Direct censorship Edit
Political correctness Edit
Due to cultural differences between America and Japan, some anime contains images that are publicly acceptable in Japanese society, but which are considered politically incorrect in the U.S., or which carry connotations of racism or ethnic stereotyping in the U.S. that do not exist in Japanese culture.
Characters believed to be stereotypical of black people are toned down as to not appear possibly offensive. This, however, is a rare occurrence in anime today.
Religious symbols are commonly airbrushed out if they appear in contexts that are not acceptable in the U.S. Religious terminology is often removed from dialogue for the same reason. Sometimes a character appearing to be crucified by being bound to two wooden beams in the shape of a cross is enough to be considered unacceptable.
For example, representations of the Christian cross were airbrushed out of Pokémon and One Piece, while references to Hell were replaced with "HFIL (Home For Infinite Losers)" in Dragon Ball Z and Dragon Ball GT. 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 Satanism and Paganism.
Other examples include an ancient Sanskrit 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 it is easily mistaken for the Nazi swastika by Western audiences. 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.
The word "Bible" has also been removed from the covers of Bibles; names of certain monsters with religious origins are also commonly changed.
In Mobile Suit Gundam, a dialogue between Degwin Zabi and his son Gihren Zabi has Degwin comparing Gihren to Adolf Hitler. In the Toonami broadcast, Hitler's name is replaced with references to fascism.
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, Mexico's Gundam bears a giant turbine in the shape of a sombrero on its head, 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.
Due to FCC regulations and U.S. social factors, alcohol and tobacco products are commonly airbrushed 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 products appear. Wine or champagne may be acceptable in banquet or restaurant scenes and might escape censorship, while beer or saké consumed on the street might not. For example, 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. Naruto, however, was edited for a slightly more mature audience such as the bridge builder was shown drinking alcohol, though kanji on the bottle and the redness in his cheeks were removed to lessen the effect of the scene. Rock Lee's consumption of alcohol and his Drunken Fist style were changed in both the English-version edited anime and manga 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 is shown smoking a cigarette (although it is unlit in the TV version). In the Cartoon Network airing of Ruroni Kenshin, Saito, a character who is commonly seen smoking cigarettes, instead is depicted with a toothpick in his mouth — sometimes resulting in some inconsistency when in some scenes he takes a drag of what appears to be a toothpick and somehow exhales smoke.
In the Toonami versions of Mobile Suit Gundam and Mobile Suit Gundam 0080, 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 which caused there to be a very awkward scene in which a character walks into a "Milk Bar" that has various glass bottles on the shelves which the bartender refers to as "Milk" despite the fact that they didn't even edit the liquid that is poured into the glass to white. In the anime One Piece, Dr. Kureha was drinking a bottle of alcohol, but the dialog was changed to state that it was "bug juice". Another character from One Piece named Sanji is commonly seen smoking a cigarette, though in the English dub, the cigarette is replaced with a lollipop. However, the Funimation dub on TV has recently changed this to have Sanji not having anything in his mouth, instead gritting his teeth.
