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The Suite First Class on ANA with Points is Impossible

So you got that Amex bonus and you want to go to Japan first class. As a savvy traveler you also know that nicest first class offering is from ANA, first class called “the suite”. The most efficient way to do this is by transferring your Amex points to airline points, a 1 to 1 conversion on a normal day. ANA however only allows round trip purchases with their points, and they charge 180,000 points for that round trip. But Virgin Atlantic can book ANA flights too, and they can book one way flights, and they only charge 60,000 one way! That’s a great deal. Checking a random date, this is a $16,500 dollar product one way, that’s an exchange rate of 27 cents a point. Typically points are worth only one cent making this one of the most efficient uses of points anywhere! The catch: it comes with a whole bunch of restrictions due to the difficulty of getting a flight.

1. You need to fly to / from JFK.

ANA operates 3 first class routes to / from the United States at JFK, ORD, and LAX. ORD does not have the new first class. Two of the three flights from LAX have the new first class but LAX only has confirmed first class until OCT 31. They haven’t decided if they’ll continue. First class seems to be going away in a lot of places, which is very sad in my opinion.

2. You can’t be picky with dates.

These seats are extremely rare. From JFK there is currently one first class award opening in the middle of August, a year from when I’m writing this. No first class availability on the way back. The furthest you can book a flight is a year out and I had them check the whole year. Japan has a great public transport system to augment commuting by walking but it’s over 90 degrees in August so it won’t be comfy walking around. Be ready to take whatever flight is open but I personally wouldn’t go during the Summer. There are openings before the OCT first class cutoff from LAX but tourism to Japan currently requires a visa and a travel group sponsored by a travel agent. Slim pickings to say the least.

3. You’re flying solo.

You can of course book another seat somewhere else on the plane for a traveling companion but the odds of two award first class seats being available on the plane are slim to none. Bummer because the center first class seats have a wall you can lower.

4. You’re only going first class one way.

Take first class whichever way you can, get a business class seat for the other flight. The stars would really have to align for you to find first class award seats a reasonable timeframe apart, the next first class opening is probably at least a month away.

5. It takes multiple attempts and time to get a ticket.

Award seats become available randomly to my knowledge. The United site provides live availability at this link by selecting book with miles. Look for ANA numbered flights, ANA flights with a UA flight number won’t count like DEN-NRT (UA 143) though as discussed earlier only JFK has first class. This is a really tedious process since you can only look at one day at a time and it takes forever to load. So if you want first class usually you have to call ANA first, wait on hold, have them check each month for first class award seat availability, then check on UA’s site to see if partners have access to the ticket, then call Virgin Atlantic to book the ticket.

Finding the Best Ryokan for the Most Authentic Japan Vacation

So lets say you dream of Japan, a far off world with vastly different culture and lifestyle. You want to take a vacation there but want to experience traditional houses with paper walls, eating and sleeping on the floor,,, that kind of thing. Well a hotel ain’t gonna give you that experience, you want a Ryokan, a traditional Japanese bed and breakfast type thing where you can really be immersed.

Well many of these often cater to Japanese domestic tourists, their websites are in Japanese (if they even have a website), and it’s not like you have many friends that could recommend you a place to stay across the world. How would one go about selecting a Ryokan? Many of you know that I have an obsession towards the Michelin guide (probably because of my obsession towards food) but here’s a little known fact: the Michelin Guide used to also review hotels. And when they were in Japan they also reviewed Ryokans.

The Michelin Guide is a… difficult source. They only have the latest recommendations listed on their website and often it’s impossible to find past recommendations without the physical book. I dream of one day compiling the Michelin Collection and creating a database but that would cost literally thousands of dollars for the more rare editions. Currently if you search for a hotel in Tokyo on their website, no Ryokans will show up. An article written in 2021 on “The Reinvention of the Ryokan” also has no Tokyo entries. I know Michelin guides were created to encourage driving but I guess I’m looking for a diamond in the rough, a traditional place to stay in the most urban part of Japan.

