|The Anime Translation and American Society Problem - by Dan Bednarski (August 6th, 2001)|
Over the years, there has been a lot of anime dubbed mainly for TV airing. Shows such as Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball Z, Pokemon, Gundam Wing, Tenchi, and Cardcaptors, to name a few. It's pretty obvious that, for the most part, have been censored and had lots of stuff cut when crossing the Pacific. There are many aspects to why a show is treated how it is, and I plan to go through all of them here. There are also a lot of reactions to a dubbed version of a show. People like it, don't mind it, or hate it just because a lot was done to it. I plan to go through all the reactions to a show as well, and go through a lot of other related things as I go on.
Let's start with fansubs. I know you probably all know this, but a fansub is the original episode aired in Japan, where a fan has added subtitles in English so people can understand what's going on and what they're saying, and even signs sometimes. It's usually pretty accurate when translated. They're purpose is simple, to show fans the real show until a sub is commercially released. I like fansubs, they do their job well, and for the most part, people are pretty good of taking down episodes of anime as they get licensed and released. Purists love fansubs as they can see anime how it was meant to be, but ere are lots of people, me included, that would like to enjoy anime without them and in they're own language. We Sailor Moon fans are lucky when it comes to fansubs. Our subs are made using LaserDiscs as the master and not a Japanese TV source, and we only have two major subtitlers instead of many. Most shows use the actual TV airing in Japan as it's master and subtitle it from there, which doesn't really help the quality. Not to mention that as generations of tapes go on, quality sacrifices a lot and really starts to look like crap after a while. I saw a couple DBZ subs last year from one of these tapes. While it was only a fifth generation tape, it was from a TV source, and quality wasn't really too good. I could read the subtitles and was able to see pretty much everything what was going on, but it wasn't really that impressive (though watching the Japanese commercials was cool and funny). Don't get me wrong, I love fansubs, if I didn't MKBO wouldn't exist, but I would like to be able to enjoy watching an anime without having to read subtitles on the screen all the time. I would really like to be able to watch a perfectly translated dub and not have to worry about anything being lost in the translation. However, every time I think of that, I'm reminded of a quote from Tyler Loch of Toonami Digital Arsenal which is sadly very true, "No creative work, whether it's a book, television show or speech, was meant to be translated." And I'm going to show why that statement is very true.
One thing that makes a translation impossible is cultural differences. There are just some aspects of the Japanese culture that only people who have studied it would really understand. Watch some dubbed episodes of Neon Genesis Evangelion (NGE) if you get a chance and you'll see. NGE is a very well done dub and one of the best ones that I've seen, but there many references to aspects of Japanese culture and a casual viewer wouldn't understand. I've studied Japanese culture for a semester in high school, so I'm pretty much ok when any references to the culture is made, but there are so many people who haven't and wouldn't understand a thing. The Japanese are also open minded about many things that Americans are just too dense to accept. Things like homosexuality, death, cursing, and anything referring to sex, to name a few (notice the absence of violence on that small list). I'll get to all that later though, where it makes more sense to go off about them.
So now let's go to the dubbing companies perspective. Quoting Tyler Loch again (this guy made some good points in a rant he did, but I promise, I'm only using these two for this) from dubbing companies perspective this time, "They are making an American show for Americans. Not a Japanese show for Americans." This is true, just go through this whole site for proof. When a show is dubbed for American TV airing, there is so much changed and some people would even argue that the original and dub versions of a show are two totally different shows. I say this about TV dubs because for every dub I've seen on TV there has always been so much changed. I can't really comment on DVD/VHS only releases, because the only two I've seen of them are NGE and Princess Mononoke, both of which I would say are excellent dubs.
It's pretty much known by now that anime dubbed for American TV is made for kids. It's gotten so bad that anime fans are afraid to freely admit they are anime fans. People in general believe anime is kid's stuff as well, because the anime on TV is just that. After a long time, I've finally gotten it through to my friends that anime is great and so much better than what's shown on TV. I got my friend and soon to be roommate Kevin to start liking it by having us watch Princess Mononoke at his house, then a few weeks later, me, Kev, and Steve watched the first two DVDs of NGE. Right now Kev is borrowing two of my NGE DVDs, and Steve, who was biggest bitch with me about anime, borrowed the whole NGE series on tape from one of our friends, and even is introducing me to a couple of good anime movies. This proves that in general, Americans think that animation is kid's stuff. There have been some good strides over the years to open American's eyes of animation. Shows such at The Simpsons, South Park, and Duckman, to name a few, have started to open American's eyes of animation. Yes they went through tough times because these shows "aren't for kids," but they survived and are doing very well regardless.
But this isn't enough, as there will always be this closed minded view of animation. It's going to take a lot to open American's minds on animation, and many other issues as well. This September, Cartoon Network is starting a new block called Adult Swim. This block will be pure adult animation programming, and there's even going to be an anime on it, Cowboy Bebop. I think that making Adult Swim is a good move on Cartoon Network's part, and I really hope that the closed minded view of animation can be opened with its help. Another good stride taken by Cartoon Network is Samurai Jack, which will air for the first time in mid-August. Samurai Jack will be a pure action cartoon, with a lot of violence present in it. When asked if the violence in the show was an obstacle to get it funded at the San Diego Comic Con in July 2001, creator Genndy Tartakovsky responded, "People never complain about violence. They complain about sexual innuendo's and curses, but not about violence." Whoa! Let's take a closer look at this.
In modern day American society, kids are mesmerized by the media and take after it in every way and let it control them. Yes, that was pure bullshit sarcasm right there, but with the actions of all these parents groups, that seems to be what they think. So, staying in these parent's mentality, children are influenced by media on all ends, so we have to do everything we can to keep all this "inappropriate" stuff away from them so they grow up to be sheltered people, totally ignorant to the real world, to make this world a better place. Ok, that sounds weird, I don't even think I understand that, but the point is that groups like the Parents Television Council (PTC) basically think that kids see something bad, kids do something bad. Now, back to the quote above on violence, with all the problems in America, namely the school shootings happening so often this spring, groups with the "kids only do what they see on TV" view would probably be going berserk. But this isn't the case. What this quote above shows is that these groups really don't care about violence in shows, they just want to make sure they use clean words and make sure there's nothing "wrong" with the sexual orientation of characters in the show. I think that they're pretty much saying, "Sure people are getting killed all around us, but my son has a clean mouth and he's perfectly straight, so what's there to worry about?" Personally, I am not one who thinks that media has any influence over people. I believe it's the way someone is brought up determines how they turn out to be, not TV shows and video games. The main purpose of this paragraph is for people to see the view of these parent groups. I'm not one who shares views with these groups obviously, but I'm also not one who dismisses one's views on something without proof that it's ridiculous, and parent groups are very hypocritical groups in many ways which is ridiculous, moving on.
To laugh at these groups more (but no longer looking through their eyes) as well as proving that anime doesn't have to be censored when coming to America by using their own weapon, let's look at this thing called the TV rating system. In 1997, a TV ratings system had begun to help parents out in making sure their children didn't watch anything bad for them on TV. This was back before I even knew what anime was, and when I heard about it, I laughed and said, "This is probably going to cause more problems than solve, ratings won't do a thing." Who would've thought that a simple, spur-of-the-moment thought I had made with absolutely no knowledge of what I know today would've been right? It's sad really, and the TV rating system has probably caused more problems than solved. And now let's use this weapon against the people who wanted it. These groups are the reasons that anime is censored so much on TV today, dubbing companies just don't want to deal with them, and I honestly don't blame them. But with International Channel beginning to air raw Japanese Dragon Ball Z episodes since July 1998, the ratings system itself proved that anime really doesn't have to be censored. It's common knowledge that the DBZ dub is rated Y7 and is aimed for preteens and the dub had a lot of work done to it to make it "acceptable." Well, watch the raw Japanese episodes on International Channel and you'll notice that, with the exception of a few episodes (and yes, I mean few), every episode is rated Y7!!! Just look at this screen captured by Chris Psaros on DBZ Uncensored, it very clearly shows Kame-Sennin reaching for Buruma's breast AND THE Y7 RATING IS ON THE SCREEN RIGHT ON THAT MOMENT!!! Now this just confuses the hell out of me. In this situation, the rating of the show is the same, the demographic audience is the same, yet the dub had so much work done to it. Hell, if we take all the changes made to the dub and use the ratings system, the dub should be rated Y and have a demographic audience of kids aged 3 - 6. Seriously, this is one whole big contradiction and is confusing the hell out of me. And I don't even want to get started on how the rating system has caused messes in other situations.....
