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You sometimes hear about how words that used to be strong, have eventually become weak. "Awesome" is usually cited, as it used to describe the kind of jaw-dropping awe, and now it describes a hot dog.

When English speakers learn Japanese, we learn that "chotto" is an adverb meaning "slightly" or "a little". And we learn that it's used for expressions like "come here for just a moment" or "it's a little hot outside" or "this shirt is a little too big." The student doesn't always pick up on how many of these expressions are talking about some problem, and trying to minimize it.

When I was in college, I checked out some "Nihongo Notes" books from the library, which were archives of a Japan Times column in which colloquial Japanese is discussed in English. One of these columns was about ending a sentence by trailing off at "chotto". Apparently, in the late 1970s, when this column was printed, the fashionable way to express distaste in something was to imply that there was some slight imperfection that was so slight that it's not worth finishing the sentence that names that imperfection. Nevertheless, the appropriate response is to recognize that, in fact, the imperfect thing is completely unacceptable, and respond accordingly.

And then later, I saw some anime, in which someone yelled "CHOTTO!" and the subtitle read "NO WAY!"

I wonder if English has any similar expressions, where you can no longer say something small without implying something big. I imagine our language is full of these, but we're just not looking for them.
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Not that I'm face-blind, but I can't tell if DO has two horrible female friends or one.

It just occurred to me to compare the character to various Hollywood versions of the geek.

Densha Otoko has apparently grown up to believe that women are mythical creatures, and having a girlfriend is beyond consideration. He's a grown man who dresses like a 12-year-old, and can't control his breath when talking to a real woman. The only time I can remember this archetype being even attempted in a Hollywood movie is in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. Because in Hollywood, nerds are not only more handsome than in real life, but they're also more brave. Sometimes, even pushy. Children are allowed to be nervous about asking women out, but adults never are.

But no Hollywood nerd's story was ever based on a real BBS thread. So from this, we can assume that the Japanese image that stems from this series will be closer to reality. And thus, Japan's reputation as being nerdier than America is secure. Little do they know, we ourselves have plenty of guys who dress like 12-year-olds, and know more about mythical anime women than real women, but Hollywood doesn't write about them... yet.
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(   ゜д゜)

The above was not copied and pasted. I typed it. It's not original at all; in fact, 50% of Shift-JIS art is cats freaking out.

I've done character-based art early in my life for BBSes. Here's how it's generally worked in the past. For both the Commodore 64 and Atari 8-bit, I usually had to use some kind of public domain screen editor to save the work, but typing the special characters and changing colors was always the same as what the OS provided, and it was always a single keystroke with maybe a Shift or Ctrl key along with it.

Now, in the year 2007, on a PC, to type Shift-JIS art, you don't get color, or inverse video, or even an assurance that anyone outside of Japan will have the right font installed for anything to show up, much less line up correctly. And typing practically anything takes multiple keystrokes.

You know that Cyrillic letter that makes up the cat's mouth? I got that by typing "roshia", pressing SPACE, then the down-arrow, and then finding the right letter in the list that resulted. This is PROGRESS!

And I have no idea how to do it on a Mac yet. Probably totally different.

Either there are more sophisticated ways to do it, or Japanese Shift-JIS artists are really, really dilligent.
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Holy shit, this one's even more melodramatic than the movie.

But having read some translations of the original threads, I can understand why they have to start the character out as an exaggerated caricature of a loser.  On the BBS, he ended every other sentence with the "I'm sorry and bang my head against the floor" emoticon. 

But, as a whole I find it hard to identify with a character who has, thus far, demonstrated practically no wit of his own.

That's one thing that's bothered me about the movie, and will likely bother me about any other adaptation I choose to watch.  And it may even bother me as I continue to read through the translated 2ch threads.  (I've only read "Mission 1".)

See, I've met a lot of geeks.  I've met likeable ones, unlikeable ones.  I've met shy ones, and charismatic ones.  I've met rich ones, and poor ones.  I've met well-rounded ones, and highly-obsessed ones.  But I've never met one that didn't at least try to be funny.

The only way I think someone could go that long without being funny is if they're constantly too panicked to think on their feet.  Which, I suppose, is why actors portray Densha Otoko as constantly panicked, even when things are going according to plan.

I don't know if I can stand to sit through umpteen episodes of this, actually.

I was also surprised by lots of English-language 80's pop in the soundtrack, including "Mr. Roboto" by Styx.  I thought the Japanese would be sick of that song in particular.
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You know that Mario clone video where the level looks like World 1-1 but everything's a trap?

