What About Korea and China?

I make my allegiance to Asia pretty obvious on this blog, but God of High School makes it apparent the situation is a lot trickier than I make it out to be…

Normally anime fans – and indeed, most fans of Asia in general (from my experience) – flock towards three nations of that region for everything, from language to history: Japan (obviously), China and Korea. The three nations have a lot of cross-pollination, but they do have their differences too.

Since I started with Cantonese and did simplified Chinese before jumping ship to Japanese, it could be guessed at as to why I don’t really bother with Korean stuff as much – I don’t understand the language and the cultural norms which are distinctly Korean. Also, while the places I’ve been have offered Chinese and Japanese classes, I just never paid attention to if they have Korean classes and I have little to no motivation to learn it otherwise…When it seems like you’re locked out of something, you either want to discover more about it or you reject it…obviously, the latter is the path I took, despite some of my anime-loving friends also being into K-pop.

Sidebar: “Bragging rights for knowing 3 similar Asian languages” is not a good enough reason as motivation for learning them. It just means you’ll get very confused when looking at Chinese characters, anyway, because you won’t know what language to read them in if they exist in more than 1…

So what about Chinese stuff? Well, a lot of the Chinese stuff doesn’t leave China – not legally, at least. Generally, Chinese animation that gets lumped in with the Japanese stuff has a reputation of stinking to high heaven, even though like all media, there’s some good and bad stuff within its boundaries. It doesn’t help that several Chinese examples that make the legal jump through the simulcast circuit look much like low-effort Japanese examples…even Phantom in the Twilight and Koi to Producer: EVOL x LOVE, two of the better examples with a partially-Chinese origin (both on the production side), aren’t going to blow anyone away enough to champion the rise of donghua or Chinese animators’ rights in the same way people do with anime.

Donghua which make it to English via Japanese coproduction + dubbing and/or translation do get the accuracy of certain things much better than Japanese things do – such as how in Shiyan Pin Jiating (Japanese: Jikkenhin Kazoku, English: Frankenstein Family/Creatures Family Days), the family goes to a Chinese restaurant and orders yum cha – and that feels like my Chinese won’t go to waste when I try to decipher what they ordered. Furthermore, it makes me feel all warm and cozy inside because I’m being catered to in a way anime doesn’t know how. However, donghua also get certain things wrong – such as how in the aforementioned donghua, the name “Ashlee” and “Alsace” (both sisters of protagonist Dennis/Tanisu) are seen on a room sign, and these are ostensibly what their names should be, but because of the way Chinese transliterates due to lacking an equivalent of katakana, the names are rendered in Japanese as “Aisuri” and “Ashisu” respectively.

Sidebar 2: The situation around Shiyan Pin Jiating is complicated. We’re not going to get into arguments about what constitutes “Chinese national borders”, but the creator of that work is from Hong Kong and the work is released on a Taiwanese website and a Japanese website.

…that’s all neatly covered under “donghua” though, so there’s nothing to worry about(…?)

As for myself, my Chinese is kinda rusty because I quit lessons at the end of 2013 (although the charity store does get a lot of Chinese-only customers and I haven’t been able to get several jobs due to the rustiness, so it occasionally makes me regret I didn’t bother with the language more) and not everything stays the same between Japanese and Chinese (both simplified and traditional). Cantonese I only learnt orally (and it’s said to be a dying language anyway, even though there are classes for it, to my knowledge), so it doesn’t mean jack when I try to read it, unless I can somehow infer what it says from the simplified or the Japanese equivalent, or some other clues like character radicals.

Fun fact: I once tried a language proficiency test for Cantonese and…it told me I was on the level of an elementary student. (To be fair though, it was from this test that I discovered Cantonese has an equivalent to pinyin – give or take the few times InfiniteZenith’s used the phonetic guide – and I don’t think I fully made heads or tails of it all.)

…and if you’re wondering, yes. There is a distinct difference that can be felt viscerally between aeni (Korean), donghua (Chinese) and anime (Japanese) and this is likely only possible because I’ve either spent so much time with or without the norms, languages etc. involved. God of High School is probably the first Korean thing I’ve gone to willingly that doesn’t involve Asian studies. The fact I didn’t even know how Korean names and name order worked (!!!…?)…of course, before God of High School made me ask Google-sensei, demonstrates exactly how out of my depth I really am with Korean stuff…even Japanese dialects (those which aren’t the standard language, such as Kansai dialect) don’t make me scratch my head this much…

Regardless of the origin of the animation, I’m just meant to enjoy what I’m dealt though and so most of the time, I just don’t sweat it. I like what I like and that is good.

So doing a post like this sort of reveals what is “really me” and “what is not”, so it’s a bit risky.

Do you guys notice the difference between Chinese, Korean and Japanese animation? Are you aware of anything they do differently?

3 thoughts on “What About Korea and China?

Add yours

  1. Great post. I honestly love anything Asian, whether it’s from Japan, China or Korea. As you say when it’s good…it’s good. As for the animation aspects, so far I have only seen Japanese animation, so I can’t really make comparisons to be honest. When it comes to movies though, I have a slight preference to Korean films as they are usually the best😊

    Liked by 4 people

  2. I always find it interesting when bringing up languages and culture. I was the opposite of you in terms of langauge. I gravitated towards Japanese and Korean, but got a bit too confused by Chinese to ever try. I was into KPop for awhile, but I’ve since backed out due to fandom issues and now I’m just in Japanese stuff to the extreme lol.

    When it comes to animation though, I know that purists have been fighting for ages about Japanese animation being subcontracted to Korea for awhile. I’ll never forget my friend freaking out at the Korean names in the ending credits for a show; the concept of outsourcing blew her mind. I’ve never noticed any animation differences between Japan and Korea, but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a Korean animation project to my knowledge.

    I do know from my Chinese friends (at least this was true 4-5ish years ago, supposedly) is that Chinese animation has always been ‘bad’. A lot of Chinese children grew up with Japanese characters dubbed in Chinese, rather then ‘pure’ Chinese characters. Mostly because it was cheaper to dub something then start from scratch I think? I asked my friends if they had any Chinese animated show they’d recommend and they couldn’t name one between the 5 of them as a ‘good’ representation. Which was disappointing but not something I ever got too hung up about.

    I’m curious if Korean animation and Chinese animation will ever overtake Japanese animation with the rise of popularity and streaming services. Time will tell I suppose. (Although personally, I’ll still always like Japanese anime the best lol)

    Liked by 4 people

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