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No butts, nudity or guns, thanks: Social justice warriors who destroyed superhero comics turn their censorship sights on anime

Alexander Adams
Alexander Adams
is a British artist, poet and critic. He has published several books ( latest ‘Culture War: Art, Identity Politics and Cultural Entryism’ in 2019). His art is in museum collections worldwide.
is a British artist, poet and critic. He has published several books ( latest ‘Culture War: Art, Identity Politics and Cultural Entryism’ in 2019). His art is in museum collections worldwide.
No butts, nudity or guns, thanks: Social justice warriors who destroyed superhero comics turn their censorship sights on anime
Fans of Japanese animation are getting increasingly angry at the politically correct reworking of the cartoons when they’re translated into English.

A recent announcement about anime production has alarmed consumers worried about the intrusion of political correctness into their entertainment.

Funimation, a company that translates and distributes anime in English and which has a long record of censoring the English-language versions of the original Japanese shows, has joined a key committee overseeing anime production.

Funimation’s business model is – apart issuing age-rated DVDs – to make anime accessible to as wide an audience as possible by altering the original material so that it is suitable for American children’s channels. Becoming part of the production committee allows Funimation to influence studios directly to make anime more family friendly, inhibiting creators from producing stories aimed at young adults.

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Critics fear it will simply allow Funimation to carry out more widespread censorship of anime cartoons. The PC changes Funimation has been accused of making include removing a reference to the word “butt” in the series ‘Nekopara’, editing out suggestive content for the DVD release of ‘Dance in the Vampire Bund’, and censoring swearing in one episode of ‘Haganai’.

Other notorious changes carried out by American companies involved in dubbing anime shows include the removal of guns (‘One Piece’, ‘Yu-Gi-Oh’), changing character traits (‘City Hunter’), and altering relationships (‘Sailor Moon’). Other areas of censorship have included violence, threats, revealing costumes, sexual references, religion and death. These changes can make shows absurd and incomprehensible, with pirates and ninjas ending up threatening their enemies with water pistols and pointed fingers.

Anime is the animated form of manga, which is drawn sequential art in a Japanese style. Manga is produced in book form or published online, while anime is released via television, in cinemas and online. Anime and manga run the gamut of tones and genres, from preschool cartoons to sophisticated stories with extensive world-building aimed at adolescents and adults.

Traditionally, anime/manga has been made for consumption by Japanese audiences. However, since the 1980s the material has been widely distributed around the world. As international consumption has become more financially significant, Japanese studios have set up production committees to advise them on funding and placement of shows for other territories.  

Localisation and censorship

Anime writers, artists and studios are usually Japanese, Korean and East Asian. Studios partner with companies such as Funimation, Crunchyroll and (the now defunct) 4Kids TV to handle the dubbing and distribution of anime. “Localisation” is the process of translation, dubbing and editing non-English language material for English-speaking consumers.

The localisation process involves explaining (or glossing over) common social, cultural and linguistic subtleties that are not comprehensible to the average non-Japanese viewer. In some cases, shows are partially rewritten to radically alter stories. Japanese producers are famously resistant to Western political correctness. However, the localisation stage allows Westerners to impose their own moral and social standards on Japanese material.

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Piracy as resistance to political correctness

Practices which would be deemed unethical in publishing – such as changing the meaning of text, omitting text and substituting different text – are common practice in localisation services. Localisation allows social activists to act as gatekeepers in anime and manga, as they exercise their self-entrusted task of protecting people from unacceptable attitudes. Their thinking is that presentation of difficult material is equivalent to endorsement of what is depicted or discussed. According to social activist doctrine, exposure to violence, rape, racism and homophobia perpetuates harmful attitudes; therefore censorship is a moral necessity.

Consumers, however, want accurate translations of material they cannot understand in the original; they resent changes made in heavy-handed localisations. Dubs produced by fans or (more often) subtitle translations, called ‘fansubs’, are not authorised by production companies and flout copyright laws. But these are seen by many fans as the most authentic versions of anime. Piracy has developed as a way of accessing what the creators actually made, not what Western television channels wished they had made.

Why we should care

‘The Rising of the Shield Hero’ was deemed controversial in the USA because it included a storyline about a false accusation of rape. In the politically correct era of the Me Too movement, the suggestion that a woman might make a false accusation was considered provocative. The listen-and-believe agenda was deemed to apply to fiction. If Western partners – so politicised and vulnerable to social media pressure – were involved in assessing storylines, would such a plot be approved?

Western companies, staffed by individuals with assertive political and social outlooks, will attempt to influence Japanese studios, imposing their own beliefs. When progressives have the ability to meddle in the creative process they will not hold back, even if it leads to disastrous financial consequences. We already have evidence of this in the collapse of American superhero comics.

If you are not a fan of anime or manga, why should you care? Evidence shows that incremental expansion of control within culture affects us all. Political correctness in pop culture has already distorted production and reception of card gamesvideo gamescomicsmovies and other areas. In high culture, moralising authoritarians exert powerful domination over fiction publicationtheatreballet and museums, even leaving aside academia. Suppression of creativity and diversity of thought will continue and expand unless we actively expose and oppose it. 

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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