This may be of interest to regional readers only, as our special guest today, Shia, worked at the local anime firm ODEX and gained some very interesting experience.
Shia was a student of Singapore Polytechnic, in computer network technology course diploma and had the opportunity to work as an attachment student at local anime firm ODEX through which he gained inside experience of the anime industry far beyond what normal fans get. His ideas helped revolutionise the operating systems of the company and probably benefitted the local anime scene greatly. Till now, he keeps in close contact with his colleagues at ODEX.
tj han: Hello Shia! First, let’s talk a bit about yourself. When did you get into THIS ANIME SHIT and how did you go about enjoying this hobby?
Shia: I started watching anime when i was around Secondary 2 , I was drawn in by watching Digimon, somehow the OP songs drew me to somehow like japanese culture. I watch raws my friends send me, subs , I buy chara goods that I can wear(cospa shirts), nice looking posters and figures. I do a bit of subbing myself.
tj han: Shia is quite proficient in conversational Japanese apparently. And you earned an attachment at ODEX. Could you tell us how you got in, and perhaps some insight into how the company is like?
Shia: I didnt really earn it , it was a choice between a random company that could be at a worksite pulling network cables and a company where I would be working and still enjoying myself there. I applied there and they accepted me.
tj han: So it pays to be pro-active. Many I know did rubbish attachments where they were treated like slaves and didn’t learn much. Anyway, let’s talk more in-detail about ODEX. Being almost a monopoly here in Singapore, they are however still rumoured to be losing money. Is this true? What are their field of operations?
Shia: 禁則事件です :X (Trans: classified!)
tj han: PITY. Now that would’ve been interesting. Anyway, when you were there, I heard you introduced a few new initiatives to help boost the company’s output. What were some of these initiatives?
Shia: Basically using my knowledge as a fansubber, I introduced some subbing methods to speed up processes. This greatly improved the work efficiency there. Instead of using MS Excel, I taught them the use of SSA, vobsub and other opensource programs which made for far less tedious subbing.
tj han: Being an insider, what do you think are some of the problems ODEX faces? How are they solving these problems?
Shia: I dont see myself as a insider now , I see myself as someone who has dabbed in both subs and commerical work. As for problems I personally felt at that time was, how to keep all those casual people that watched anime and became fans from becoming unwitting supporters of piracy. Sometimes bootlegs mimick the packaging of original goods and confuse these fans.
To me people who d/l fansubs are a lost cause, until the day where the internet “dies” (which I hope it will not), but then for piracy ODEX did all it could to fight piracy. There was this highly publicised case where TS (a VCD retail chain of stores) was brought up to court for infringing copyright, and there were some other smaller cases that were settled. For me , what could be done is to educate the fans, roadshows to say no to piracy, I feel that “re-education” is the best way instead of trying to bring it up to court. The target group of ODEX in their VCD/DVD sales are the casual viewers, who are either not IT-savvy enough to download or just want convenience.
tj han: Could you describe the process a title goes through, starting from the initial airing till it pops up on store shelves?
Shia: Well basically, ODEX buys rights for the region, once the deal is confirmed, we start dubbing and subtitling synchronously, while our designer will start designing covers and then we push it down to our distributors for distribution. Dubbing in mandarin is normally in Taiwan, while for English, sometimes American voice actors are flown in just for this.
The rights for the region also includes TV airing rights. So with the exception of Animax, all the anime you see on TV and in the region are actually licensed by ODEX and resold to these TV stations. For example, the recent publicity blitz of Mai-hime. This two pronged business approach (rights and VCDs/DVDs) is what keeps ODEX going.
Animax is actually bidding competition. As we know, Animax are backed by SONY and some studios but ODEX wins its fair share of rights. ODEX being such a regular customer of most studios, are treated very well by them. Bandai for example, gives ODEX licensing almost right away after an episode airs in Japan or sometimes even before. This shows how much trust they have, since giving the raws before the airing leaves them open to leakage and piracy.
tj han: Surprisingly large scale, ODEX is. Most people have the impression of them being involved in just the retail market here.How does ODEX go about picking titles for licensing? What are some of the major ones we can expect to see in the near future?
Shia: It’s a secret, but the list is pretty long, lets just say it’s usually the top rated shows in Japan.
tj han: Well it may be a secret here but from what you told me unofficially, there are certainly some HUGE shows involving a certain Data Entity. What were some of the perks of working there?
Shia: I got to go on a free trip with my boss to Japan, I visited GONZO studios, I was at Tokyo International Anime Festival 2005.
tj han: WOW! GONZO!! GATEKEEPERS LAST EXILE!!!!! Anyway, could you tell us more about how the work environment of these studios are like?
Shia: Hmm for GONZO, it’s nice to see Dengeki Moeoh (a lolicon magazine) strewn over the place and everywhere you see, desks have all sorts of Chara goods ^^ but then , their working hours are horrible 3 shifts, nonstop like a production line . I also visited Xebec studios and they are much cleaner in terms of work environment. At GONZO, I met up with the director of LAST EXILE where he explained to us how the concept of it was born and the process it went through before appearing on TV.
GONZO Guy showing how the LAST EXILE OP was made
Shia: Someone’s reference materials :p
tj han: What about conventions? Which did you go to and how were they like?
Shia: Oh , you mean the Tokyo International Anime Festival 2005, it was great, I got to see stuff that was going to be aired in the upcoming seasons, and when I was there I was on a press pass ^^meaning I could take photos when no one else could :X It’s interesting how the vendors would shoo away photographers without a pass, stating no pictures, and then welcome us inviting us profusely to take as many as we want when they see the press pass.
I went there with a few boss-level guys and they were very kind. While I acted as a tour guide and translator of sorts, they treated me to expensive food.
1:1 Ren from Erementar Gerad on show at TIAF 2005
At the TIAF with Eva chicks
With Azuma Kazuma at the Yakitate Japan booth
tj han: Let’s conclude this by talking about your aspirations. What are your personal future plans?
Shia: i would like to further my studies by going overseas to study computer science, but I would hope to continue work with ODEX in the future after my studies.
tj han: Ok thanks Shia for your time! Hope some of you here learnt something! Too bad there was a lot of details he couldn’t go into, but here’s wishing you best of luck in your career!
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