Sunday, 27 January 2013

Censored anime in the UK

The British Board of Flim Classification (or BBFC) has a bit of a reputation within anime fandom as being a bit harsh towards anime in its treatment, particularly to when it comes down to editing works and stopping adults from choosing the title they want to watch.  It thought it'd be interesting to list all the anime that has been cut (or at least as many titles that I'm currently aware of).  As such much the material mentioned here is going to be of an 18 certificated nature and beyond, so anyone under 18 AVERT YOUR EYES NOW.

A couple of things I'll be doing here:

- I'll list titles alphabetically, with a description of how much was edited.  Also if it's within my knowledge I'll mention what was cut, the resulting age certificate, and whatever else comes to mind. (again, this is a warning for those who don't want to read 18+ content)

- I will mention a couple of titles that weren't cut by the BBFC, but instead voluntarily edited by the publisher in an attempt to market their title at a specific age range.  I'll throw in whatever I think's relevant or interesting. ;-D

A couple of things I'm not doing:

- I'm only going to list titles put out by companies pitched specifically to the anime market.  This means I'm not getting involved in more general releases, specifically titles made for the children's market.  Frankly we'd be here all day talking about Pokémon this, Yu-Gi-Oh! that and who knows however many of those obscure titles that got put out on kids' videos in the 80s and 90s. (there are a lot, and they're cut to pieces more because of the distributor as opposed to the actual BBFC)  So yeah this won't be a complete list of edited anime by a long shot, but if I've missed something major like 'Hey dude, you know Akira's missing 15 minutes of action, right?', feel free to leave a comment. :-)

- I'm only looking at cuts that affect the final run time of a show by removal of material.  This means I'm not looking at soundtrack issues (eg. song substitutions in Speed Grapher, Eden of the East and the like) as the reasoning is more often nothing to do with censorship and is therefore off topic.   I'm also not going to consider things like the changing of characters names, describing onigiri as meat buns or whatever as part of this.  Again, I don't want to be here all day.

A quick primer to those reading, but are unfamiliar with our age rating system.  Age ratings are U (Universal, fit for all audiences), PG (parental guidance), 12 (for 12-year-olds and older), 15, 18 and R18 (restricted adult titles that can only be sold in licenced porn shops).

The list!

Adventure Duo 1: 1m 8s cut.  Originally called 'Adventure Kid', but BBFC advised changing the name in case children found the title appealing.  It's a bit of a smut fest this one, so it's mostly non-consensual sexual activity that is removed. Such instances attribute toward many of the cuts on this list.  Passed 18.

Adventure Duo 2: 7m 35s cut.  Lots more cut, much for the same reasons as part 1. Passed 18.

Adventure Duo 3: 9m 28s cut.  Still enough of a running time lest to warrant a release apparently, but this was in the days that anything with an 18-cert would sell lots regardless of how the story played out.  All 3 OVAs were originally released separately on VHS, and would later be compiled on both video and DVD, hence separate entries. Passed 18.

Alien of Darkness: 1m 47s cut.  Dodgy porno sci-fi that cut out essentially any time a tentacle went anywhere near things it shouldn't.  The plot's awful, but the main character has a pet ferret so I can forgive that (actually no, I can't).  Passed 18.

Angel Cop 1: 2 seconds cut.  Cut of a person being shot repeatedly in the head.  Boom.  Passed 18.

Angel Cop 4: 7 seconds cut.  Torture scene toned down. Not sure of the details, but what was left in was an open infected wound, maggots, a knife, and a kettle of boiling water.  Passed 18.

Angelic Layer volume 2: 26 seconds.  Not so much the show is cut, but the commentary track on the DVD mentions the term 'retard'.  ADV could've had a 12 uncut, but as they wanted to aim at as wide an audience as possible, they went for the PG.  After all, the show proper is still uncut.  Passed PG.

Battle Girls: Time Paradox episodes 1-7: 8 seconds.  Suggestive portrayal of an underage character being.  Passed 15.

Big Wars: 3 seconds cut.  No idea on this one.  Kiseki released it on VHS, but that's all I know about it really.  Passed 18.

Catgirl Nuku Nuku: Unknown length cut.  Not the BBFC, but the distributor decided to remove a shot of someone scratching his bits before submitting the video.  Passed PG.

