Unlovely Complicated: Social Justice, Misogyny, and the Beautiful Complicated Dub


I had by no means heard of Brendan “JelloApocalypse” Blaber earlier than February 11, 2024. Till that day, he was finest identified by most people for the webseries Epithet Erased, plus his “So That is Mainly…” Youtube sequence commenting on and parodying nerd media tradition tentpoles like Tumblr and Pokemon and had a burgeoning profession as a voice actor. Nevertheless, my introduction to his work was a prolonged public Patreon put up he made entitled, “Marissa and I Wrote an Anime Dub,” wherein he wrote 5,000 phrases concerning the localization course of for the official Discotek English dub of Beautiful Complicated, which he allegedly was closely concerned in writing and directing. This put up included vital in-depth dialogue of his hatred for the sequence, the protagonist Koizumi Risa, and the artist, Nakahara Aya.

Frankly, Blaber’s put up infuriated me. It began with him stating confidently that Beautiful Complicated, a sequence I’ve beloved because it first aired in 2007, “is taken into account a grandmother of the shoujo style, principally as a result of it’s previous,” and solely received worse from there. Every paragraph introduced a recent insult as he revealed particulars concerning the dubbing course of that likely was by no means meant to be public information and insulted the characters, story, and artist, and threw gas onto the blazing tire hearth that’s present localization discourse along with his brags about how he had altered the characters. Most baffling of all was his incapability to grasp the story and heroine of this pretty easy romantic comedy, who he proclaimed to be “psychotic.” The way in which Blaber talked concerning the present and his incapability or refusal to unpack even its most elementary themes spoke to the type of misogyny that pervades vital evaluation, wherein feminine characters and creators don’t get even the slightest grace for being messy, imperfect beings.

Ohtani looking exasperated. Subtitle: What's your problem... you're STILL crying?

Beautiful Complicated isn’t, by any means, a difficult sequence. Osakan highschool scholar Risa stands out–at 5’7”, she’s nicely above common top for a Japanese woman. She desperately desires to fall in love, and her solely requirement is that any potential suitors be taller than her. Her classmate, Otani Atsushi, is 5 inches shorter than her, and ever for the reason that first day of college, the 2 have been shoved collectively as a comedy duo due to their squabbling. When Suzuki, a cute boy who’s taller than Risa joins their class, Otani reveals that he’s taken discover of Risa’s petite buddy Chiharu and affords to make a pact: the 2 of them will assist set the opposite one up. After all, by the regulation of rom-coms, the 2 find yourself falling in love with each other.

I fell in love with Risa from the present’s first minutes, when she fell asleep standing up in the course of an meeting as a result of she was up all evening taking part in video video games. She’s insecure about her top, which has made it unattainable for her to be seen as female. Most boys her age wouldn’t think about courting a woman taller than them, so she’s by no means had a lot of a romantic life. She’s additionally a loud, bizarre dork who would moderately go down the waterslide on a visit to the pool than sit round with the boy she has a crush on.

The character Blaber describes solely vaguely resembles the Risa I do know and love. He says, “Risa is an inconsistently written, terrible character who does nothing however miscommunicate and trigger issues.” It’s true, Risa is messy. She’s self-centered and never notably in contact along with her emotions, doing issues like sublimating them right into a crush on a trainer who appears like her favourite online game boyfriend. She compares herself to different women and makes herself insecure. She makes poor, egocentric selections.

Risa looking nervous as Kazuki celebrates. Subtitle: I'm such a moron!

One notably telling line from the put up comes after Blaber describes a plot beat the place Risa falls asleep and her younger coworker, Kazuki, tries to kiss her. Otani catches him and will get mad at each of them, Kazuki apologizes to each of them, and all is forgiven. Later, he tells Risa he has hard-to-get tickets to an unique efficiency by Umibozu, Risa’s favourite singer. Otani had declined to go to his final live performance as a result of he was learning for exams, so Risa agrees to go as buddies. Blaber describes this by saying “Risa decides to go on a date along with her assaulter out of… pity?” As if he can’t fathom why she would make a alternative like that! 

