On Localized Live Comedy, or TrySail Taiwan Fan Meeting was Really Special

Over the years as an American nerd into otaku media, I’ve consumed not only just my fair share of localized anime, manga, games, films, and whatever cultural output from Japan, but also brushed up against some distinct thoughts and ideas about localization. It’s a little more sensitive to me, I guess, because I am an immigrant and that cultural crossing background highlights a little more of the gap between what one culture calls one thing and how another do it differently. Possibly because also that my Chinese background really contrasts with your more standard and stereotypical Ameri-centric western set of views of the world? Do Brits in the States struggle with this? I don’t know.

Take food for example. Learning about General Tso’s Chicken today is no longer something you need to be States-side to do, but it still is a little trying to explain it to your Chinese children that this Chinese food their American schoolmates say is Chinese food is actually invented in America and not Chinese food by the definition of “food eaten in China.” When it’s in this context that you learn about localization (on the giving end) things gets a little more interesting.

The issue is both a lot more and a lot less complicated. It’s like when some internet people get into heated debate on localizing phrases of Japanese speech in BakaBT fansub threads. Does it really matter? Which is really a modern version of learning 1980s MBA stories about the Chevy Nova being sold in Spanish-speaking countries. Or click-bait articles about dumb English on Asian signage. On the receiving end, it’s like trying to parse Maki Izumi’s jokes, at worst. It’s much more difficult trying to translate something than to simply read it and to understand it (by reading the TL note, if you want to go that far). And when it comes to comedy, it’s especially more difficult.

At the same time, this is the reason why Shiny Festa was sold for $50 bux on the App Store, when it was sold for $50 on the App Store. It’s not like localization is not important to creators and fans. It is incredibly difficult at times, complicated and costly. It is, but it’s difficult to say just how and where it’s important besides all the tried-and-true things.

To make that eventer spin on this article, let’s just say translating “eventing” as I know it into an international product is actually just as hard. If anything, because the “how” in areas outside of the tried-and-true is so hard to come by, it portends enormous risks to do something new, especially for larger productions. It’s kind of like reverse-engineering how, say, Slipknot, would sell out in a Japan tour (still? I don’t know), except you begin with the wrong end point (except Babymetal I guess).

It’s times like this I am glad that at least the Japanese government is willing to foot part of the bill?

In case you didn’t know, that is partly why AFA circuit shows have some pretty nice guests, and part of the reason why there have been more of these anison live shows outside of Japan. Different markets have different challenges. Singapore, for example, is one of the few SEA locales that can support AX and Japan-level pricing tiers…if not the only one. Just recall all the gnashing of teeth when Hatsune Miku went to Thailand for contrast. Taiwan so far has been priced similarly to Japan (but it’s technically just East Asia, not south enough), and the similarity in cultural attitudes between the Chinese island and Japan also help pave way for Japanese anison acts and seiyuu events. It’s just an easier place for Japanese people to deal with. The issue local to Taiwan is more in terms of demand and cultivating eventer culture.

Without going into everything and looking it all up, Lisani TW is a good example of another Japanese stab at this overseas. Taiwan, kind of like Japan, doesn’t really do anime cons per se. It has ket-style Fancy Frontier and other comic markets, that sometime have guests. It has more industry-style events like the various game/anime/comic festivals, which are closer to anime cons, sans the fan programming. It would make more sense to throw music events as such and not as a part of something else, or specific events billed as themselves. Over here in the States a more mega-style event is needed to up the critical mass of attendees, so that’s yet another challenge (or rather set of challenges) for eventing in the West.

Sup guys

So, this is how we get to TrySail’s TryAngle Harmony Fan Meet in Taiwan. Just a brief-er, the seiyuu idol unit Trysail is under SME’s seiyuu agency, Music Ray’n, featuring three female seiyuu still getting their first years in as managed voice actresses. They are Asakura Momo (Mocho), Amamiya Sora (Tenchan), and Natsukawa Shiina (Nansu). As a unit, they weren’t properly formed until just 2014, and during their time in public activity since 2013 they have always hosted a weekly radio show called Tryangle Harmony (Torahamo for short). Once in awhile, the radio show will host a public recording event. The fan meeting billed itself as Tryangle Harmony, so the fan meeting had a public recording session, plus some added activities, which is similar to their Japanese public recording events.

What was remarkable about this event was that we’re dealing with a very much uni-lingual setup–three young Japanese kiddos talking shop with each other, the usual mindless banter between voice actresses, to a majority Mandarin-speaking audience. Japanese and Mandarin aren’t really alike. Taiwanese, which is a Hokkien dialect that also has some Japanese influence, maybe a little? But I can assure you out of the 60-70% of the crowd that was local, more people understood Japanese than Taiwanese.