Code Geass R2 Episode 10: 1 second.  Shot removed of a girl having her chest grabbed by another girl.  Not a problem so much, but the BBFC took exception to the image of a topless underage girl witnessing the event.  Passed 15.  This edit is reportedly fixed as for Kaze's re-release.

Crying Freeman 43 seconds.  Cut for sexual violence.  All of Crying Freeman's edits tread this a path of sexual violence.  This one refers to a women being stabbed in the boob, I only know as they show it in the end credits anyway even though it's cut out of the main feature.  Passed 18.

Crying Freeman 517 seconds.  Either naughtiness or violence.  Probably a mix of both.  Passed 18.

Crying Freeman 658 seconds.  Same again here.  Manga apparently considered the cuts as such a blow that they compiled OVAs 5 and 6 onto a single VHS tape.  Passed 18.

Dangaioh: Unknown cuts.  Nothing to do with the BBFC.  Dangaioh was originally three 45 minutes OVAs and were condensed down into one 71 minute and 23 second 'movie'.  Something definitely happened there.  Passed 15.

Fist of the North Star volume 21m 3s cut.  This is the original TV series.  The show has a reputation for its extreme violence, but when the violence is directed a children, the BBFC steps in.  Passed 18.

Gunbuster Episode 236 seconds cut.  Sights of bobbly boobies cut in order to get a lower certificate, even though you can still see the Gainax Bounce in other episodes.  Cuts were retained when released on DVD.  Passed PG.

Guy - Awakening of the Devil/Second Target:  39 seconds cut.  Unsure, but it was probably unwelcome touching or ripping off of clothes given the nature of the rest of the show.  Passed 18.

Guyver episode 12: 20 seconds cut.  The final installment of the original OVA series.  Probably to do with further depictions of the lead's girlfriend losing all her clothes.  This title was popular with younger audiences back in the day so I doubt Manga would've wanted an 18, even if it was probably an option.  Passed 15.

Hannape Bazooka: 14 seconds cut.  Not seen this one, but if I were to guess it was probably sexual in nature in this Go Nagai comedy.  Passed 18.

Hentaipalooza Collection 1: 7 seconds cut.  Frankly given any hentai released to the adult market, I'd expect a lot more to go than just 7 seconds.  Passed R18.

Idol of Darkness2m 54s cut.  Lots of demon/tentacle action removed.  There's still a surprising amount of explicit activity here, then I found out that the BBFC allow erections to be seen in animated form for 18, but not real ones.  Passed 18.

Ikki Tousen - Dragon Destiny: 2m 49s cut.  The show itself is uncut, but one of the extras has been removed in its entirety.  Basically in an animated short a bunch of female characters visit the hot springs, and compare each others' chest sizes.  One character is underage = banned.  You can still select to watch it from the extras menus, at which the DVD skips directly to the short's end credits.  Passed 18.

Kekko Kamen, Adventures of:  3m 59s cut.  Go Nagai sex comedy of an essentially naked heroine beating bad guys up with her nunchaku and thigh presses.  VHS version had all sorts of cuts, but the later DVD release by ADV was 100% uncut (although it uses a different dub).  Passed 18.

Kekko Kamen, Return of19 seconds cut.  More of the same, and again it's all since been made available uncut on DVD.  Passed 18.

La Blue Girl: Refused certificate.  Manga tried to get this released on VHS, but was banned outright by the BBFC for sex, rape and the rest of it.  A couple of trailers appeared on other Manga titles, so they must've been pretty confident it would've got through.

La Blue Girl Returns 1+28m 33s cut.  Lots of sexual content removed.  Lots.  Passed 18.

La Blue Girl Returns 3+424m 25s cut.  Even more sex removed.  Nearly half the damn thing.  The husk that remained was passed at 18.

Leatherman9m 7s cut.  Porn for the porn-wanters, or is that wankers?  Passed R18.

Mad Bull 42 Part 143 seconds cut.  Cuts for violence, both regular and sexual.  It's quite a nasty little show, so while I think some instances would've been fine on their own, the overall impression of the work probably worked against it.  Passed 18.

Mad Bull 34 Part 21m 19s cut.  Details of a rape and graphic images of a guy getting beaten up are removed.  Passed 18.

