Do Edited-For-Television Versions Of Anime Get Preserved?

by Justin Sevakis,

Kevin asks:

In cases of shows that have "Edited for TV" versions, such as YuYu Hakusho and Rurouni Kenshin, what happens to them? Do they get stored away? Do they exist somewhere on the Funimation or Bang Zoom's servers? You see, I've been wanting to show my wife (a relative newcomer to anime) Rurouni Kenshin, but she has a very strong aversion to blood. I own the whole series on DVD, but now I wish I still had those edited versions I recorded off of Toonami so many years ago. Are they lost to the ether? Are they just stored on a hard drive? What do they do?

Edited versions of anime are a dicey thing. The FCC only has rough guidelines for what is and what isn't "acceptable" on TV (and their rules don't even apply to cable networks), so each network's standards are a patchwork of guesses made by that particular company's lawyers and executives. As a result, broadcast restrictions vary greatly from network to network, and from timeslot to timeslot. An anime being broadcast late at night on Adult Swim is subject to very different restrictions than something airing during afternoon hours targeted directly to children. Cable networks have very different standards from broadcast networks. Every broadcaster's standards and practices department requests tweaks that might be handled a different way at a different broadcaster.

When a new version of a TV show is made for broadcast, it's not always clear who's in charge of making the changes. Funimation famously once had their own digital paintbox department to do things like erase blood, or add underwear on naked characters. At the time, Funimation was aiming for the syndication market, in which the same show will be sold through an agency to a bunch of small local broadcasters -- meaning, as producers, they were responsible for delivering a show that met a unified standard. Similarly, Bandai Entertainment was on the hook to prepare a version of Vision of Escaflowne that met Fox Kids' strict standards for Saturday morning broadcast.

These days, it's a little less clear who makes the edited broadcast version of a show, particularly when it comes to cable broadcast. While dubbing might take place with television edits in mind (avoiding swearing, or at least recording alternate takes without swearing), often the broadcaster themselves might make some or all of the tweaks they require to make air. In addition to content censorship, these edits also adjust running time to fit within that network's scheduled allotment. Every network has a slightly different ratio of commercial-to-program time that has to be adjusted for.

The end result is a version that satisfies that network's requirements, but quite possibly won't satisfy another's. The broadcast version is usually returned to the American anime publisher, but since any additional broadcast deals will probably require that a new version be created, archival of these masters is something of a formality, and very often slips through the cracks.

So to answer your question, I don't know if the broadcast edits of those shows still exist, or if they do, what condition they exist in. There's a good chance someone still has copies in their tape vaults somewhere, but they're probably not very well cared for, because they're not good for much. Japanese licensors prefer that their shows be released as they originally intended, and only allow TV networks to edit their shows because they have to. Nobody is really all that interested in making them available anywhere else.

I'm afraid that if you don't save the versions that get played on TV, you'll probably never see them again.

Got questions for me? Send them in! The e-mail address, as always, is answerman (at!)

Justin Sevakis is the founder of Anime News Network, and owner of the video production company MediaOCD. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap.

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