During our time at New York Comic Con, we had a chance to sit down and talk with a few of the people behind the anime side of things over at NIS America. We asked them about how the company picks anime to bring stateside, what their personal favorite series are that NIS America has localized, and more. If you want to know what they had to say, read on and check out the transcript of our interview with PR representative Ryan Phillips, localization director Eugene Chen, and producer Mitsu Hiraoka. We were asked to keep our questions limited to anime-related topics, so unfortunately, you won’t find any news about upcoming NIS America games in this interview.
Dan Furnas: We’re here today with some of the staff from NIS America that work on the anime side. So, why don’t you guys go through and introduce yourselves?
Ryan Phillips: My name is Ryan Phillips, and I do the PR/marketing side. So, I work with press and generate press releases for both anime and games.
Eugene Chen: My name is Eugene Chen, and I am the localization director, meaning anything that’s internal when it comes to localization, I’m usually the person for that.
Mitsu Hiraoka: I’m Mitsu Hiraoka, producer of anime business. I am doing everything like supervising over titles, working with licenses.
DF: We’re glad to have all of you here today. First off, what made NIS America decide to branch into localized anime? You were around as a game company for quite a few years before moving into anime in 2010.
MH: For us, since we started the video game business back in 2003, we are always trying to find new opportunities. I think it was from 2005 to 2006 that we had a chance to have a business with Geneon. They did the Disgaea anime in the United States. Since then, we already knew how the anime business goes. It was 2008 or 2009, when almost all of the publishers from Japan went out of business, that was when we decided to go into the business since we felt that not all the great anime had been released at the time. So, we had a chance to do business with those titles.
DF: So what would you say are the most popular and successful titles that you’ve released so far?
DF: Admittedly, that’s one of my favorites. Now, are there any series that you hear from fans that they really want to be brought over?
EC: I guess the most common one that we hear in conventions when we ask for suggestions is Nichijou, but then, we believe someone else already has that.
DF: That’s kind of like Azumanga Daioh, right?
EC: Yeah, that type of quirky comedy.
Jennifer Griffith: I don’t know if all of you want to sort of collaborate on this one or talk about it individually, but we were just wondering, what are your favorite series that NIS America as brought over?
RP: I’ll start. My favorite is Katanagatari. It’s one of our more action based ones. I really like our slice of life ones, but Katanagatari had a really different art style and a really interesting storytelling type. They talk about the back end of the story, and at the very end of the episode, they show what actually transpired in the episode within ten seconds. At the end of each episode, there’s kind of a wrap track, where they’re wrapping up the episodes. I just felt like it was really interesting ideas, and it was completely different from any other anime I’ve ever seen.
EC: Out of our company titles, I guess my favorite would be anohana: The Flower We Saw That Day. Of course, it’s the exact same character designer as Toradora. It’s just the story, how it progresses, how each character is developed. They give their backstory with everything, and it’s just really well done in terms of the writing, the voice acting, the art, the animation. Everything just flows really well, and it’s just very well done. Of course, it’s an anime original; there are no original works that they’re basing it off of, so it seems very new and very fresh, and everything works together so well. There’s also a character called “Anal,” and you can’t really beat that.
MH: For me, I would say Persona: Trinity Soul. That was one of the first tiles that we released, with Toradora. We were struggling with everything: DVD altering, packaging, etc. I personally have to work on some of that. Despite its low review scores, I think that title should be more appreciated by fans. If you watch through all the episodes, you should have something, rather than watching just the initial few episodes and judging it. You should definitely watch through everything.
JG: How does NIS America select what anime it actually brings over?
MH: That’s actually one of the topics that I’m going to explain in the panel. But we set two guidelines: one is story driven, the other is comedy. These may apply to a specific title, or both may apply. For example, Toradora has both story driven and comedy aspects.
JG: I don’t know if you’re also planning to talk about this in the panel, but we were wondering if you could give us a brief description of the localization process.
EC: We’re going to cover that in great detail in the panel. I’ll show you examples. We have three main approaches: literal, westernization, and translation of meanings. We’re going to show examples at the panel, so if you can catch that, that’d be great.
DF: So, how long does it usually take on average to localize a series?
EC: From beginning to end, in terms of just localization, it usually takes anywhere from two to three months. That also includes localization of the entire series, which can be anywhere from eleven to thirteen episodes per volume. In the case of Natsume’s Book of Friends, it’s 26 episodes for that one volume. Then we also have the artbook, which we either have to translate from the original Japanese source material that came with the packages, or we have to create some text for it. How each person interprets the series varies, and we create a lot of text for it just to say that we think this is a very vital portion of the series. We thought that if we added this in, the fans would appreciate the series a lot more because they have that bit of information.
JG: I was just curious about this next one since I reviewed anohana for the site. I just want to know: how many people cried when you were localizing it?
RP: Didn’t everyone?
EC: Everyone in the office pretty much did at some point. At least for the localization side, I think we watch it at least ten times over in the process of locaziling. You might cry on the sixth time but not the seventh, if you watch it again on the ninth, you cry again. Things like that do occur.
DF: I’m pretty sure everyone I’ve shown it to at this point has cried on it too.
JG: Again, you may answer this in the panel, but have you guys ever considered releasing dubs?
EC: We’ve always considered it; we always will consider it. Right now, we’re just trying to make the numbers work.
DF: Have you or the main Nippon Ichi in Japan considered adapting any of their other games into anime series?
MH: I think they’re always trying to do that, but it’s about more than our preference. It’s business. So, maybe the anime industry would prefer bigger franchises like Capcom or Bandai. So far, we haven’t had any titles to be applied to anime.
DF: Have considered expanding into manga localizations ever?
MH: Manga or book publishing is something more difficult. We have to at least expect 3,000 units to sell through to get the business going. It’s more units than we expect for anime.
DF: Right, you need a certain number to get the publishers to even work with you on it.
MH: Book publishing is kind of an old business, so we’d have to struggle more than we do with the anime business. Right now we don’t have any plans for manga.
DF: Souhei Niikawa has taken over now as the president of NIS America. What kind of changes have come to the anime side of things with him taking over?
MH: Actually, nothing. He really relies on me, so I have some freedom to do things.
DF: So, we should expect to see more of the same?
MH: Yes, more of the same.
At this point, everyone had to dash off to their panel, so we had to end the interview here. We enjoyed having the chance to talk with them about localizing anime, and it was nice to hear that we can continue to expect more of the same crazy series coming from NIS America in the future. What do you think? Head to the comments to let us know what you found most interesting about the interview!
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