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 U.S. is often modified to remove violence, death, and weapons, particularly if the series is aimed towards children. This can be problematic, as anime produced in this age range often involve martial arts, war, and deadly combat.Commonly, the censorship of violence is done by removing the exact moment when a physical attack, such as a punch 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. In other cases, the frames containing the connecting blow are removed and the frames immediately before and after it are extended to procure a slow motion or comic book frame effect.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 guns being pointed and shot at characters. This caused much confusion as the missing episode explained how and when Ash Ketchum captured 30 Tauros.In some censored shows, death is also either never mentioned, 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. In early seasons of Dragon Ball Z, all references to characters dying were changed so that they were instead transported to 'the next 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 been simply 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, and the dialog was altered to implicitly describe all combatants as being robot soldiers.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 and some networks devoted to animation, such as Cartoon Network, are now increasingly setting aside time slots in the evening and at night for uncut or lightly cut anime. Swearing and profanityUnlike 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 and disrespectful version of 'you'), rather than words that can be easily translated into curse word equivalents. However, translators producing English-language fansubs 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 by fansubbers as "shit" or "damn". For a series targeted at school-age 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 BECK: Mongolian Chop Squad. This led to the anime being rated TV-MA on the Funimation DVDs.Nudity and sexuality Top: Original uncut image from Sailor Moon.Bottom: Edited image.As nudity is far more stigmatized in the U.S. than it is in Japan, such content is often edited out of locally distributed anime. Due to U.S. law regarding child pornography, suggested underage nudity is also commonly censored. In the U.S. release of Sailor Moon, all of the female leads (except for Moon and Chibi Moon) were airbrushed to remove the lines tracing their breasts during transformation scenes, even though the characters were shown in silhouette form only. This kind of editing is not limited to cartoons aimed at older audiences, either. For example, ADV Films edited out nudity of high-school-aged characters from the American DVD release of the anime Sakura Diaries. However, the edits to the animation were not done by ADV Films but were shown on TV in Japan. The video was already edited for exposed female private parts, and were covered by inserted lingerie. Dialogue was also altered to shield suggestions of adolescent age.  Meanwhile, in February 2008, the government of Canada banned imports of such hentai series Cool Devices and Words Worth, as it cited those series as "obscene" under federal guidelines. HomosexualityIn Japan, views on sexuality and a tradition of celebrating relationships between males with a strong element of homoerotic undertones have resulted in a more tolerance and acceptance of homosexuals than in the United States. 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.Examples include the 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, and some scenes that could not be explained away by their new relationship were cut. 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 type of energy he and the other villains of that particular story-arc needed.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.Similar censorship is applied to conceal transgenderism or transvestitism. 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 Aopulco) was cut from the series' original syndicated US release as it centered around 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 Pokemon 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 only with only a single female voice. Non-censorship modification PlotIn 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.Voltron would also be another example; in this case, it combined the series GoLion and Dairugger XV. In the second season (the Battle city arc) of Yu-Gi-Oh!, there had been change of plot through dialogue. In the original, Marik wanted to kill Yugi because he thought that Yugi killed his father. In the dub, Marik wanted to possess all three Egyptian God Cards so he could rule the world. This was changed to censor one character wanting to kill another.. There has been a change in the plot in child-oriented anime as well such as in Magical Doremi. In the original, strangers kidnap Hazuki while in the 4Kids dub, Hazuki is Reanne and the strangers are her uncle Nick and cousins and they take her to the museum in the dub. As Japanese children are allowed to go with strangers or who they don't know which is different from America.Cultural streamlining Comparison of the Anime Pokémon. Ash Ketchum is carrying a submarine sandwich in the U.S. dub editted by 4Kids Entertainment (left) vs. Satoshi carrying an Onigiri, a food item unfamiliar to most Americans, in the Japanese version (right).To accomodate American audiences, anime is commonly modified to state or imply it takes place within the United States, or in a fictional country that resembles America. This is commonly achieved by substituting Japanese elements in a series for elements drawn from American popular culture, modifying food or other products to resemble their American equivalents, and by replacing Japanese writing with English.Examples include Street Fighter II: The Animated Movie, in which the Japanese newspaper at the end of the feature is changed to the New York Times newspaper, the early episodes of Dragon Ball, in which Japanese currency is changed to U.S. dollars, and the scene in Spirited Away where Chihiro first sees the bath house, in the Japanese version she just looks at it and says nothing, but in the English dub she says "It's a bath house". This was changed due to most American viewers not being familiar with a bath house unlike in Japan, because bathhouses are common in Japan yet almost never seen in America.