A good anime is a fun way to pass the time. There are almost limitless varieties to chose from, characters of all ages, genders, and species to champion. Want pirates? Try One Piece. Want mystical fighting? Try Dragon Ball. Want a world weirdly obsessed with card games (because there really is something for everyone)? Give Yu-Gi-Oh! a shot. But despite how innovative anime can be, it sometimes tends to drag on and on — which means a few repeated clichés and more than a bit of dull dialogue.
That’s where fans step in. They rewrite and condense the series they love into more compact episodes, keeping the core content intact but changing everything else. Some of these abridged series are now so good that they rival the original series they’re based on, and that’s not by accident. Here’s what these fanmade series are getting right about anime.
Let’s start with the obvious advantage of an abridged series: the abbreviated content. Five “minutes” in anime time can fill a total of three episodes with enough time left over for an overly explanatory flashback scene. Abridged series tend to cut out repeated scenes, allowing viewers to actually get on with the show by providing them with the only the most essential plot points.
Fights are kept to non-repeating moves and weak characters are instantly crushed instead of being toyed with across multiple episodes. All the essentials are kept in place but a lot of fat gets removed in the process. Yu-Gi-Oh: The Abridged Series even managed to cover four seasons of content in just 82 episodes — over 100 fewer than the original run.
Abridged series have a tendency to drastically alter their characters. Moderately smart personalities can become utterly emotionless, and the heavy hitters become either completely at ease with their powers or sure enough of themselves to be arrogant. My Hero Abridged is particularly noteworthy when it comes to taking liberties with the source material. In addition to substantially altering many of its characters, the vaunted title of “main protagonist” is stripped from Midoriya when he is written out of the script in an original plot twist.
Between fractious interactions between new personalities and sniping at each other for what the original versions did, there is no way to predict what each person will do from one moment to the next. But what does happen is always hilarious.
For somebody with the same training as Goku, Krillin is about as effective as a damp paper towel. Taking this into account, Team Four Star decided to keep a running tab on how often Krillin gets owned — you know, to help out their viewers. And it’s not just a one-off thing. All abridged series have some sort of ongoing joke, whether it’s Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged replacing the name “Duel Monsters” with “a children’s trading card game” or DragonBall Z Abridged characters crying out “Senzu bean!” whenever they heal an almost dead character with the mystical medicine.
Yet it’s not just the ongoing humor that makes these parodies so enjoyable, but how they constantly come up with ways to make the unremarkable amusing. Even a gag as simple as Shenron, the wish-granting dragon from the Dragon Ball series, getting bored with repeatedly resurrecting the heroes never gets old because it’s masterfully done.
Subs and Dubs
Without getting into the volatile argument of anime dubs vs. subs, we can safely say that abridged series possess the best of both worlds. With English voices and updated sound effects, even the most hardcore dubbers will enjoy the audio. Yet an unexpected benefit to abridged series are the subtitles the creators add to the series.
Packed with everything from errant thoughts of the narrator to pointless details of the plot, SAO: Abridged and Dragon Ball Z: Abridged, in particular, are usually worth at least two views an episode — one to watch the episode and another to read the subtitles as they go past.
Much like Deadpool, abridged series not only comment on how stupid some of the villains’ plans are but also bend the fourth wall to the breaking point. Friends running into a trap? Call them. Villains obviously going to break out? Double the guards. Characters from Yu-Gi-Oh: The Abridged Series often point out the idiocy of their situations, like when Kaiba supposedly promises to return the legendary Obelisk the Tormentor to Ishizu Ishtar (ha!). This trend even led to Ishizu Ishtar getting a catchphrase of her own: “Because shut up.”
Between comparing themselves to other shows, invoking and besmirching other voice actors, and even recalling events of future episodes, the characters of an abridged series are fully aware of the story they live in and miss no chance to joke about it.
There are many legal reasons why you won’t hear certain words in anime. “Microsoft,” “McDonald’s,” and even banal terms like “Google it” are heavily copyrighted and will never find their way into a series without becoming a thinly veiled alternative. Butin Log Horizon Abridged, characters run around talking about Dark Souls and EA, things anime viewers aren’t accustomed to hearing. Somehow, even just mentioning the names countries makes their strange situation even more realistic.
Being parodies and not-for-profit, abridged series are able to make use of real names and places without fear of being sued by the owners. Sure these are minor details, but when compared to Batman, which has used multiple stand-ins for YouTube, these tiny changes really make a difference.