Nadia Lee | NYT and USA Today Bestselling Author of Contemporary Romance » Blog Archive » PSA: Watching Anime Does Not Equal Research!
PSA: Watching Anime Does Not Equal Research!

I’m not sure what’s up with books set in Japan these days. Or maybe I’ve been extremely unlucky. It’s painfully obvious that the authors have never been to Japan, do not understand the culture and/or done all their research by watching anime (or perhaps reading manga).

The most recent one I bought made me livid. Even before I finished the first chapter, I came up with seven things wrong with the characters and setup. If it hadn’t been an ebook, I would’ve returned it and demanded a refund.

Living in Japan does not make your character Japanese. Sipping green tea while eating sashimi does not make your character Japanese. Wearing kimono does not make your character Japanese. And for pity’s sake, speaking broken Japanese in romanji does not make your character Japanese.

Got it?

Seriously…I’m never wasting my money again on a book set in Japan written by anime fangirls/boys.

9 comments to “PSA: Watching Anime Does Not Equal Research!”

  1. Charlotte McClain
    · September 16th, 2009 at 12:00 am · Link

    Research is a tricky mistress. She makes you think you know what you’re talking about when all you’ve done is skimmed the surface by reading what you think is fun. But Japan? Man there is a whole mindset there that Westerners can only begin to understand. I have a couple of secondary characters who are Korean and I worry about getting them right after living in Korea for 2 years.

  2. Nadia Lee
    · September 16th, 2009 at 12:11 am · Link


    Ping me if you want, and I can definitely help you with some if not of your questions, etc. I spent over ten years in Korea, and have Korean relatives and watch a lot of Korean dramas. I also speak and read Korean fluently if you need help w/ phrases or something. (TBH, I think 2 years may not be enough to absorb enough of culture…took me at least four years before I started to understand what makes Japan Japan. My first two years were spent on why they gotta be so different…!)

    Japan is something else. I usually check things with several people when I write something Japanese — Hero Material who’s been here over 10 years and speaks perfect Japanese, Hero Material’s secretary who is Japanese and very articulate and well-read, my Japanese teacher and a group of older ladies and gentlemen here who are history buffs, etc.

  3. Sam
    · September 16th, 2009 at 2:37 pm · Link

    Way true. Curiosity made me purchase the book you mentioned to me, and while I wasn’t in JP long enough to be fully absorbed in its culture (although, I do plan on staying there for the summer…oh monsoon season, yesh), clearly, the writer either stayed in JP for a week, watched too much anime (why are JP so perverted? or so BF asks), read too much manga and thought it was enough to know about JP.

    Charlotte, I second the help Nadia offers. Unlike her, I haven’t left Korea (hah! take that, Nadia!), have been here since 2004, and am constantly alarmed at the skirt length of the HS girls here.

    BTW, Nadia, are you going to come to Seoul anytime soon…?

  4. Sam
    · September 16th, 2009 at 3:37 pm · Link

    Hah, exchange rate is crazy good for JP tourists to come to Korea. When I went to JP, the exchange rate was insane. I traded 790,000 won for 51,000 yen. It made me very, very sad. Myungdong is filled with japanese tourists and Dongdaemoon is swarming with Hally-u wave. I don’t get it. Yong-sama (sp?) looks really strange to me, and totally not bishounen at all. Maybe it’s because he’s old now. I liked him a lot more without the glasses and almost shaved head.

    :D Thanks for the offer, but I think it was a good idea for me to buy the book and read it all, so the lesson of “go to the damn places you write about or make sure no one else lives there” (i.e. fantasy) has been hammered in my head.

    Would be great to see you here. We’ll sit at Starbucks, pay a ton for bad coffee and gossip about so and so.

  5. Sam
    · September 16th, 2009 at 5:41 pm · Link

    Oyaji…muahaha. He’s got to be at least 40 years old now. I agree that most of his fans are at least ten years older than him. But man, they’re scary. I saw a crowd of them overwhelm a vender in Myungdong who had chibi Yon-sama cell phone acessories.

    Tea house!!! We must go to Insadong. And laugh at the silly things the venders sell. And laugh at the gossip. Laughing about nothing is good, too. How’s Shiro and Kuro?

  6. Nadia Lee
    · September 16th, 2009 at 3:18 pm · Link


    Oh you poor poor girl. You should’ve told me and I’d have sent you the 1st 3 chapters of the monstrosity. It annoyed me that the publisher put up like a super teeny excerpt and I honestly feel ripped off.

    I sooooo wanna visit Seoul. Exchange rate is pretty good now, and I wanna hit some shopping districts, but we’ll see. I’ll email you when I book a trip. :)

  7. Nadia Lee
    · September 16th, 2009 at 5:07 pm · Link

    Holy cow! That exchange rate is just crazy!

    Yon-sama is totally lame looking. He’s an oyaji trying to be bisounen. It totally doesn’t work. I guess he’s young compared to his obachan-fans. But still…. :?

    I don’t know if you have to go to the place to write it. But I think if you’re going to have characters from a country / culture that you don’t understand, you need to do more research.

    Oh yeah. I heard Starbucks KR is obscene. I kinda prefer teashops that serve more traditional teas, but I can do SB too. :) And yes, gossip!

  8. Nadia Lee
    · September 16th, 2009 at 6:15 pm · Link

    It is a bit scary. I wouldn’t want to go near them or anything.

    OOohhh…yeah. I’d love to go to Insadong. Vendors there sell some really odd things.

    Shiro’s losing weight but her weight got bit more stable recently. Kuro’s super healthy as usual.

    How about Roadster? You still have her, right?

  9. Hero Material
    · September 17th, 2009 at 10:03 am · Link

    Well…[modest preen]…maybe not perfect. Superb, yes. Amazing, certainly. Unprecedented for a gaijin, perhaps. But perfect is a little bit of a stretch.

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