To anybody keen to even attempt to perceive Risa’s motivations, to grasp the sequence in any respect, I might assume it’s crystal clear. Risa is bored and lonely as a result of her boyfriend is devoting all of his time to learning, to the purpose he received’t even take a break for the primary frequent curiosity they bonded over. Then her work buddy asks her to go along with him. And positive, possibly he has a crush on her, however she’s made it clear to him that she loves her boyfriend, so it’s going to be completely platonic. So she rationalizes away all her misgivings and hopes she received’t get caught. It’s just about the precise alternative I might have made at her age! However as a result of Blaber has zero curiosity in attempting to grasp the developmentally-appropriate thought processes of a teenage woman, he acts as if it was completely inscrutable.

Risa making an ugly face in profile while Ohtani fiddles with his bangs.

Since that put up went up, there’s been lots of statements from folks who labored on the discharge assuring followers that Blaber and Lenti’s scripts must undergo a number of ranges of approval, together with by individuals who did care about Beautiful Complicated. The script wasn’t 1-to-1 devoted, however any egregious makes an attempt to alter it might not have been accepted. Each Discotek and Sound Cadence’s statements have since been taken down, for any variety of doable causes I received’t speculate on.

Total, it’s a good dub in most ways in which matter. The performances are persistently sturdy, and Risa for essentially the most half comes throughout as a messy goofball, and never an abusive psychopath incapable of empathy. The dialogue is snappy and slangy, and the humor is humorous for essentially the most half, though there are a number of too many jokes that break the fourth wall, together with a few moderately mean-spirited ones.

Ohtani on the ground like he has fallen over. Risa is standing over him and yelling.

HOWEVER!

There are some adjustments the place, even when Blaber’s outright hatred of the sequence doesn’t come via, do replicate his and Lenti’s perception that it wanted to be mounted. These so-called fixes for essentially the most half take the implicit and make it specific. Risa tends to state the teachings she’s realized as an alternative of simply making completely different decisions and spends much more time self-flagellating and apologizing to Otani. Any subtext, any character development that isn’t acknowledged clearly, is completely eradicated. Examine the dialog in a climactic scene, when Risa is taking Otani to his entrance examination on her bicycle:

Sub:

However you spent a lot time and sacrificed a lot to review for this check. I don’t need all of it to be in useless! I don’t care in case you cross or fail, I simply need you to offer it your finest shot! Please, don’t let all of your arduous work go to waste!

Dub:

You instructed me your dream and I laughed at you! I’m a horrible girlfriend! And now, I’ve an opportunity to make it as much as you! I’m going to assist you it doesn’t matter what it takes!

Close up on Risa's face looking determined. Subtitles: I don't care if you pass or fail, I just want you to give it your best shot!

This comes shortly after Risa and Otani reconcile following her misstep with Kazuki. As a substitute of pouting about Otani not spending sufficient time along with her, Risa is displaying her assist and alter in outlook via acknowledging his arduous work and serving to him get to the examination, it doesn’t matter what it takes. Nevertheless, since individuals who wield the language of remedy and social justice for egocentric functions place nice weight on apologies, Risa should explicitly acknowledge her personal wrongdoing. Mockingly, this makes the second about herself, as an alternative of the restore work she’s really doing.

Love might not imply by no means having to say you’re sorry, but it surely does imply typically quietly noticing your accomplice’s makes an attempt to be taught and develop and forgive them as an alternative of demanding repentance.

This extends to different characters’ dialogue as nicely. In a single plot arc, Risa develops a crush on a brand new trainer, nicknamed Maity, who appears like her favourite character in an otome recreation as a manner of dealing with Otani’s rejection. Her buddy Nobuko hates him immediately. The 2 have this dialog concerning the matter:

Sub:

Risa: Although it is likely to be simpler to only fall for him.

