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Thursday, October 6, 2016

Demo Disc Vol. 7: Badd Banned Broadcasts

Mistakes are a natural part of life; everyone will make them, & some are embarrassing. When these mistakes happen, there tends to be two main solutions to them, which is either accept it & ask for forgiveness... Or sweep it under the rug & act like it never happened in the first place, even if it results in there being an obvious lump in said rug that everyone notices but few actually ask about because it'd be rude to do so. When it happens in media this can result in what one can deem to be "banned" productions. They don't happen all too often, and sometimes it only extends to certain countries, but this is a rare occurrence that has even affected the anime & manga landscape. Therefore, this volume of Demo Disc will differ from the usual multi-entry offering in that I won't be looking at just the first episodes of various shows (at least, not all are the first episodes), and they don't have anything in common from a content perspective. Instead, these are four anime episodes (plus one manga chapter!) that have been banned to varying extents across the world. Technically, I shouldn't be able to check these out & write about them for you, but some other fans just don't care.

Let's take a look at what we actually aren't allowed to, shall we? Hell, two of them come from Pokémon!

(WARNING: As these are mostly not the introductions for each of these series, spoilers may vary wildly in importance... So don't complain if I wind up spoiling something to some extent. Sorry.)

Cucuruz Doan's Island
Our first example is proof that the act of "banning" something can be solely due to personal vendettas, and who better to showcase that than Yoshiyuki Tomino. A man of very specific tastes, it isn't exactly hard to disappoint the creator of Gundam, especially in his younger years, and what he does when he isn't happy varies wildly. For example, he was the director for the first half of the iconic Sunrise mech anime Brave Raideen, but supposedly left the production because he didn't want to direct a seemingly derivative super robot toy commercial; Tadao Nagahama would then take over & turn it into a prototype of his more story-focused Robot Romance Trilogy. Later on, if Tomino wanted to kill off his entire cast then he would, and if he never wanted an episode of anime to ever see the (official) light of day outside of Japan because he had a personal vendetta against someone... Well, then you get Episode 15 of Mobile Suit Gundam, which aired on July 14, 1979.

After managing to land on Earth to join the One Year War's Terran front & defeating Garma Zabi in battle, Gundam pilot Amuro Ray & the crew of the Earth Federation's White Base come across an automatic SOS signal emanating from Point 305. What Amuro finds is an island inhabited only by four children & Cucuruz Doan, a former Zeon pilot who went AWOL after refusing to kill said children after a wild shot from Doan killed their parents; he instead took them & fled. After being knocked out by Doan in a short skirmish, Amuro tries looking for his Core Fighter, which Doan hid away, before a Zaku scout happens across the island.

Remember, the RX-78 Gundam has no shame.

Type & Reason?: International Ban Due to Personal Vendetta
Cucuruz Doan's Island is easily the most confusing entry in this list of banned anime & manga, and that's simply because you would never be able to guess why it was banned just by watching it. To be quite honest, this is simply a rather throwaway episode of Gundam, one that contributes absolutely nothing to the plot or delivers any sort of real character development for the cast. In fact, if anything, the story told here kind of regresses Amuro as a person. With the only things known to him about Doan being that he lives on a small island with four children, that he can pilot a Zaku, & that he was the one who knocked him out, Amuro instantly chastises Doan for having "tricked" the children to be his own personal servants, even though there is no proof or indication of that being true. Hell, the viewer (& later Amuro) finds out that Doan is actually trying to redeem himself by taking care of the children, which only makes Amuro, the lead character of the series, come off as a Grade-A dick. I guess being forced to run around in only an undershirt & boxers for most of the episode is a sort of karmic punishment for Amuro's idiocy.

