Screaming and Wailing and Annoyingly Cute

A nasty headache–oddly enough, not a migraine–kept me away from karate tonight, so instead of waxing on and off about sports, I’ll talk about Japanese television and, more specifically, Japanese news announcers and how annoying they can be.

US announcers can be annoying, but at least each is annoying in their own way. They are arrogant, ignorant, ignorantly arrogant, falsely profound and, if they do features for CBS Sunday Morning, incapable of speaking above a whisper or annoyingly comic.

The latter is more like Japanese announcers. The morning shows are populated by a mix of young women and older, usually heavy set, men. The men are there to provide, as near as I can tell, the air of serious newsishness, even as they make funny faces and wear silly ties. The young women, who are usually excellent news readers, mostly exist to display fashion and smile and nod when the men speak. (Their nicknames are “so desu” girls–or “That’s right” girls.)

When it comes to sports coverage, especially at the international level, the announcers, usually men, toss away any sense of neutrality and propriety and openly support the Japanese teams. Granted, other countries do this, but none do it as loudly as the Japanese. When the other team is close to scoring the announcers start shouting–not speaking loudly, shouting–Watch out! Watch out! It’s dangerous! It’s dangerous! Watch out! When Japan scores, or is even near the goal, they can barely be contained. (Think “Do you believe in miracles!? Yes!” at every scoring opportunity.)

This carries over into other news coverage where it’s clear that the reporters feel it’s their job to emphasize how interesting this all is. (In the USA, the reporters usually try to remind us how serious is all is and that you’re only seeing that on their channel, or if it’s CNN, to talk about missing planes.) The result is over the top emphasis and nearly clownish takes to the camera. Right now there’s a Japanese announcer traveling around Cambodia trying to get them to try odd Japanese products–and, I suspect, to get them to allow Japanese manufacturers to move there from China. One of his products is an impressive water purifying powder that clumps the mud and crap in water simply by stirring it and makes the water easier to filter. Unfortunately, his manic way of presenting it–this is SO AMAZING! Isn’t it? Isn’t it? It’s JAPANESE INNOVATION!–makes me hope he gets a bad case of the runs from the water.

Sometimes the reporters are clearly bored and clearly struggling to find something interesting to report on. (Look, here’s a big bowl of soup! Look, here’s another big bowl of soup, with slightly different ingredients!) Anything that goes wrong becomes a major issue. One year, a female announcer was covering a winter soup cook off somewhere up North-East. She couldn’t just taste the soup, she pondered it with great manic energy and it was always delicious (even if she made an obvious “this is what evil tastes like” face after trying it). At one point, she started shouting “It’s horrible! It’s horrible! What will they do!? What will they do!? What will they do!?” as she ran through the booths and the camera chased her and bounced around like a badly filmed movie. Her reaction was loud enough I was expecting a Russian/Chinese/North Korean invasion; an explosion; or the crash of the Hindenburg. She arrived at the location and the camera zoomed on a broken bottle of sake. Apparently it had been knocked over and now the chef had to get a new one. Ah, the humanity.

Finally, there are the weather girls. Although Japan has a few professional meteorologists presenting the weather, most are women hired for their annoying cuteness. (There’s cute and then there’s something so cute you want to slap it–r.e. Hello Kitty.) They usually adopt high, cartoon voices designed to mitigate the effects of bad weather and/or wrong predictions. They usually pout if the weather is bad, and if they’re wrong, they remind me of squeaky voiced comic Felicia Michaels who says her unusual voice helps get her out of problems: “I didn’t mean to sleep with your brother. He tricked me.”

The same works for Japanese weather girls. “I didn’t mean to miss the spring snow storm. It tricked me.”


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