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 Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi, Xiaolin Showdown, Yin Yang Yo, Avatar: The Last Airbender and 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. Audience stereotypingSome 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 six to nine age year old boys, the U.S. distributer of Cardcaptor Sakura (a series originally aimed primarily at a female audience) retitled the series Cardcaptors (plural and non-gender specific), and Warner Brothers edited the first series to give a male sub-character equal status to the original female lead. It also deleted every episode from the show's continuity that did not sufficiently feature the male character, including the three romance based subplots that formed much of the show's appeal to females.[original research?] To this end, most elements of romance were also removed from the series, thus damaging the plot. However, all 70 episodes aired in other countries, such as Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom's first run (albeit still titled Cardcaptors).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 series set on Earth and containing a heavy environmental protection message, its American counterpart was a light space based series which contained none of the original environmental message and was aimed at a younger audience. DubtitlingThe 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. FifteeningFifteening, 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).Manga Entertainment was known for this in their dubs; for example Appleseed, which is otherwise a 12-rated anime, had many uses of 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. Opening and closing creditsChanging 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. Some companies have gone even as far as to remove such segments completely.Titles and namesRenaming and retitlingSometimes, the titles of shows and names of characters are completely changed.The Japanese series Konjiki no Gash Bell!! (Golden Gash Bell) had its name changed to 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 were given Americanized names, 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." 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.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).Because of legal issues, Funimation was unable to obtain full legal clearance to the mystery series Detective Conan and were forced to change the name to Case Closed. Every character — save for the titular Conan — was given a new Americanized name while famous Japanese locales and landmarks were also Americanized.Also, in foreign markets the anime Pocket Monsters was known as its Japanese nickname Pokémon, to avoid confusion with another American media franchise Monster In My Pocket. For the series One Piece, the surname for character Roronoa Zoro was romajised as Zolo to avoid possible conflicts over rights to the name Zorro. MusicWhile it is common in Japanese films and anime to have silent moments of reflection for characters, it is not widely encountered in their American counterparts. Many dubbed versions include added background chatter to fill quiet moments, but adding music is another common antidote.Usually music is added for aesthetic reasons, but with some older anime, music may be added or replaced because the separated vocal and musical tracks are not available to the dubbing company. Music is sometimes replaced entirely, the most controversial example in recent years being Dragon Ball Z (although the recently released remastered DVD box sets by Funimation have restored the original music). Other times, Japanese lyrics in theme songs are localized into English or the theme music is replaced or altered, but the background music remains unchanged.Uncut anime releases Official releasesAfter several years of petitioning 4Kids Entertainment released 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 dialog that more closely matched the original Japanese dialog. These unedited DVDs sold poorly, being purchased only by a subset of fans within the wider anime market. 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. 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. 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.  Recently, 4Kids has begun distributing uncut, Japanese episodes of Yu-Gi-Oh! through a popular video streaming website, YouTube. One of the first airings of uncut anime on cable television was as block on Cartoon Network from 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, Yu Yu Hakasho, and Sailor Moon. This block helped launch the popular Adult Swim block which now shows uncut versions of Death Note, Bleach, Inuyasha, Fullmetal Alchemist, and more. 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.FansubsAccording 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:“Although technically illegal -- Japanese copyrights are honored in the US and other Berne Convention and WTO countries and vice versa -- some anime licensors look the other way on fansubs as "free advertising" since people who see a fansub might buy the release on DVD if they enjoy it. Other companies, both Japanese and North American, have much less tolerance for fansubs. Some Japanese companies have asked fansubbers to not translate their properties (Production I.G in relation to Ghost in the Shell, and Media Factory in relation to all its titles), while representatives of some American companies have publicly stated that they do not appreciate the efforts of fansubbers.”
Most anime produced for the United States today is left uncut, but almost all uncut anime is only released on DVD; many anime series shown on television are still edited. 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 show Yu Yu Hakusho, Naruto, and One Piece.
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 film Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was severely edited by New World Pictures in the mid-1980s and released under the new title Warriors of the Wind on video and shown on HBO. About one-quarter of the film was cut, its lead character "Nausicaa (Naushika)" 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 dialog were not adequately informed of the story's plotline.
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 had viewed the edited version should "dismiss it from their minds." As a result of this experience, Studio Ghibli instituted a policy of never allowing a foreign company to edit any of its films prior to release in a new market. During the late 1990s and 2000s, Studio Ghibli has allowed its catalog to be dubbed into English by Disney Studios, on the condition that no frames were removed or airbrushed, and that the dialog was not significantly changed. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was re-released, uncut, with its original title, 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". Although Studio Ghibli has not allowed Disney to cut the films themselves, some minor changes to translated dialogue have 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-V due to blood, violence and a few mild curse words