Nobu: Over my useless physique: I received’t allow you to date an ice man! 

Risa: If solely there have been a “Proceed” choice in actual life…

Nobu: Which will have been poetry to you, however to me it was gamer psychobabble. Scowling solely makes ya much less interesting!

Risa leaning against the windowsill pouting cutely while Nobu glares.

The dub, nevertheless, provides a layer of didacticism, the place Nobuko lectures Risa about the way it’s unethical for academics up to now college students. 

Dub:

Risa: Although possibly I ought to simply go for him.

Nobu: Over my useless physique! He’s a trainer! 

Risa: I suppose… However the trainer route is fairly frequent in visible novels… 

Nobu: Oh cool. However in actual life, that’s gross, and people online game boys of yours would go to jail. Pout at me all you need, I’m proper.

Maity was by no means a critical romantic prospect for her; he was only a crush to cross the time and distract her from the emotional ache of Otani refusing her advances. That is clear from the unique dialogue, when Risa mentions the “proceed” choice. Nevertheless, the dub was written with the mentality that any problematic content material have to be explicitly addressed, in case some younger, impressionable viewer sees… a teenage woman growing a crush on a trainer, who doesn’t even return her emotions? There’s no religion within the viewers to learn between the strains, which displays again on the lack of the one that wrote that dialog to learn between the strains.

What actually makes the misogyny shine right here is how he characterizes Otani in comparison with how he describes Risa. Otani isn’t any much less messy than Risa, in spite of everything. He, too, is insecure about his top, which leads him to reject her however nonetheless get mad when different guys flirt along with her. He offers her a necklace for her birthday, however then will get mad when she wears it in public the subsequent day. His antagonism towards Risa, whereas often meant playfully, crosses the road into cruelty on a number of events, and his phrases and actions typically contradict each other. He expects Risa to offer him chocolate for Valentine’s Day, solely to refuse it when he realizes it’s “love chocolate” as an alternative of “obligation chocolate.” To sum up, he’s simply as a lot of an fool and a realistically flawed teenager as Risa is.

Ohtani looking nauseous and sweating. Subtitle: C-can we call it obligatory chocolate?

Blaber, nevertheless, states that his model of Otani “begins kinda annoying, however by the tip of the sequence I believe I might name him genuinely fairly cute… Risa’s unsalvageable tho.” Why did Blaber assume he was capable of “repair” Otani with a number of changes to his dialogue and discover room in his coronary heart for this loud, impolite teenage boy, whereas utterly writing off the loud, impolite teenage woman who goes via about the identical quantity of development? The reply might shock you!

(It’s misogyny. You’re in all probability not stunned.)

He follows this up with much more weird misreadings of the Otani and Risa’s dynamic: 

Enjoyable truth! We canonically wrote and directed Risa as a psychopath who doesn’t perceive empathy and Otani being in a cycle of abuse with out realizing it. As a result of that’s the one manner their extremely inconsistent actions make any sort of sense! At one level Otani actually tells Risa he, quote, ‘Purchased a present for her in preparation for the subsequent time she received mad at him’, which is what resolves their present tiff. Thaaaat’s a trauma response! And it’s within the sub! Uh oh, sisters!!!

That is an outright lie. Blaber is quoting both Lenti’s or his personal writing, which has a very completely different that means within the context of the scene than the sub: Otani says “I don’t need’cha complaining later that I didn’t get ya something,” as he palms her a memento, defusing her anger, which was actually extra of a pout anyhow. It’s such an energetic mischaracterization of what occurs that I’m actually a bit of confused at how he might have learn the scene that manner, assuming it was a real misreading and never a lie borne of malice.

