Tecmerin. Journal of Audiovisual Essays

Nº4 – 2020 (1)

Dubbing and Censorship in the European Distribution of Japanese Animation

Daniel Ferrera (Universidad Carlos III de Madrid)

How to cite this article: Ferrera, D. (2020) Dubbing and Censorship in the European Distribution of Japanese Animation. Tecmerin. Journal of Audiovisual Essays, 4, 2020(1). ISSN: 2659-4269

When a message reaches the receiver in an unknown language, it is necessary to translate it. Modifying it into signs from another language implies an interlinguistic translation (Jakobson, 1984: 68-69), that is, producing a new text with the same message as the first one (Chaves García, 2000: 39) The viewer who watches a dubbed audiovisual production expects to find the same story as the original. But what happens when this is not the case? What happens when, instead of adapting the message to another language, it is completely changed?

In 1990s Spain, the internalization of the television system becomes more important (Palacio, 2008: 162) and the deregulation of private television networks takes place (Cascajosa Virino and Zahedi, 2016: 60-61). In this context, Japanese animation becomes a cost-effective product for the different channels.

This audiovisual essay attempts to exemplify the way in which dubbing can be used to censor content, completely modifying the original narrative. As shown in the first two analyzed examples (Sailor Moon (TV Asahi, 1992-1997) and Saint Seiya (TV Asahi, 1986-1989), the audience does not need to know the original language to be able to perceive the changes performed by the dubbing process.

In other examples (Ranma ½ (Fuji TV, 1989-1992) and Kimagure Orange Road (Fuji TV, 1987-1989), dubbing completely changes the narrative, but knowledge of the original language is necessary to be able to notice these changes.

Dubbing is used as a tool to eliminate any reference to non-normative gender identities as well as to minimize the sexual content of certain scenes in productions that, in Japan, were not aimed at children.

This audiovisual essay intends to study these censorship practices, comparing the episodes broadcast in Spain with those previously broadcast in France or Italy, in order to establish a generalized context of censorship in 1980s and 1990s Europe. In this way, in addition to comparing the original Japanese version with the Spanish one (and the Spanish version of the 1990s with later dubbings for the distribution of the series on DVD), I also analyze the Italian and French dubbings.

Although, given the short duration of the audiovisual essay, only four Japanese animated series are analyzed to scrutinize censorship, the scenes chosen are significant enough to show how dubbing can completely manipulate the story, modifying the meaning of the image.


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  • Palacio, Manuel (2006). “Cincuenta años de televisión en España”. In B. Díaz Nosty (ed.), Tendencias 06, Medios de comunicación: el año de la televisión. Madrid: Fundación Telefónica, 315-319.
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Other videoessays in this issue

Tecmerin. Revista de Ensayos Audiovisuales
ISSN: 2659-4269
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Universidad Carlos III de Madrid