It may seem weird for an ordinary non-animé fan, but I admit it, I was present during the AXN Animé Festival last July 7, 2001. Overwhelmed by the large crowd present at the Megamall’s Atrium during the convention, I witnessed how people filled the open space of the mall up to the fourth floor. It was like a star-studded affair, with fans dressed in their favorite animé attires as the celebrities. Everybody was curious and excited as the costume play started. I was able to experience the ultimate sense of my being an animé fan. Moreover, having been a spectator during such fabulous convention, I could testify to the growing popularity of animé in the Philippines.
Due to the support given by numerous animé fans or otakû s (translated to “geek” or dangerously obsessed fan) from all over the world, animé or Japanese animation has become a big factor in the country’s media and entertainment scene. In 1999, GMA’s Ghost Fighter and Flame of Recca , both topped the survey charts as the most watched TV shows in primetime television among local networks. The year 2000 had been an animé event-filled television year since GMA Network had its Animé Assault where animé shows were included in most of its primetime slots. Recently, ABC has also launched it Animania satisfying the public, especially the children, of their growing demand for animé. And although the Philippine’s largest network ABS-CBN is a bit of unresponsive in promoting animé, it has certainly exposed animé to a large number of viewers. The animé “fandom” has been commercialized all over the world because animé has been shown on large television networks and has acquired quite a number of financiers. In line with this these, TV networks would surely devise ways in order to maintain or achieve high viewer ratings. And here comes censorship.
From the beginning, motion pictures have been subject to local censorship… using the existing laws and powers covering places of entertainment. [P]roblems existed for film-makers in dealing with the varying standards . . . [and] [t]o eliminate this, the film industry in each country usually set up its own voluntary censorship organization, and film producers were expected to comply with its standards. (Salt, 2000)
Animé shows and films, therefore should “fit” into the standards of the laws passed regarding movie and television rating boards. During the Marcos era’s extensive media censorship during the 1970’s, animé shows like Voltes V , G-Force and Mazinger Z were banned because of their “compelling political themes.” The television networks in turn substituted the “less political and more family oriented animation shows” like The Mickey Mouse Show , Scooby Doo , and The Flintstones for the “more battle oriented animé.” (Godinez and Rodriguez, 2001)
Similar to what occurred during the Martial Law years, TV networks and companies that import animé edit them so that they can be approved by the censor boards to fit into a larger number of audiences. With this, they are assured of “earning” more profits from showing animé. The main purpose of censorship, more important than its purpose for better production, is to protect individuals from corruption of morality (Haiman, 1991). Definitely, animé contents, like any other ordinary movie or television show, is censored for “immoral, indecent, contrary to law and/or good customs… dangerous tendency to encourage the commission of violence or of wrong or crime…” Therefore, subversion, insurrection, glorifying criminals or condoning crimes, violence or pornography, and prohibited drugs are big no-no themes for animé (Presidential Decree No. 1986, 2001). And so are guns, smoking, alcohol, child endangerment, conflict about religion, and strangulation (The Little Black Box, 2001).
Censorship by editing the violent and obscene contents of animé, therefore, though implicitly stated in laws, aims to protect the minors and the children from the factors that might influence or promote juvenile delinquency or crime (Haiman, 1991). This is apparent in the way movies and television shows are rated: General Patronage (GP) for all audiences, Parental Guidance (PG) and Rated (R) for mature audiences. These ratings are based on the viewers’ ages. But the kids are not the only audience of these animé shows. Being “for kids only” stuff is an old misconception about animé. This can be attributed to the belief that animé is not different from the Disney animations and other American cartoons whose target audiences are the youngsters. Unknown to many, the truth is, in Japan, these animations were shown on all classifications of timeslots on television, which means that animé shows are created for audiences of all ages!
In general, by editing animé, what companies try to do now is to make kiddie animations shows out of animé series and movies, which originally, were not supposed to be for children. In the Philippines, for example, the dark and violent scenes from the animé series Neon Genesis Evangelion had been cut by ABS-CBN, resulting to confusion in the episodes. My sister remarked “O, what happened?” unexpecting a black screen after few extreme fighting scenes were shown. Even other viewers have noticed that several whole episodes were cut probably due to nudity and violence. Evangelion had been regularly shown by ABS-CBN during its afternoon kiddie time slots, but it is an animé not intended for the children! The whole meaning of the story is deep and abstract, more serious what were considered themes for children like love and friendship.
