Kintamayama

The English commentators- views

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Posted (edited)

This is a personal assessment which means nothing in the vast picture. After doing the videos in English for a while now and accumulating hours of editing while listening to them, I have reached these conclusions re the English commentators:

Not a good idea to compare them with the Japanese side- totally different audience. The Japanese side is speaking to sumo fans who know. The English side always has foreign fans who are not aficionados in mind and rightly so. Initially, some were hard on my ears, but now I have come to appreciate their efforts. 

Murray Johnson- My favorite-a lot of humor, a lot of knowledge, good voice, the accent is part of the bundle. Not afraid to criticize when needed and walk a tightrope, which I find quite refreshing. Very entertaining.

Ross Mihara- Pleasant voice, very clear in his explanations, a lot of knowledge, easy on the ears.

Hiro Morita- Takes time to get used to his accent and voice. He talks a lot, maybe a bit too much, and uses same phrases over and over again (maybe that's a good thing?), but he totally knows his sumo  and evidently loves his work-dedicated and although sometimes off the wall, he has a lot of inside stories regarding the rikishi and those anecdotes are gold. Once you get past the accent, he is quite fun to listen to.

Raja Pradhan- his high pitched voice may annoy some, but again, he is very knowledgeable and does great work.

Summary- I find the sometimes harsh critique of the English commentators to be unfair, usually stemming from comparing them to the Japanese side. Apples and sushi. They are doing a great job, and when the color commentators return, it will be even better.

Disclaimer- I don't know any of them personally, unless exchanging banter with Murray on Facebook counts..

 

Edited by Kintamayama
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32 minutes ago, Kintamayama said:

Murray Johnson- My favorite-a lot of humor, a lot of knowledge, good voice, the accent is part of the bundle. Not afraid to criticize when needed and walk a tightrope, which I find quite refreshing. Very entertaining.

Ross Mihara- Pleasant voice, very clear in his explanations, a lot of knowledge, easy on the ears.

Hiro Morita- Takes time to get used to his accent and voice. He talks a lot, maybe a bit too much, and uses same phrases over and over again (maybe that's a good thing?), but he totally knows his sumo  and evidently loves his work-dedicated and although sometimes off the wall, he has a lot of inside stories regarding the rikishi and those anecdotes are gold. Once you get past the accent, he is quite fun to listen to.

Raja Pradhan- his high pitched voice may annoy some, but again, he is very knowledgeable and does great work.

Are we related?

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Raja is how I learned all the terminology when I first started watching. He's great for first-timers.

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Posted (edited)

I think the main problem for me is maybe one of personality. I'm not a hot-blooded type, so I'm not a big fan of very pulse-pumping colour commentary; for that reason I prefer Ross and Murray's calmer voiceovers to Raja and Hiro's. Hiro I feel feels like he needs to fill up all of his airtime, which results in a fair amount of odd filler from his English phrasing. Raja makes up for it by sprinkling in a number of anecdotes when he gets put in a mawashi/heya - I recall him recounting an anecdote of facing Tamawashi's thrusts during one of his matches.

Edited by Seiyashi
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Posted (edited)

The English commentators are stuck between a rock and a hard place. They have to cater to an audience of new fans and experienced ones. Maybe Japanese ones do too, but their starting point is higher because most Japanese are probably familiar with the basics and have the language skills to infer meaning in a lot of what they hear (i.e. They can work out what an 'oshidashi' is without being told.)

To be honest, the above is a perennial problem, even on this forum at times (though not too much). If you watch the livestreams, you’ll see a lot of comments from Westerners who are seeing sumo for the first time. The questions they ask are very repetitive. I usually shut down the chats to ignore it. Reddit and the YT digest threads have their fair share of newbies too. Don’t get me wrong, I love new fans – who doesn’t want more people to talk to about sumo? – but there comes a time when you want more insight and don’t want to keep explaining the rank structure or that “Yokozuna” is not awarded to anyone who wins a championship. Sumo has a lot of turnover in its fans (see the number of dead accounts on this forum for people who have come and gone) so you have to get used to going over old ground, but it's nice to grow beyond that.

As for the commentators, I think Murray does the best balancing act. He will help explain sumo terminology, but manages to make it sound like a Japanese language pointer rather than a condescending ‘You’re foreigners so you don’t know anything about sumo’ type of comment. He also slips it in quite naturally and casually, almost as an aside, and his delivery is measured and calm, which gives his commentary a little more gravitas. It suits the sport.

