Hollywood Execs Like Slashing Anime

Editorial by Chris

July 31, 2000

Censorship is a problem plaguing many aspects of our lives, and anime is certainly not safe from it. The issue of censoring anime brings up a basic question about censorship in general: whose right is it to decide what the public should see? The obvious answer is the public. However, if it were that simple, I wouldn't be writing this rant. Since the dawn of anime in the 1960's with Astro Boy and Speed Racer, entertainment executives have been censoring it to fit what they consider the American market to be. In the 1970's, the classic series Space Pirate Captain Harlock was massively edited for U.S. audiences. In the 1980's, there was Robotech, which was not so much a case of censorship, but of extending the show by adding two unrelated series. In the 1990's, censorship seems to be at an all time high with so many anime series crossing over.

It's odd that while mainstream American television has become more violent over the last decade, what is considered 'children's entertainment' has been slow to catch up. An example of this is the Batman series from the early 1990's, in which the creators were forced to follow all the idiotic suggestions of Fox's Board of Standards and Practices (don't call Harley Quinn a 'lunatic' so that people with mental problems aren't insulted, for example). As bad as that is, at least it's a case of censorship in pre-production. Anime, unfortunately, is censored after a series is finished. Sailor Moon and Dragonball Z have been so heavily edited for U.S. broadcast that there are too many changes to list. What bothers me is that these Hollywood executives are slashing apart series to fit their perception of the market. However, many times it has been shown that the real market is nothing like what they perceive. Fans have been demanding uncut anime for years, and still they are ignored. Many people consider fansubs the solution to this problem, but I disagree. For a fan wanting to collect a series in top quality, a VHS fansub just won't cut it. Anime makes up a large portion of U.S. entertainment sales (especially on DVD), and fans spend large amounts of money. Since it is our money, shouldn't we be the ones who decide what we want to see?

The source of this problem can be defined in one word: fear. The entertainment executives are afraid of deterring viewers, which would lead to lower ratings and reduced profit for them. So to avoid this, they hack up a series, which then creates the same problems they were originally trying to avoid. It's a confusing paradox. Take the examples of anime in the U.S. this year. Cartoon Network and Bandai made a bold move by premiering Gundam Wing in cut and uncut formats. That series turned out to be a breakthrough in ratings and single-handedly made Gundam a household name in the U.S. Just a few months later, Cartoon Network and Pioneer repeated that success by presenting Tenchi Muyo! in much the same fashion. However, some companies still haven't learned. Kids WB and Nelvana have rightfully been receiving scorn for their treatment of Card Captor Sakura. They were so afraid that a girls' series wouldn't be popular in the U.S. that they massively edited it and turned a male supporting character into the star. Are they blind? What about Sailor Moon? As edited as that series is, it's clearly intended for girls. However, it has enjoyed huge crossover success with males. Card Captor Sakura could have done the same if only Kids WB and Nelvana had more faith in the series.

What can be done to remedy the situation? As anime fans, we should support those who are praiseworthy for their efforts, such as Cartoon Network. It's because of them and their Toonami block that anime has hit the mainstream. We're only halfway through 2000, and they have already premiered three anime series in uncut form. Thank them for their efforts, and encourage misguided groups like Kids WB and Nelvana to follow Cartoon Network's example. Don't yell at people about the evils of censorship and start flame wars on the Internet. That only makes anime fans look like fools to the companies releasing anime here. They'll most likely ignore us and continue down their misguided path. What will surely get their attention is ratings, so that's where we have to focus our efforts by not watching butchered anime.

<<back to Editorials