I’m really set on Tokyo because that’s where everyone visits. So let me spell out what I’m really on the hunt for: A Michelin recommended Ryokan in the city of Tokyo. Hotels used to be rated with “pavilions” if you’re curious and Ryokan recommendations have those pavilions stylized to look like traditional Japanese housing in the old red books. According to Wikipedia there are 10 Michelin Rated Ryokans in the Tokyo, Tokohama, and Shonan area. Here’s the real problem and the reason this is a “deep dive”: that Michelin Guide resells for about $150 to $250 right now.

The sourcing on Wikipedia brings us to the Wayback machine, where we can see a press release from 2011 on the 2012 edition. In this press release they only list one Ryokan called Sekiyo in Shonan, not Tokyo. I know from searching for the Michelin Guide that other editions of the “Tokyo, Tokohama, and Shonan” area guide have been released so I presume that the other 9 mentioned on the Wikipedia page are from other years.

Take a look at these Amazon listings: The 2013 guide is in Japanese, the 2011 guide is in French, the 2012 guide is hundreds of dollars. The Michelin Guide has release a modern Tokyo edition in 2022 being its 15th edition implying guides as far back as 2007. The press release for the 2022 edition makes no mention of hotels. I cannot even find one for sale and I suspect this is because from about 2013 onwards I only see Japanese editions, they may only be sold in Japan which of course makes a lot of sense from their marketing perspective.

I’ve also found a green guide that highlights places to stay but the green guide focuses on attractions while the red guide focuses on hotels and restaurants. What I really want to get my hands on is the latest Michelin Red guide with a Tokyo Ryokan recommendation. From what I can tell, there are no online PDFs available for purchase and no previews of their contents listed. So when you need to scan a collection of books you don’t have and can’t afford, you go to the library.

My local library system, the Denver Public Library has Michelin Guides but none on Tokyo. My ace in the hole access to the Harvard Libraries often helps me with rare books but I guess they didn’t think the Michelin Guides were important enough because they don’t seem to have any in the Harvard Library system.

So honestly, I’m left with the scraps here. The 2013 books on I think are all in Japanese. The 2012 red book is the latest one I know of where they rated Ryokans but it’s really expensive. The 2011 book I can only find in French. That brings me all the way down to 2010, without even knowing if they recommend a Ryokan in here, if it’s in Tokyo, or if that Ryokan even still exists. For what it’s worth I see 2011 in French, 2009 in English, 2008 in English and that almost completes the history because from what I can tell they started in 2007.

So I’m going to purchase all the English ones from newest to oldest in my search: 2010, 2009, 2008.

2010 edition has no Ryokans. To be continued…

My Favorite Denver Restaurants

This is list is going to be updated as I find better places to eat. I guess my greatest qualification to make this list is that I eat out every single day living in LoDo.


Tucked away in Denver Union Station is a small and very authentic Spanish restaurant. Get the Trio de Jamon with a wine pairing. They have a real Jamon Iberico on display, their bar is extensive, and the Ulteria font is inherited from a winery in Spain.

The Collective Green Eatery

The best avocado toast!

Aloy Modern Thai

The Khao Soi dish reminds me of curry my mom made. My favorite part is that half of the noodles are uncooked above the soup allowing me to have cooked and crunchy noodles in one dish.


Yes, I’m a Nobu fanboy but I really don’t think the other high end sushi places around are as good.


Three Days of Happiness Essay: The Tragedy of Himeno

Warning: This Essay Contains Spoilers

After the review by Gigguk, I decided to give Three Days of Happiness a read because the message of living life to its fullest resonates with me as a core belief. The story follows Kusonoki who decides to sell his lifespan. It’s determined that he likely won’t live a very fulfilling life and he’s offered the equivalent of three thousand USD for his remaining 30 years. Kusonoki accepts the offer and sets off with 3 months left. In the end he finds love and lives more in three months or arguably even the final three days than he ever could have in thirty years.