Risa making a truly ugly face

One factor that has at all times made Beautiful Complicated stand out to me is how equitable Risa and Otani’s relationship is. Whether or not or not you discover their antagonistic flirting and petty squabbling wholesome, each of them give simply as a lot as they get. I’ve learn too many romances the place one celebration–generally, the male love curiosity–heaps precise verbal abuse on the opposite, whereas the opposite one quietly takes it; or, they strike again however just one celebration is ever the aggressor. Risa and Otani’s teasing is often playful and affectionate, however each are simply as seemingly as the opposite to cross a line. Once they do, they take steps to make it up, both via their phrases, actions or, sure, shopping for the opposite a present. That’s what you do once you damage somebody you care about.

Nevertheless, Blaber solely sees it as abusive when Risa does it, whereas Otani is the hapless sufferer. There’s not likely any strategy to clarify this apart from implicit bias. At one level within the dub, Risa even turns Otani’s apology again on him and makes it into her personal apology! 

Sub:

What are you sorry about? Are you sorry for forgetting you kissed me? Or is it that you just’ll by no means see me as girlfriend materials, it doesn’t matter what I do? Actually… You don’t need to look so perplexed over it. It’s tremendous.

Dub:

You’re apologizing? What for although? I’m the one who kissed you with out your permission. And I’m the one who retains pushing for a solution, irrespective of what number of instances you say no, so what are you sorry for? You’re simply attempting to patch issues up between us such as you at all times do. However you don’t need to. Not this time. As a result of I’m tremendous.

Risa is worse, as a result of Risa is a woman, and women aren’t speculated to act this fashion. When women make unhealthy decisions, yell at their boyfriends unfairly, or are in any other case irrational and illogical, it’s as a result of they’re abusive. They’re both paragons of social justice, or villains. Boys don’t get held to the identical customary, as a result of they’re boys, and boys are simply dumb. They’ll’t assist it! I don’t assume Blaber consciously believes this; if something, he in all probability believes he thinks the other. Nevertheless, in social justice areas, members of marginalized teams are usually perceived extra harshly after they make errors.

Risa making an ugly face with buckteeth and the katakana "Hohohohoho" coming out of her mouth

The final straw comes when Blaber actively assaults Nakahara. He writes, 

That is a type of sequence that was written by a really unusual individual, kinda like 50 Shades of Gray, and it simply will get stranger and stranger the longer you look into it. The way in which all of the characters speak and work together is mistaken. The way in which Risa is painted as the great man regardless of makes (sic) solely unhealthy selections makes every little thing really feel prefer it’s written by a lady with “I HATE drama!!!” in her Twitter bio after which 5 separate callout tweets proper under it. You get the sense the writer sees the world the identical manner Risa Koizumi does, and Risa Koizumi as a personality solely is smart if she is a psychopath who doesn’t perceive human empathy.

Even when I had been keen to offer him the advantage of the doubt up till this level, that is unconscionable. It really makes me so indignant that I shake a bit of each time I learn it. Calling somebody a “psychopath who doesn’t perceive human empathy” since you don’t like the primary character of their story, somebody you’ve got by no means met or learn a private assertion by, is simply fucking imply. Fiction is stuffed with problematic protagonists and messy essential characters who aren’t simply the author placing themself on the web page, even after they’re written as sympathetic. He’s blind to the truth that whether or not you want or hate Risa, Nakahara is writing a couple of flawed one who makes lots of errors. Even when Risa sucked as a lot as he stated she did, would the less complicated rationalization not be that Nakahara simply isn’t an excellent author? The truth that his assumptions are harking back to the misogynistic stereotype of the “cool woman” says greater than I ever might.

 I can get not liking Beautiful Complicated. It’s typically irritating, as Risa and Otani transfer round in circles for 2 years, solely to get collectively and instantly have extra rivals seem out of the ether. However nonetheless, when Blaber brags about “shaving off the tough edges” of Beautiful Complicated, I can’t assist however really feel that the tough edges are what makes it particular. They’re what make Risa really feel human, and the romance really feel actual, versus the sterile, didactic “Precise Good Romance” that he arrogantly claims “no person else on earth appears to know the right way to write.” To forged an unconventional heroine, created for weirdo women to narrate to, as an abuser only for being irrational and making errors, is misogyny, plain and easy.

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