Anime covers a wide variety of genres and themes aimed at different audiences. Sometimes, it can get quite surreal. From bizarre monsters to dark storylines to unconventional ways of addressing adult themes, anime can make people uncomfortable. Unfortunately, this discomfort can lead to scenes and even characters getting the infamous black bar for the most absurd reasons. Whether it’s to protect younger audiences or obey broadcasting laws, here are five anime moments that were needlessly censored.
Tokyo Ghoul follows a group of carnivorous creatures known as ghouls who feed on human flesh. So, it’s understandable that things could get violent and gruesome very quickly. But unfortunately, the anime gets an excessive amount of censorship.
Tokyo Ghoul is a very graphic tale. Ghouls not only eat humans but stab each other and even rip off toenails (ouch!). As a result, the series has been censored quite a bit. Blurry black shadows cover bloody or dismembered body parts and beams of light obscure visible wounds.
But, the most common method of censorship that the series makes use of color inversion. During gruesome fights, the entire scene receives a different, opposite color scheme from the original. In episode 2, “Incubation” Nishiki has almost beaten Kaneki to death and is about to kill Kaneki’s friend, Hide. Nearing death, Kaneki remembers first meeting Hide and how quickly they became friends.
Filled with memories of how Hide is always there for Kaneki, the half-human half-ghoul summons his kagune for the first time, stabbing Nishiki multiple times. The aftermath is a bloody mess that covers the entire overpass. However, instead of letting fans see the blood spatter, the animator chose to invert the colors, taking a modern and stylistic approach to gore and censorship.
Even so, there’s no place for censorship when a series uses extreme violence as a way to drive the narrative.
Japan’s broadcasting rules differ from those of Western countries. While some things are not a big deal to include in Japanese TV shows, in the US, it may be a whole different story.
That was the case when 4Kids Entertainment acquired the TV distribution rights for the English market of One Piece, an anime about a group of pirates and their adventures. When the company bought the rights, they didn’t realize the show contained so much inappropriate material. So they had to censor and even cut out essential story arcs. This created a lot of problems for the show, as their edits created plot holes and left viewers confused.
One of the most obvious edits 4Kids made was swapping Sanji’s cigarette for a lollipop. They also changed storylines that featured characters dying to them being held captive and never referenced again. 4Kids even went as far as to change the skin color of characters from black to white to avoid racial stereotypes.
Another anime show that suffered heavy censorship from 4Kids Entertainment was the card game anime, Yu-Gi-Oh! In 4Kids’ defense, their target audience was young children, and the content featured in Yu-Gi-Oh! wasn’t exactly meant for kids.
Even so, 4Kids changed Japanese references and characters’ names to be more suitable for an English-speaking audience. Mention of hell or implications of death were removed or replaced with the Shadow Realm, a place where souls stay forever. But, the most bizarre censorship came when animators replaced lethal weapons like guns with a menacing index finger.
In the episode, “Duel With a Ghoul,” two men burst through a door and point their fingers at Seto Kaiba and he leaps through a glass window because the fingers were threatening his life. Viewers can understand why someone would jump out of a window when confronted with a gun. But in the 4Kids adaptation, Kaiba looks like he’d rather die than get reprimanded by the men in black.
When Sailor Moon first arrived in the US in 1992, LGBT characters on TV were a rarity, and same-sex couples were basically unheard of. So when the series made its way to the US, DiC, the licensor, decided that sailors Neptune and Uranus had to change. Instead of being lovers, for the English-dubbed version, DiC Entertainment chose to turn them into cousins.
While DiC managed to change the context of a few scenes, the original intent was obvious. This caused a few awkward moments throughout the series, like when Neptune and Uranus discuss their first kiss and the flashback features both scouts kissing. It seems like at that time, it was better to highlight a romantic relationship between cousins instead of a lesbian couple.
Beside not featuring lesbian couples, DiC also removed gay men from the series. Instead, they changed these characters into women voiced by female actresses.
Yo-kai Watch, a game-inspired anime that creatively explores emotions has a G-rating in Japan. The series follows Nathan Adams and his Yo-kai friends who go on amazing adventures together stopping other Yo-kai from creating problems for humans. But to broadcast the show in the US and make it suitable for its audience, Disney XD had to make a few changes.
While Disney XD changed some Japanese names so the characters would be more English friendly, there were a few scenes that were unnecessarily revised. In one episode, Nathan and his friends have a sleepover and want to stay up late to watch adult programming, which included watching cute girls in bikinis.
But, in the English adaptation, they are less excited about the show. Also, the girls’ bikinis are exchanged for one-piece bathing suits and shorts. Also, in the Japanese version, the boys watch a show of muscular men exercising in speedos, but the animators swapped it out for a cooking show.