I personally loved the ending and thought it was a satisfactory resolution to the story’s conflicts except for one: his childhood friend Himeno. They’ve known each other since infancy and became closer after Kusonoki saved Himeno from falling off a viewing platform. A key memory for Kusonoki is his promise to marry Himeno at the age of 20 in the case neither were taken but he hasn’t seen her since she moved shortly after their promise. Miyagi, a near omniscient observer working for the life selling service, informs Kusonoki that Himeno is living an unhappy life as a single mother and high school drop out. Himeno would jump to her death in a few years time. Both at the top of their class as children, Kusonoki and Himeno are now similarly miserable.

Himeno’s last contact was by letter three years ago. Now desperate to reconnect, Kusonoki uses the address to find her and the two catch up over dinner. At dinner Kusonoki breaks down telling her that he’s sold his lifespan and is dying soon. Himeno thinks he’s going crazy but believes him as she knows her childhood friend well enough to catch him in a lie. Himeno then disappears after going to the bathroom but leaves Kusonoki a note:

At the viewing platform, I had meant to have you wait below and fall right down next to you. Maybe you would say you didn’t realize but I always despised you. For never responding to my cries for help then casually appearing before me now, I couldn’t hate you more. So now that you consider me someone you can’t do without I thought I’d kill myself.

However she changes her mind believing that getting revenge on an insane man would do no good. She closes the letter telling him she hopes it’s true that he’s dying soon.

It’s revealed that Miyagi knew of these details and the suicide she informed him of earlier was exactly that scenario. Himeno was plotting to jump from the viewing platform to convey the message that Kusonoki failed to save her this time. It would seem this tragedy is caused by their separation, an unavoidable situation as it becomes apparent that they needed each other.

The original timeline predicted by Miyagi shows us that no path could have possibly led to a good outcome for Himeno. Originally she commits suicide as an act of revenge, in the actual course of events she leaves him, and had she potentially accepted him back into her life Kusonoki would be dead in a few weeks. While it appears there was no way out for Himeno, her character is entirely culpable despite the situation.

The cries for help Himeno refers to was her singular letter to Kusonoki. Kusonoki admits that writing the letter was far out of character for Himeno. It’s easy to see the difficulty in directly asking for help from a childhood love when pregnant with another man’s child. Regardless Kusonoki failed to recognize the benign  letter as a distress signal, as she made no mention of hardship. Not only that but Kusonoki can’t be blamed for Himeno’s actions or circumstance, he wasn’t even in the same vicinity. And now that Kusonoki had finally come, Himeno believes it’s far too late.

Taking a step back from the situation, they’re both in their early 20s and Himeno had no awareness of Kusonoki’s impending death upon meeting. It was likely that she interpreted his sudden appearance as an attempt to make good on their marriage pact 10 years prior. From the age of 20 the two potentially had the rest of their lives to support each other. In the original timeline, had Kusonoki not sold his life, the two could have lived happily ever after if Himeno could muster the realization that her hatred was unfounded. Himeno not accepting Kusonoki and instead committing a suicide revenge scheme is a primary factor in why Kusonoki’s life goes downhill after college making the rest of his life in that timeline worthless.

Now for the real character flaw: Kusonoki admits that he’s going to die very soon. It’s obvious at this point that Kusonoki is facing the gravest misfortune and Himeno hasn’t been there for him either. In retrospect, had she found him, Kusonoki may not have decided to sell his entire life span. She too unknowingly failed to save her friend. The difference is that now, Kusonoki tells her in no uncertain terms that he’s facing his demise, no cryptic letters involved. This was her chance to save Kusonoki when he couldn’t do the same for her. Instead, in a completely hypocritical reaction, Himeno disappears and leaves a letter praying for his impending death.

