This is why some anime characters talk like rednecks

Anime dubs can sometimes be a mixed bag, especially when the translators have the tricky task of getting Western audiences to grips with concepts that don’t have a direct cultural equivalent. This is particularly true when it comes to accents, with many productions relying on stereotypes found in the English-speaking world. One particularly tricky trope that dubs often face is the Idiot from Osaka.

In Japan, the Kansai accent (or Kansai-ben) is a popular one, and is particularly recognisable amongst countrymen. This is the dialect spoken in the Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe regions, and has several different variations that broadly use the same grammar. Kyoto-ben is known to be a fairly posh way of speaking, owing to the aristocratic history of the city. Osaka-ben is especially notorious, however, for its use in portraying comic-relief anime characters.

The more you know…. 🌠

This trope comes from the real-life connotations that come with the Osakan accent. Where the Tokyo and Kyoto regions are regarded as genteel and reserved (and maybe a bit snobby), the people of Osaka (and even Kansai as a whole) are viewed as boisterous, rude and rough around the edges. I couldn’t tell you the social or political origins of this stereotype, but TV Tropes seems to think that it’s something to do with the relative lack of industrial demand in the city. It’s far from the sticks, though, with it being the commercial centre of the island of Honshu.

Atsumu from Haikyu!!
The pride of Hyogo.

Regardless, the characters that come from this trope – think Atsumu from Haikyu!!, Kero-chan from Card Captor Sakura, and of course Osaka herself from Azumanga Daioh – are often given Deep South or even Brooklyn accents in their dubs. This makes sense to an extent, though it has the unfortunate side-effect of implying that characters are rednecks or hillbillies, as well as evoking many of the equally unfortunate “rural” stereotypes that come with those labels. Sweet home Alabama, indeed.

Personally, I think a New York-ish accent is a better fit for this trope – Osaka doesn’t exactly seem like a place where country bumpkins are born and made (despite what other regions may think!) And of course, we can’t forget that many characters with this accent don’t fit the stereotype at all. The previously-mentioned Azumanga Diaoh, Osaka (real name Ayumu Kasuga) is quiet and slow to anger, and contains a wealth of knowledge in marine biology (particularly sea slugs). And she was born in Kobe!

Osaka from Azumanga Diaoh
Damn, sensei, cool it with the microaggressions.

Other characters are from the Kansai region but don’t speak in the accent. Death Note’s Misa Amane is from Osaka, but wouldn’t be caught speaking Osaka-ben – it wouldn’t be idol-like. Goro Majima of Yakuza speaks in Kansai-ben only as part of his Mad Dog persona, and is quick to drop it when the need arises. There’s a whole host of examples that subvert or avert the Idiot from Osaka trope – probably as many as there are examples where it’s played straight.

While it’s a shame that dubs can’t explain the Idiot from Osaka trope in great detail, subs aren’t all that superior in this respect. You can of course try and accent the subtitles of the Osakan in question, but that doesn’t do a much better job of bridging the cultural gap. In both cases, it implies that anyone with even a slightly different accent to the norm is a bit uncouth. Well, I guess it’s not so different in America or the UK – just ask a Scot!

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