Makyu Senjo 123 seconds cut.  No idea what's missing, but I wish they'd have cut more.  It's awful.  Passed 15.

Makyu Senjo 2 12 seconds cut.  Ahahahaaaa I don't care!  Passed 15.

Mission of Darkness: 7m 29s cut.  Out of all the Darkness series, this one could've been the most fun as it had more a parody vibe about it.  So much of the sex was cut out, that the back cover of the box contains more of the final encounter than the show proper.  Passed 18.

Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (a.k.a. Warriors of the Wind):  Not a BBFC issue at all.  Warriors of the Wind is a cut-down version of the Ghibli-classic, that removed over 25 minutes of material to western audiences and was rated U.  Nausicaa is now happily available uncut and PG.

Ninja Scroll53 seconds cut.  Sights of sexual assault and use of shuriken were originally cut from the VHS and initial DVD releases (because, you know, we were all going to copy and throw bladed stars at each other).  The 10th Anniversary release, along with the current DVD/Blu-Ray releases are all uncut.  Passed 18.

Odin: Presumably Manga tried to do us a favour by removing 45 minutes from this dull anime before submitting it to the BBFC.  It didn't work.  It's still dull.  Passed PG.

Paranoia Agent1m 20s cut.  Scene of an attempted suicide by hanging by a child was toned down.  The BBFC are very sensitive when it comes to children and animation, probably due to a general stigma that 'cartoons are for kidz' and will naturally copy everything they.  Children aren't really that stupid, but whatever I'm getting off track.  You can see some of the offending scene in the preview in the episode before it.  A scene of suicide by hanging in Ren & Stimpy also met the chop at around the time this cut occured, so at least there's points for consistency to be had.  Passed 18.

Rei Rei8 seconds cut.  Tentacles.  Yep.  Passed 18.

Ringetsu 126m 24s cut.  Porno stuff. The good, the bad and as the BBFC saw it, the illegal (to be fair, it probably was pretty nasty throughout).  All the Ringetsu anime are so cut it makes to wonder why they even bothered pursuing it.  OVER HALF OF IT'S GONE!  Passed R18.

Ringetsu 2:  22m 7s cut.  Over half gone again.  You'd figure there's so little left you'd wonder how this could even serve its intended purpose.  Do adult shops even accept returns for crap porn?  (Please don't answer that, I don't want to know)  Passed R18.

Ringetsu 3: 44m 16s cut... that's just stupid.  Apparently this one includes incest along with the rest of its transgressions, hence being probably the most cut anime in the UK ever without actually being banned.  Passed R18.

Shuten Doji 140 seconds cut.  The third Go Nagai title to appear on this list.  Probably involving an unfortunate girl in there somewhere.  Passed 18.

Spy of DarknessRefused certificate.  The other titles in the Darkness series pushed the boat out enough as it is.  I guess this one just went too far so the BBFC pulled out the banhammer.

Steamboy: Unknown Cuts.  Nothing to do with the BBFC but instead the distributor's choice in releasing the proper version as a limited edition, with the regular version having 21 minutes and 15 seconds cut from it.  Both versions are passed uncut as PG.

Street Fighter V volume 1: 2 seconds cut.  Assumedly decided on ADV's part to get a lower certificate and reach a wider audience.  Passed 12.

Street Fighter V volume 2:  5m 8s cut.  I get having a small cut for a lower rating, but 5 minutes is a big chunk of action to cut out, especially when a show's selling point is indeed that very thing.  The episode preview clues me in that the violence involved crude weapons (eg. chains).  I think ADV threw in the towel after this one as many of the later volumes of the series are 15.  Passed 12.

Urotsukidoji (a.k.a. Legend of the Overfiend)2m 12s cut.  This is the big one.  Sex, rape and tentacles for the masses.  Although relatively (or should that be 'arguably'?) tame compared to some of the other things on this list, this is the one that is most well known for causing trouble at BBFC HQ.  There's a lot to get through, so I'm just going to reel them off with little detail as they all invariably have the same type of content.  Passed 18.

Urotsukidoji II (Legend of the Demon Womb) 3m 12s cut.  Passed 18.

Urotsukidoji III (Return of the Overfiend) Episode 13m 31s cut.  Passed 18.