Kusonoki actually saves Himeno’s life as she doesn’t commit suicide in front of him as predicted; though the theme of this story values lifetime happiness over years so Himeno is far from saved. This characterization may have been necessary because the author needed a reason to end her potential as a love interest. However, the first half of the story from the opening scene revolves around the ray of hope that was their childhood relationship. This part of the story is highly unsatisfactory to me and I consider it a loose end blocking a gratifying resolution.

It’s a matter of taste, I personally don’t like pure tragedy. The tragedy of Kusonoki’s death is reconciled by the fact that he traded for a net profit in lifetime happiness. The Tragedy of Himeno, is just a tragedy.

Fashion Award for Metaverse Design: brilliant idea, must broaden scope

The Fashion Awards hosted by the British Fashion Council added a Metaverse Design Award to their events last year. A digital fashion award is a brilliant idea. Fashion has already crossed into the virtual realm with video games with Louis Vuitton designing for League of Legends and Fortnite collaborating Moncler and Balenciaga. The craft of building digital assets is uniquely challenging and artful, it deserves it’s own award category.

While the award itself a great idea, I feel it was severely limited in scope for its first implementation by only considering Roblox assets. The award event was held in Roblox, presented by Alessandro Michele, Creative Director of Gucci. I believe the award was given exclusively online. While I didn’t watch The Fashion Awards, I can’t find any mention of the Roblox designers sharing the stage with designers and models. The designs could have been displayed on the giant screens and projections on stage at the in person event.

In the future I hope to see asset designers accepting their awards in person but more importantly, I hope to see the category open to all digital assets with clothing involved. In the video game community, fashion is mostly seen as a subset of character design. Character designers as well as asset creators should be considered from all platforms for this award. The panel should include a combination of fashion and asset directors.

Congratulations to cSapphire on the award, I’m sure it was well deserved. The designer had previously created virtual clothing for the Gucci collaboration with Roblox. Oddly, the British Fashion Council’s article didn’t include a single picture of the designer’s work. Here’s an image from their boutique site:

Epic Games, your installer is garbage

Upon unmounting the drive with the Epic Games Launcher, one is unable to re-install the launcher because the installer automatically looks for the old drive to install it in. No options to change the path, the installer just gives you an invalid drive error.…

The official solutions to this problem are change your hard drive letter, which is insane because it will mess up all your other paths or is impossible since the main drive must be C. Or use the Windows automated repair tool which takes forever and I’m not sure if that even works.

Trying to manually clear out your registry with all mention of epic games is also far too time consuming, there are hundreds of entries and no one knows which one is the one the installer uses.

Making Nigiri Sushi, combining Nobu and Nozawa

This is my sushi recipe, it’s very specific on ingredients and the methodology comes from a combination of my two favorite sushi masters, Chef Nobu and Chef Nozawa.


There are 3 parts to Nigiri:

  1. The fish, obviously but unless you’re a fisherman or know a supplier most of us are stuck with whatever sushi grade fish is at the supermarket so this part will be only briefly touched on.
  2. The rice, I’m going to attempt to emulate Chef Nozawa’s technique here.
  3. The vinegar, a closely guarded secret by any sushi chef. My recipe is based off of the one given in Chef Nobu’s cookbook. If you can find a physical English copy of that cookbook it’s probably worth more than $100 right now; I was lucky enough to snag one in Denver with his autograph.


  1. Rice: 3 cups (720 ml)
  2. Water: 3 cups (720 ml)
  3. Seasoned Vinegar
    1. Red Rice Vinegar: 2/3rds cup (160 ml)
    2. Coarse Sea Salt: 4 teaspoons
    3. Sugar: 1/2 cup (100 grams), granulated, highly refined
    4. Hon Mirin: 1 scant tablespoon
    5. Kombu: 2 sq. inch (5 sq. cm) sheet
  4. Sushi Grade Fish

Small Batch Vinegar Portions for One Cup of Rice:

