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!

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