So I started doing some doujinshi translation to help my Japanese out a bit. Needless to say it’s been a tiresome effort. Though it got me thinking – the acceptance (specifically, sale and distribution) of doujinshi in today’s day and age is a mystical thing. However, if you know anything about Japanese culture (and you can easily learn what I’m referring to by checking out my last couple of posts), it’s actually not all that surprising that Japan allows it. In fact, the whole concept is really simple.
Copyright laws are totally different out in Japan. Unlike the SOPA act currently undergoing discussion in American congress, it isn’t even a question out in Japan. I’m not talking about anything of Saber-Figure-In-China-quality here, but I regularly see pixelated pictures on wall scrolls, rip offs of common generic drink brands with similar colors and designs to the original (so much you wouldn’t notice the difference if you weren’t paying attention), and plenty of copycat stuff that would violate a million and a half laws on the shelves in America.
But in Japan it doesn’t really adversely affect the original content producer’s sales. Why? Well, for one, official merchandise is always worth more. The company is probably going to make a really nice dakimakura and sell it for more than your local Taiwanese rip-off. Brand names like Good Smile or Alter are always going to sell more figures. Some people will be satisfied with clay ripoff xxx, but most won’t. And if the ripoff is of a quality better than the original, it probably won’t be produced in mass if you can buy the official one for cheaper! Sure, you can get that custom figure or dakimakura, and some people will, but a few sales in that are a small exception that aren’t going to ruin the official company.
Infact, things like doujinshi and fan works are all free advertisement for them. If people are busy consuming 500 yen doujins every other week reading what they like about your characters, when you come out with that 1500 character/drama CD people are going to eat it up. Don’t want them to just download it? Throw in a lyrics booklet, a little figurine extra you can get if you buy the CD, and a little thank you poster with your characters in a nice cardboard box. Now they’ll buy it, because they have the official materials that say they supported that character. They love that character because of all the doujins that proliferated said love to date. And now, they have new source material to make more doujins with. If handled properly, fan works will often help your sales.
And of course, I went over half a dozen times this weekend how the culture is a read-the-textbook copy-answers-onto-test learning culture. In this sort of culture, plagiarism isn’t viewed as negatively as they teach us in American school our entire lives. They don’t want original content, they don’t want a research paper, they just want you to point exactly to where the research you found is. It’s hard to say in a culture that protects freedom of thought and artwork so much that a doujinshi should be illegal. They go sing karaoke for fun because I want to do what the singers are doing (and they are celebrating the similarity between them and the singer). They read doujinshi because they want to see what the original characters they know are likely to do. They copy textbook answers because they know they are correct. It’s just something fundamental about the culture that they grow to like, and are a universe away from making that illegal.
In fact, it shouldn’t be a surprise to you that the copy machine industry is one of the leading domestic industries in Japan. But I hope that didn’t surprise you.
But my point (at least in this article) isn’t the collective mindset of the culture or their system of learning (we’ll save that for later). It’s that the industry can clearly support itself and actually use fan art and doujinshi to it’s advantage. So how about some of that cross-cultural exchange and stop bitching some guy made 2.00$ off making a comic about your characters, or remixing your song. Why don’t you remix your song, or sell something they can remix more and more. How about using some of that innovation that the west is supposed to be good at and not get shown up by Asian societies (specifically China) when it comes to the economy. A government is an institution of the people. It’s specifically in place to make things better for all people, and protect the people. Companies should quit crying to the government that the guy who put up a karaoke of ABC record company’s songs and pay-pal donate button caused them to “lose” money. That’s bullshit. That money wasn’t yours, you don’t have a right to it, and who says that the person listening to it was going to buy your CD with that money anyway. Believe it or not, taking that away won’t increase your sales (especially in the way they want to with SOPA, it will definitely wind up hurting them.)
Use the way people want to handle their money to your advantage, don’t blame any sort of doujinshi (fan) work for your problems. American companies should be putting those fans on a pedestal (because they’re likely the ones that actually bought your CDs) instead of throwing them in jail. It’s because they’re slamming their own fans with 500,000 fines that they’re losing sales, not because that guy made a karaoke that people liked better than the original and got 400$ of donations for it that you think is somehow money that belongs to you.
How about some of that inter-cultural exchange guys? Can we go back to being an economic giant and supporting what people want to spend their money on, or should we just let Japan and China keep raping the ever living shit out of us?
Sheesh. Did I mention I like how life actually seems real out here in Japan, and people aren’t bitching or trying to prevent every little seemingly-illegitimate thing from existence. Maybe we need more low quality shit in America to help raise consumer awareness and intelligence in America. We all know that baby-boomer age group entering their 50s and 60s (aka, the people with all the power and money), could stand to make some better purchasing decisions. Though I’m sure anyone reading this article already knows that.
Completely unrelated: So should I leave in translator notes or not? I was thinking of scanning everything in once I’m done with this one. I mean, the Raw is already ruined because I’m writing on them, but would anyone like to see my translations uploaded anyway? Maybe I should make it a point to write the English neater?