  1. 3 tablespoons and 1.5 teaspoons Red Rice Vinegar (save 1 tablespoon for end)
  2. 1 and 1/3rd teaspoons salt
  3. 2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons sugar
  4. 1/3rd tablespoon mirin
  5. 1/2 sq. inch kombu sheet


Sourcing Ingredients

Fish: Easy to find sources of sushi grade fish include H-Mart and Whole Foods. Here in Denver there’s also the Pacific Mercantile Company. There’s also sometime real wasabi in the produce section of H-Mart, like the whole root. Now there’s a bit of a debate on whether “sushi grade fish” is just a marketing term but I really feel safer with it because then I know that the fish is relatively fresh and, in the case of salmon, has had some precautions taken against parasites… If you end up at Pacific Mercantile Company though there’s just an old man there with a large tuna and knife; no sushi grade labeling there.

Rice – Kokuho Rose table rice: Chef Nozawa says he sources his rice “from a Japanese company that grows their rice in the Sacramento Delta”. Not very surprising since California provides a lot of the sushi rice for the US. It’s pretty easy to narrow down that he’s likely talking about Koda Farms, a 3rd generation Japanese owned family operated rice farm in Dos Palos. They designate their medium grain Kokuho Rose table rice as “outstanding for sushi”. And in case you’re curious, Chef Nobu prefers Koshihikari short grain rice from Japan.

Rice Vinegar: Chef Nobu specifies Red Rice Vinegar made from Sake Rice Lees for his recipe. The website Chef’s Wonderland has a featured article on akazu red vinegar and it’s obvious from the depth of said article that they know their stuff. They recommend a brand called Yokoi as used at three Michelin star restaurant Sushi Saito and many others. Yokoi has three red vinegar varieties Shugyoku, Kohaku, Edo-tannen-su, described as traditional, distinct / sharp, and dark / umami. They also sell a “rice vinegar” but that still is typically used as part of a recipe. The only supplier I could find online that would ship to the United States is Kabuki Knives. In their description they describe the Shugyoku variety as a “traditional Edomae sushi tradition” and the Kohaku variety as “Yokoi’s most popular red vinegar standard in Edomae… the most used red vinegar in sushi restaurants that use red vinegar”. I’d probably go with the crowd on this one since I have no idea about making sushi the traditional Edomae way, Yokoi Kohaku Red Rice Vinegar.

Hon Mirin: Hon Mirin is sweet sake so the real stuff is alcoholic and thus is sold in the liquor section, there are imitations that alter it to get around the liquor laws making the real stuff hard to find, especially if there are no Asian markets nearby. The New York Times published a great article titled “Catching an Elusive Japanese Flavor” about it. One of the three brands mentioned in this article is Takara. Takara Sake in California is one of the largest producers of Sake in the US and they sell exactly one variety of their Takara Mirin online.

Kombu: Chef Nobu also specifies sourcing Kombu from Rausu, JP. This specific variety is known to have a high glutamate content. The brand I use is called Kawashimaya and they have a specific variety from Rausu. I chose it mainly because I like the product label and images, that may seem like a shallow decision but it looks far more professional than the others sold online.

Sea Salt: I like to use Okunoto Agehama Salt inspired by a YouTube video from Great Big Story. The specific brand from that video isn’t available online but others from that region made with the technique are.

Section 1: Rice Prep

  1. Wash rice with cold water. Stir and rinse quickly. Strain and repeat until water is clear.
  2. Allow rice to soak in cold water for 25 minutes.
  3. Cook the rice with an electric rice cooker, use the sushi rice setting.

Interestingly enough Chef Nozowa notes…

The rice cookers that produce perfectly steamed rice are the same ones you can find in every Chinatown or big box store. The problem with that is they aren’t certified for use in restaurants. Which makes producing batches of rice in a large capacity kitchen either illegal or impossible.

