such as helping the company attract foreign business.
01-25-2006, 09:01 AM
Saw the OSU student so as someone also living in Columbus, thought I'd reply even though I'm not working in the anime industry. I do translations (not japanese yet hehe) in-house and freelance as home office business. In-house is more steady and you have people to interact with.
For me, freelance work is a bonus (aka anime DVD funding source) on the side allowing me to take on more diverse stuff. That can get a bit lonely though. You get the contract, you do the translation (sometimes you have few questions but that's not often), you submit it for review and that's it. Little to no interaction with anyone. Obvious advantange is that you work on your own schedule and as much or as little as you want. It's kinda hard to start as freelance translator though since you don't have much in terms of things that show your work or proven experience. Which is why many start with in-house job and then move to freelance if they prefer that format.
Like Buster said, translation pay very well. Depending on the task, your speed and field of expertise, it's around a $30-50/hr.The issue with the anime industry is the quantity of people who can do the subtitiling vs the amount of work. It's a fairly small market and you have competition from native (japanese) speakers knowing english. Not sure how much of a freelance job market there is in that segment. But there are also technical translations you could do with your engineering background which would broaden your opportunities.
As far as being rewarding, well translation aren't really original work. When you complete one, you still feel a good sense of accomplishment and can be proud of your work when you're happy about how true to the original it is. It definitely takes very good writting skills. And it's fun seeing your translation released.
01-25-2006, 10:25 PM
Thank you both for answering. Let me ask you two, how much of a role does the content you translate effect your job satisfaction? Is there anything in particular that is attractive? I guess the question I'm driving at is would working with a content that I have a passion for(anime/manga) provide satisfaction? Also, do you feel translation will be your life's work or do you consider other options down the line? Thanks a lot.
01-26-2006, 01:35 AM
I really don't like doing business/economics translation, since it can be a pain to understand and word correctly. Most of the work I do at my in-house job is either advertising or for instruction manuals. I'm pretty good at coming up with phrases and descriptions for attracting customers so the advertising part is pretty satisfying, and the instruction manuals are easy so I breeze through those.
Edit: In a way, the anime subtitling work I'm doing can be more frustrating since I care more about it and it's hard to be satisfied with a line unless you feel it's perfect. But since things like anime are what got me to learn Japanese in the first place, I feel very satisfied when I get a script done.
I forsee myself doing translation for the next few decades, I think. With my knowledge about the industry and anime in general I'd be perfect for a job working directly for an R1 company someday, but I wouldn't want to live anywhere but Tokyo so that idea got scrapped. There's plenty of otaku-related jobs in Japan I could do, but for the time being I'm quite satisfied with my job.
01-26-2006, 10:10 PM
Can I ask you how much analysis is spent in your work? That is, do you really have to think deeply to put out a translation or are there times when it's just sentence in language A to B? I've heard some translators will reference many sources to try to inform their translation. For example, one might read a book version of a film before writing the script for the film. Also, how much structure is there in translation? Do you sometimes feel that there are useless rules and limitations, or conversely, that your work and expectations aren't made clear? Finally, could you describe a typical work day/week/project/schedule? My Japanese professors usually tell me hours are very long in Japan. Sorry for the million questions, but I'm very interested in learning more. Thanks a lot.
01-27-2006, 03:19 AM
Most of the stuff I do at my in-house job is stuff related to what I've worked on already, so it usually doesn't involve much research. And the freelance stuff I'm currently doing is anime that I first watched close to 10 years ago.
Edit: And my work day at my in-house job is from 9:30 to 6. I rarely have to work overtime, and when I do it's usually only an extra half hour to 1 hour. I'm already finished with one of my freelance jobs and the next one doesn't even have a rough deadline set yet, so I'm working on it at a fairly relaxed pace.
01-28-2006, 04:02 AM
From you perspective, what are the problems you see working in this field? Also, what motivated you to follow this path? Thanks a lot.
01-29-2006, 03:47 AM
One of the big problems is that there's not nearly enough people who can produce accurate translations, so work often gets slowed down by having to get J->E translations checked and re-checked by native Japanese speakers, and vice-versa. I sometimes have to check over others' translations myself, and there's this one guy who has been living in Japan for like more than 10 years, but he still makes the amateur mistake of leaving all katakana words as-is (e.g. "manshon" as mansion). Then you have people who are fairly fluent in Japanese, but can't output English that flows natually or reads well. Unfortunately, the niche nature of anime doesn't make it a very well-paying line of translation work, so you sometimes get mistakes and unnatural English in professional scripts, but things have improved over the years, along with the rest of the J->E translation industry.
A severe lack of native-level bilingual translators is also somewhat of a problem. Japan would have many more native Japanese translators if it had better English instruction in schools, but I've heard that it's improving.
My motivation for becoming a translator was basically because I'm a fan of things like anime and manga. There's just so much out there, I could spend the rest of my life translating things I like. And that's exactly what I plan on doing at this point in my life. I don't know if I'll ever make translating manga/anime my day job as it doesn't pay very well as other translating jobs, and I wouldn't be able to have as much freedom with what I translate and how I translate it, so I'll probably stick with fansubs and the occasional freelance script for the most part. I'm not quite at native-level proficiency yet anyways, so letting a mistake slip through on a fansub wouldn't be nearly as embarassing as it would be for an official release.
01-29-2006, 11:12 PM
How would you recommend one get started in the industry? Also, is there prospect of advancement in your field of work? Finally, how is the change from life in America to Japan? As I understand it, you like it very much correct? As always, thank you very much for answering.
01-30-2006, 02:52 AM
You're going to need to practice and get a good bit of experience before you'll be ready to translate professionally. I slowly worked on some Transformers fansubs and did other random translations, including a chapter of a linguistics book for a grad school Japanese class. I did this while working a job at the medical library at my university, where I continued to work for 1 1/2 years after I graduated. I could work on translations while watching the front desk, so it was a real big help to be able to sort of do two jobs at once. You might want to see if there's a similar job you can do at your college, just don't try and get a job at the main undergrad library, I heard those jobs can really suck.
Good English writing skills are also essential, so you'll need to practice that. I hated writing papers, so I mostly just got into fanboy discussions (and arguments/flame wars) on the internet, which is always fun. Not exactly the best choice since one doesn't have to worry about proofreading one's own work as much, but you have to write about things that interest you to really get into it. Re-writing anime/manga translations might also be a good idea, even if it's just in your head. When I look at a translation for a piece of work, there's always something that I think could be improved upon, which of course includes my own translations since I'm a bit of a perfectionist.
As for advancement, freelance jobs can be easily had based on experience in a particular translation field, and some fields (such as patent translation and technical/medical translation) can pay very nicely, like 150k+ a year. Once you get used to translating fairly easy stuff, you can possibly go back to school to become more specialized or try your hand at doing translation relating to your engineering field.
Moving to Japan was pretty easy for me since I had visited the country 6 times before moving here. I first lived with an American friend with mutual interests that I first met 8 years ago, along with a Japanese roommate who's pretty cool. I just live with the Japanese roommate now, which suits me fine. He's willing to help me out with little things about life in Japan without acting like he's my adopted parent/senpai.
Daily life in Tokyo is so much more convenient than it was for me in my hometown of Pittsburgh. Especially the public transportation and location of supermarkets/24-hour convenience stores. Not having the same brand names for things like toiletries can be a bit inconvenient until you learn about the Japanese ones, however. Getting used to the food and grocery shopping can be tough for some people as well, but I get along fairly well, and I've actually lost a bit of weight since I moved here.
02-01-2006, 10:37 PM
Do you recommend I first travel to Japan through an internship or exchange program before I decide to pursue such a career? Are there any personal factors you would consider important for someone to have to find work in this industry satisfying? Finally, is there any other information or advice you can give me? Thanks so much again.
02-06-2006, 09:41 PM
Heres another question: do you feel that translation jobs are considered prestigious in Japan or elsewhere? How might such a career compare to other careers in Japan in terms of prestige? Also, do you ever feel passionate about what you do? If so, when? Thanks very much as always.
02-06-2006, 10:12 PM
Anything that can get you to Japan could be a big help, although it will obviously be harder to look for a new job if you're way out in the country or if you go on an exchange program that requires you to return home after a year or so.
If you like seeing your work in print even if it's just your interpretation of someone else's work in another language, then you'll probably find translation satisfying. Being able to do something that few other people can do is rather satisfying in of itself. I often get looks of impressed surprise when I tell Japanese and Americans that I'm a J-E translator. I take great pride in what I do, especially since I'm still in my 20's. Two of the freelance anime jobs I'm doing now relate to the thing that made me want to start learning Japanese in the first place.
Compared to other jobs that younger foreigners often hold in Japan, translating is pretty high on the ladder. English teachers nowadays often get treated badly since they're a dime a dozen, especially in major cities. IT and other computer-related work has also gotten rather flooded, with outsourcing and other cheap sources of employment playing a factor. I don't know much about business/economic fields, but they do seem rather high-paying and prestigous. But many also seem stressful and life-sucking with much ladder-climbing involved, similar to the typical salaryman jobs held by Japanese. Some jobs might not be so bad.
As for other advice: Strong personal ties to friends/family might not be a good thing. I'm an only child so I'm used to being on my own, but if there's someone that you don't think that you could leave behind, then working in another country might not be best for you, since the typical salaried job in Japan won't have much vacation time to really make it worth going across the world to go back home very often (I get 9 days off around New Years and again in the summer, plus 1 vacation day every 2 months and various national holidays). Once you become a good enough translator to work only on freelance jobs, then you'll be able to have plenty of vacation time, depending on how much work you accept and how fast you are.
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