Now, to really mess up with my head, in September 1998, the Pokemon craze started. Now I know people are probably thing "Why the hell is he bringing up Pokemon?" and "This kid is must be on something," but if you take a close look at things, you'll see I'm perfectly fine. In Japan, Pocket Monsters (the original show name) was geared towards little kids. When it was brought over to America, we got a faithful dub with all the original music (while there was some American music added, all the Japanese music remained intact) and very little was done with it. Sure, a couple episodes were cut, but that's it. Why am I so excited about how Pokemon was treated? Because Pokemon is the ideal dub. It is the first dub I've seen that has been done so well when crossing the Pacific. Pretty much anything cut from other anime was for the most part untouched in Pokemon. 4Kids took actual risks when dubbing Pokemon, and they kept stuff such as death, religious stuff, lechery, and violence, that had been completely avoided in other anime. Sure, there was less "objectionable" material, but Pokemon is still hands down, possibly the most faithful dub there is. What makes it even more amazing is that this is the most popular show with kids today, AND THERE HASN'T BEEN A SINGLE COMPLAINT OF CONTENT! Why can't other anime be treated as well?
If that's not enough to totally mess with our heads, let's take a look at American cartoons that were created and aired mainstream here. Generally speaking, these American cartoons are in no way any more "clean" and "appropriate" than uncut anime is. Anything that I've seen avoided in anime is used a lot in cartoons, it just doesn't make sense. I don't see why it seems to be more "ok" when it's our own animation, but strictly forbidden when Japanese animation is brought over for TV airing. I hardly watch TV, and when I do (and it's not either wrestling or Cartoon Network's Toonami) I usually watch cartoons, and I see quite a bit of this. How is it that American cartoons can show things that Japanese animation can't?
While American cartoons are made purely for kids, like I said above, there are good strides that are starting to open the closed minded views of animation here in America. With the strides in the past, and the ones coming up soon, let's hope that they do open American's views of animation. If successful, then the future of anime dubbed for American TV has a much brighter future, as we'll have better quality dubs, and hopefully no longer have to worry about cuts and stuff like that. While it's nice and funny to point out that stuff on sites such as this one, it would be great if there was no need for these sites to do that.
Why Fan Translations Are Still Necessary - by Dan Bednarski (May 16th, 2011)
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The Trouble With Whiners - by Robert Wheeler (October 10th, 2004)
Uncut Sailor Moon: Worth the Wait? - Part 2 - by Dan Bednarski (January 6th, 2004)
Uncut Sailor Moon: Worth the Wait? - Part 1 - by Dan Bednarski (September 23rd, 2003)
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The Twelve Dubs of Christmas - by Tiffany Wood (December 23rd, 2001)
Optimum Productions? Flagrant False Advertising... - by Robert Wheeler (September 3rd, 2001)
The Anime Translation and American Society Problem - by Dan Bednarski (August 6th, 2001)
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Annoyance: A Letter to the People - by Tiffany Wood (February 9th, 2001)
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Moonian Rhapsody - by Tiffany Wood (December 25th, 2000)
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The North American Sailor Moon World - by Dan Bednarski (September 26th, 2000)
The Trouble With Dubbies - by Robert Wheeler (September 13th, 2000)
Sailor Moon Fansubs - by Dan Bednarski (August 13th, 2000)
Does Your Site Suck? - by Tiffany Wood (August 6th, 2000)