|The State of DBZ in America, Part 3|
Before I go into my latest spiel, I'd like to address an issue of concern for me and the readers of this site. Some of you have been expressing a fear that DBZ Uncensored is going to be disappearing like so many of the rest have been lately. That's totally untrue. I may be updating less frequently, but that's just because I've been busy/distracted/etc. I've been doing only about one update a month since September or so, which is probably much less than many of you would like, but that doesn't mean I'm quitting or anything. I plan to be around for a while. Basically, the site is kind of on standby until Season 3 begins airing (if ever, that is.) I'll continue to update the opinion and editorial sections with the latest news and thoughts from fans, but other than that, I'm basically playing the waiting game, just like the rest of you.
As for now, I'd like to discuss the Dragon Ball Z FAQ that FUNimation recently added to their website. It is perhaps not as informative as many would like, but it certainly clears a few things up. There are only four questions, which basically deal with where DBZ is as of this fall and why. No big deal, everyone knows by now. But it is the fourth q and a that contains something quite interesting.
Lets dissect this, shall we?
First they say that they hate censoring the show as much as we hate seeing it censored. Eh, OK. I'll go with that. And then they drop the bombshell: It was Saban's standards they had to obey the whole time! Well, I can breathe a sigh of relief because a whole lot of things make much more sense now. Originally, I was wondering why the hell I could see death and hell and naked butts on other animated shows (including the original Dragon Ball), but not on this one. I assumed that FUNimation was just playing it safe, and pandering to the lowest common denominator so that their precious ratings could be maintained. Now that I know that they had their own internal censorship authority to deal with, I must publicly apologize for that here and now. Oh, and I should say one more thing while I'm at it: F**CK you, Haim Saban. You ruined the first two seasons of DBZ, as you did with so many other shows. Good riddance.
Moving right along...
This still leaves us with a problem however, a big one. Some of you may remember FUNimation's old DBZ FAQ, now long gone from their site. I'm kicking myself for not making a copy of it, but I distinctly remember this very same question being asked. But the answer then was quite different. It said something like: "All censoring is done to comply with US BS&P (United States Broadcast Standards and Practices) and its guidelines for blood, nudity, death, etc. If you feel the censorship is unnecessary or unwarranted, we encourage you to write to..."
WELL LOOKEE WHAT WE HAVE HERE!! It seems that now that Saban is no longer paying for DBZ, FUNimation has ever so conveniently CHANGED THEIR ANSWER to the censorship question. In other words, they lied to us so as not to upset the company that was holding their leash. Now, US BS&P certainly has a say in what does and doesn't fly on the air, but they were not the primary source of censorship pressure. In fact, I'm sure that Saban already had things sanitized well beyond BS&P's standards long before they ever saw the first second of footage.
This little pockmark of dishonesty aside, the fact remains that FUNimation didn't censor DBZ willingly. As a matter of fact, a representative from the company has stated that they regret ever having dealt with Saban. But why didn't they just tell us the truth from the outset? It would have saved them a lot of angry sentiment which should have been directed at Saban. FUNimation's name is tarnished now, and there are a whole lot of people out there who still think that they are the true culprit. I am glad to see, however, that many of the fans have been spreading the word, and are now beginning to defend FUNimation on the censorship issue. But still, I can't help thinking that if they had been more vocal from the beginning about the extent of censorship being Saban's decision and not theirs, then they wouldn't have so many hostile feelings directed at them.
HOWEVER, (and yes, that's an intentionally big "however") FUNimation isn't off the hook yet, at least in my book. Not by a long shot. The English version is still deeply flawed. And as I have said before, while the majority of the fans are more concerned about the censoring than anything else, it's actually pretty low on my list of greivances. I'm gong to continue railing them about the voices, the music, the editing of important scenes, and the terrible mistranslations and scripting until they get it right. None of this was addressed in their FAQ, and until they realize there's a problem and come up with some satisfying answers, I and many others will remain unsatisfied with them. "We at FUNimation agree that the series should remain as pure to the original form as possible." Oh yeah? Well it's time to start living up to that statement, and I'm not just talking about censorship.
It is also important to remember at this point that FUNimation has a history of "passing the buck;" whenever people complain about any aspect of the English version, they shift the blame onto someone else. Voices? Oh, that's the studio. We can't do anything about that. Censoring? That's Saban, not us. Toys? We have no control over that. Well, what DO you have control over then? Why did you choose Saban as your distributor if you knew that they were going to require that you censor the show to HFIL? Seagull Productions did fine with the original Dragon Ball, why didn't you stay with them? Why can't you supervise Ocean Studios with the casting and direction of voices? Aren't you paying them good money for this? You are the production company after all, why don't you have more say over how your partners and licensees deal with your property? If you are this powerless, then you need to do something about it, rather than sitting here complaining with the rest of us. It's YOUR show, and YOU are responsible for it.