Edited by Eikokurai
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1 hour ago, Kintamayama said:

Summary- I find the sometimes harsh critique of the English commentators to be unfair, usually stemming from comparing them to the Japanese side. Apples and sushi. They are doing a great job, and when the color commentators return, it will be even better.

 Disclaimer- I don't know any of them personally, unless exchanging banter with Murray on Facebook counts..

Fully agree, this is my number one issue with fans who are critical of the English commentary. It simply isn't the same product or the same target audience, and you can't compare them.

However, apart from JG I have struggled with the color commentary, I feel like many times the commentators just tell us what we already saw. Personally I've often felt that when John isn't on the crew then I'd be happier to hear the play-by-play guys alone, although I know that's an enormously difficult job.

I was fortunate to have a great and lengthy conversation a couple years ago with Murray (around the same time I had a great and lengthy conversation with @Kintamayama, haha) which can be found elsewhere on the internet and he went into some detail about the experience of working with a partner or alone. I found that really interesting. Interesting stuff for those of us who like to get really into the weeds.

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Posted (edited)

Murray is my favourite, too, but I tend to like Aussies. (I know it's a sweeping generalisation, but I think it's something to do with their cultural aspiration to be great blokes.)

I also like Ross Mihara, mainly because he sounds so much like George Takei!

Now I think about it, Hiro and Raja seem to have blended into a single excitable, cliché-spouting entity in my head... "Running out of real estate" "And that's all she wrote." 
I don't dislike them, but I don't think I'd miss them.

Incidentally, I tend to watch the Japanese coverage first (via NattoSumo). As I barely understand little more than the winner and kimarite announcements, I can watch without being influenced by it. Watching Moti's videos with the English commentary is a very different experience. I tend to learn more and see less, although sometimes they point out stuff I missed before. 
Edits that cut them off mid-sentence are a lot more annoying, though.

Edited by RabidJohn
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Posted (edited)

I think the thing with Murray is his own lack of enthusiasm makes him seem less like he’s trying to “sell” sumo to the audience. He speaks and acts as if the people watching don’t need to be entertained or to be convinced of sumo’s excitement. The others are good as they offer something different, but I prefer Murray’s nonchalance. He’s like “Here’s the sumo. I’ll tell you what I think about it, and if you like it, that’s nice.” He’s not trying to Westernize sumo coverage just because it’s for Westerners (well, mostly–English speakers at least). I hope NHK never has the idea of bringing in some ex-NFL panellists for overly excitable play-by-plays. 

Edited by Eikokurai
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21 minutes ago, RabidJohn said:

Incidentally, I tend to watch the Japanese coverage first

Me too actually, if that's an option. The Japanese feels like diagetic sound. It's part of the world of sumo. English commentary can feel like it's layered over the top, a little incongruous. It's more noticeable to me, which is odd as you'd think my own language would stand out less. Maybe I'm just used to being surrounded by language I don't know so it feels normal to me now.

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Eikokurai said:

 I hope NHK never has the idea of bringing in some ex-NFL panellists for overly excitable play-by-plays. 

They don't need to go abroad for completely OTT commentary. Casters from other events in Japan make Hiro and Raja seem staid by comparison.
The EVO esports events (Tekken, Street Fighter, Smash Bros, etc.) over there seem to select casters on the basis of being able to scream for a sustained period without losing their voice.
There was even one esports event hosted by a female porn star who took off her panties, signed them, and gave them to the loser of each match... 

Edited by RabidJohn
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I personally can't stand any of them, and the only reason i no longer watch your videos is because you no longer provide jap commentary, which is a shame since i prefer your minimalist style much more compared to the others.

 

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Completely agree, Murray and Ross are the only ones I listen to, the other 2 I always mute. I know in particular Hiro is very knowledgeable but he's too loud and in your face and I don't rate Raja at all.

I like John Gunning too but very rarely see him now on the commentary what with Covid etc.

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14 minutes ago, RabidJohn said:

They don't need to go abroad for completely OTT commentary. Casters from other events in Japan make Hiro and Raja seem staid by comparison.
The EVO esports events (Tekken, Street Fighter, Smash Bros, etc.) over there seem to select casters on the basis of being able to scream for a sustained period without losing their voice.
There was even one esports event hosted by a female porn star who took off her panties, signed them, and gave them to the loser of each match... 

That's why I stopped watching SFV tournaments, the commentators were horrendous! However, looking for E Honda's moves on YouTube brought me into the world of sumo so every cloud as they say...

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As sport commentator in Spain, I fully understand it. When I commentate curling I know that there are some people watching the sport who are experts in the sport and there are probably a lot of newbies who surely don't know even the most basic rules, and you have to talk to both groups at the same time. I'm sure that it happens the same with sumo and I think they do a great job

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Posted (edited)

I like the fact that the English commentators use English and Japanese terms together, like "He gets the oshidashi pushout victory." It's a funny way to be accessible and yet teach viewers what the proper terminology is. I very rarely listen to them though, since I watch sumo on a Japanese TV stream, so I only ever hear them when watching Youtube videos.

Edited by dada78641

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4 hours ago, RabidJohn said:


Edits that cut them off mid-sentence are a lot more annoying, though.

I don't think I do that too much, but edits are edits and they must occur, so sometimes, mid-sentence is the price. At least they are faded out and not stopped abruptly..

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Yokozuna Hattorizakura said:

I personally can't stand any of them, and the only reason i no longer watch your videos is because you no longer provide jap commentary, which is a shame since i prefer your minimalist style much more compared to the others.

 

Well, you can't win 'em all.. I lost more than 60% of my viewers, but I'm OK with that.

Edited by Kintamayama
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Always watch with Japanese commentary. Feels more authentic, helps round out the experience, and helps with learning the language. Only exception is watching historical footage of bashos past where there’s no choice about commentary.

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I remember back in the 1970's, FEN (Far-East Network, now AFN or American Forces Network) used to do a radio simul-cast of sumo with Sumo World editor Andy Adams doing the commentary.  I'm pretty sure that's where I learned the most about sumo.  It was then I learned that anybody speaking English about sumo is a good thing.

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I like them all.  My quibbles about Hiro Morita are just that -- quibbles.  They make the basho interesting, and they include a ton of inside information. 

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I agree with most of Kintamayamas OP. They all have their own angle and entertainment value. I actually enjoy the idiom barrages in some perverse way.

One thing I prefer about the Japanese broadcasts is that they show much more of the live-action. The extended English coverage on NHK on Sundays suffers from the constant cut-aways to charts data and other various asides. I want to see the the niramiai, the myriad of actions of the yobidashi, the parade of kensho.  I want to hear the crowd and the clapping of the hyoshigi...

OK, I guess I want to be there. I'm grateful to all of our English commentators, as well, and for the internet and televised broadcasts we get, but I only record the preview and daily highlights these days. And, Sumopedia! Even though I've seen them all two or three times. I've given up on the extended shows on shonichi, nakabi, and senshuraku.

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9 hours ago, Kintamayama said:

Hiro Morita- Takes time to get used to his accent and voice. He talks a lot, maybe a bit too much, and uses same phrases over and over again (maybe that's a good thing?), but he totally knows his sumo  and evidently loves his work-dedicated and although sometimes off the wall, he has a lot of inside stories regarding the rikishi and those anecdotes are gold. Once you get past the accent, he is quite fun to listen to.

I usually don't pay much attention to the announcers in any sport I watch so either is fine for me. I would say though it's very annoying the hear English catchphrases like "Let's get ready to rumble", etc, in any sport, for me. That doesn't add anything for me and actually makes me think less of the person saying it. It gives the impression these silly things add to the entertainment while they detract IMO.

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I don't hear Ross Mihara as much, but he has by far the smoothest delivery.  He was born and raised on the US West Coast and Hawaii, and moved to Japan in 1994.

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Murray is my favourite, though they all do a good job in their own individual ways.

 

Swami

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I began watching sumo again in the mid-1980s but didn't get the full NHK Bilingual English audio telecasts until the early (?) 1990s. Each broadcast had a play-by-play announcer (Dave Wiggins, anyone?) and a color analyst (my friend *loves* to reminisce about Clyde "The Glide" Newton), along with a third person translating "hanamichi reports." Those days offered a more balanced voice for viewers and didn't feel obliged to cater to "Sumo 101" n00bs.

Kinda tough for a solo voice for a couple hours. As has been intimated in previous posts here, the color analyst will make its return to NHK Bilingual soon.

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