Hey guys, it’s time for anime! We’ve talked about censorship and Dragon Ball Z before and there was a lot of goofy stuff in there, but most of that censorship is symptomatic of greater weirder trends in anime censorship that happens during localization. Let’s take a look at 5 bizarre ways that anime has been censored. Blood and violence. They go together hand in hand. There’s the original dream team. They’ve been together longer than Romeo and Juliet, just sucking face on each other so hard. But in recent years, censors have shown some serious favoritism, preferring violence to blood. Shows like Dragon Ball Z that are about buff dudes who yell and punch each other a lot tend to get toned down in localization presumably to attract more plasma-phobic advertisers. But sometimes, scrubbing out the red stuff is just weird. Like this scene from Detective Conan. the original version features some real-deal soggy corpse action at a grisly murder scene. Admittedly gruesome, but the censored version doesn’t end up making much sense. Our dead body now looks like a guy who’s guilty of being caught taking a floor nap. Everyone’s favorite localizers 4Kids have been slightly more clever even if a little more on the nose with their censorship. In this scene from One Piece, they take a hilariously small amount of blood and literally cover it up with a Band-Aid. There’s kind of like a latent smugness to this unlike Detective Conan, you could wipe away this blood and viewers would be none the wiser. But 4Kids have never been about doing things the easy way… or the right way. Another odd trend is recoloring red blood to black and now would be a good time to skip ahead about 15 seconds if you don’t want to hear me talk about the twist ending to School Days. I mean, not that there’s a twist ending if you haven’t watched the show… It’s a normal ending. It has nothing to do with blood. It does. But if you know the end of School Days, you know that it’s a real gross shit show. That is unless you’re seeing the censored version where Makoto is apparently a leaky-ass robot who’s Exxon Valdez-ing oil all over the freakin’ place To top it all off, notice how the murder weapon has gone missing in action. Tokyo Ghoul found an even better, even lazier way of obscuring the blood. Rather than erase it or recolor it, they did a nice two-stroke invert filter over the whole image in Photoshop. And speaking of Photoshop, we’ve got a whole other category about fudging images. Beyond blood, there are all kinds of no-nos in Western TV censorship that Japanese audiences wouldn’t even bat an eye at. Take for instance Sanji from One Piece, who appears nothing short of a chain-smoker in the Japanese version of the show. But when 4Kids was localizing, they did what they do best and came up with a solution that’s both hilarious and wholly completely idiotic. Trading emphysema for diabetes, they tossed a bright red dollop of goo at the end of every coffin nail that Sanji smoked, turning it into a bright red lollipop. And this seems like a lot of effort. It was probably some poor intern’s job to scrub through the entire series, frame by frame, to add a candy topper to slightly alter Sanji’s oral fixation. In many cases, like the one seen above, 4Kids completely redrew the lollipop, stem included. It’s a confounding decision. After all, if you have to scrub frame by frame through the whole scene to make the change, you might as well just remove the cigarette entirely. And this is actually the direction that the later less crappy dubs ended up taking. But 4Kids didn’t earn their reputation with just a little goof up here or there. This behavior has a pattern. Check out this untouched scene from Yu-Gi-Oh! featuring two men brandishing pistols, spurring Kaiba to jump through a plate-glass window to escape and then, check out the 4Kids’ version where the pair of MIB’s lethal weapons are replaced with a stern disappointing finger of an accusatory father. I guess the shame instilled by these pointers is still enough to send Kaiba leaping. The 4Kids adaptation makes it look like Kaiba would rather commit suicide then get a stern lecture from his two dads. On the other end of things, the localizers at DiC we’re all about preventing people from flying through glass with safety belts! Check out this scene from Sailor Moon where a seat-belt is lazily drawn over Ami’s lap. And as dumb as all of this is, the German localizers still have the Americans beat. When it comes to violence in media, Germany has a kind of touchy history with it. Why that is I can’t possibly imagine, but the results are insanely goofy decisions. Like this scene from their edit of Naruto which paints out Zabuza’s sword in its entirety. Yep, leave it to Germany to make 4Kids look good. There’s a very fine line between censorship and localization, after all, I mean, a lot of times things are removed not because they’re offensive, but because they just might not make a lot of sense in another language. This doesn’t begin to justify some of the very bizarre decisions to localize text in the localization of Sonic X. Here’s the original:
Ice Express International [read as Internal] Logistics. Despite sounding like a boring non-place that your uncle might work, there’s nothing offensive or strange about that text. All the same, American youth were spared from having to look at it at all. And before you blame something like “rights issues over a copyrighted name”, try explaining changing this… to this… Last time I checked, a book store was not a trademarked brand that needed enforcement. Then again, maybe they just removed the text because the idea of a brick-and-mortar book store was already becoming ludicrous in 2006. If you had a load of Kanji that American audiences couldn’t be expected to read because the outside world only exists when made convenient for us, you’d expect the text to change, but in the English dub, it’s just completely blank. And what Wile E. Coyote moment of hilarity are we missing here? Eeeeh We’ll never know, thanks