Basically saying that his trouble is finding a rice cooker with restaurant grade certification that works as well as the small batch versions you find at home. He ended up designing his own restaurant grade rice cooker to fit his needs. Surely enough though, in his “Warm, Loosely Packed Rice” video, one of the rice cookers pictured seems to be a standard Zojirushi rice cooker.

Section 2: Seasoned Vinegar

  1. Combine seasoned vinegar ingredients into saucepan save 3 tablespoons of vinegar.
  2. Bring to boil over high heat.
  3. Turn off heat after sugar dissolves.
  4. Remove kombu.
  5. Cool to room temperature.
  6. Add remaining 3 tablespoons of vinegar.

Section 3: Sushi Rice

  1. Pour seasoned vinegar over cooked rice in a handai.
  2. Quickly but gently fold the rice with a shamoji to mix all of the seasoned vinegar into the rice.*
  3. Spread rice into a thin even layer and smooth out the rice.
  4. Cover with a lid.

*Chef Nozawa mixes his rice with vinegar for exactly 200 seconds but that’s with a specialized machine so… not much help there.

Section 4: Cutting the Fish

You really don’t feel like a sushi chef unless you’re cutting the fish huh? Finding pre-cut sashimi pieces at the local supermarket seems like cheating to me but that method is mentioned as valid in Nobu’s cookbook. Just know that if you do decide to cut it yourself, you’ll have a bunch of bits leftover that aren’t nice rectangles. Maybe make a poke bowl with those bits but you’ll have to consume it the day of, don’t eat leftover fish raw.

According to Nobu, the ideal fish slice is 3 by 1 by 0.25 inches. Nozawa’s slice seems to be slightly shorter, wider, thicker, and definitely more rectangular. I’ll confirm exact measurements when I grab take out again instead of pulling out a ruler at the table. Angle the knife so that the cuts come out in this shape, at the head your knife should be more vertical, at the tail more angled. Cut the filet across the sinews, not parallel. In other words, your cut should form an X with the stripes, not run alongside them.

Section 5: Forming Nigiri

This is probably best taught on YouTube but I recommend reading Nobu’s cookbook for this. The basic idea is to place the fish on the fingers of your left hand and shape by using the fingers of your right hand and curling the left hand. The instructions are clear in the book with pictures for each of his 12 steps. That’s right, 12 steps. Including a wall of text here describing how to form Nigiri probably wouldn’t be much help so I defer you to the book or other sources with images.

A mock label for my own brand of sushi rice seasoning. It probably will never come to market but it’s fun to dream.

Seatbelts Supporter Kit

For those of you that don’t know, the Seatbelts are a band that performs the soundtrack for Cowboy Bebop. They’re not really an active band that performs together often, more like a group of musicians assembled by the composer, Yoko Kano, to perform the OST.

They’ve performed live a few times after the anime came out and they also released a concert during the pandemic on YouTube. With the release of the Cowboy Bebop live action TV show, they’ve assembled once again!

Yoko Kano released a seatbelts supporter kit with their online Pandemic concert. Details are difficult to decipher since the site is in Japanese but each supporter kit comes with a numbered shirt. Yoko Kano has number 1, the band members have the following numbers, and the supporters have numbers up to about 2000. It’s also worth noting that these shirts are issued, not owned, so if they ever ask for it back you’re obligated to return it.

The box came all the way from Japan and the back side was plastered entirely with Japanese stamps. Opening the package revealed a letter, one part in Japanese and the other in English, with the shirt behind uniquely folded to expose the numbering on the sleeve. I wear a US men’s size small/medium so I ordered a Japanese size large. It’s a bit big but if it shrinks a bit in the wash I think it’ll turn out fine. I still recommend going a size up from US size though a Japanese medium may have fit me better at 5’8″ 135 lbs.

The Nicest Military Office

The military experience varies wildly from person to person. You could be living in a tent or on an isolated beachside home on base. You could be in a shack guarding absolutely nothing or you could be a full time student living with a frat at MIT. There’s a huge diversity to explore and while I’m not sure what asbestos filled warehouse is the worst military office, I’m semi-confident I’ve found the nicest one.

Across the street from Los Angeles Air Force base is the home one of the Space Force’s software factories, Section 31. Recently their organization has been absorbed into their parent, Kobayashi Maru; however, primarily only the former Section 31 members work in this office (a more accurate nomenclature for them now is the Kobayashi Maru Organic Software Teams formerly known as Section 31).

The building is modern and industrial, neighboring other similarly designed office spaces. Walking in the front door one finds an environment more reminiscent of silicon valley than a military organization. Directly inside the door is a huge 20 foot screen displaying a view of the Earth from space. Past the lobby is the common room with a shuffle board and a ping pong table. The ping pong table had high quality paddles and the wax/sand on the shuffle board table well maintained. In the other corner of the room you could work on your golf game with the phi golf swing stick or pretend you’re at the course with the golf arcade game. Also in the room were two Pelotons that probably encompassed the entirety of the gym budget (there’s a shower in the downstairs bathroom in case you were wondering); the Space Force has an odd affinity for Pelotons and it’s common to see senior leaders on the platform. The downstairs kitchen featured multiple beers on tap, a fridge of other bottled drinks, and organization branded glasses, mugs, and silverware. Fenced in a small outdoor eating area was a brand new unused grill.

The second floor features an open office concept with large windows and glass meeting rooms. Rows of standing desks enclose software teams in casual clothing, military uniforms are rarely seen here. The majority of the desks are empty, their computers remotely controlled by others working from home or wherever they felt like vacationing. Working from home was common even before the pandemic at tech giants; in fact, if every member of my team was in the office, there would not be enough space at our station for all of them. My team’s space had team specific stickers, matching costumes for developers who were “pair” programming, and wine that was somehow branded “Vandenberg Air Force Base” (not sure how they got the licensing to make that).

Also on the second floor is a kitchen stocked with a variety snacks, energy drinks, a coffee maker, and rotating kombucha tap. The kitchen features a large balcony and more Kobayashi Maru branded glasses/silverware. Lunch options rotated by day, I saw Chinese food, lasagna, and fried tacos catered by local restaurants.

Out of office fun there was an invitation to a beach day with food and jet skis that weekend.

I believe the intent behind this is to imitate silicon valley’s tech environment and encourage talent to work here. It’s worth noting that very few here are active duty military and even fewer are permanently assigned, most are civilians and contractors that could find better salaries elsewhere. While it’s nothing compared to the Google office, it’s a huge step in the right direction away from the quiet cubicle floors of neighboring LAAFB. I hope that other software factories around the service are also imitating this kind of culture and that the rebranding from “Section 31” to “Kobayashi Maru Organic Teams” changes KM to be more like S31, not the other way around.

Becoming an English Anime Dubber

So my friend sent me a snapchat of the Boruto dub the other day and it was… pretty bad in some places. Of course I appreciate that dubbing is no easy feat, especially since they probably don’t get much rehearsal, the lines need to be translated in a way that matches what’s on screen, and the anime style just fits better with Japanese than English. If you’ve somehow stumbled here instead of a reputable source, note that this is a blog about stupid plans/ideas, not actual advice.

Well that got me thinking… I love anime and would love to contribute to a production in one way or another. How would I land a gig? Well… most voice actors would probably call their agent and ask them to get them on an anime but getting picked up by an agent is not trivial and doing this full time is probably a good way to destroy my finances.

Though a lot of voice acting gigs could be done remotely (I do have some pretty nice sound equipment), since anime is serialized I imagine it’s still done in person meaning you’d have to live near the studio. Dubbing is done in Texas and Los Angeles. (Amazing write up on why by Justin Sevakis linked here)

Texas Based:

  1. Funimation, probably the most well known
  2. Sentai

LA Based:

  1. Studiopolis (probably responsible for the Boruto dub that inspired this)
  2. Bang Zoom
  3. NYAV Post
  4. Dubbing Brothers
  5. SDI Media
  6. and other post production studios…

Well luckily for me I’m from LA and intend to return within a few years. So all I have to do is get together a good foundation in acting before then. So what job training do I need?