As [animator] Anno [Hideaki] himself remarks, in Evangelion [ital. mine]… he attempts to make the most of animé’s abstractness… The narrative devices in Evangelion and their metaphorical meanings should receive our entire attention… [e]specially Anno’s use of the [A]ngels as an abstract enemy. . . Evangelion tells the story of three children unreluctantly entrusted with saving their city (if not the world) from aliens, which neither can be identified, nor in their intention be understood. [T]here is Rei Ayanami, who represents a new image/type of child’s solitude. Together with Shinji and Asuka, we see her on sunny school days’ mornings, while miles under… an artificially created urban infrastructure… is the downward spiral into the realm of government conspiracies and military research strategists: Tokyo 3 in the year 2015. (Woznicki, 1998)
Another case of “animé butchery” that happened in the Philippine television is that of the Dragonball series’ case. Before, RPN 9 licensed its showing, including the original English dubbing of the said Japanese animation. Recently, GMA has again revived Dragonball and Dragonball Z , replacing the old English dub with a Filipino one. But this time, otakû s especially the more mature ones (teenagers and adults) are complaining because of the unprofessional dubbing and editing of the Dragonball series. In the US, the reason for editing the TV show was that of the nudity – the exposure of the child Gokou ’s penis while peeing, and the presence of swearing words like shit, hell, damn and ass (Daovonnaex, 2001). The scene where the character Yamucha is supposed to be drenching in blood was cut (Daovonnaex, 2001), and the dialogues were dubbed with different English translation, Filipino in our case. In the condition of the sub-titled episodes, the sub-titles are not really the direct translation of the dialogues of particular scenes. Apparently, the main concern of this issue was the attempt to “shield” the children from what they supposedly have experienced and have seen naturally. Questions like “if children are raised without exposure to other views, how will they know that they are wrong or right when the come into contact with them later in life?” have also been raised in relation with the need for censorship of materials mentioned.
“What [kind of] kid over the age of 8 [hasn't] know(n) words like “damn” and “bitch”… what [kind of] kid over the age of 10 hasn’t already started seeing things with sex on them, and worst of all what kid hasn’t… seen violence galore in the schools and streets…?”(http://www.scifi.com/bboard, 2001)
Some of these “obscenity” (or was it?) were needed in order to present the characters more effectively. How would you introduce the ill-mannered Vejita without the curses and swearing? Or the ordinary child life of Son Gokou without a child’s usual habits like peeing and misbehaving? Besides, these things appear in PG movies in the U.S. and in the Philippines. In fact, Dragonball is rated PG, therefore it would be the parents’ duty to guide their respective children regarding the disturbing materials.
Violence and sex are not the only portion these animé shows are censored for. Offensive themes such as racism, homosexuality and war are also considered delicate themes. In Angel Cop (a video release in the US), for example, “the dub and sub scripts were changed to remove anti-Semitic themes and storylines, including changing the main bad guys from “the worldwide Jewish conspiracy to the Red May” (Lazar, 2001). Cardcaptor Sakura was also drastically changed because of the homosexuality implied by the series. Available now in the afternoon timeslot of ABS-CBN, Cardcaptors is now a “good quality animé for kids.” Ordinary viewers may not distinguish the editing made to this animé series since it really appears to be for kids. But the critical and skeptic senses of the animé otakû s suggest that Cardcaptors was also a victim of butchery. Of course unlike ordinary audiences, animé otakû s tend to look for the original stories of the animé series and they would later find out from Internet sources and original manga (comic book in Japan) that the stories were altered and different episodes connected. Firstly, Cardcaptors ‘ main theme is growing up through the different experiences of love and to the original Japanese authors (the CLAMP), this may not necessarily mean heterosexual relationship. But Nelvada, an American company destroyed the idea of the homosexual relationship between two characters: Tohya and Yukito (Index of FAQ, 2001). The Filipinos are much luckier that the Cardcaptors ‘ characters’ age levels were not adjusted as to fit in the standard “affectionate emotion” age level. The Americans were not. Such maximized post-productions seem to degrade the original author’s intention in producing such storylines. The censorship made even posed malice to the original creators.
Animé fans have been gradually protesting against the unreasonable methods of editing animé. “Animé is an art form[,] [t]he artists and writers have artistic purpose and merit when making a series, movie, O[riginal] V[ideo] A[nimation], or manga [and] [a]rt should never be tampered with, cut, edited, or destroyed” (Just Say NO To Bad Animé, 2001). Whenever animé is edited, its original storyline is altered, the true meaning its creator wishes to express to the viewers is not properly emphasized. And the viewers are betrayed.
Now, animé fanatics have made several suggestions. It would be better not to air an animé show that contains “objectionable” materials than edit everything and change the whole storylines. After all, it would just be a waste of time and money if viewers do recognize that they are being betrayed by the animé shown to them. Before the big corporations adopted animé series on prime time TV, animé already had BIG fan-bases and these loyal and devoted fans should be the target audience of the companies and not the “fickle mass public” (Just Say NO To Bad Animé, 2001). And since there are already available animé video shops, why not put the mature animé videos in them? (The sadder thing is even mature videos were edited). Besides, there are still numerous animé series that do not contain disturbing materials and are suited for mass viewing. I personally prefer an unedited version of an animé series that can be viewed by everybody like comedy Doraemon and Mojacko . Why not just show them instead of “murdering” relevant masterpieces? If censorship aims in advocating “morals”, is violation of an intellectual right not immoral? Finally, censorship is just a “reflection of our society.” By determining which we allow as entertainment, censorship suggests that “we have not truly made up our minds on the appropriateness of certain types of entertainment” (Censorship and Golden Age Animation, 2001).