04 January 2017

What It's Like to Work on an Anime: "Skip Beat!"

From the Kickstarter page for Skip Beat!
In my other post, I mentioned that one of the projects I'd been working on was actually kind of a big deal.☺ I am a small part of the official North American localization of the shoujo anime Skip Beat!, which is being released by Pied Piper, Inc. after licensing the series from TV Tokyo.

Here's ANN's description of the plot:
"Kyoko followed her true love and childhood friend Sho to Tokyo so she could help him reach his dream of becoming an idol. She cleans, cooks, works three jobs and does nothing for herself because she loves him so much, but gets nothing in return. Still, she remains by his side. But then one day she goes unannounced to his agency with a delivery, and overhears him talking about her; he reveals to his manager that he only took her with him as a maid, and that he doesn't care for her at all. Upon hearing this, Kyoko doesn't just sit around and cry. She cuts and dyes her hair, changes her clothes and attitude and thus begins her journey to join showbiz and have her revenge against Sho."
Of course, there's more to this story than a simple "jilted lover seeks revenge" plot. As Ann Yamamoto writes on the Kickstarter website, 
"it's the story of humble 16-year-old Kyoko Mogami unleashing her true talents to become a powerhouse actress.[...]  She’s passionate, wacky, vulnerable, and bold – sometimes all in the same scene. The story is driven by Kyoko discovering her true love – but we’re not talking about a boilerplate romance. Kyoko's pride comes first! [...] Skip Beat! stands on its own with a funny, always surprising heroine. The characters surrounding Kyoko are just as compelling, and they grow as people in the same way that she does. The universality of her story inspires intense passion among the series' fans and transcends the typical shoujo demographics. With Skip Beat!, finding yourself comes BEFORE falling in love...that message is empowering. And be warned, Skip Beat! has been known to change lives. Once Kyoko's gutsiness gets under your skin, you just might find yourself doing something a little crazy..."
I joined the Kickstarter campaign as soon as I heard about it, but to be honest, I had only heard of Skip Beat! and hadn't watched the series yet. This was one of those shows whose name was uttered with reverence at convention panels and in fun conversations, so I donated money as a backer simply because I want more anime to come to the USA. ☺ 

But I found the series on Crunchyroll and started watching right after I donated. and really enjoyed it. I don't really watch shoujo normally--I tend to enjoy dark, emotional series with a lot of action--so I was pleasantly surprised with how fun it was, and happy with a lot of the show's messages. 

In June I signed my contract to work on the proofreading subs team, and initially worked on three episodes (the other episodes were divided among other team members). I checked for spelling and grammar and made sure to catch any language issues in the English subtitles with the eyes of a hawk. Once I let Ann know about my English background (two degrees and my job teaching college English), I got bumped from initial proofreading to final proofreading--meaning I was the last line of defense with subtitling before my supervisor approved my work and sent things off to the next department. She wrote, "you're like a secret weapon for Skip Beat!," which made my day. 

While I continued to check episodes for grammar, awkward language constructs, punctuation, spelling, and other typos, my new responsibility involved checking for the timing in which subtitles appear. This is actually really challenging, because you have to have an eye for details--it's not only checking to see if the subtitles visually make sense when characters start speaking (as in, mouths moving), but I also listened repeatedly to make sure the subtitles also timed well when the audio of actors' voices kicked in. On top of that, you have to make sure there is enough time for viewers to be able to read the subtitles on their own, and then there's the technical aspect with how things work on DVDs versus Blu-Ray--timing/encoding differs slightly for each. 

This has been a rewarding challenge for me. In my own writing, it is tricky for me to catch my own mistakes (see "Why It's So Hard to Catch Your Own Typos") but my eagle eyes kick into overdrive when I edit others' work. The challenge comes from trying to make the sentences not only correct, but sound as best as they possibly can. The other challenge comes from dealing with the repetition required to get things right. I watched 30-second scenes over and over and over again, and sometimes I would spend at least two hours on a 24-minute episode checking my own edits and the timing for the billionth time.

I beam with a strange sort of pride when I see something I rewrote end up in the final cuts of the subtitles, and I know when I see my name in the production credits for the show, I will jump up and down like a little girl, because it's going to feel like "Wow! I made it! This is real! I am a part of something big!" ...even if I the part I played in it was on the smaller side of things. 

This series is looking up to become something huge, though. The talent involved with it is impressive, the support of the backers is impressive, and it's coming together greatly. 

I leave you with the teaser trailer so you can get excited for this series just as much as I am:


It is my great hope that working on Skip Beat! opens a door that will lead me to working on localizing other anime for audiences outside of Japan. It's been a lot of fun!

03 January 2017

How's the Writing Life? An Update.

Photo (c) Clark Young via Unsplash.