to 4Kids. Part of what makes 4Kids so fascinating is they’re constantly bobbing and weaving in a serpentine path, avoiding our fire, never being pinned down, so they could surprise us in new and baffling ways. While they may not be bothered to make the cultural leap of translating a sign in one show, in another show, like Pokémon, they may go through absurd effort to try and disguise the fact that show is from another country entirely. Brock: These donuts are great! Jelly-filled are my favorite! Nothing beats a jelly-filled donut! “Brock Loves Donuts” is a now classic internet meme thanks in part to 4Kids thinking it would be easier convincing kids that this is a jelly-filled donut then it would be to just explain that other foods exist somewhere out there. Later episodes went a step further in the war on rice balls when they painstakingly painted over rice balls with the most classic of American foods: the humble sub sandwich. This is so ludicrous! It’s like a super-villain plot meant to make American children dumber. The disrespect for culture on both sides is so intense you could almost smell the rancid tonsil stones lurking in the back of the censors’ throat. [omg why?] That was graphic. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Yeah, I mean kids can be dumb, but they’re not morons and don’t deprive them of the opportunity to learn about a different people on the other side of the world. And worst of all, don’t endear Subway to them! Ewww! The most of upsetting thing about this type of localization is that a lot of the times… Japan is in on it. For instance, Doraemon, everyone’s favorite time-traveling robot cat whose ears were eaten off by a robot mouse, is one of the most popular Japanese series that never caught on in the States. But in their attempts to make the character a big hit stateside, like a recent deal made with Disney, it was the original animation studio’s idea to remove chopsticks from the series and replace them with forks. When it comes to making the series seem less Japanese, this solution is a lot like putting a Band-Aid on a missing torso. The buildings are patently Japanese, characters still kneel on the floor while eating, the cars drive on the wrong side of the road. The only way the show could be more Japanese if Godzilla showed up to fight a tentacle monster with a samurai sword. Despite this, Japan is actually pretty okay with these localization tweaks, especially because the government has a totally real and completely not made-up program called “Cool Japan” whose goal is to spread Japanese culture through the world. And as everyone knows, the easiest way to be accepted as cool is to just tell everybody that you’re cool. Like, I’m cool. You know that I’m cool, right?
[nervous laughter] [awkward silence] I’m cool, right?! [awkward silence] Guys? Aah! Sex and nudity! Yup! It’s in the thumbnail, probably because everyone knows that’s where the good stuff is. The good censorship, I’m talking about. Blood and cigarettes and rice balls are one thing, but the length that a censor will go through to hide even just the suggestion of a human body will always bring a smile to my face. Whether it’s DiC moving up the line of some water to protect children from the horror of finding adult sight of about a half inch of cleavage, or turning a Sailor Moon episode scented bath into a deep crimson pool of blood, censors always flip out at the sight of a bath. The no-nude proclamation covers little boys too. In Dragon Ball, a living human being was paid real money to draw water to cover a couple of concentric c’s that represented a five-year-old Goku’s wee wee-wee. Though, to this one’s credit, why was Goku just standing naked in an empty tub anyway? Goku, use the toilet like a big boy! Come on! People shower in there. But the real hero of bizarro censorship tools is the ever-present white shaft of holy purifying light exemplified here in high school sex comedy
“To Love-Ru”. Perfectly placed, you’d almost believe it was coming through a window. But it’s SO convenient, that it’s almost distracting. Then again, maybe that’s the point, right? We’ve mentioned before that anime studios are willing to go the extra mile to squeeze some spare cents out of their audience with uncensored physical Blu-ray discs. This may be bordering a conspiracy theory, but have you ever wondered why legal streaming sites like Crunchyroll are only provided with a censored version? Maybe that censured version is just an advertisement for the $50 box set. Think about it! And other censorship may make slightly more sense when the intended audience is younger like with Yo-kai Watch. But one has to wonder, if the kids are really staying up this late to watch raunchy programs with bikini-clad cat girls, what’s actually being communicated if it’s altered so that the kids are staying up late to watch mostly fully dressed girls tamer than most any music video you’d find on YouTube? And this suffers a further complication. In the Japanese version, the mischievous Yo-kai changes the channel to some sweaty buff men to the kids’ dismay. In the alt version, it’s… a cooking show… Hardly the polar opposite of what they were originally going after, because… What were they originally going after? And some shows actually do manage to handle censorship well, like Rosario to Vampire which at least chose to acknowledge the inevitability of edits with a little dash of humor. Especially in the second season of the show. Rosario’s TV broadcast was crowded with cutesy so-called fact bats who would pop up to obscure a panty shot or any other matter of fan service. However, these would only really show up about half the time there’s anything questionable on the screen leading one to believe that maybe they’re not actually necessary in the first place. And if we’re being honest, it’s probably just another reason to upsell uncut Blu-rays. Who knows? Maybe one day someone will figure out how to illegally access massive amounts of uncut anime. But until then… guess we’re f*cked!