Author: mokxii

Anti-Villains in Anime: The case of Garou and Stain

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Heroism is a common topic in anime and while it can be adapted into different forms, with different names, narratives, and ideologies. However, One Punch Man (OPM) and My Hero Academia (MHA) have decided to maintain its most original form, creating two worlds where there are people with superpowers and proper national systems, associations are established to support their heroic careers.

And of course, what are heroes without a purpose to fight, to save people? and so the villains are born.

But this is also where things started to get complicated, at least for me, when I can actually sympathize with the villains, when, actually, the presence of villains is to point out the flaws in the whole idea of being heroes, of being on the ‘good side’. And when we, as the audience, have to question their evilness, what do we call them?

“An Anti-Villain is the opposite of…

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Watching Anime: The Sub-Dub debate

The anime for this week – AKIRA – would certainly spark multiple conversations in different topics but one issue that is personal and intriguing for me is the preference between subtitles and the English dub.

Apart from learning about the Asian culture, I also have a chance to understand and practice Autoethnography, an approach that analyses personal experiences in order to make sense of the cultural phenomenon (Ellis et al. 2011). If an ethnographer were to ‘connect the personal life of the observed with their social context and their culture without ever becoming an insider herself’ (Alsop, 2002), then Ellis et al. suggest that documenting and analyzing your own, personal experience would require the acknowledgment of your own bias, emotion (2011). So this would be what I attempt to do in this particular subject.

In order to do an autoethnography, where culturally related practices such as common values, beliefs, shared experience are analyzed (Ellis et al. 2011), it is important to understand the background knowledge of the observer (me, myself and I), and why watching an English dubbed anime is an “intense situation” to be negotiated.

I was born and raised in Vietnam and ever since I could read Vietnamese fluently and know about the existence of foreign channels, almost all the shows, movies that I have watched were subtitled. The accessibility of dubbed programs wasn’t at all common apart from classic, extremely long, Asian dramas that aired on the national TV channels. My experience with online platforms was also similar, the most up-to-date films or series would be available with subtitles only.

Before I could make sense of my own preference, I found dubbed programs extremely odd and awkward as if the characters have lost parts of their identities and become more… Vietnamese. Consequently, I consciously choose subtitled programs and rarely do I compromise with the dubbed versions. Watching Akira in dub for this week wasn’t an exception, the characters’ personalities and a part of their identities are compromised, and I would watch the film again, with subtitles.

However, instead of remaining biased,  I attempted to understand the reasons behind the preference for English dubbed anime and to compare with ones of my own. And I have found one thing that is fundamentally important when ‘debating’ about these two preferences:

In the making of the voiceover, not only do scriptwriters have to know the language but they also have a clear understanding of the cultural origin. However, it’s not their purpose to strictly maintain that origin, but rather to find common ground, and to adapt that culture into the one that would better appeal towards English-audience. Sometimes, the Japanese creators demand such compromisations, in order to ‘expand the show’s marketability‘ – Debs, 2019 (2)

Some of my classmates found the English dubbed version didn’t ‘scream’ Japanese or the characters appeared ‘less Japanese’ which I could not agree more. Watching anime with subtitles, or any filmographic productions that are not Vietnamese for me is a way to informally learn a language, and how the characters use the language to express themselves. Subtitles, then, act as supportive means in this learning process, the moments of realization like: ‘Ohhhhh so that’s how they say ‘stupid’, Bakayaro’ excites me incredibly. With this unspoken purpose of mine when approaching foreign films, I can only be content with the subtitled versions.

It’s rather incorrect to say sub is better than dub or vice versa because they serve different purposes. While subtitles provide translation, giving the audience a chance to learn about culture via the language and the lingual expressions made by characters, dub can help the audience forget about having to catch up with the language difference and entirely focus on the story. On the other hand, watching with subtitles also demand the audience to put more effort into catching up with the story whereas the process of making the voice over, from the beginning. is deemed to alter the cultural context, so with each preference comes with implications.

I’m always here for a constructive discussion about everything, after all, we’re here to share our thoughts and what we’ve learned (or just to get credit points maybe???).

so follow through my social media or comment down below for a chat :).


A Rather Ordinary Observation from ‘The Host’

With a Vietnamese background, I was exposed to Asian films before getting to see the productions from Hollywood. For me, Asians films and series are something that I culturally relate to and ones from Westerns present me a culture that I haven’t experienced, both of them have always been equally intriguing.

This is not the first time I’ve seen a Bong Joon-ho’s production, and though it might not be the best one from him, I still enjoyed it. ‘The Host’ is still a special piece, not because it doesn’t have has a twisted, brain hacking plot like ‘Memories of Murder‘, or directly discusses prominent issues like animal cruelty in ‘Okja‘, class discrimination in ‘Parasite‘, but because the movie has shined the light on the Asian family-oriented culture.

I came across this tweet about how South Korean film characters expressing ‘extended emotion’ in the movie as people were screaming, and they talked so loudly and all expressions seem to be overly dramatic. This observation intrigues me because I’m told pretty much the same thing from my foreign friends when they hear or see me with my family, I’m louder and I’m definitely more dramatic than normal. Having never actually questioned such behavioural patterns, the tweet triggered me to dwell into every detail in ‘The Host’ that reflect those behaviours and I was left feeling more nostalgic than ever.

Gang-du’s family is rather exceptional, as the firstborn, he is a bit mentally challenged and is a single father, taken care of by his own father, his brother is drunk most of the time, and his sister is a gifted athlete. However, they are surely not dysfunctional, especially when it comes to protecting their family. Each individual has the same motive and tried their best to perfect the puzzle pieces in the making of a whole picture, and it was all thanks to the love they have for each other, for their F A M I L Y. Although the process was messy, definitely loud, and there are deemed to have some sacrifices, in the end, the picture was completed, with a spark of hope for a new beginning, such a classic Joon-ho’s ending.

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The Father’s Act 

All families are problematic and to make it even more complicated, we Asians tend to turn an individual’s issue into a whole family one (though it’s fair enough when your daughter is captured by a river monster). Living in a world where individualism is strongly embedded you might find this ridiculous, and admittedly it can be a nuisance at times, but it can also bring out the best in people for the greater cause, which, in this case, is to rescue their beloved granddaughter/daughter/sister. The love is visible in the most ordinary, comedic details like giving your own daughter a beer or imagining giving her your own food because she was dearly missed by every family member.

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Despite the obvious dramatized and fictional elements, ‘The Host’ was surprisingly, pleasantly ordinary and extremely Asian!