Which is what’s special about Taiwan as an eventing unicorn. This was something many of us who were going overseas to Taiwan for the Trysail event debated about heavily. Just how will they localize the talk event? It would be really stilted to host an event with an interperter (think of your average anime con panel). Most Taiwanese otaku have reasonable command of Japanese, %-wise, compared to all other oversea fan base. What’s really interesting, and maybe a little ironic, was that the Trysail fan meet was largely scripted–this was the real key.

For those of you who weren’t there and/or unfamiliar with the typical seiyuu stage event style, basically (and this includes the public recording part of the Torahamo radio) the cast members go through segments that are somewhat scripted. The radio show portion has an intro where the girls make some small talk (which is always about food, when Japanese people are in Taiwan…), then there was a segment called “Meigen Memocho” where Asakura Momo has to guess from a lead-in question, which 3 statements presented to her is the correct famous saying and not one of the other two statements, which are made up by her castmates. This portion, the questions and statements are obviously pre-scripted and during the segment they projected the Chinese translation on the screen behind them. It worked really well–at least for me, whose broken Japanese non-skills are usually not good enough to keep up (and 100% of the time too lazy to look it up)–because once I understood the topic it’s easy to follow along. After the Torahamo segments, the fan meet proceeded to do a live dub/play, which is 100% scripted and actually subtitled in full. Then there was a pre-screened Q&A corner which had more typical translation by an interperter. During the free talk MC parts outside of the radio recording the interpreter would interpret somewhat, usually taking steps to not interrupt the flow. As a result the translation tended to be simple meanings and lack the full expression. Not that it matters?

If all you had was pre-screened Q&A at a panel, it’s gonna be stiff unless you let them banter freely. The Trysail radio format is really special in this regard, and much like their Japanese public recording when it’s produced with care and good coordination, this worked beyond our expectations. Which is also to say, I can’t imagine it working outside of Taiwan. Maybe the live dubbing part?

I left one key thing for last from the Trysal Fan Meet. The last talk segment in the event was a game where MochoTenNansu compete to win some Oh! Bear souvenirs. This was also the funniest segment. The game was, they were presented with the kanji of a Chinese phrase that happens to match a Japanese phrase of a different meaning. The person who guessed the right meaning gets some points, and the person with the most points at the end wins the prize. The event organizers made use of the projection again, and projected the Japanese term and its Japanese meaning in both languages. The answer, once everyone made their guesses on notebooks, is also projected in both languages.

This game is as localized as it gets. It is beyond the facsimile of playing nice with meaning and exploiting some albeit-common word plays that well-traveled Japanese and Chinese people would be familiar with. And I’m not sure if three silly voice actresses making a fool of themselves would be nearly as funny if you couldn’t approach their tasks from both languages. I mean, this is one of those cases where I am sufficiently blessed with comprehension and I think I got more out of it than even many of the visiting Japanese fans. It’s as they say, a pun is only funny if you understand it. And this is a corner about bilingual puns, essentially!

Anyways, I am hard pressed to think if the Music Ray’n crew can reproduce this sort of a good experience in a different country. Maybe they could–and it might tickle the local weeb population pink like it did here. It was honestly a really funny show, the Trysail girls put on last Sunday. It was definitely for the Taiwanese fans. That’s really special. And part of it might also have to do with the prevalent Japanese literacy in that particular fandom, too, that the production can go straight for the laughter jugular, and not have to pussy-foot around the formality of languages. This is the best localization I’ve ever seen, for a live talk event.

PS> Event report recap!

The event happened at Clapper Studio, and our Taiwanese-American liaison said it was a common otaku event venue. It’s located inside the 5th floor of this funky-looking mall building next to the popular computer parts market in Taipei. The event was suppose to start 12:30pm, with doors opening at noon, but things got delayed by 30 minutes. This was not great because we had to line up according to our ticket number, inside the fire escape stairwell halls of the mall. It was not air conditioned and it was crammed full of people. The whole line setup was not done well because the staffers working it spoke only Mandarin and it resulted in Japanese people being confused and some fans had to help. And there were a lot of Japanese people, maybe 40% or so.

Anyways, we were let in at around 12:30, and the seating was FFA in the order of entry. I ended up 6 rows back near the center, which is good all considered. The stage was similar to what you’d expect at a anime con conference room, just with a taller stage and a large rear projection screen at the back. Tables are set up but the cast used hand mics, with speakers set up like a live event. Look at the pic up there.

A random seat was blocked out for “staff” in row 4 down the center aisle, which was next to our friend Basu’s seat. Turns out it was just a normal staffer who sat there later.

The event begin with the girls filing in and the interpreter slash MC greeting us. The usual pleasantries happened and we talked about Taipei a bit as well as Torahamo itself. The ground rules of the radio recording was laid out, the clapping and the amount of cheering needed, et cetera. Then it was show time.

