Saturday, August 25, 2007

What’s Your Problem?

Author : Katana

When a show gets licensed, fans are the first to complain. In fact, you could even say the motto of some fans is ‘complain as much as you can’. Voice work is one of the first things to go up to the chopping block, but another one receives even more speculation – content.

What will happen to the violence? The blood? The language? What’s gonna happen to sexual references and jokes, or nudity itself?

Remember Naruto, when it was announced that the popular ninja series was licensed? Fans and the anime press went into a frenzy. How would Viz treat the show? Would they get rid of Japanese words, like jutsu, or even cut out Naruto’s Sexy no Jutsu? And what about the blood? Ninjas fight a lot, and therefore, bleed a lot.

Well, it turned out our worries were put to rest.
Naruto, at least in its Toonami block, aired with a TV-PG rating, instead of the usual TV-Y7. Instead of “Fantasy Violence”, it typically garners up a real rating “Violence”, and even then some.
And even then, people complain.

The other day, I was talking to a friend of mine – an avid anime fan. We somehow got onto the topic of Naruto, and he said something along the lines of, “Naruto just doesn’t cut it for me.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, there’s the missing language and some blood gets cut out.”

This launched me into a question that every anime fan needs to ask his or herself.

“So what are you looking for in the series? If you like the anime for the fact that it’s about ninjas, has awesome fight scenes, displays strong bonds between people, and is about the trials of growing up, then you would like the series no matter how much blood or language is removed. Or are you just there for the blood and little kiddies swearing?”

His reply? “…Good point.”

By now, you’re probably saying to the monitor, ‘I like the series no matter what!’ But before you yell at me for doubting your fandom, I’ve got another problem to throw out at you.
One Piece.
What could’ve been the big hit before Naruto came, One Piece was a show licensed by 4Kids, the single company known for its horrible editing techniques. They’re motto (according to us), ‘Make it seem as if its Japanese existence never was’ has earned the wrath of many a fan. With their signature of changing Japanese names to English ones, erasing any foreign cultural references, changing all weapons to toys or lasers, and ripping out the original score and recomposing the entire show’s music, a series is undoubtedly doomed if licensed by this company.

But let’s create a new scenario – well, at least, a slightly better one. What if 4Kids had given One Piece great voice actors, kept the original names, music, and cultural references, but still kept the fake weapons, no blood, and no language? (In other words, this would mean getting licensed by a company, like, say, Viz.) Would you like it then? It’s a real toss-up.

Many series that have been licensed – by companies other than 4Kids – have received this sort of treatment. One of the best examples might just be the DragonBall series.
Sure, many fans just cringe at the name – the bajillion episode long epic of psychotically ripped fighters who continuously fight for the Earth or some other random planet.
And yet, for being a series licensed in anime’s relatively early days, it did a decent job of not being too harshly edited. Sure, the blood was edited out, but it had to fit the TV-Y7 rating. Other than that, names remained the same, what little culture references there were pretty much left in tact, and the music didn’t seem to suffer.

By now, however, you might be thinking to yourself, “What’s up with all these edits anyhow? In Japan, Detective Conan (Case Closed) is a family show. Yet here, it barely made it to Adult Swim. What’s up with that?”
The answer? Culture. Culture culture culture. I can’t stress it enough.

As far as my knowledge goes, the United States and Europe have general clashes when it comes to movie content. While the US allows violence but shuns nudity, the general European populace allows nudity but shuns violence.
In that aspect, the way the Japanese raise their children is totally different than the way Americans raise theirs. In Japan, children are introduced to the themes of violence and death relatively early in life, providing them a portal to the real world and what reality is like. In the US, though, parents nowadays want to protect their children from these ‘mature’ themes from them as long as possible.

“Nowadays?” you wonder. “What do you mean…now?”

Like the general populace of theOtaku, the main part of my childhood took place in the ‘90s. Oh how I remember shows like Sesame Street, which had an episode dedicated to explaining death to a child, the rather edgy cartoon Ren and Stimpy, and live-action thriller shows like Are You Afraid of the Dark?. As lame as these examples may sound (mainly the latter two), those types of shows are in relative obscurity these days. You may find an episode airing in the rather-dead 1:00pm timeslot, but chances are slim. Hardly any shows such as those two are being made today.

So what is the answer to the age-old anime question, “What’s with the edits?” Quite simply, it’s the way children are raised. As each generation grows older and has children, they feel a need to protect them and shelter them from the cold harshness of reality. Death and violence are themes today’s parents don’t want their precious children to know about until they’re much older.

But on the flip side…you’ve got Toonami.

Toonami has recently been airing shows intended for an audience of older children and teenagers – kids who grew up with the programming block and want to stick with it. Naruto has become a smash hit, with Mattel churning out toys and ninja accessories for these ninja-addicted kids. Naruto has been the highest-rated show on the block, and rightfully so. Besides being a plain awesome show, it appeals to the older audience who are tired of kiddy shows and need some action, but caters to the kids for the ‘cool’ factor.

I-GPX also pushed the boundaries for Toonami, which is probably why it earned the latest timeslot in the program (until of late). In the last episode of the first season, there came the first swear. And come season two, the swears kept coming, making even myself raise some eyebrows. I-GPX, which, although doesn’t contain any real violence, contained some themes parents probably didn’t like all too much.

And lest we forget – Bobobo-bo Bo-bobo has also teetered between being a Y7 and PG show. Even though few seem to publicly like it, the show has done well enough to stay on the bock. This may be one of the best examples of an impossible-to-succeed show. With kanji thrown out a mile a minute and tons of Japanese references, Bobobo-bo takes 4Kids’s theories about editing and –

(The previous sentence was stopped for content purposes. The writer apologizes, but she says you can use your imagination.)

But back to the main question…When you watch an edited show, what do you expect from it? If you watched it in fansub form – complete with violence, blood, and the language – how high are your hopes for the dub?

Sit and think about the answer to this question: When you watch an anime airing in a timeslot meant for pre-teens and the like, what are looking for? Do you want a series with an excellent story and animation? Or are you just there for the bloodbath, language, and violence? The answer is up to you.

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