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Viz explains censorship in Dragonball Manga

posted on 2000-08-22 01:19 EDT
A while ago we reported that Viz had acknowledged that they were censoring the Dragon Ball comic. The Next Dimension reports that the letter column of the latest issue of Dragon Ball contains this letter from the editor:

These are only a few of the letters we've received about the censorship in the recent issues of Dragon Ball. Thanks to everyone who wrote in. We know that it's caused great dissapointment-to us as well as to readers-so here's the story. It wasn't the result of an editorial shift. Back in late 1999, a few parents bought Dragon Ball comics for their children at a major chain store and objected to some of the slightly sexual humor in the first issues. They complained to the management, a few news stories were written about it... and presto, Dragon Ball comics ceased being distributed outside of comics stores.

Many anime fans in the '80s dreamed about anime hitting it big in the mainstream, and unfortunately, one of the problems with "mainstream success" in America is that when something like anime or manga becomes popular, it becomes a target for a lot of people who like to pick things apart for objectionable content and make sure that things "for children" (i.e., all animation and comics, in their minds) are as "safe" and harmless as possible. Explaining that Japanese culture has different standards, or that Goku's nudity in a children's book like Maurice Sendak's in The Night Kitchen isn't easy. Of course, even in Japan, the Dragon Ball manga's main audience is 12 years old through teenagers. But since it's on the Cartoon Network and in Burger King ads, some people think it must be suitable for preschoolers... as if there's no middle line between Pokémon and "For Ages 18 and Older". It'll be a while before the "cartoons are for kids" attitude of many people in the U.S. turns into a true acceptance that anime can mean many different things... and probably, it will always be the fact that anime and manga isn't designed with a U.S. audience in mind that makes it interesting.

The upshot of this was some tough decisions, in which getting Dragon Ball into a wide audience was balanced against keeping it true to the original. And with Shueisha and Toriyama's approval, Viz has had to make some concessions to that perceived audience (and their retailers and distributors) the way other licensors such as FUNimation do.
We are trying to keep the changes minimal, since we'd rather not make them at all. All the Dragon Ball changes are approved first by Akira Toriyama, and he has made some suggestions, such as covering Goku's privates with objects instead of making him look as if he's neutered (where it's possible). Mostly this has involved changing some dirty jokes and nudity in Dragon Ball; DBZ has comparatively little censorship, as we don't plan to cut any violence. The Dragon Ball Vol. 1 graphic novel, which comes out this month, is the "edited" version, although the unedited original comics of Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 are still available.

If anyone has any specific questions about what has been changed, or what "originally" happened in a particular place, please write to me about it. Our intentions aren't to conceal the truth even if we have to conceal Goku's genitals. We'll try our best to keep it as true to the original as possible within the boundaries that have been set upon us. Hopefully someday America will be mature enough as a country that Dragon Ball can be printed as it was originally drawn.

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