At the risk of sounding like an old fogey at 28, anime fans have it pretty good nowadays. Subtitles are out for almost every show of the season same-day, while manga and light novels are bigger than ever in the West, and even visual novels are seeing a surge in translated official releases.
The unfortunate fact remains, however, that many works remain untranslated, and are likely to stay that way for the forseeable future. In addition, a lot of supplemental material (artbooks, fan discs, etc.) are even less likely to be picked up for translation.
Though the otaku media translation industry is bigger than ever, there still remain many reasons to buckle down and actually learn Japanese. Here are a few:
1: It’ll Expand Your Horizons
While more and more material is being translated, the vast majority of otaku media remains in its native language, unlikely to be translated. Many a Western otaku has felt the disappointment of discovering a cool obscure visual novel that was never translated, or picking up an artbook and being unable to read the interesting interview in it.
Being able to understand the language opens up a whole new world of material, as you’ll no longer be bound to what’s been translated. Nor will you be beholden to Western localization companies, should they choose to be too liberal with their translations.
2: It’s a Gateway to the Culture
Some elements of language are difficult to translate directly. This is especially true for translating Japanese to English (Japanese is one of the hardest languages for English-speakers to learn). Idioms and figures of speech often lose their nuance in the attempt to find English equivalents.
You can understand more about the culture anime comes from when you understand the language. In addition, Japanese language skills will be invaluable should you decide to take a trip to Japan.
3: There Are Job Opportunities
Japanese-to-English translation is big business for the Western anime industry. Companies like FAKKU! often look for proficiency in Japanese when considering candidates. In addition, the ability to learn a new language, by itself, is indicative of mental flexibility, which is valuable in many positions.
Many otaku who aspire to live in Japan do so by getting a job there teaching English to native Japanese speakers. Japanese skills are a must for that kind of job.
4: You Can Make New Friends
The language barrier still prevents much of the Japanese community and Western community from interacting with each other. The ability to bridge that gap is a massive advantage, for those looking to grow their circle of friends.
It also helps in a practical sense to have friends across the pond. They can help you get products (or information!) that might be difficult to get in your home country.
In addition, you also become part of a community of passionate, dedicated fans who’ve let their love for otaku culture drive them to learn its native language.
5: It’s a Challenge
As stated before, Japanese is one of the most difficult languages for native English speakers to learn. It’s a challenge to learn, but that also makes it very rewarding with each small victory. You’ll soon impress yourself and others with how much you’ve learned.