Urotsukidoji III (Return of the Overfiend) Episode 27m 22s cut.  Passed 18.

Urotsukidoji III (Return of the Overfiend) Episode 33 seconds cut.  Passed 18.

Urotsukidoji III (Return of the Overfiend)  Episode 48m 7s cut.  Passed 18.

Urotsukidoji IV Episode 1 Refused certificate.  If you're gonna get those tentacles out, make sure the kids aren't in the house... so to speak.  Submitted twice.  Banned twice.

Urotsukidoji IV Episode 2:  Found little info on this one on BBFC's website, but the lack of its release essentially means it got banned.

Urotsukidoji IV Episode 32m 31s cut.  The franchise was a pretty big seller, so it'd be silly not to release this even if the first two episodes of the chapter were unavailable.  Right?  Passed 18.

Urusei Yatsura TV volume 45 seconds cut.  There was a big thing back in the day against martial arts weaponry.  This time it was nunchaku.  Thankfully they're a lot more relaxed about such things these days.  Passed PG.

Violence Jack - Slumking25 seconds cut.  Violence Jack suffered pretty badly at the BBFC with its depictions of post-apocalyptic nastiness.  Cut shots of a woman being sexually assaulted in this one.  Passed 18.

Violence Jack - Hell's Wind6m 43s cut.  Lots of violence cut out.  Chainsaw evisceration and decapitation, people pulled apart by motocycles and a particularly grotesque POV shot of a woman's clothing being cut off with a knife.  Passed 18.

Violence Jack - Evil Town30 seconds cut, or so the BBFC's website says.  Manga had already removed a lot of content before submitting, as in its complete state it was probably one of the most effective pieces of horror ever made.  I'm serious, it's strong stuff.  I've seen a much more extended version, and even that has the worst parts pixelated (Japanese censorship in action).  After the VHS releases all of Violence Jack was put out on a single DVD, and all cuts were held.  Passed 18.

Wicked City1m 48s cut.  Much like in Kawajiri's Ninja Scroll, his female leads tend to fall afoul of particularly nasty creatures (and by creatures I mean men).  Passed 18.

Wings of Honneamise:  Manga opted to remove an attempted rape scene to drop the rating from a 15 to a PG.  The uncut scene found in US releases certainly leaves an impact.

Thankfully most of these cuts go back from the VHS days as the BBFC aren't quite as heavy-handed towards anime in recent years (although personally I'm still stinging from Paranoia Agent).  Let's hope that any future controversies are resolved without having to resort to hiding them away from responsible eyes.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Anime: The VHS Years – UK Edition Part 2

Continuing on from Part 1 of this summary of anime companies who released titles on VHS in the UK, here is the rest of the list which includes labels who either came into the game a bit later, or released very few titles.  As before if I've missed anything please feel free to leave a comment.

Pioneer – A Japanese anime company that started releasing its own titles in western territories, and did quite a good job of it too.  They sported dubs that were considered the best of their time (they often dubbed the songs too) and their modern style fared well compared the creakier looking titles other companies were putting.  Pioneer were onto a very good thing for a while, but ran out of good material over time and eventually had the plug pulled on them.

Recommended titles: Tenchi Muyo, El Hazard, Armitage III.

ADV Films – The UK arm of the US company that was then booming like no anime company had boomed before.  ADV stood out for supplying a constant stream of anime during a time when Manga had gone into silent running mode.  They also advanced the market to make releasing TV series an acceptable business practice.  They had a very successful run to the point that it had the power to commission a dub for Street Fighter V exclusive to the UK and was also able to license the odd title completely independent from its American parent.  It survived well into the DVD era, and deservedly so.

Recommended titles: Neon Genesis Evangelion, Martian Successor Nadesico, Dragon Half.

MVM – Functioning initially  as a home delivery service for general sci-fi goods, MVM saw a good thing going and stepped up from distributor to specialised anime licensor.  Starting out with AnimEigo titles (as Anime Projects had been dead for a while by this point), MVM built itself its own little corner of the market, and still does today.  Yay!

Recommended titles: Kimagure Orange Road, You’re Under Arrest, Urusei Yatsura OVAs.

