The format which anime was brought from Japan to America

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Fireminer
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The format which anime was brought from Japan to America

Post by Fireminer »

I have read from here and some other places that as early as the late 1960s-early 1970s, Americans who had business in Japan brought anime back to their homeland. But in which format were these shows brought to America? Was it reel-to-reel tape, VCR, VHS, or something else?

(Also, in an unrelated question, how expensive was your family's first video tape player? One source which I've read stated that when it first came out, a VCR player was as expensive as a car.)

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Re: The format which anime was brought from Japan to America

Post by Fireminer »

I forget to ask this question: Did anyone here who had lived through the 1980s listen to anisongs apart from the shows (from a Walkman, for example)? And how did you do that? Did you record the openings onto tapes, bought the albums from American publishers (was there any?) or imported them from Japan?

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Re: The format which anime was brought from Japan to America

Post by davemerrill »

I can't speak for the 60s or 70s, but in the 1980s, Americans would trade VHS or Beta tapes across the Pacific with Japanese pen pals, or American friends living in Japan. The Japanese would get US TV shows, and we'd get Japanese TV shows. In some cases Americans would just send money and on the Japanese side someone would buy commercial video tapes or laserdiscs, and ship them to America. By the mid 1980s outfits like Books Nippan were selling commercial VHS of anime titles to the American market.

I'd be curious myself to find out what tape trading resources or networks existed, if any, before VHS or Beta became readily available.

In terms of anime music / anisongs, in the 80s we would indeed copy the audio signal of our favorite openings onto audiotape, and we'd listen to the cassettes at home or in the car. We also bought LPs and singles and cassettes of anime theme songs from Japan. There were several companies that did a fairly good business selling records of all kinds across the Pacific.

I don't have a catalog in front of me but I think the early models of home video recorders were in the $1000 range in the late 1970s, which is in the range of a used automobile, sure. I've bought cars for less than $1000. The first VCR I ever bought was $350 (1985).

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Re: The format which anime was brought from Japan to America

Post by Fireminer »

davemerrill wrote:
Fri Aug 10, 2018 12:28 pm
I can't speak for the 60s or 70s, but in the 1980s, Americans would trade VHS or Beta tapes across the Pacific with Japanese pen pals, or American friends living in Japan. The Japanese would get US TV shows, and we'd get Japanese TV shows. In some cases Americans would just send money and on the Japanese side someone would buy commercial video tapes or laserdiscs, and ship them to America. By the mid 1980s outfits like Books Nippan were selling commercial VHS of anime titles to the American market.

In terms of anime music / anisongs, in the 80s we would indeed copy the audio signal of our favorite openings onto audiotape, and we'd listen to the cassettes at home or in the car. We also bought LPs and singles and cassettes of anime theme songs from Japan. There were several companies that did a fairly good business selling records of all kinds across the Pacific.
Thank you for your answer! But I am curious about this point that you brought up: Americans who pen pals with Japanese must had been proficient to a degree of the Japanese language and therefore could understand the tapes. But what about people who didn't know Japanese? Did people have fansub back then (How could people make subtitles on tapes, anyway?) or at least some kind of translated scripts to read along while watching?

(A Frontline documentary I watched long ago talked about how Japan had some big program to teach American students Japanese at school. Curiously, that same program mentioned how since the early 1980s, Japanese goods flooded America.)

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Re: The format which anime was brought from Japan to America

Post by davemerrill »

Not knowing Japanese was a big difficulty for fans at the time.

Occasionally some fans with a degree of familiarity with the language would write descriptions of movies and TV shows in English, and these would be published in fanzines, newsletters, or convention guides like the 1986 Baycon guide, which had character guides and plot explanations for dozens of movies and TV episodes.

Some anime clubs like Anime Hasshin would send out printed collections of these synopses separately, apart from their newsletter.

If you had a decent explanation of who was doing what to whom, and a character guide with illustrations, you could enjoy a film like Crusher Joe or the Gundam movies with a reasonable degree of success. Other films were a little more difficult.

