Does Uncensored or Re-Animated Anime get Streamed?

by Justin Sevakis,

Miguel asks:

Most TV series are made on a tight schedule and because of that Blu-ray and DVD releases are usually fixed up here and there, series with nudity and gore are also usually censored because they can't air nudity on TV. My question is, if a re-broadcast is made, or streaming at a later date, what version will they use? Will they use the original TV version or the Blu-ray/DVD one? Obviously they still can't air nudity or gore, but are these scenes re-edited to allow for the more polished animation to be shown?

"Home video" versions of TV anime -- wherein a series has some shots re-animated and cleaned up, and occasionally un-censored, is something of an industry-wide minor problem. The issue is largely a procedural one that stems from the fact that often nobody wants to publicly acknowledge that the home video versions for most shows are different: the clean-up is usually deemed necessary because the show was rushed out the door and production didn't go smoothly. Advertising the home video release as a "director's cut" or something would acknowledge that something went wrong. (The fact that it's uncensored in a handful of cases makes it a little more acceptable.)

When it comes time to release a show to home video, the anime studio will replace whatever shots it decides to replace, and then recut the final show for disc -- i.e. removing the black where the commercials were supposed to go, removing the sponsor screens, and adding bonus materials (like clean openings and endings). They print the show to HDCam tape, and send it directly to the home video publisher in Japan. The offices that handle broadcast and international sales are usually not in the loop (although they know this happens).

If the show gets a second TV airing, chances are very good that the old broadcast masters will just get re-used. The home video version was never formatted for broadcast. If the show was originally shown censored, nobody is really interested in taking the home video version, censoring it again, and then re-formatting it. In other words, the broadcast version will be used for broadcast, unless someone in charge is so horrified by what originally got aired that they'll make a point of replacing it. (And if that happened, the show was probably a bomb anyway so they wouldn't be re-airing it.)

Things get more confused when someone from another country plans to release the show on disc. The licensing offices, typically understaffed and overworked, are constantly juggling tons of shows, which are stored in Japan as tapes but often requested by overseas publishers as files. The licensing office sends what they have, but there's usually no immediately obvious way to tell by looking at the show which version it is. Often an overseas publisher or streaming provider will ask -- quite specifically -- for the home video version, the licensor will think they gave them the home video version, and nobody will discover until very late in the process that they're really working with the broadcast version.

Since streaming is usually thought of as being similar to TV broadcast, nobody really fusses too much about which version gets streamed internationally (and as a result, it's almost always the broadcast version). But when it comes time for international home video releases, there can often really be a scramble to figure out what version the publishers actually have, and mistakes slip through all the time. It's something the industry is working on, but still needs to improve.

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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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