East2West – Big things were promised form these guys, with mixed results.   They did somehow manage to organise a campaign from fans sufficient enough that the BBFC overturned its ruling to ban Kekko Kamen, but otherwise it was a brief affair with few released titles to their name.

Recommended titles: Kekko Kamen, 8 Man After, Babel II. (not so much a recommendations list - this is everything they released!).

Bandai – Just entered the UK market moments before the VHS market breathed its last.  Quickly became known as Beez soon after.  Gundam Wing anyone?

Anime UK –Anime UK started out as a fanzine that graduated into a glossy magazine over the years.  They dubbed one 3-episode tape of K.O. Century Beast Warriors, before moving on and essentially forming anime journalism in this country as we known it.

Crusader – An attempt to release anime suitable for younger audiences in a world where ‘Manga videos’ meant blood, guts and f-bombs.  Catgirl Nuku Nuku was the one release, and they even dubbed the song.

Animania – To be perfectly honest I have no idea what happened with these guys.  One release, then gone.  Theirs was the ADV-dubbed version of Guy: Awakening of the Devil (a.k.a. Double Target) over here, minus whatever the censors cut out of it.

And that's it!  As far as I'm aware, only two of the 12 companies I've mentioned are still 100% active (Manga and MVM).  Everyone else either collapsed or were rebranded into new things.  Quite a scary thought in all honesty, although the current DVD/Blu-Ray/digital market today is more of the same.  One day we'll look back and reminisce on it all, most likely in a blog much like this one I'm sure.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Anime: The VHS Years – UK Edition Part 1

Yes I’m talking about those old fashioned magnetic tapes that anime was released on before DVD became the standard.  No menus or dual language options here, but a totally linear experience at the end of which you then had to rewind the tape again.

This might seem crude to those used to anime on discs or online, but this is how anime arrived in the UK, and how it remained for many years before technology forced it to move on (UK companies were quite slow to get on the bandwagon).

I thought it’d be fun to have a quick rundown of all the specialist anime companies that released material during the VHS era, not only for older fans to reminisce, but to give more recent ones an idea of what the anime landscape was like back then.   I’ll also throw in a few recommended titles per company, but only ones that they put out on VHS (eg. for ADV I wouldn’t list Excel Saga, as it was only released on DVD).  There’s quite a few to get through, so decided the split this into two parts.  This is only a vague listing as I remember it, so if there are any major omissions feel free to add info to the comments section. ^_^

Manga – It’s probably best to start out with the most obvious one.  Originally known as Island World Video who released Akira, Manga Video quickly expanded their library once they realised they’d struck gold.  Dubbing their own material, they opened up a previously extremely niche market with titles regularly hitting the video charts.  (Does that happen these days?)  They also took the reigns from Dark Horse to continue publishing Manga Mania throughout the 1990s along with a few graphic novels.  Manga did earn a shaky reputation from this period due to the swear-filled dubs and focus on action titles, and while that’s not totally undeserved it’s also a little unfair.  For every Angel Cop or Mad Bull there was still a Wings of Honneamise or Castle of Cagliostro, and of course there wasn’t exactly a number of slice-of-life TV shows for it to choose from, but instead had to pick from the science fiction-heavy OVA market.  Basically Manga found their audience and stuck to it, but these days they’re a lot more open with both their fans and their choice of output.  

Recommended titles: Akira, Macross Plus, Perfect Blue.

Kiseki – One of the longer lasting labels of the VHS days.   Kiseki tried to capitalize on Manga’s success of the first two Urotsukidojis films by licencing the 3rd and 4th chapters, and form their own label from there.  Alongside their hentai titles they released a steady mixture of more regular anime, and were willing to be more specialist in releasing titles in both dubbed and subtitled formats (although if you wanted the choice of both you’d have to buy it twice).  They survived as long as the early days of DVD (kinda) before being enveloped by Revelation films and disappearing into obscurity.

Recommended titles: Gunbuster, Macross: Do You Remember Love?, Sol Bianca.

Anime Projects – An anime company from the earliest days of anime in the UK.  Anime Project was the UK affiliate of US distributor AnimEigo and released hardcore titles for hardcore fans at hardcore prices.  If you could afford to buy Riding Bean subbed for £19.99 when all the other anime was going for £12.99, you would’ve felt like a boss.  Many of their release also contained liner notes explaining various cultural references.  They lasted a few years before throwing in the towel but if there was any label back then that developed a proper otaku crowd, this was it.