When anime was screened at conventions, occasionally there would be a fan who had a better idea of what was going on who would appoint himself narrator, and he'd describe what was happening. This didn't work very well.

We had full translated scripts for a few movies, and on a few occasions we'd make a lot of photocopies of the script and everybody could read along with the film.

Eventually the computer equipment necessary for fan subtitling got cheaper, and it got easier to make our own fan subtitles.

Fan subtitling with video tape still involved a computer to generate the text - the video source would come from a VHS or SVHS deck, it would be imported into, or at least through the computer, which would probably be an Amiga computer, which, in my understanding was the easiest to generate video with. A "Genlock" was needed to convert the AV signal from the VHS deck into a format the computer could use. The computer would be running a subtitling program (the "JACOsub" program was popular on the Amiga) and either the timing for each subtitle had already been created, or somebody had to sit there hitting the space bar every time a line of dialog came up. I did that a few times. Anyway, the combined video image and text would then be sent to another VHS or SVHS deck which was recording the whole thing.

I know a lot of Corn Pone Flicks fansubs were made using a home video titling and editing box; the subtitles had to be typed into the titler, and it could only hold about 12 minutes worth of dialog at a time. Thank goodness for modern computers.

Just want to add that there were a few subtitled anime TV shows that were broadcast on Japanese language TV stations in the 70s and 80s, and a few films had theatrical "international" subtitled prints that made their way onto unlicensed home video. I had the Galaxy Express movie and My Youth In Arcadia with those subtitles.

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Re: The format which anime was brought from Japan to America

Post by Valand »

The circle/club I'm going to used to use a device to combine the video and subtitles and output them together without recording to VHS first. This would preserve the LD quality when they had one os those, but required timing to start both simultaneously.

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Re: The format which anime was brought from Japan to America

Post by Fireminer »

Valand wrote:
Fri Aug 17, 2018 11:01 am
The circle/club I'm going to used to use a device to combine the video and subtitles and output them together without recording to VHS first. This would preserve the LD quality when they had one os those, but required timing to start both simultaneously.
Wow, that was really interesting. Could you tell me more about this? Like which kind of computer was the device hooked to?

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Re: The format which anime was brought from Japan to America

Post by Valand »

Fireminer wrote:
Thu Aug 30, 2018 7:12 am
Wow, that was really interesting. Could you tell me more about this? Like which kind of computer was the device hooked to?
Unfortunately this was well before my time, so I don't know much. They used an Amiga as well, much like Dave suggests to be the common way to do it. There's actually a recent video where the founder of our club talks briefly about it (after talking about which anime series became the biggest hits in various European countries and how licensing used to work back then), unfortunately it's all in Swedish.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kLDndwP-BNk

He begins talking about it around 4:23, though you'd probably want to jump to 6:20 where he briefly shows the last of the devices of this type they were using. It seems to be this one: http://amiga.resource.cx/exp/supergensx

Basically the difference from the method Dave described above seems to be that in our case the video signal came from a Laserdisc player and was fed directly into this device, rather than into the computer - which was only generating text on a tranparent background and fed into the same device separately, ending up sumperimposed onto the video picture which is otherwise just passing through without any quality loss (as our founder also states in the video). This is also why they needed to time and start both simultaneously as there was no permanent edit of the video.

This is also what I seem to gather from the specs on the page I linked to. Hope that helps.

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Re: The format which anime was brought from Japan to America

Post by Valand »

And in case it I didn't make this timing thing clear, the device was in turn feeding this combined picture into a projector. So it was always happening live as there was once again no permanent edit.

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Re: The format which anime was brought from Japan to America

Post by Valand »

Terribly sorry for the triple post, we could really use an edit button.

Anyway, I just saw the price tag on the adverts on the page I linked to. Now that must have been quite the investment back then!

Here's another site with better pictures of the device itself along with manuals: https://www.bigbookofamigahardware.com/ ... spx?id=400

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