Yo-Kai Watch listed for October 3rd premiere on Teletoon
Zap2it and other on-screen TV guides have listed a new addition to Teletoon’s Saturday afternoon lineup, and it’s the Japanese sensation Yo-Kai Watch! Finding itself on the back third of an unbranded Saturday action block, Level-5’s story about a world of mischievous monsters is set for an October 3rd premiere at 2PM EDT.
So, what is Yo-Kai Watch? Dentsu Entertainment, the show’s western handler, describes it as the following:
YO-KAI WATCH is an animated comedy series that follows the hilarious misadventures of an average human boy and his involvement with the mischievous Yo-kai all around him. Our young hero obtains a special watch, empowering him to discover and summon the mysterious Yo-kai, befriend them, and then work together to solve everyday problems… problems that are often caused by other trouble-making Yo-kai!
The company has picked up 26 episodes of OLM’s currently ongoing anime adaptation. The English dub is produced in Los Angeles and features Johnny Yong Bosch as the lead character Nate. You can check out the rest of the cast and some English dub clips here. Teletoon will host the world premiere of Yo-Kai Watch‘s English dub, though Disney XD’s 5-episode premiere event will see the US in the lead by the end of the week.
The franchise is the latest mixed media push from Professor Layton and LBX creators Level-5. As such, the anime is only one component of a franchise that consists of games, movies, soundtracks, manga, toys, trading cards, apparel and other licensed goods. In Japan, the property has become one of the largest hits of the last twenty years, with the show gaining high ratings, cumulative game sales surpassing 9 million units, and merch grossing over $1.5 billion since its introduction in 2013. With things slowing down domestically, there appears to be a genuine attempt to emulate that initial success in the west. Viz has signed on for English manga publishing, Nintendo for the 3DS games, and Hasbro will produce an extensive toyline due out next year.
Yo-Kai Watch‘s western performance is one that will have a lot of people watching. Will it be able to match its success in Japan? Can it topple genre leader Pokémon? While Level-5 has the right partners involved, I’m not convinced of it being a huge hit outside of Asia. I’m at least 10 years removed from this property’s target demo, but I see Yo-Kai Watch as far more Japanese than anything that has struck it big in the west. Many of the ghouls are unmistakably based on Japanese folklore, and while that’s not alienating by itself, there are times where you wonder if the franchise is a commentary on Japanese society. One of the recurring cast members is a lecherous businessman that hopes his transformation into a poodle can allow him to get away with being a perv. I also have to mention the franchise’s mascot Jibanyan (the cat seen in the centre of the promo pic at the top) and his obsession for NyaKB; a very unsubtle reference to Japanese idol group AKB48.
Of course who knows how much of that will remain intact in the western versions. Early glimpses have already shown heavily localized names, and Dentsu’s prior localization of Level-5’s LBX saw a 44-episode series whittled down to 26. If they go that same route, I’m fascinated to see how audiences will react to a very Japanese show pretending it’s not Japanese. Should they get there, I’m even more curious to see how they’ll handle the current Yo-Kai Watch storyline in Japan, which has the characters move to the U.S. … No matter what happens, I do hope they keep shark Steve Jobs.
If you’re wondering why Yu-Gi-Oh! Arc-V isn’t listed as new, that’s because Teletoon has chosen to air premieres on Friday nights at 8PM EDT. That’s the first time the channel has shown a fully Japanese show in prime time in many years. Transformers: Robots in Disguise is currently out of season.
With that little bit of house keeping out of the way, I leave you with the Japanese Yo-Kai Watch ending theme. Not only has the song gotten kids to mimic the on-screen moves, it’s also the basis for an upcoming Wii U Just Dance spinoff: