A Minor Gripe: Soo Nan De-su Ker?

Written by TheBigN

Another example of why I’m a hypocrite:

I have to admit that I found Kate’s enka pretty awesome.

The introduction of Kate in Sketchbook episode 7 was a nice little change of pace (if you could really call it that with this type of show). Kate’s an interesting character as the very earnest but easily led astray foreigner with a nice curiosity in Japan and all that holds within. Though she’s not really the focal point of the episode, as Natsumi gets her time to shine and we get to know a bit more about her. Given that she’s my favorite character in the series, this is a good thing. So it was obviously a good episode to me, but once again, as anime often has when you watch it enough, something crops up that bugs me.

The problem for me here lies with how Kate speaks her Japanese. When I think about it, it’s probably a part of her character (based on how she writes everything in inaccurate Kanji and all), but when she speaks (good job by Yuuko Gotou, BTW :P), her accurate Japanese sounds very arrhythmic and atonal, and more so than what I usually hear in anime (Serizawa’s imitation of Becky for Pani Poni Dash comes to mind). A heart attack of the Japanese language, if you will. It’s the same thing as Gilbert from Hayate the Combat Butler, but it doesn’t bug me as much in that case since I think it fits with the wacky tone of the show. Does it fit in Sketchbook? I think it does, but I don’t like it regardless.

When I hear it spoken that way , I do wonder if that’s how some people in Japan think foreigners speak English, and probably more than I should. It makes me worry about how things are, makes me feel a little demoralized about making the effort to learn how to speak Japanese well, and makes me feel a little driven to prove someone wrong (which is silly). On the other hand, I enjoy hearing Engrish in anime, as the results can be very entertaining (though it can hurt at the same time; the song sang in the end of Fuuko’s arc of CLANNAD for a recent example). And while I don’t believe that’s how most people from Japan speak English (without any proof to back that belief, BTW), I don’t believe I can really complain about this issue. In that case, it’s just something minor that nags me but has no merit in me whining about it.

So I guess I’m wondering, is that really how things are? Does this sort of thing bug you? Does it really matter all that much? And why aren’t there more foreigners that speak like this (yes I know this isn’t a good contrast; that’s the point)?

lol doesn’t speak english.


9 Responses to “A Minor Gripe: Soo Nan De-su Ker?”

  1. 1 Mac (Kyuusai) December 7, 2007 at 9:24 am

    I have been amazed, at times, to hear fellow gaijin butcher Japanese (or Spanish, or any other language). Not that they do, but the way they do it.

    Fortunately for the annoyance of her “accent”, Kate sounded absolutely, diabetes-inducingly adorable. BUT… She didn’t butcher Japanese like a Canadian English speaker. That’s what really bothered me, I think. She butchered her Japanese like a combination of British English speaker and a French speaker.

    Maybe they were trying to imply the idea of “Canadian” (as opposed to the actual sound of an English speaking Canadian) with that combination intentionally. If so, kudos to Goto-san for the performance, even if the choice of accent doesn’t actually have any bearing on reality.

  2. 2 Totali December 7, 2007 at 11:31 am

    The way anime displays foreigners is usually the most unrealistic thing in the world. Kate’s Japanese is actually really good, just broken. The english is always ridiculous too, but that’s probably to be expected. Ah~ but I ❤ Kate.

  3. 3 sdshamshel December 7, 2007 at 12:15 pm

    Wait, so she’s playing this character AND Sue in Genshiken?

    It seems she’s finding a small niche here.

  4. 4 TheBigN December 7, 2007 at 3:31 pm

    Mac: I couldn’t even really tell the difference, so if you could, good on you. 😛

    Totali: I have to agree with you on that aspect. The English is… interesting to say the least.

    sdshamshel: She’s also the Bell Zephyr in Night Wizard and Tsubael in Blue Drop. So you can say that she’s really doing stuff this season. :3

  5. 5 Crisu December 7, 2007 at 6:08 pm

    I don’t think any Americans learning Japanese would say “dessu ker” like Kate does. In my Japanese class, we all learn that the particle is ka, and that’s pretty definite.

    It’s not like mispronouncing ‘arigatou’. It’s just ‘ka’. That’s just the part of Kate’s Japanese I can’t really accept — ‘ker’ is too much of a different sound. But maybe you’re right that it’s part Canadian French or something? Because I don’t know how they’d interpret ‘desu ka’.

    Kate’s English seemed fine to me, though. Buchi’s too.

  6. 6 mrmayat December 8, 2007 at 1:53 am

    I enjoy stereotyping and exaggerations with my anime. The west is not innocent either when portraying English speaking Japanese in the same light. To me, it’s all in the name of good old fashion ribbing. Accents are hard to get rid off, after all.

    By the way, what’s wrong with the name “Buchi”?

  7. 7 choo23 December 10, 2007 at 9:34 am

    any1 mind to gimme a summary of the anime? 😛

  8. 8 TheBigN December 10, 2007 at 10:15 am

    Crisu: I agree with you here. I think it’s a little too exaggerated, and that doesn’t sit with me. The English wasn’t the problem anyways. 😛

    mrmayat: The fact that Buchi is a cat coming from somewhere else in the world, the idea would be that it’s name would be something reflecting that. Having a Japanese name like Buchi seems weird. Or so that’s the idea I get from the characters.

    choo23: From my blog, this would be a good place to start. Though I think other blogs might have a better comprehensive review on it.

  9. 9 Crisu December 11, 2007 at 4:55 am

    I was wondering if ‘buchi’ meant something as a word. ^^; Or perhaps it was supposed to be “Butch” … but then again, ‘buchi’ was on-screen as hiragana, so it’s probably not that.

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