Going back to our largest dubbing company, Chris Rager and Sonny Strait from Funimation host classes. Bang Zoom hosts an official class directly associated with their company. Typically these classes are done in a recording studio but are available online right now from the pandemic.

Bang Zoom hosts their own classes called “Adventures in Voice Acting”. They have multiple levels ranging from $160 at the intro level to $400 at the intermediate level. Classes range from 2 to 4 hours and the length of instruction seems to have no bearing on the cost. This could possibly be due to some classes being more in demand due to a known teacher. The reason why these courses are first is their “Intro to Voice Acting” class is designed for those with “no prior training in acting or voice over”. Yep that sounds like me, a perfect first step.

Sonny Strait’s Class, “Basic Anime Dubbing” sounds like a perfect course for us by name. This class used to record lines and create a demo for you but I don’t think they’re currently doing this due to the pandemic. I hope to attend this class if they ever bring back the sound engineer to create demos. The online class is currently $450.

Chris Rager’s class, “The Sessions: Voice Acting in Anime and Video Games” is $600 for four classes. From comments online it seems they also bring in VA guests and directors. While this seems like an amazing experience, I would hate to make a bad impression to anyone in the industry as a total newbie. So this class is going on the backburner. Chris Rager also recommends other classes on his twitter.

So this is where my plan will likely come to an end and differ from those who actually want to become voice actors. If you want to become a real VA… why are you reading this? The next step is probably to find an agent and network. The entertainment industry is pretty much always about who you know. The Voice Actors Network offers a way to do this by attending their clinics, you can see a lot of the companies I listed above being represented there. They require “at least two years of basic acting classes, at least one year of VO specific training, and professional VO demos” before attending their clinics.

I on the other hand will probably just randomly throw my hat in the ring and call it a fun experiment. Do they companies even do public casting calls? Funimation randomly does open auditions and requests resume’s/demos at though they don’t exactly check this email often. Sentai has done open auditions in the past, limiting it to the first 200 in the door but the post I saw was from five years ago. Bang Zoom does open auditions at Anime Expo, Anime Central, and probably other conventions. Though from what I’m reading online, it get’s crowded so a spot is far from guaranteed. Well, this is just a fun side hobby anyways. If I ever even audition I’d count that as a win.

So to summarize the plan:

  1. There are 2 places that dub anime, LA or Texas, move there to be near the studios.
  2. Bang Zoom has an intro class for complete acting amateurs, I’d start here.
  3. Sonny Strait’s class is anime dubbing specific and will create a pro demo for you. Chris Rager’s class seems to have a solid guest list and is recommended by others.
  4. The next realistic step is finding an agent and getting your name out there and land an audition. The voice actor’s network hosts clinics to rub shoulders with industry professionals once you’ve had enough training.

As a casual attempt, I will probably get a demo together and send it off to Funimation or attend open auditions at an Anime Convention with Bang Zoom. Putting my best foot forward in an open audition will be the goal for my journey. Practically everyone with a voice thinks they can be a VA, I’m not so disillusioned that I think I can do better than those with a real passion for the art.

Caption: The featured image is Shizuka from Shirobako. The show is about making anime and follows the production staff while they interact with the rest of the process from animation and computer graphics to scripting and directors. (Spoilers Ahead) When everything starts looking up for the other characters, things still aren’t going her way. VA is probably the most difficult job to land and while all her friends end up on the same anime production out of luck, she fails the audition. She has a day job at a restaurant, embarrasses herself on jobs / auditions, and even hushes her friend Miyamori when she attempts to network her to others in the industry when they stumbled into her restaurant. I know she’ll land a job eventually cause it’s a cute anime but they really depict her struggle well.