Recommended Titles: Bubblegum Crisis, Oh My Goddess, Urusei Yatsura.

Western Connection – Quite a low-rent company that did its own thing for about 50 releases and then disappeared off the face of the Earth.  They favoured using stickers for their age certificates as opposed to printing them onto their covers, oftentimes ignoring the BBFC-approved rating and marking titles up as 18 regardless.  Also the subtitles for any songs weren’t literally translated, but more paraphrased to fit the syllables so that you could sing along in English.  They picked up a bunch of obscure titles that never received a released in the US, making many of their translated titles unique to the UK, let alone available on DVD anywhere.

Recommended titles: The Sensualist, Ushio and Tora, Slow Step.

Look out for part 2, I'm not even halfway through the list!

Saturday, 12 January 2013

The Manga Biography of Kenji Miyazawa

Bit of an obscure one this.

As the title indicates, this is a manga biography of Kenji Miyazawa, famous Japanese author and poet.  It’s not really a book made for entertainment purposes, but more an accessible visual description of the more significant instances of Miyazawa’s life.   In all honesty I don’t feel qualified to talk much about this one as I’ve never read any of the author’s works, but as no one else has really written much about this book either it seems a shame to ignore entirely.

Basically all I’m saying is that this book exists, and that I approve of publishers taking on titles from off the beaten track.  It’s obviously recommended for Miyazawa completists who don’t mind the simple yet charming depictions of early 20th century life, but even they may balk at the poor artwork reproduction (the only proper black you’ll see here is from the translated dialogue, the rest is a bit murky).

Other than that I’m not sure who else would fancy reading it. (unless they’re foolhardy like me)  So um… yeah.

This book did however inspire a little further research into Miyazawa’s works, and that kind of reaction is no bad thing.  Related things to consider checking out:
Gauche the Cellist – Isao Takahata directed an anime of this before his Ghibli days.
Spring & Chaos – Animated biography of Miyazawa – they’re all cats in it.
Night of the Milky Way Railway – Various adaptations, possibly the most known of which is the anime known as Night on the Galactic Railway, which in turn also inspired a manga that was printed in blue ink!

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Mysterious Cities of Gold - Season 2

For those unfamiliar, The Mysterious Cities of Gold was a French/Japanese collaboration from the 80s about 3 children who adventure around the world to discover the seven cities of gold.  That's an extremely basic summary, but all that need be told is that it was a solid cartoon that didn't shove a constant stream of moral messages down your throat.  It was made to tell a story, not to promote a franchise, and it was GOOD!  Many people of a certain age remember it fondly, and were rewarded with a DVD release a few years ago that proved to cynics that rose-tinted glasses were not actually a requirement to enjoy it.  It's a worthy addition to any fan's library.

There is now more to the tale.  After a 30-year absence, the series is back!  It's not even a reboot like many other revived shows, but a proper continuation of the story with several of the original staff returning to finish what they started.  Production has shifted away from Japan to now be made entirely in France, with the characters being computer generated as opposed to hand-drawn.  It's a little different which will undoubtedly offend purists, but the designs are consistent with the original the sense of adventure in exploring an unknown world is retained.  Happy bunnies all round then.

It's still very early days though, with only the premier episode so far having been shown on French television, and the rest to be shown at a later date.  To my knowledge there has been no news on whether or not it will be translated into English either which is a real shame.  Its track record from the original series is a good one, but I think the obstacle here is if anyone would be willing to showing just the second part to a story to an audience who doesn't know the backstory.  I'd also doubt anyone would be willing to throw 39 episodes of the aged 1st season on air to promote the new stuff either... although I'd love to be proven wrong.

The future of the series in English-speaking territories is unclear, but otherwise we are promised 3 new 26-episode series from this current run, in addition to the vaguest rumours of a film also being in the works. (The rumours are so vague that no one seems to know if it's animated or live action, so don't hold your breath)  I have seen the first episode without subtitles, and while my French is pretty bad/mauvais it's was still fun to watch.  Definitely keeping an eye on this one.

The intro is still awesome too.