On this 4-ch post about the game, there's a link to the video, a link to the downloadable version of the game, and a complete list of all the Japanese text in the game, i.e. the taunts that appear next to an enemy when it kills you.

It's only a matter of time before someone translates it all. Maybe they'll submit subtitled versions to dotsub.

Oh, also: there's still time to vote for 4-ch's game of the year 2007.
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This is certainly the best movie I've ever seen with ASCII art in it. (Monar should have had a bigger part!) But if anyone at all finds the two main characters believable, you've got some explaining to do. Maybe it's different in Japan, and maybe the brand of geek I hang out with is of a higher tier of social awareness than that guy. And they make sense in the Romantic Comedy Universe.

One thing that does work in the real universe is how the drunk guy on the train doesn't get confronted by anyone else on the train, and the answer was that Japanese people keep to themselves. That's the one thing that did ring true; countless psychological experiments (and a Dateline episode or two) establish that people in crowds are less prone to heroism, because everyone secretly hopes someone else will be the hero. I wonder how much of Tokyo's culture, and inner city culture throughout the world, is just a result of being in a crowd all the time. It makes the feat of confronting him all that much more extraordinary, and certainly Train Man's stuttery behavior seems natural for someone who's found himself in way over his head.

But, Train Man surprised me by never getting out of stammering mode. At first I didn't buy this, but then I remembered what I was like when I was 21 and attempting to date. I was just as over-apologetic, and stilted, and even self-deprecating. None of the side-splitting wit I'd been famous for online showed through.

Thus, Hermess (the woman) surprised me by cutting him a superhuman level of slack. Is the "friend zone" some unique American tradition that Japanese women don't have as an option? Or was there some chemistry going on that I wasn't tuned into? She gives him more slack than any woman I've ever met has given me, because she meets him way more than halfway. This must be where the movie spends its dramatic license as a romantic comedy. Indeed, this movie is just like an American romantic comedy, but without the Baxter.

The "battlefield manga guys" cutaways, and the commentary also, promote some emerging Japanese ideal that relationships, sex, and all the temptation of the "real world", are only a distraction from anime, manga, and the more important "fantasy world", and the commentary even draws the parallel between otaku and monks. Monks just live in a different kind of fantasy world.

Mostly, I kept comparing the anonymous posters of the mild-mannered text BBS 2ch to what I've read so far on 4chan. The movie depicts Anonymous as a handful of individuals, just like they are in real life, though perhaps not such a small and consistent group of them. But an American Anonymous would have probably been influenced by 4chan and Fox 11, depicted as a single green-faced man in a black suit, spouting all the opinions and advice like a single guy with multiple personalities, and every poignant thing he said would have been followed immediately by "STICK IT IN HER POOPER". For all I know, that's how it went down on 2ch, and the spam and racial slurs and other crap was filtered from the movie, to avoid killing the dramatic buzz and maintain sympathy for the protagonist.

I do think [livejournal.com profile] t_h_e_m needs to screen it once. I've heard a lot of random-sounding Japanese titles being flung across the dinner table, and "Densha Otoko" isn't one of them. It'll certainly provoke some discussion.
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Work usually slows down here as the new year approaches. Not this year. I'm doing some serious work over here.

Channel4 is just so much more pleasant than 4chan. I think I'll stay home from the parties all weekend and read it ionstead.
unbibium: (Default)
We may have an heir to the Super Mario Frustration throne.


unbibium: (Default)
Last night I was trying to figure out what the Japanese misheard lyrics are, with the internet kanji dictionary. LJ saved my notes in its draft file:

米さ 米酒 だろ (let there be rice and rice wine)
飲ま 飲ま イエイ, (drink drink yay)
飲ま 飲ま イエイ, (drink drink yay)
飲ま 飲ま 飲ま イエイ (drink drink drink yay)
KEEP ダルシム
アゴ STUDY DAY (アゴ = chin)
波平_毛大きい歯入れ (wave hand ___ hair, large repairing clogs)

one character missing I couldn't find.  「波平_毛」 should sound vaguely like "Mi amintesc de", and reads "namihira___ke". It appears on screen with a guy with a meat cleaver.

I don't know what ダルシム (darushimu) means; it's held up by a guy who could be an aboriginal native from any of four continents.

Also, something tells me this is hard-core kanji abuse, like if you ever said "beisa beishe daro" aloud, and didn't have a caption floating in front of you that said "米佐米酒だろ", it'd be gibberish.


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