Emphasis on “can.”
When that doesn’t work, a lot of anime prefers to go with plan B: stuff in as many tired and overdone lines and speech patterns as you can and stand back. Even the best anime in the world can start to sound very, very familiar once the characters open their mouths and start speaking.
Here are my top five picks for common speech patterns found in anime that never seems to go away… much though we wish they would.
5. Spin the wheel, pick a cliché
You too can now write your own award winning anime script by playing this game at home! Simply get out a pen, a piece of paper, and a d10 (you all have a d10, right?) Roll the dice and write down the corresponding line from the table below:
1: I’m going to be an idol singer / famous tennis player / Otome / insert lofty ambition here!
2: Whatever / I don’t care.
3: We’re all going back to Tokyo / the village / home / whatever together!
4: Why do we have to fight?
5: She/he’s really something.
6: I follow my dreams!
7: Even if the whole world hates you, I’m still your friend!
8: Whenever he/she is with me, I have a strange pain in my chest.
9: I want to live in peace with everybody.
10: I’ll never give up!
Add your own lines! For added fun, make it a drinking game! After a few rounds, you too will find your script original and insightful!
4. M. M! M M M. M!!!
If you want to make the audience understand that a character is meant to be cute, don’t bother with drawing them with adorable features or giving them endearing mannerisms or ways of moving. That’s amateur hour! Everyone knows that to make something truly cute, you make it say nothing but its own name!
The most famous and egregious example of this, of course, is the Pokemon series, where the few Pokemon capable of coherent speech are drowned out in a cacophony of PIKA, PIKA and CHARRRR. Adorable “mute” female characters tend to fall into this too, with the most well known being Chii from Chobits. A variant of this can also be seen in the Pretty Cure series, where the cutesy sidekicks speak coherently but always end their sentences with their name… resulting in particularly annoying cases of #2…
3. Drifting off in the middle of…
This is the speech pattern that absolutely drives me insane whenever I’m dubbing an anime. Anime characters have a habit of starting a sentence then trailing off, letting the audience mentally fill in the rest of the sentence. Not a horrible idea in theory, but when you translate it into English, it feels like all the characters are suffering from ADD and are getting distracted by shinies in the middle of their sentence.
LIGHT: If this woman manages to talk to L…. (ooh, a penny!)
This can end up sounding really awkward in dubs as we don’t tend to trail off in the same sort of way in English, resulting in a bit of a stilted delivery or a feeling of waiting for the other shoe to drop. The worst phrases by far for this are the stock phrases, “At this rate…” or “If things continue on like this…”. Yes…. and? What, will the world explode? Will the hero find his true love? Will the dub writer have a coronary trying to write extra notes to the director to give context? DETAILS, MAN, DETAILS!
2. Constant verbal tics dattebayo desu!
Ah, verbal tics. Anime is positively in love with them. Name a series, and half the time there will be someone rounding out their sentences with a “desu”, “de gozaru”, “no da” and who knows what else. To be fair, a lot of the time these verbal tics can actually convey something reasonably important about the character that gets lost in translation. Kenshin’s “de gozaru”, for example, doesn’t mean anything by itself but is a marker of almost ludicrous politeness and formality; it marks him as a chivalrous and well-spoken warrior. In contrast, Naruto’s “dattebayo” is what a child would say if they wanted to get their parents’ attention, giving it a childish forcefulness and “look at me!” quality that matches Naruto perfectly.
So yes, the tics can add a little something to the script. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t get overdone. What starts off as an amusing or interesting way of speaking quickly grows old when you end every. Single. Sentence. That way. No da. Go too far, and it might just end up as a full blown meme, such as the infamous “desu” from Rozen Maiden.
And of course,then there are the often awkward attempts of English adaptations to try and translate these little tics, which usually only succeed in making them even more annoying. Chichiri started spouting, “you know,” Kenshin apparently started tagging his lines with, “that it is,” and Naruto… well, “Believe it!”
1. Repeating everything. Everything. Repeating everything…
Stop me if this sounds at all familiar:
A: You must find the Escudo.
B: The Escudo?
A: Yes. The legendary mineral Escudo.
B: Escudo… the legendary mineral…
C: So where can we find the Escudo?
A: You can find the legendary mineral Escudo at the Castle of Plot.
B: (determined) The Escudo!
And so on and so forth.
No one knows why anime characters love repeating themselves so much. Part of it may be based on the way the Japanese language tends to drop the sentence subject when it’s already understood; it could be argued that by repeating something over and over, it’s a way of saying, “Yes, THIS is what we’re going to be talking about, okay?” Another possibility is that they just want to drive the odd term into everyone’s heads through repetition; how else will they remember three weeks later why the heck these girls are looking for the Escudo anyway?
Or, you know, maybe it’s really bad writing.
Yes, bad writing. The legendary bad writing.
What lines and speech patterns do you tend to notice a lot in anime? What sorts of tics or cliches tick you off?