Well... since I'm in bash mode, I may as well go on and discuss some other things FUNimation has done wrong in the last year.
One blunder in particular stands out, they REALLY screwed up with their plan for Season 2. The fact that they decided to show DBZ twice every weekend, secured 104 half-hour timeslots for 1997-98 (rather than the usual 52) and only produced 30 new episodes made it so that over 2/3 of the year was reruns. So what was the result of this? It seems obvious to me, but not to FUNimation apparently. I can't tell you HOW many times I heard of people giving up on DBZ because of the incredible amount of reruns. Viewers were abandoning the show in droves, incredibly frustrated. Doesn't a decline in viewer interest seem like a foregone conclusion if the majority of what you show is reruns? More timeslots do nothing for you if you don't have new material to fill them with. The least they could have done was rerun the first season, but no it was those same 30, back and forth in a seemingly endless cycle of reruns. What the hell were they thinking?
And how can they be so lazy as to only make 30 episodes, for that matter? In Japan, over 40 new ones were shown each year, and they had to be produced from scratch! All FUNimation has to do is dub the voices. Unfortunately, they also seem to find it necessary to change the music, add lame sound effects, and paint over every frame, so I guess that's what takes them so long. But look at other broadcast anime: Robotech, Sailor Moon, and most recently, Pokemon have all managed to show more episodes in 3 months than FUNimation has in 3 years!
And FUNimation's bad decisions carry over into the merchandising as well. How about the videos? Tell me, why in the name of Kami are they releasing the episodes as they were shown on TV? Saban may force them to chop this thing up to put it on the air, but on video, there are no rules, and there's no excuse for not fixing what had to be ruined. For the digitally painted stuff, it would be a simple matter to sneak the original undoctored footage back in. Then, when recording the shows, have the actors read two versions of those "other dimension" lines (one with "death" intact), and some of the other sanitized bits of dialogue, one for the TV version, and one for the video. While they're at it, they could restore the original music, and voila! They could market this thing as "uncensored DBZ" and make a mint. Can you imagine how many people would buy these "video only" exclusive versions? It would make everyone happy, and could be done with only a modicum of effort.
I'm not even suggesting that ALL the deleted footage be put back in, either. It would be great, but would prove to be quite costly since the actors would have to come back and record the undubbed scenes. Not even restoring the music is a must. But do SOMETHING! FUNimation is always talking about how "they're only doing this because they have to," but if that's true then why aren't they exerting any effort whatsoever to make the original versions available? Or at least something closer to the original version.
The toy issue has been bugging me lately as well. Originally, Bandai was the primary licensee, as they were in Japan. They rereleased some of the original (awesome) Super Battle Collection in Canada, but, in a typical FUNimation DBZ marketing move, only to specialty comic stores in the US. To make matters worse, they made all-new molds for a line to be sold in American toy stores, and the figures ended up looking like sculpted feces. And what was with those stupid cotton-candy balls that the characters had? No wonder the Super Battle Collection went to specialty stores only, they'd make the new figures pale in comparison if they were sold side by side.
So, has everyone seen the new toy line yet? Well, if you haven't, you're not missing much. Irwin Toys has, for some unfathomable reason, become the new master toy licensee, and Bandai has suddenly vanished. The figures don't look as terrible as Bandai's US-only line, but what is WITH the selection of characters in the 5-inch line?? Bardock? SSJ stage 3 Goku? Goten? JANENBA? We haven't seen any of these characters yet in the English version, and probably never will. It's like they went out of their way to make figures people wouldn't recognize. And the two inch line is just plain weird, see for yourself in FUNimation's online store. (Dai Kaiou?? He was in FOUR episodes! And he didn't do anything! And they wouldn't call him "Dai Kaiou" in the English series anyway! AAAAGGGHH!!!)
FUNimation shows their incompetence again with their inconsistent, sloppy, and downright CONFUSING marketing. I am particularly amused with their seeming intention to spoil as much as possible from upcoming episodes. For example, can there be any doubt that Goku is indeed a Super Saiyan (the "big question" at the moment) when he is clearly in that state all over the T-shirts, posters, wall scrolls, and action figures? My mouth fell open when I saw the latest video, entitled "Super Saiyan?" which showed Goku transformed in the background! Hell, why even bother with the question mark? Why not title the video: "Yep, Goku's a Super Saiyan, but you'll probably never see it!" instead?
(Whew) Well, I'm done. Sorry about the abrupt ending, but I can only do so much bashing in one sitting. I wish I didn't have to be such an asshole, but FUNimation doesn't leave me much of a choice. I just want the best for them, and for my show, that's all.
NEXT TIME: Broadcast anime. The term sends chills down the spine of the hardcore elite otaku. It always suffers heavy losses, and it never fares nearly as well as shows released straight to video. Join me as I compare DBZ's fate with that of other anime series that have been released to US airwaves for the consumption of the masses.