Editing of anime in American distribution

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The process of altering anime to prepare it to be distributed in the United States (and sometimes also for Canada) forms part of the process of localization, generally applied only to series intended for broadcast on American television; series released directly to DVD are not subject to such alterations. On top of the translation of dialogue into English, this process commonly includes censoring audio/visual content to adhere to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and television network regulations and standards and editing content to conform to American cultural norms and/or to prepare it for distribution to a younger audience than it was originally intended. This type of editing may involve altering nudity and sexual innuendo, smoking and drugs, homosexuality, violence, profanity, possible racism, and/or religious reference(s), which are found inappropriate for children under 7–12, and teenagers and young adults under 13–18.

This process may also include editing references that might confuse viewers who are unfamiliar with Japanese culture. Edits of this type commonly include the substitution of place names, food, and/or cultural elements not found in the United States. This may also include the changing/removal of titles, character names, and honorifics, the removing of issues such as marriages between cousins, non-pornographic depictions of homosexuality, and/or references to Japan's view of events (such as in the case with World War II). Opening and closing credits or scenes may be shortened to allow more time for advertisements in a television time slot.

This type of censorship is not unique to anime and is also practiced in imports from other countries and even in original American productions; both Batman: The Animated Series and Spider-Man: The Animated Series (especially the latter) were censored for violence by the Fox Broadcasting Company[1][2] during the production process, and the Canadian series ReBoot was censored post-production by the American Broadcasting Company for sexual content and scenes that executives believed would promote incest.[3]


The first few anime series and films to be brought to the United States were all bowdlerized for American audiences, with violence, deaths, sexual references, and other things the intended audience might find offensive completely edited out, since the audience of most anime was assumed to be made up of young children. However, over time, anime has broadened its target audience from young children to also teenagers and young adults as well as middle-aged adults and older people in North America.

These titles included the earliest anime films to be brought to the United States in 1961 (and the first three feature films ever released by Toei Animation):[4]

The first anime series to be translated were not exempt:

Robotech (which was adapted from three separate series, 1, 2, and 3) (1985) and Star Blazers (宇宙戦艦ヤマト Uchū Senkan Yamato?, Space Battleship Yamato) (1979) broke this tradition by leaving in some of those elements and preserving the drama of the original, uncut Japanese versions. However, their plots, at some points, were heavily modified.[citation needed]

Founded in 1987, Streamline Pictures was the first North American company founded primarily for the intention of distributing translated anime uncut and faithful to the original content. Streamline Pictures founder Carl Macek had worked for Harmony Gold USA during the mid-1980s, most notably on Robotech.[citation needed]

In the early 1990s, several American anime companies began to experiment with licensing less children-oriented material. Some, such as A.D. Vision, Central Park Media, and its imprints, achieved fairly substantial commercial success and went on to become major players in the now very lucrative American anime market (although, as of late, companies such as Geneon Entertainment, Central Park Media, and A.D. Vision have since folded). Others, such as AnimEigo, achieved more limited success. Many companies created directly by Japanese parent companies did not do as well, most releasing only one or two titles before folding their American operations, although Pioneer Entertainment (later Geneon Entertainment following its purchase in late 2003 by Dentsu) and Bandai Entertainment) managed to survive well into the later half of the 2000s, although Geneon closed down its North American operations in 2007.[citation needed]

The localization and editing processes were far more heavy in the past, when anime was largely unheard of in the United States. A famous example of this was when Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was first released outside of Japan in the mid-1980s. Renamed as Warriors of the Wind, this release cut more than half an hour out of the original version and attempted to market the film as a children's action film, rather than the heavier environmentalist drama Miyazaki intended it to be. In 2005, Nausicaa was finally released uncut on DVD in the Western world, featuring a brand new dubbed soundtrack by Disney that was faithful to the original and included the original Japanese audio with English subtitles.

However, in recent years, these localization processes have been used less because of the demand for anime in its original form. This "light touch" approach to localization and editing has proven to be popular with fans, as well as viewers formally unfamiliar with anime. The "light touch" approach also applies to DVD and Blu-Ray releases, as they often include both the English-dubbed audio version and the original Japanese audio version with subtitles, are often uncut, and lack commercials. Anime series with edited television versions may have uncut DVD and Blu-ray releases.

In recent years, a change in audience demographics has led to a greater emphasis being placed on releasing (or re-releasing) anime with fewer changes, especially on DVD, on which there are fewer content limitations. Often, these releases (such as the Disney releases of Studio Ghibli productions) include both English-dubbed versions and the original Japanese versions, usually with subtitles.


Direct censorship[edit]

Cultural sensitivity[edit]

Edited version of the second Yu-Gi-Oh! series (left) and the unedited version of Yu-Gi-Oh! Duel Monsters containing a hexagram (used in occultism; right).

Due to cultural differences between the United States and Japan, some anime contains images which are publicly acceptable in Japanese society but, in the United States, are thought of as carrying connotations of racism in mass media or ethnic stereotyping.[citation needed]

Religious symbols and dialogue are typically altered if appearing in contexts which won't be considered acceptable in the United States. For example, representations of the Christian cross were airbrushed out of Pokémon and One Piece (4Kids version), while references to Hell were replaced with "HFIL [Home For Infinite Losers]" in Dragon Ball Z, as well as the character 'Mr. Satan' being renamed 'Hercule'. Alleged demonic imagery is also commonly removed or toned down, as are uses of pentagrams, because of their religious meanings and their apparent association with both Satanism and paganism.[5] The word Bible has also been removed from the covers of Bibles; names of certain non-human characters with religious origins are also changed. When 4Kids dubbed Tokyo Mew Mew, Zakuro's weapon had also gotten changed due to resembling the Christian cross, removing its horizontal part.

Other examples include the ancient religious symbol known as the manji, (representing "life, sun, power, strength, and good luck", and sometimes referred to as the “footsteps of the Buddha”), which was airbrushed out of series like Shaman King and Yu Yu Hakusho because of the Nazis using it for their swastikas and Western viewers would mistake it for that. In some cases, however, disclaimers have been included explaining the situation to readers, such as the manga Blade of the Immortal, in which the protagonist of the series wears this symbol.[6] It is also the same case in the Naruto manga where Neji Hyuga has a curse mark printed on his forehead which binds his loyalty to his clan and one of the elements of the mark is a manji. In the English adaption of the manga, the same thing as Blade of the Immortal is done where a statement explains the mark on his forehead is a manji, typically used in Buddhist imagery. However, when Naruto received an anime adaption, the anime studio Pierrot changed the manji to a X-shaped cross.

In the series Mobile Fighter G Gundam, a major plotline involves an annual competition in which each country builds a Gundam to battle those of other nations, with the winning country gaining rulership over the world until the next competition. To show their origins, many Gundam designs are based on ethnic/cultural stereotypes (America's Gundam resembles a football player and a boxer, Mexico's Gundam bears a giant turbine in the shape of a sombrero on its head, Germany's bears in its head a Stahlhelm, etc.). For the official English language release of the show, Bandai/Sunrise ordered several of the Gundams to be renamed for the English language market with names that downplayed the stereotypes. Bandai employees have also implied that at one point the decision was almost made to completely remove the idea from the English dub that each Gundam specifically represented a country. However, this did not come to pass.

When the Japanese children's anime Ojamajo Doremi was dubbed by 4Kids Entertainment, it was heavily edited for content. Along with the much cut footage, the thirtieth episode was not aired due to its extreme religious references, mainly to Buddhism.

Recreational drugs, alcoholic beverages, and tobacco products[edit]

Comparison of the same scene from Dragon Ball Z; the edited version (left), without smoking, and the unedited version (right), depicting smoking.

Due to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations and United States social factors, alcoholic beverages and tobacco products are usually taken out of anime in the United States or are replaced with more acceptable "soft" variations. However, the exact level of censorship varies between television networks, often depending on the target audience of the anime and the context in which the product(s) appear. Wine or champagne may be acceptable in banquet or restaurant scenes and might escape censorship, while beer or sake consumed outdoors throughout communities usually won't. In Tenchi Muyo!, references to sake were substituted for tea, and cigarettes were airbrushed out when it screened on Cartoon Network's Toonami but were left in when the series broadcast on KTEH. Rock Lee's consumption of alcoholic beverages and his Drunken Fist style were changed in both the English-version edited anime and manga of Naruto[7] to avoid referencing an underage character consuming alcohol. This was primarily done using the term "elixir" in place of the sake and referring to his Drunken Fist fighting style as "loopy fist" in the anime. The Third Hokage was also shown smoking a pipe, while Asuma was shown smoking a cigarette (although it is unlit in the television version). Master Roshi's Drunken Fist attack as Jackie Chun in Dragon Ball was changed into the "Happy Cow Attack" for the edited version shown on Cartoon Network.

The results can sometimes be awkward. In the Cartoon Network airing of Rurouni Kenshin, Saito, a character who is commonly seen smoking cigarettes, is depicted with a toothpick in his mouth, resulting in inconsistency when in some scenes he takes a puff of it and somehow exhales smoke. Sometimes, alternate names are given to the alcoholic beverages, which may cause incoherencies with the actual beverages. For example, in the original English dub of Sailor Moon S, a glass of wine that was kept during a scene was instead called "juice." This change, however, caused confusion when Serena (Usagi) accidentally drank the alcoholic beverage and later got drunk.[8]

In the dubbed versions of Mobile Suit Gundam and Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket, bottles had the word "SODA" applied to them to show that they were not alcohol, and direct references to alcoholic drinks were substituted for references to drinks such as coffee. A similar approach was also used in G Gundam and Sailor Moon. In the anime show One Piece, the character Sanji is commonly seen smoking a cigarette, though in the 4Kids dub, the cigarette is changed to a lollipop.[9] Although Funimation kept Sanji's cigarette in the DVD version, they had to change it for the TV version of their dub to him not having anything inside of his mouth. Instead he is seen just gritting his teeth.[10] Another example of this in One Piece is Smoker, who is commonly seen with three cigars in his mouth at once; in order to remove references to smoking, 4Kids not only removed the cigars, but also Smoker was renamed "Chaser", and the cigarless smoke is explained as coming out of his mouth as a side effect of the Devil Fruit (renamed "Cursed Fruit" in the dub) he ate, which causes him to constantly exude smoke.

Violence, death, and weapons[edit]

Blood is edited and painted out of an episode of Naruto - the man's altered face was not a domestic edit but rather a change made for the Japanese DVD release.

The media effects theory holds that people who are exposed to violence through media, especially during childhood, will be desensitized to violence and violent acts. Because of this, anime that is released for children in the United States is often modified to remove violence, death, and/or weapon(s), particularly if the series is aimed towards children.

Commonly, the censorship of violence is done by removing the exact moment when a physical attack, such as a punch, slap, or kick, connects with a person. In some cases, this is achieved by airbrushing the scene to include a caption or object (such as an explosion or movement lines) over the point of impact or by flashing the screen so that the impact is never seen.

Under the same principle, weapons are also commonly airbrushed out or changed to something more kid-friendly, like toys, or simply recolored to take less threatening form, and blood is either airbrushed out or covered with bandages. Where this is considered impractical or too time consuming, an entire scene might be deleted, leading to fights appearing highly contracted, or series missing details that are referenced later on. For example, the Pokémon episode "The Legend of Dratini" was entirely deleted because of the prolific use of firearms being pointed and shot at characters. This caused much confusion as the missing episode explained how and when Ash Ketchum captured 30 Tauros.[11] In Yu-Gi-Oh!, many of the main villain of the first season's henchmen are carrying guns, and point them at characters several times; these were airbrushed out by 4Kids Entertainment, however, the guards still hold up their hands towards the characters as if carrying weapons, leaving some fans to joke that the guards are carrying "invisible guns". There are also several scenes of violence in the show, which were either cut out or worked around using camera techniques; a prime example being when Joey was lost and found by his friend Tristan, who punches him to make him come out a brief depression. This scene was cut from the English dub, thus removing the small plot device of any true conclusion, and has been commonly mocked among fans.[12]

When the Japanese animators of Toei Animation made the Japanese children's television show called Ojamajo Doremi aimed at young children in Japan, they inserted darker and mature content into the show because it is appropriate and friendly to young children in Japan but is considered inappropriate and unfriendly for young children in the United States. One such type of content is the appearance and use of a weapon such as a firearm in episode 19, when Hazuki gets kidnapped by strangers. The plot of the episode involves the use and appearance of a realistic fake gun against the young child named Hazuki. All this as well as the scenes showing the violent strangers pointing the gun at Hazuki and even using the gun against Hazuki is cut out when dubbed in America by 4Kids just for giving the show a lower, TV-Y rating in the United States. In episode 18 of the same anime, references to death were removed.

In some censored shows, death is also either unmentioned, or referenced in some other way; words such as "kill" were substituted for "destroy" in the Gundam series, as well as some earlier episodes of Naruto where "kill" is replaced with "defeat". In early seasons of Dragon Ball Z, all references to characters dying were changed so that they were instead transported to "another dimension." Additionally, they had voice actors do nothing but breathe heavily so that a pile of dead civilians seemed like a pile of civilians that had simply been beaten up. This practice became less used in later seasons when the distribution was changed, with the concepts of death retained, but some content was still heavily edited. In Saber Rider, the death of enemy foot soldiers was removed by having them teleport to their own dimension rather than die. In Battle of the Planets, voice-overs were added telling the audience that cities were evacuated prior to their destruction (a similar tactic was used in Dragon Ball Z), and the dialogue was altered to implicitly describe all combatants as being robot soldiers. In the first season of Star Blazers, violence against the Gamilons was de-emphasized by redirecting it toward what were supposed to be robots; violence against members of the Star Force was de-emphasized via rewritten dialogue. In the second season, the deaths of several major and supporting characters near the end of the story arc (Orion, Conroy, Hardy, Royster, Kane, et al.) were cut out completely; the death scene of Sergeant Knox was rewritten with new dialogue so that he seemed to escape almost certain death.

As the teen, young adult, and DVD market become more important, a greater number of anime are now adapted without significant cuts to the violence. Some networks devoted to animation, such as Cartoon Network, are now increasingly handing over time slots to Adult Swim in the evening and at night for uncut or lightly-cut anime for the more mature and adult anime shows like Cowboy Bebop and some of the anime previously aired on Toonami, such as Neon Genesis Evangelion, Tenchi Muyo, and Outlaw Star in an uncut format, as opposed to when the shows originally aired; episodes were edited or not aired at all for being deemed too inappropriate for the timeslot.

Swearing and profanity[edit]

Unlike the English language, the Japanese language has few direct swear words. Cursing is most often conveyed through particular variants of existing, harmless words (such as the term "kisama," a very rude version of "you," commonly translated as "damn you"), rather than words that can be easily translated into profane equivalents. However, translators producing English-language subtitles are often known to use stronger interpretations for certain words, commonly resulting in the incorrect impression that the original version of the anime contains notably stronger language than its English counterpart. Most prominently, the commonly used word "kuso" (literally, "excrement") is an expression of discontent with a situation; it is regularly translated as "shit" or "damn." For a series targeted at school-aged children, this is not an appropriate English equivalent, as "shit" is considered a taboo word, while "kuso" is not.

Also, some anime shown in Japan have English profanity, as is the case with Sonic X (the second episode of the series features the titular character exclaiming "shit" in English), and BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad. This led to the anime being rated TV-MA on the Funimation DVDs.

Nudity and sexuality[edit]

A bathing scene from the original and the original English dub versions of Sailor Moon. In the English dub (bottom image), the visibility of Usagi's nudity appears to be opaque.

As nudity is more stigmatized in the United States than it is in Japan, such content is often edited out of locally distributed anime.[13] Due to United States law regarding child pornography, suggested underage nudity is also commonly censored.[14] In the original United States release of Sailor Moon, all of the female leads's transformation sequences were airbrushed to remove the lines tracing their breasts, buttocks, and pubic areas (except for Moon and Chibi Moon; their sequences had little or no lines), even though the characters were shown in silhouette form only.[15] This kind of editing is not limited to anime aimed at younger viewers, either. For example, the anime series Blue Gender contained scenes of sexual content (next to blood and intense violence), which was edited out when shown in the United States on Adult Swim (the series was originally planned to air on Toonami but was considered too graphic and controversial). Another example was ADV Films's release of Sakura Diaries, which edited out nudity of high-school-aged characters. However, the edits to the animation were not done by ADV, but were made for a Japanese television broadcast. The video had already gotten edited for exposed female intimate parts, and were covered by inserted lingerie. Dialogue also got altered to shield suggestions of adolescent viewers.[16] The series got re-dubbed in the fall of the year 2005 with the edited footage restored. Meanwhile, in the February of the year 2008, the federal government of Canada banned imports of such hentai series Cool Devices and Words Worth as it cited those series as "obscenity" under federal guidelines.[17]


Views on sexuality and a tradition of celebrating relationships between males or females with a strong element of homoerotic undertones have resulted in more tolerance of homosexuals in fiction, but not necessarily in actuality, in Japan than in the United States.[18][19] This level of social acceptance means that anime, including many series aimed at children, often includes male and/or female homosexuals as recurring characters. However, there is considerable social stigma attached to homosexuality in the U.S., particularly where children's entertainment is concerned, and there is a strong association between homosexuality and sexual acts. Due to this, anime containing homosexual characters is often heavily censored through plot changes, dialog editing, and the deletion of scenes. Where such edits are not possible or practical, the entire anime may be considered unsuitable for broadcast television and never imported, or released only on DVD with a rating higher than G-rated (such as TV-PG or even TV-14).

Examples include the original American version of Sailor Moon in which lesbian characters Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus, were changed to "cousins" to cover up the fact that they were a romantic couple,[20] and some scenes that could not be explained away by their new relationship were cut. However, there were points in the series where some minor hints of "incest" were not cut out, which confused many viewers. The character Zoisite was also changed to a woman to conceal his relationship with the character Malachite. The character Fisheye was also changed to a woman because he would impersonate women to seduce men to obtain the Dream Mirror he and the other villains of Sailor Moon SuperS needed. However, none of these edits are present in the re-dub of the original Sailor Moon anime by Viz Media as Zoisite has been portrayed as a male much like in the original version.

Censorship usually occurs even in cases when homosexual characters do not make sexual contact with one another on screen. Toya and Yukito's relationship was completely removed from Cardcaptor Sakura despite them never being openly referred to as homosexual, and despite them never having any sexually intimate moments (they were never even pictured holding hands).

In some instances, censorship on the grounds of homosexuality has taken place even when no homosexual relationship exists. For example, Syaoran Li's attraction to the power of the moon contained within Yukito Tsukishiro in Cardcaptor Sakura was deleted on the grounds that it could be construed as homosexuality. Tomoyo Daidouji was also heavily implied to have a romantic fixation on Sakura Kinomoto, mostly through her dialogue. This was also removed in the American adaptation.

Similar censorship is applied to conceal transgenderism or transvestism. For example, in Battle of the Planets a key villain with a male and female alter ego was divided into two separate characters, while in Sailor Moon, the character Sailor Uranus, who frequently dressed and acted as a male, was toned down by dialog edits and scene changes. Another example of this was found in the first season of Pokémon. An entire episode (Holiday in Acapulco) was cut from the series' original syndicated U.S. release as it centered on a bikini contest in which one of the contestants was Team Rocket's James wearing a bikini with inflatable breasts. A heavily censored version with the bikini scene cut did air several years later after Pokémon moved to Kids WB as the "lost episode" Beauty and the Beach. This same censorship has also been practiced with hermaphrodite characters. In the Japanese version of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, the villain Yubel was shown to be male on the left and female on the right, complete with two separate voices. In the dub, she has been slightly edited to appear entirely female, and is portrayed with only a single female voice. In the Japanese version of Digimon Frontier, there was a villain Digimon known as Crusadermon who was made out to be a highly flamboyant male character who had a thing for roses. In the U.S. version of Digimon Frontier by Disney, he was changed from male to female to avoid the flamboyant references made by the character, though later he was changed back to male in the Digimon Data Squad English dub.

Non-censorship modification[edit]


In the case of Robotech, one part of the three-part series, The Super Dimension Fortress Macross, was originally aired in Japan as a weekly series. Harmony Gold USA, the American company that produced Robotech, decided to combine it with two other weekly series, The Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross and Genesis Climber Mospeada, to make a show that had enough episodes to market it as a daily series on American syndicated television.[21] Voltron would also be another example; in this case, it combined the series GoLion and Dairugger XV.[22] In the second season of Yu-Gi-Oh! in the Battle City arc, dialogue was changed to censor the original Japanese plot. In the original, Marik wanted to kill Yugi because he thought that Yami Yugi killed his father. In the dubbed version of the show, Marik wanted to possess all three Egyptian God Cards so he could rule the world.[23]

Cultural streamlining[edit]

Comparison of the anime Pokémon. Ash Ketchum is carrying a submarine sandwich in the U.S. dub edited by 4Kids Entertainment (left) vs. Satoshi carrying an Onigiri, a food item unfamiliar to most Americans, in the Japanese version (right).

To accommodate American viewers, anime dubbed in the United States is usually modified to suggest it occurs within the United States or a fictional country thus resembling it.[citation needed] This is commonly achieved by substituting Japanese elements in a series by elements drawn from American popular culture, modifying food or other products to resemble their American equivalents and by replacing Japanese writing with English writing. Location names that are unfamiliar to American audiences can also be changed or unnamed altogether, such as during the English release of Digimon Adventure, Tokyo Tower was unnamed,[24] and Tokyo Big Sight was simply called the Convention Center, which is what it generally is.[25]

There are also music changes in certain anime to appeal more towards a western audience. For example, in the Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie when Ken Masters is driving in his car, "Them Bones" by Alice in Chains is playing in the background instead of "Plot" by Tetsuya Komuro.

Currency can also be changed. For example, in the early episodes of early English dubs of Dragon Ball, United States dollars are used in place of the show's "zeni" currency. In the DiC-dubbed episodes of Sailor Moon, any yen notes are often altered by removing two digits from the banknotes (i.e., a ¥1000 banknote has two zeroes altered out and becomes a $10 banknote).

Dialogue can also be changed. For example, in the scene in Spirited Away in which Chihiro Ogino first sees the bath house; in the Japanese version she just looks at it and says nothing, but in the English dub she comments "It's a bath house", and this is due to most American viewers not being familiar with a bath house (because while bath houses are common in Japan, they are rare in the United States), so Chihiro would have to state what it is. Another example, the English version of Shaman King described Horohoro that he came from the Northern Woods instead of he is an Ainu (indigenous people of Northern Japan, which is unfamiliar to most American viewers) and he came from Hokkaido.

Although once common, recent years have seen a decline in this process, as American audiences have come to identify various aspects of Japanese and Asian culture as "exotic", and they have actually become factors which attract them to the show. This trend has been mirrored in original North American animation, with series such as American Dragon: Jake Long, Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi, Xiaolin Showdown, Teen Titans, Yin Yang Yo!, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and Samurai Jack, more being constructed around aspects of Asian culture due to its current popularity. Consequently, fewer companies are carrying out the process of eliminating such aspects in anime, but cultural edits are still being done by 4Kids and even Toei Animation's U.S. Division, as well.

Popular culture references can also be changed. In the English dub of Sgt. Frog, many references to Japanese popular culture were changed to American popular culture to appeal more to the American audience.

Audience stereotyping[edit]

Some series have been heavily edited to comply to American audience stereotypes, either to add elements that increase the series appeal to a key demographic, or to remove elements that may detract from that demographic. For example, to attract boys aged five to nine years, the United States distributor of Cardcaptor Sakura (a series originally aimed primarily at a female audience) retitled the series Cardcaptors (plural and non-gender specific), and The WB edited the first series to give a male sub-character equal status to the original female lead.[2] It also deleted every episode from the show's continuity that did not sufficiently feature the male character, including the three romance-based subplots. To this end, most elements of romance were also removed from the series. However, all 70 episodes aired in other countries, such as Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom's first run (albeit still titled Cardcaptors and still edited).

In some cases, changes made to fit with audience demographics can be so pronounced that they result in the production of a second unique series. For example, to take advantage of the popularity of space-themed features among six- to nine-year-old boys created by the 1977 movie, Star Wars, footage from 85 of the 105 episodes of Gatchaman was heavily modified to create the new series Battle of the Planets. Whereas Gatchaman was a dark-toned series set on Earth and containing a heavy environmental protection message, its American counterpart was a light-toned space-based series which contained none of the original environmental message and was aimed at a younger audience.


The practice of dubtitling is to take the scripts used for the English dubbed versions and using them as the English subtitles. The differences between the dubtitles and the actual translation can be so much as to make the redubbed translations inaccurate. It is often easy for fans to find such inaccuracies. Dubtitling usually happens on older titles that were put on laser disc, but most current DVD releases have an accurate translation of the subtitled versions, an example being Manga Entertainment's Ghost in the Shell, which had dubtitles on the laser disc version but has an accurate translation on the subtitled version of the DVD release.[26]


Fifteening, something that happened in the earlier days of anime releases in the United States, is when more mature language (e.g., profanity) is used to get a higher age rating (especially the BBFC rating 15, hence the moniker).[26] Manga Entertainment was known for this in their dubs; an example is Appleseed, which is otherwise a 12-rated anime, had many uses of the word fuck in the dub to get a 15. However, Manga has re-edited Appleseed and other anime to make the dub more true to the original subtitles.[citation needed] The American release of Puella Magi Madoka Magica also had some profanity added in the dub, which critic Zac Bertschy called "unnecessary embellishment".[27]

Opening and closing credits[edit]

Changing the visuals of the opening and closing credits is common for demographic reasons, and to allow for the names of U.S.-based production staff and voice actors to be included. Credits may be completely remade, replaced with an English-language version of the original credits, or retained but with a unique English language musical score. In many cases, credits are also altered for commercial reasons. Typical Japanese opening and ending sequences are 90 seconds long. Shortening the credits to 30–60 seconds allows more time to be made available for advertisements.[citation needed] Some companies have gone even as far as to remove such segments completely. However, this is not always the case, as Adult Swim's Toonami block airs the full opening and/or ending sequences for some shows. This can be out of free will, or due to the fact that re-editing the credits would be too costly.

Renaming, retitling and various disappearing titles[edit]

Sometimes, the titles of shows and names of characters are completely changed.

The decision was made early on to change almost all the names in Star Blazers for marketing purposes. Unlike most other dubbed anime shows of the late 1970s, though, great care was used in choosing names to which English audiences could relate. The original name of the ship (Yamato) was retained; however, it was almost immediately rechristened as the Argo (via dialog) to draw parallels with the Greek myth of Jason and the Argonauts. Character names of both human and aliens alike were also carefully chosen. Some were transliterations of the Japanese originals (Desslar -> Desslok), some emphasized character traits (Susumu Kodai -> Derek Wildstar), and some were subtle wordplays or puns (many alien names). However, this standard did not last. With few exceptions (Robotech, to name one), such regard would not be shown again on anime imports until the mid-1990s, when anime became a mainstream phenomena in the West.

Konjiki no Gash Bell!! (Golden Gash Bell) was retitled Zatch Bell! due to the gore connotations with the word "gash" which means a wound inflicted with a sharp object (or possibly the related sexual dysphemism). In doing so, the title character Gash Bell had his name changed to Zatch Bell. Other character name changes in the show were made to make them seem more American.

Almost the entire cast of Sailor Moon in the original English dub were given Americanized names except Sailor Saturn, especially if their Japanese names could not be modified easily. For example, "Usagi," the main character whose name translates to "bunny" or "rabbit" was renamed "Serena," a pun on her true name, "Serenity," in the original anime. However, Sailor Mercury, whose Japanese name is "Ami" was simply called "Amy" in the American release. Also, Sailor Mars, whose Japanese name is "Rei" was called "Raye" instead, though her name was still pronounced the same. Although Sailor Saturn's name remained unchanged, her surname Tomoe is mispronounced as Tomo (dropping the "e") in the English dub. The Viz Media re-dub uses the original names for the Sailor Moon characters, including pronouncing Ami by her original name instead of her original English dub name Amy.

In the anime Yu-Gi-Oh!, almost all of the characters are given English names but some kept the original Japanese name like Yugi Moto.

In Disney's release of Studio Ghibli's Laputa: Castle in the Sky, the film was retitled Castle in the Sky, because "la puta" is extremely offensive in Spanish (translating as "the whore"), though in the film, the characters still refer to the island as "Laputa" (pronounced: lah-pyoo-tah). However, in the Spanish dubbing for Spain, the name was changed to "Lapuntu" for this reason (although the few visible captions still reads "Laputa" on screen). For similar reasons, Kiki's Delivery Service was retitled in Spanish "Niki, la aprendiz de bruja" ("Niki, the witch apprentice"), as the original name of the character has (unintentional) adult connotations: kiki is vulgar for coitus in Spain. Nonetheless, most anime distribution in Spain is uncut, full length original form aside from dubbing.

In Funimation's release of the mystery series Detective Conan, the series was retitled Case Closed due to legal issues. Every character — save for the titular Conan — was given a new Americanized name while famous Japanese locales and landmarks were also Americanized.

Outside of Japan, Pocket Monsters was retitled Pokémon (which was already in use in Japan as an abbreviation for the series), to avoid confusion with another Japanese media franchise Monster In My Pocket.[28] For the series One Piece, the given name for character Roronoa Zoro was romanized as Zolo to avoid possible conflicts over rights to the name Zorro,[29] which was included in all the English releases of One Piece excluding the Funimation dub.

When Disney released Studio Ghibli's Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, the film was retitled "Ponyo" because they thought the name would be too long for American audiences. Every locale, landmark and character kept their name, with the only difference that the theme was translated into English.

As previously mentioned, Cardcaptor Sakura was renamed Cardcaptors in the U.S. to attract a male audience. Every character in the series had their names changed, save for Sakura herself (though her family name of "Kinomoto" would be changed to "Avalon"). Other examples are that the anime Dragon Ball Kai is known outside of Japan as Dragon Ball Z Kai to avoid confusion with the first Dragon Ball installment and that the second Fullmetal Alchemist series is known as Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood in the English version to avoid confusion with the first installment which also shared the same title.

Sometimes, text visible in the anime is erased or altered. An example is in Kirby: Right Back at Ya!. In one episode (Kirby's Pet Peeve), the title "The Crest and the Mark" is erased from the book Tiff is reading. However, a 4Kids employee stated that this, as well as other examples of English text in their anime dubs, are done to make the show easier to market internationally. [1]


On some occasions, the musical score for the original version of an anime film or television series will be modified or dropped altogether when brought to English-speaking audiences. The reasons vary. In some cases with older anime, music may be added or replaced because the separated vocal and musical tracks are not available to the dubbing company. Anime News Network founder Justin Sevakis mentioned on one of his Answerman posts that it's also done for technical and "artistic" reasons.[30]

For the technical reason, when the dubbing company receives the master tape from Japan, it contains the Japanese audio, as well as a special track known as the "Music & Effects Track". Whenever the footage gets cut, the audio also gets cut, which can be problematic since the musical score has to be cut in a way to "make sense musically". As a result, it's often much easier to rip out all the audio and start over. For the artistic reason, musical scores in anime aren't composed the same way American television series (especially television series aimed directly at children) are composed.[30] This is solved by changing the musical score in order to both appeal more to American audiences and also due to fears of viewers getting bored and changing the channel.

When music is added or changed, however, it is more often for aesthetic reasons than for technical ones. For example, while it is common in Japanese films and anime to have silent moments of reflection for characters, it is not widely encountered in North American animation. Some dubbed versions of anime fill in these quiet moments through background dialogue not present in the original Japanese version, but adding music is another common antidote, as was seen through the first two seasons of the English TV airing of the Pokémon anime.

On the other end of the spectrum, rather than just to fill in moments without music, the musical score is sometimes replaced entirely, the most controversial examples in recent years being Dragon Ball Z, Dragon Ball GT, DIC's dub of the first two seasons of Sailor Moon, the 4Kids dub of One Piece, and Yu-Gi-Oh!. For some of these shows, such as Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball GT, however, uncut DVDs were eventually released which contain the option of hearing the English dub alongside the original music. Other times, the background music remains unchanged, but the Japanese lyrics in the theme songs are translated and sung in English.

In some extreme cases, when the dubbing company elects to change the emotional undertones of certain scenes, the music in an anime will be heavily changed in its dubbed counterpart to relate to the intended revised tone. An example of this is Sonic X episode #77, in which the character Miles "Tails" Prower is forced to shoot Cosmo, whom he is in love with. To reflect this in the original Japanese version, sad music is played when Super Sonic and Super Shadow kill Cosmo with her blessing. However, in the edited English version, produced by 4Kids Entertainment, the music is changed to action music to emphasize the action aspects of the scene rather than the emotional aspects, which were toned down. Another example is in episode 38, in which "Live and Learn" (the main theme song from Sonic Adventure 2) is played when Super Sonic and Super Shadow battle Bio-Lizard. Instead, in the 4Kids English-dubbed version, the song is replaced by orchestral music. Some fans believe this was a needless change, since the song has been released in English-speaking countries and was sung in English by an American singer.

Other times, music is changed when it would be unfamiliar to English-speaking audiences. In the Funimation dubbed version of Dragon Ball Z: Broly – The Legendary Super Saiyan, some of the music was changed for the movie. It used a Heavy Metal and Punk style soundtrack provided by bands such as Pantera, Slow Roosevelt, Drowning Pool and Haji's Kitchen which were used to make the movie more appealing to Western audiences. Changing an anime's music was very common during the early to late nineties. During this period, it was a popular belief among English anime producers that a show needed to be heavily changed and adapted in order to be marketable. With the success of certain English dubs of anime that used the original music such as Gundam Wing, Fullmetal Alchemist, and Naruto, however, that belief has largely died out. As such, the editing of music still happens on some level, particularly with anime dubbed by 4Kids Entertainment and Nelvana, but is not particularly common anymore, with high profile anime such as Dragon Ball Z Kai having their background music unchanged even in the edited TV broadcast. However, a 4Kids employee on Reddit mentions that music is also sometimes changed due to the cost of licensing the original music, as it is not always packaged with the anime license or can cost extra, and thus producing their own music would be more cost-effective. [2]

Episode Titles[edit]

In some English dubbed anime, episode titles can differ from its Japanese title, as direct translations from the Japanese may sound awkward or unidiomatic to English speakers (e.g. for One Piece episode title: A Terrifying Mysterious Power! Captain Buggy, the Clown Pirate! (Japanese title), The Circus Comes to Town (English title)). In Sgt. Frog, most of the episode titles were changed to being puns and parodies of titles that Americans were familiar with.


Many earlier anime theatrical films had slow deliberate pacing resulting in running times that were over two hours. Odin: Photon Sailer Starlight, whose original runtime was two hours 15 minutes had a pre-credits sequence, numerous surrealistic special effects scenes, lengthy dialogue scenes, silent moments, as well as a musical ending (special appearance by Loudness, the band who performed some of the music numbers), all of which were cut resulting in a 90-minute English dub. The original North American release for Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, cut out almost half an hour of the movie, because it was considered too slow moving. This caused much confusion in the overall storyline. The two and a half hour film Farewell Space Battleship Yamato in the name of Love was also cut down to about 100 minutes when dubbed into English. The rationale for this practice is usually attributed to the perceived attention span of Western children, given the average length of domestic children's feature films rarely exceeding 100 minutes running time. This has appeared to be the case, even when these dubbed films are intended solely for home video and not theatrical release. Celebrity Home Entertainment (as part of their Just For Kids line), for example, released a number of anime films such as Arcadia of My Youth, The Dagger of Kamui, Macross: Do You Remember Love, and Cyborg 009: Legend of the Super Galaxy, all of which had running times of over two hours and were truncated significantly resulting in films with average running times of 90 minutes. In most of the examples mentioned, scenes of death and violence were not cut, as they tend to regularly occur during more fast paced scenes.

Uncut anime releases[edit]

Official releases[edit]

After several years of petitioning, 4Kids Entertainment released a few volumes of uncensored versions of Yu-Gi-Oh! and Shaman King on DVD. In addition to containing scenes originally cut from the features, the new versions contained the original music, Japanese language tracks, and new English language tracks with unlocalized dialogue that more closely matched the original Japanese dialog.[31] These unedited DVDs sold decently, being purchased by a subset of fans within the wider anime market, but ran into copyright issues regarding Shunsuke Kazama, the original Japanese VA for Yugi Moto, who was under contract with Johnny & Associates, a very strict studio who would not allow anyone use their trademarks. Indeed, by the time that the unedited DVDs were released, both Yu-Gi-Oh! and Shaman King had been running on television in their localized forms for several years and had been released in that format for years as well.[32] The first two volumes of Yu-Gi-Oh! were released uncut in 2004, and the third volume was released in 2005. Two volumes of Shaman King were released uncut. After time, both projects were canceled.[33] 4Kids drew the ire of One Piece fans for its heavily edited English dub up until Funimation acquired the rights to produce and distribute One Piece.[34] Recently, 4Kids has begun distributing uncut, Japanese episodes of Yu-Gi-Oh! through YouTube.

One of the first airings of uncut anime on cable television was shown on Cartoon Network's block Toonami entitled, "The Midnight Run". This block aired late at night and featured uncut versions of many of Toonami's anime including, Gundam Wing, Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, Blue Dragon, and Sailor Moon. This block helped launch the popular Adult Swim block which now shows/showed uncut versions of Bleach, Death Note, Fullmetal Alchemist, Inuyasha, Yu Yu Hakusho and also TV-MA-rated anime like Blood+ and Code Geass.

In addition, Funimation Entertainment began releasing uncut versions of Dragon Ball Z to DVD and VHS in 2000, beginning with the third season. The dub was the same, but cut scenes were restored and certain portions were re-dubbed to better fit the original script and to leave no trace of editing. The whole series was released in this format, and, by now, the edited versions are only seen through the old edited VHS releases and a Rock The Dragon Edition limited DVD release.


Main article: Fansub

According to the Anime News Network website, a fansub refers to "a fan-produced translated, subtitled version" of a foreign film or foreign television program which has been translated and subtitled by fans into a language other than that of the original. It is most commonly used to refer to fan-translated anime that is shared amongst other fans. The site also states:

Current American companies licensing anime[edit]

Main article: Anime industry

Most anime produced for the United States today is left uncut, but usually only released on DVD; many anime series shown on television are still edited to a certain extent. That being said, most major distribution companies leave anime completely uncut, although they may make edited versions for television, as is the case with the shows YuYu Hakusho, Naruto, and One Piece.

Creators' attitudes[edit]

The original creators of the anime that have been edited are usually not directly notified of the editing. It is up to the studios/copyright owners of anime as to whether or not to allow editing in their anime, and the ample number of anime edited for the United States would seem to indicate that the studios/copyright owners normally do not object. However, in some instances, Japanese studios have refused to allow their work to be censored as a precondition of signing a U.S. release contracts.

Hayao Miyazaki's anime film Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was heavily edited by New World Pictures in the mid-1980s and released as Warriors of the Wind. About one-quarter of the film was cut, its lead character "Nausicaa (Naushika in Japanese)" renamed "Princess Zandra," and its storyline simplified somewhat, distorting the original's ecological and pacifist themes. Additionally, the voice actors and actresses who dubbed the English dialogue were not really informed of the film's plot.[35] Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli were aware of this editing to the film and were extremely unhappy about it. Miyazaki has since suggested that those who have viewed the edited version should "dismiss it from their minds." As a result of this experience, the studio instituted a policy of never allowing a foreign company to edit any of its films prior to release in a new market.[35]

During the late 1990s and 2000s, Studio Ghibli has allowed its catalogue to be dubbed into English by Walt Disney Pictures, on the condition that no frames were removed or airbrushed, and that the English dialogue was not significantly changed from faithful translations of the Japanese versions. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was re-released in its unedited form by Disney in 2005.

The "no-cuts" policy was highlighted when Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein suggested editing Princess Mononoke to make it more marketable and avoid a PG-13 rating. In response, an unnamed Studio Ghibli producer sent him an authentic katana with a simple message: "No cuts."[36] Although Studio Ghibli has not allowed Disney to cut the films themselves, some minor changes to translated dialogue have been permitted, including the removal of references to testicles in the English dub of Pom Poko, replacing them with the innocuous euphemism "raccoon pouch."

In February 2006, Cartoon Network aired Miyazaki's Spirited Away with a TV-PG-V rating, as the film contained some minor violence and blood. Due to Studio Ghibli's strict "no cuts" policy, Cartoon Network ran the film uncut, and took a risk by showing the film during their Fridays children's block (with an encore the following Sunday evening). Cartoon Network did not receive complaints, and re-aired the film on March 18, 2006, during Toonami's "A Month of Miyazaki", which also included the uncut Princess Mononoke, rated TV-14-LV due to blood, violence, and a few mild uses of profanity.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Interview With John Semper
  2. ^ a b Guanche, Chris (2000-07-31). "Hollywood Execs Like Slashing Anime". Mecha Anime HQ. Retrieved 2008-06-07. 
  3. ^ Van Bakiel, Roger. "Before Toy Story, there was... Reboot." Wired 5.03, March 1997.
  4. ^ a b Patten, Fred. Watching Anime, Reading Manga: 25 Years of Essays and Reviews. 1st. Berkeley, CA: Stone Bridge Press, 2004.
  5. ^ An example from Yu-Gi-Oh! can be seen in the picture in this section of the article.
  6. ^ Blade of the Immortal#Editing in the English language adaptation The last paragraph in the section in the linked article describes the above situation.
  7. ^ Naruto Episode 124 and Naruto manga Volume 24, Chapter 210 pages 27-47
  8. ^ Episode 108
  9. ^ Oppliger, John. Does One Piece Still Have a Future in America? Anime Nation: April 12, 2007.
  10. ^ Isler, Ramsey. One Piece Guide (page 3 of 3). IGN.com: November 27, 2007.
  11. ^ "Ash Ketchum". Serebii. Retrieved 4 August 2012. 
  12. ^ Yu-Gi-Oh: The Abridged Series, Episode 27 "She Blinded Me With Card Games".
  13. ^ Poitras 2001, pp. 63–64
  14. ^ Poitras 2001, p. 53
  15. ^ "Sailor Moon R Movie". Sailor Moon Uncensored. Retrieved 2008-06-24. 
  16. ^ Turner, Andy; Lazar, Jim (2004-04-14). "Sakura Diaries Editing Report". Animeprime.com. Retrieved 2008-05-23. 
  17. ^ "Canada Bans Imports of Cool Devices, Words Worth". Anime News Network. 2008-02-26. Retrieved 2008-06-08. 
  18. ^ McLelland, Mark (2005). Queer Japan from the Pacific War to the Internet Age. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. ISBN 0-7425-3787-0. 
  19. ^ Watanabe, Tsuneo; Iwata Jun'Ichi (1990). The Love of the Samurai: A Thousand Years of Japanese Homosexuality. Gay Men's Press. ISBN 0-85449-115-5. 
  20. ^ Sebert, Paul (2000-06-28). "Kissing cousins may bring controversy Cartoon Network juggles controversial topics contained in the "Sailor Moon S" series". The Daily Athenaeum Interactive. Retrieved 2007-02-21. 
  21. ^ "Why were these three shows combined to make Robotech?". FAQ — Most Frequently Asked. Robotech.com. 2007. Retrieved 2008-05-23. 
  22. ^ Boctor, Amira; Lipowsky, Joshua (2002-03-14). "Voltron". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2008-05-24. 
  23. ^ Nelson, Cody (2003). "Episode 62: The Master of Magicians — Part III (Magician's Disciple: Black Magician Girl)". Yu-Jyo.net. Archived from the original on 2008-05-17. Retrieved 2008-05-24. 
  24. ^ Digimon Adventure "Gatomon Comes Calling"
  25. ^ Digimon Adventure "City Under Siege"
  26. ^ a b Poitras 2001, p. 85
  27. ^ Bertschy, Zac (Jan 30, 2012). "Puella Magi Madoka Magica Vol. 1 Blu-Ray - Review - Anime News Network". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2013-01-05. 
  28. ^ Swider, Matt (2007-03-22). "The Pokémon Series Pokedex". Gaming Target. Retrieved 2008-06-07. 
  29. ^ GreatSaiyaman777 (2005-02-06). "The Problems With 4Kids, and What They Need To Do In Order To Improve Back Again Into A Successful Company". Yu-Gi-Oh! Uncensored. The Anime Cauldron. Retrieved 2008-06-07. 
  30. ^ a b "Answerman - Show Me Your Evil Stick". Anime News Network. November 14, 2014. Retrieved April 29, 2015. 
  31. ^ "Yu-Gi-Oh! and Shaman King Unedited Details". Anime News Network. 2004-08-02. Retrieved 2007-07-30. 
  32. ^ Pennington, Steven (2005-04-24). "Alfred R. Kahn (Interview)". Anime News Network. Retrieved 2007-07-30. 
  33. ^ Rodriguez, Kevin T. (2005-06-18). "Finally! Uncut "Yu-Gi-Oh!" DVD's...Right?". AnimeCauldron.com. Yu-Gi-Oh! Uncensored. Retrieved 2007-07-30. 
  34. ^ "Lance Haskell Interview". Anime Online. Internet Archive Wayback Machine. 2007-04-15. Archived from the original on 2007-04-15. 
  35. ^ a b "FAQ". Nausicaa.net. Retrieved 2008-06-30. 
  36. ^ Brooks, Xan (2005-09-14). "A god among animators". The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-05-23. There is a rumor that when Harvey Weinstein was charged with handling the U.S. release of Princess Mononoke, Miyazaki sent him a samurai sword in the post. Attached to the blade was a stark message: "No cuts." / The director chortles, with "actually, my producer did that." 


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]