Old fashioned Dragon Ball Z fans may remember a site on the internet called Dragon Ball Z Uncensored. While it may sound like a dirty site (and full disclosure: we do NOT recommend searching for that term at work), it was actually quite an informative site for early viewers about the changes and censorship made to the English dub of Dragon Ball Z by Funimation Productions (now Cruncyroll). The site was one of the first major sites dedicated to informing viewers of the changes made to anime when it was imported from Japan and aired on American television (albeit for one show).
The website was discontinued in the early 2000s, but on the occasion of the tenth anniversary, Chris Psaros did a follow-up interview with the new owners of the website, where he talked about the inspiration, where he was now and what he thought of Dragon Ball Z Kai. While he has nothing but praise for the dubbing Dragon Ball Z Kaihe noted with some amusement that this iteration of the Dragon Ball Z was actually censored by the Japanese producers themselves, which he found amusing and very ironic. Why would the Japanese anime producers censor Dragon Ball Z Kai although? Even if it was a little violent, was an 80’s cartoon really so bad that it could no longer be televised as originally made? The answers may shock and surprise you.
Why was Dragon Ball Z censored in America?
When Dragon Ball Z aired on American in 1996, airing in syndication through Saban Entertainment. Saban was primarily known as the company behind it Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, but they also had success airing programs in syndication. Saban liked Dragon Ball Z but felt that the property was not suitable for children; blood, mild nudity, and sexual themes were present in several episodes, and if Funimation wanted their cartoon to air in good timeslots, they had to edit out a lot of these things.
This is why viewers back then saw one Dragon Ball Z with green blood, comments about destroyed buildings being empty on Sunday, and a (particularly memorable) episode where Goku doesn’t go to ‘Hell’, but goes to ‘HFIL’ (Home for Infinite Losers). Although older fans would cringe at these changes years later, at the time most young viewers had no idea that changes were made at all, and that made broadcasters happy enough to air the show where it has since become a of the most popular anime in the world. While the censorship may have been extreme, most people will admit that it was a necessary evil in the early days.
Why was Dragon Ball Z Kai made?
The whole concept behind it Dragon Ball Z Kai was to make a more manga faithful adaptation of Dragon Ball Z. Dragon Ball Z is 291 episodes long, and it was widely known that about half of the Snake episodes consisted of filler episodes. Most of the filler was created to stretch out the manga enough to fill a weekly TV show (as well as delaying the end of the Frieza saga while Akira Toriyama’s editors tried to convince to continue the manga. Spoiler alert: they succeeded) .
Although there are memorable filler episodes (the driver’s license episode), most of the filler was unmemorable and boring, giving the series its nickname Drag-on Ball Z by critics. The idea behind Dragon Ball Z Kai was to cut out most of the filler, add new animation to make the edits flow better, and even fix some animation glitches in the early episodes. While all of this was positive, there would be changes that the creators did not want to make if the new series were to air on Japanese television
Why was Dragon Ball Z Kai Censored in Japan?
The long and short of the situation is quite simple: Japanese broadcasting standards changed. Japanese parents became more anxious about blood and graphic violence on TV before a certain time. Nudity became a more taboo subject. Also, the new program was to be broadcast in the morning where the original program was broadcast in prime time. Dragon Ball Z were created in a time when these things weren’t as big (and in a time slot that was more forgiving), but now that they are, they needed to make changes. So nudity with children was removed. The blood was toned down. Sexual comments were removed.
Don’t much care; the changes were so minor that most fans didn’t even notice they had been made. Also, Funimation’s dub was much more faithful than the original dub was, and as such felt more mature despite the changes made on the Japanese side. There’s also an argument to be made that by editing the series to half its length is basically censorship in itself, so some fans didn’t even care to be upset about the visual censorship because they own the show. itself was a censored product in principle.
Whether you agree with that stance or not, it cannot be denied Dragon Ball Z Kai received a mixed reception. Fans are still divided on whether it replaces the original Dragon Ball Z series, is a nice complement to the original, or is a tainted hack job (there’s also some debate about the replaced score that was caught in a plagiarism scandal). If you’ve ever watched it and wondered why certain images were toned down, it’s just an indication that things change over time.
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