ASCII.jp featured a very interesting interview with a girl named Jenya, who is in Japan all the way from Novosibirsk, Siberia. She is an example of how the internet has made Japanese entertainment popular, and this interview chronicles how Russians learn about anime and what it is like to be a Russian Otaku.
Jenya was 13 years old when she first watched Transformers, and 17 when Sailor Moon first came to Russia. She missed a few episodes here and there but would always try to record it on VHS because she was in school when the shows were on. She thought the voices of the shows and the singing voices of the songs were very beautiful. This later inspired her to listen to more Japanese music, and has since earned her the nickname of Usagi in college. She says anime came to Russia around 1991 when the Soviet Union collapsed. It has been a lot easier to watch it in the last 15 years especially.
The interviewer, Satoshi Endo, then asked her how she came to know about the Japanese version. Jenya went on to say that Russia’s Sailor Moon dub came from a translation of the German version (and not the English or the original Japanese)! The show did include the Japanese version of the theme songs. She wanted to know more about what the original version was, so she started studying Japanese. She wondered why she was called Bunny in the Russian/German version, and learned that Usagi’s name meant rabbit in Japanese. She didn’t like how the Russians called her Bunny but thought the original was much better than the dub she was watching. As she grew older, more and more anime came to Russia and she became a bigger fan.
She came to Japan 3 years ago in the hopes of becoming a Voice Artist, but unfortunately it is not within her reach. So then she thought she would try to be a singer, and that didn’t happen either. She is now working with the production aspects of Russian dubs, and worked on Black Lagoon and Kishin Taisen Gigantic Formula. She moved to Japan right out of University and first worked in the IT sector. She even has her own blog in Japanese that tells of her adventures as a Russian Otaku in Japan! She is living her dream as best she can, and she was only 20 when she came to Japan. She came with her father, and jokes that since he is a part of the Russian military, that they bought tanks along with them.
Even at -40̊C , the few Otaku in Russia got together and formed a club , “Ranma” and exchanged tapes of fansubs. There were around 200 in Moscow in 1995, she says. When she was 18, she became a director of a club in her own town. She jokes that -20̊C is warm for her , which is the weather in snowy Niigata region of Japan. Some of us know all too well having experienced certain winters in North America, just what she is talking about! Her city, Novosibirsk, is sister cities with Sapporo. She was lucky enough that there was a Siberia Hokkaido cultural center, where she was able to learn Japanese. Later, she was able to use those facilities to start an anime club in Novosibirsk. They even threw a few conventions, where there was anime karaoke, cosplay, and even some Japanese visitors came out as well! She called the club Otaku. To this day, she still keeps up with what is happening with anime and manga in Russia. There is one small anime magazine that is in Russia and it is selling very well, and she has made a good friend in the editor of that magazine.
She goes on to talk about how cosplay is popular and what series are hot in Russia, and these are no surprise to us to hear because these series are pretty popular here too. They include Macross, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, Code Geass, Tower of Druaga, Pokemon, and Lucky Star. Maid Cafes aren’t very popular outside of St. Petersburg, and she suspects that around 70% of the girl Otaku in Russia “don’t get it”. Nintendo became very popular when she was 15, and everyone in Russia knows who Mario is. It is hard for them to find any anime merchandise in Russia, and some fans are lucky enough to travel to Japan just for this purpose.
We salute Jenya and her dream , and she joins the ranks of our Special People. She strives to make anime and manga better for her people back home in Russia, and the spark plug that initiated all of this was Sailor Moon! We wish you the best of luck in the future!