The Name and the Key


I've got to say, my Nanowrimo revisions goal was not met, as I feared but somewhat expected. I hoped to revise my entire novel, The Name and the Key, but instead sort of sank into a loooong, thoughtful ponder on how to redo the book and make the changes agents had suggested in my lovely, personalized rejections (this is actually a really good sign as far as rejections go!).

The problem was I had a major plot disaster on my hands, and trying to solve it felt like balancing complex equations. I still haven't quite solved it, but the fact that I've come to these conclusions actually makes me feel pretty optimistic about what needs to be done:

  • As much as I would like it, I don't think I can make Worldwalker Tales into a trilogy, at least not at this juncture. The more I work on it and plot away, the more it seems like my two books, The Name and the Key and The Step and the Walk will be the only works. However, they will probably be a little bit longer than what I've originally written as I cut but add more events simultaneously.
  • The third book I wanted to make, The Eye and the Storm, has no plot. Trying to put plot elements from an unrealized third book into the first and second (to build continuity) was really painful and I just couldn't make it work. The little bit that I did have planned required me to add an enormous supernatural element with Lily that always sounded interesting (possession! dual natures!), but the more I thought about it, the more effort and skill it would take to dazzle the readers with it, and I realized this is beyond my skill as a beginning author. 
  • One of the issues had to do with keeping Lily's abilities a secret from her family, and I had no resolution to this (because you can never hide a secret that big!). In my thesis version of The Name of the Key, in a struggle to meet my graduation deadline, I sort of copped out and did one of those "you inherited this power and it's amazing" tropes and it just feels disappointing. With such a clich├ęd foundation, there's no way I could run with this into the third book. Instead I'm going to have the family be completely aware of her abilities, be occasionally afraid of it, and worry for her mental health and well-being.  I am cutting an enormous plot from Books 1 and 2 but I think it's for the best. As Kurt Vonnegut wrote in his advice to writers, "Keep it simple" and "have the guts to cut." I'm doing both. 
  • Because of this character change for Lily, this will completely change the ending of the novel, which also felt like a cop-out because it ended too quickly and readers didn't entirely understand the climactic scenes in the Black Gate. 
  • Most of the middle drags and so does the beginning. I can probably get to the climactic scene faster and add the ending I wanted for Book Three to Book Two. 
Lots of work, but I am finally, FINALLY figuring out what I need to do. 

The Step and the Walk



Coppelius


  • This is one I've been quiet about. I wrote this poem in 2015 for an anthology of fiction and poetry about "cruel inventions." It is inspired by E.T.A. Hoffman's "The Sandman"and it is a work I am proud of. However, it was rejected for the anthology. This was another good rejection in that it was personalized and while they liked it and discussed it at length, it didn't mesh well with the theme of the anthology, which I understood.
  • When I got to Japan, one of my goals was to get back into writing and get some more work published after a long dry spell of nothing. I decided to rewrite the poem, including redoing the title, a couple months ago and resubmit. I sent it to two other literary journals and it was rejected again. I don't think it needs another rewrite, but I do think I am sending it to the wrong types of journals, in that I have a tone and style mismatch with them. I will keep resubmitting it, but to publishers of speculative or Gothic fiction instead of literary fiction, and I hope I can find it a home somewhere. 
  • Update (January 13, 2017) Well...this just found a home with Synaeresis and its inaugural issue! More details forthcoming.

While the writing itself has been a struggle, I have been and will be working on some major projects as proofreader/editor.

Skip Beat!


  • I am part of a very mainstream project--an anime called Skip Beat! I am one of the final proofreaders for the episodes subtitles. While the series is subtitled in English and available on Crunchyroll, I can tell you that the official North American Release by Pied Piper, Inc. includes completely rewritten subtitles (some of which I have personally rewritten) with tightened language, timing, and grammar. Since this is such a huge project, I will have a separate post up for it soon! The DVD/Blu-Ray will be released this year, so stay tuned!


A Top-Secret Project that I Will Only Vaguely Allude To


  • I will be project editor for a...uh...*grown-up* PC game where I will edit and proofread the English translation. Due to the mature content of the game, I will be credited under a pseudonym. ;)
Both of these projects come from the world of Japanese anime and manga, and while at the moment I am not being monetarily compensated (but given credit and recognition), I am hoping this leads to a path where I can work on localization and editing professionally. 

If I can get a handle on learning Japanese while I am in Japan (although this has been really, really difficult for me), a long-term goal would be getting into translation of anime and manga. That would be really cool, as I love these things very much, and it would be a dream come true to be involved in bringing this wonderful media from Japan to the English-speaking world. This, of course, is a very long-term goal, one that will take years, but I feel like I'm starting to get on the right track with this.