Anime Editorials

Prison School Dub Leads to More Controversy for Anime Fans

Just to be clear on something before you start reading this article, I am not a #Gamergate supporter or apologist. Quite frankly, I abhor what the whole #Gamergate supporters stand for and have publicly stated on my Facebook and Twitter pages that if you support the whole #Gamergate issue that you please unfriend or unfollow me. The archaic, misogynistic, and sexiest views of the vocal #Gamergate supporters are a degeneration of modern and gender equality values that I believe are necessary in today’s world for every person of every gender to be on a balanced social setting needed for the modern world to thrive in.

However, I am neither what you would consider a Social Justice Warrior. While I do believe that men and women should be seen and portrayed on equal terms with each other, the forced change of certain artistic forms, such as comic, video game, and anime, is a form of censorship that should not be permitted. That’s not to say that all forms of change brought on by new societal norms are flawed, I like where a lot of these changes are leading the artistic genres that I follow. But sometimes there are some changes that I do not agree with as I am a firm believer that if you don’t like something you shouldn’t force your views on others for the sake of political or social correctness.

Really, it boils down to me being against censorship when it comes to materials that have already have already been produced and the forced change just to have the art conform to your chosen set of views and/or values. Let’s change things to make art for a better future but not at the expense of the past. Let’s not repeat the mistakes that have been made, but neither should we completely erase them and act like they never existed.

That all being said, I want to talk about the recent hubbub between the creative staff over at FUNimation and their viewers. In a recent airing of a dubbed version of the anime Prison School, the writing staff, Tyson Reinhart in particular, managed to anger a lot of Western anime fans with their dubbing of a line from the original anime to something that claimed was more in tune with Western audiences.

In the original Japanese version of the anime, the line heard on screen directly translates to English as such:

“You keep talking to me like we’re on equal terms, but I’m a 2nd year. You have to address a superior more politely. Shut… up…”

But in the recent Western airing of the same episode, the line has been localized as such:

“Woah, cut the breaks Arthur Fonzarelli. You got a stick up your ass, or are you one of those dumbass GamerGate creepshows?”

Now, I’m all for taking digs at the #Gamergate supportive community, but the drastic change to the line, when the original direct translation is much more impactful and representative of the character and tone of the series as a whole. Especially when Tyson Reinhart responded to fan criticism with this response on his Twitter feed:

“If you think rape threats against women in gaming are acceptable, I’m glad my script pissed you off. #PrisonSchool #itwasjustonelineyounerds”

To shoehorn in a dig at the #Gamergate community just for the sake of doing so is evidence of a complete lack of respect for the original source material that the writers are working on. But to also attack the fans who have a legitimate gripe with the line change is none to professional on his part. To their credit, FUNimation has responded on their Twitter account the following message:

“We at Funimation want to have an open dialogue with fans. We welcome your praise, as well as your criticism and suggestions for improvement.

As fans and members of the anime community, there will be things that we don’t all agree on and there is always room for discussion and vocalizing those viewpoints.”

The message also goes on to address some of the more severe and criminal responses that they have received since the episode aired:

“However, harassment, doxxing, threats, or cruelty of any kind, are unacceptable and will be taken very seriously. There is no place for that in this community, from any side.

We are always listening and always striving to be better. Let’s do it together.”

And this is where I need to criticize this section of the fan base that find it appropriate to insult and threaten the FUNimation staff that has worked on Prison School. In no way is it ever okay to insult or threaten anyone just because you don’t agree them or how they are doing things. First off, that is the quickest way to completely devaluate your argument with them and paints you in a worst light than what you may feel they slighted you about. Second, and more importantly, threatening a person or group is actually a criminal offense and you can be, if they so choose to file charges, prosecuted under criminal charges. Trust me, as a 16-year veteran of the LAPD I know what I am talking about here. Insults and threats will never lead to any meaningful communication that leads to change.

Now back to the topic of this article: it’s generally accepted that some changes to the original dialog will happen when anime series are being localized for Western anime fans, but those changes are usually relevant to the current state of the world, pop culture, or industry in general. For FUNimation and Reinhart to say that this new line that was added to the episode is in any way relevant to today’s culture, they are sorely mistaken. I mean, I am nearly 40 years old and that reference to Arthur Fonzarelli is dated by my standards. How you are going to have me accept that a character that was popular from the mid-1970s through the mid-1980s is in any way relatable to today’s average anime fan? Hell, when you look at the majority of anime fans today, I am pretty sure that they were all born in the mid-1990s or later – far too young to really understand that outdated reference. Hell, even for someone my age, that reference is lame and outdated.

But forget even that, the line doesn’t even match the point that Anzu was trying to make to Shingo. She was trying to point out to him that he should respect her for being his elder and senior student – not insult him for being a misogynist and pervert. She is asking for respect, even forcibly demanding it from him. She was not insulting him, which is what the new line implies. It completely changes the entire tone of the scene and needlessly takes away from the impact the scene was intended to produce.

Of course, controversies involving the changes made to dialog in anime isn’t new as this has been a contentious point within the anime community for a long time. Ever since I was a young anime viewer in the 1980s, the difference between the original anime and the way that Western distribution companies took liberties with the translation and localization of anime has been a point of controversy. And it is sad that Western distributors have ignored those points and complaints for so many years. This may be what has fueled the animosity found amongst the anime fan community. It doesn’t excuse it, but it is a valid point to bring up when anime fans say that companies are not listening to their concerns.

Yet, still, FUNimation claims they are willing to have “an open dialogue” with their fans. After repeated calls from numerous anime fans to FUNimation and other Western distributors over the years, they still claim they are willing to engage in communication with them to try and assuage their concerns. But year after year, I have yet to see any kind of communication between the distributors and the anime fan community that would lead to any kind of satisfactory change for either side. Instead it seems that these companies are simply content to do as they have for years, continue to ignore the fan base, and continue to add in lines that not only have no context within the anime being localized but also interject their own meanings that have no bearing to others in the community at all.

As for me, that is why I strictly watch anime in the original Japanese language and would rather read the subtitles than watch anime that has been localized and dubbed. And that kind of sucks because I know and am friends with several voice actors who work within the anime genre and I would love to hear their works on some of my favorite anime series. But when I know that so much of the series’ dialog will differentiate vastly from the original Japanese script just because the Western distributors and localizers feel that Western audiences will not or cannot comprehend the original script – what is the point? If you want to engage these companies with meaningful communication hoping for change, go right ahead. Me, I’ll stick to the original version and just take my time to read the subtitles at the bottom. It seems less insulting that way.

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