At the event, they also mentioned that the Taiwan episode of the recording will be included in the fourth Torahamo fan disc scheduled for next month. I wasn’t sure if they actually announced the fourth fan disc at the time of the announcement.

With rhythmic clapping the show goes into recording mode. We cheered at the intro and enjoyed ourselves with Meigen Memocho. For people who listen to the show and have not been to a live recording, know that the body language and stuff that happens on stage adds a lot to the experience. The first question was a famous Nobunaga saying, and Mocho played it off even if she remembers it from school. Sneaking in the right guess she puffed and huffed to our expectancy. The second quote comes from Murakami Haruki in which Mocho dismisses that a story could be the universal language (kek!). Instead she picked Sora’s “Feels is the universal language” (as paraphrased). The third quote has now escaped my mind completely but Nansu made a mistake and remembered the wrong line, goading Mocho into picking Ten’s fabrication. There was some self-bully going on, while Ten and Nansu delivered their classic S and M.

There was marumail after a musical intermission (the three girls mimed the furi to Cobalt). I think they read 3 letters, if I correctly recall. They didn’t call out the attendees but at least one mail-in was present at the fan meet. Nothing really special or remarkable, besides that Tenchan chews her lips? Or that since Mocho had a peach and Tenchan had an apple on their respective heads, what would Nansu field? A banana? Peeled? Very cute. I don’t recall all the details now.

The above tweet kind of summarized some of the other things I forgot, such as the traffic signals in Taipei. Tenchan mentioned it in the OP that she liked the countdown timers and the pedestrian crossing animation.

After the radio recording was over, the staff came to the stage and moved the tables to the side. A mini-live? Not quite. Instead, they decided to live dub episode 3.5 of Trysail’s current touring drama? So as part of their current tour in Japan, each stop has one of these skits completed with … animation? Or at least an animated opening. Since I wasn’t able to schedule a Japan trip around any of the stops, this was an unexpected treat to me to be able to see them perform this.

The skit basically goes as such: Princess Peach (CV Mocho), Su Nan (CV Nansu) and Sky (CV Ten) are on a journey to seek different things, like self-esteem (Nansu), OOParts to gain power (Ten) or bicycle training wheels (Mocho). On the boat they go from Omiya Island, Sendai Island and Sapporo Island. On the way to their next stop in Nagoya, Tenchan put her smartphone by the compass and Nansu navigated them to the wrong place–Taiwan Island. So on the island, they see the 101 Tower (don’t remember exact name) and decide to investigate it for OOParts. It turns out there are 3 tower keepers they have to “beat” to advance. First level is the restaurant old lady which challenges them to eat 10 soup dumplings (xialongbao). Mocho took it on and the others advance. The second challenge was being able to do the Taoist fortune telling with poe divination by getting it to “yes.” Ten took this one and Nansu was able to tackle the last challenge by guessing the titles of some anime.

By the way, at some point during the lead-in for this skit they were sneaking in Million Live jokes. Like, we did an ouen suru yo which was something that caught me off guard but you get the idea. Similarly for the last challenge they dropped a Your Name joke in there and it was… yeah.

The final prize turns out not to be OOParts, but Oh Bear. Oops. The skit ends as the three heads out back to Nagoya.

After the skits, the the tables come back out and they decided to do one Facebook question. I guess because they were running late they did one question? The guy who had his question picked was 2 rows in front of me waving frantically. There were definitely more than one question posted on the Facebook thread though.

Right after that, they go into a special corner where they play a game, as I mentioned in the main post. So the way it works is that, for example, 可憐 in Japanese means “cute” or 可愛 in Chinese. But what does 可憐 in Chinese? The answer is “pitiful” or “かわいそう.” This was the last question in the segment, and during the process of guessing it, the three were fishing for hints from the audience. Nansu…let’s just say was pretty keks and top quality and wrote down some silly things while discarding her guesses, and showing it to the audience meanwhile. It’s definitely not sexy, let’s just say. In the end Nansu and Mocho were able to guess that one, because the final hint we gave was “Nansu is always this, but Mocho is only this now” in that Mocho at that point has guessed zero questions correctly, and Nansu had 2 correct (out of 5 at the time). Ten had 1 right (and got half from the last one). The ones all of them got wrong were 走 (JP run/CH walk), 飯店 (JP レストラン/CH hotel) and 汽車 (JP train/CH car). The other ones were 早飯 (JP hayameshi/CH breakfast), and 工作 (JP to make/CH occupation).

It’s hilarious, but anyway, after this segment the event wraps up with the one song, and the rest of us head out to Lisani across town. The show starts at 4pm and we were let out at around 3pm, so it’s pretty good time-wise as close as things could have been. A 15-20 minute taxi ride in Taipei (actually took Uber) is about 120 NTD, maybe 200 NTD if you took the yellow cabs. So cheap!

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