Really, the whole idea of this episode being banned is kind of silly, which ties into the vague reason Tomino once gave back at Big Apple Anime Fest in 2002. When asked about this episode, all Tomino said was that, to paraphrase, "The guilty party knows what he did," only adding that he refused to name who was at "fault" because the person was still alive. Who could that person be? Well, it was storyboarded by Shinya Sadamitsu, so it can't be his fault (the animation is rough at times, but nothing really out of the ordinary for a rather pointless episode in the middle of the show). It was episode directed by Minoru Yokitani, but that's just a pseudonym that Tomino uses when he does individual episodes, so I doubt he'd be blaming himself (though, considering Tomino's idiosyncrasies, having him blame his alternate persona would be amusing). That only leaves, not including anyone who worked precisely on the animation itself, episode writer Yoshihisa Araki, who would write four more episodes of Mobile Suit Gundam, & be credited for the movie trilogy, before never working on the franchise again. On the other hand, though, Araki would work with Tomino one more time via 1982-1983's Sentou Mecha Xabungle before retiring in 1991 after finishing his work on Karakuri Kengo Den Musashi Lord. If I had to guess, I'd say the person behind Cucuruz Doan's Island's ban, which is still in effect to this day as shown by Right Stuf's re-release of the original series (even though it can be seen remastered in "glorious HD" in Japan), would be Yoshihisa Araki, but it's not like we're missing out on anything special, honestly. Episode 15 of Gundam is pretty throwaway, and only worth watching for hardcore franchise fans.

Or maybe it's because one of the kids Doan protects is a teenage girl named Loran, and Yoshiyuki Tomino just didn't want people to know who the direct inspiration for Turn-A Gundam's Loran Cehack is. Again, considering how odd Tomino is known to be, this could be just as likely of a reason.

God of the Abyss (2)
Yes, this is the first time ever that Demo Disc is covering a manga instead of an anime, so I figure that the first should be one of the most infamous. The example of banning used here is because the creator himself requested it, but instead of any sort of "Take that!" reason behind it, like what Tomino did above, this was solely because of a legit storyline reason. Kentaro Miura's Berserk just saw a new CG anime adaptation that finally went beyond the iconic Golden Age Arc that has always been animated in the past, but no matter how far (or back) any future anime adapts, none of them will ever adapt one specific chapter. This took a little bit of detective work, as issues of manga magazines go off of week or issue number instead of exact date of publication, but I was able to deduce that Chapter 83 of Berserk saw its first & only publication in Young Animal back on July 14, 1996, which means that this banned chapter actually had its 20th Anniversary just a few months ago! I'll try to avoid as many spoilers as possible here, if only to respect Miura's reason for never letting this chapter be seen again (legally, at least), but what exactly was so sacred at the very end of the Golden Age Arc that it had to be sealed away like it was The Ark of the Covenant?

Griffith's Egg of the King, the Behelith that he had always worn around his neck, has finally opened up the Eclipse, and his Band of the Hawk have been deemed the sacrifice needed to promote Griffith to be one of the God Hand. While Guts & the Band fight their hardest to simply survive the hordes of demons that have come upon them, Griffith's very spirit is now in front of something he could never fully comprehend... Something one could call "God". After being told what this "God" is & fully comprehending what humankind truly means in the world that he lives in, Griffith is offered one request for his new form as a God Hand. Griffith's only response is that he be given wings.

Type & Reason?: Worldwide Ban Due to Writer's Regret
This chapter of Berserk is a bit unlike most of the series in that there isn't any violence or gore to be found here. Instead, God of the Abyss (2) is simply a one-on-one conversation between Griffith & "God", one where Griffith learns the absolute truth behind the very world that Miura's story takes place in. He's told how humanity & "God" are intrinsically linked together, & even how destiny itself comes into play. It really is tricky to talk about this chapter in detail without going into spoilers, and that itself is why Kentaro Miura has banned it from ever being officially published again. After this chapter ran in Young Animal back in 1996, Miura immediately felt that he had given away too much of how the world of Berserk works; he removed any & all sense of hope that could be instilled into the reader with a single chapter. To distill it down to its very core, humanity & "God" have together made sure that the world of Berserk is, & has always been, one where things like happiness, hope, camaraderie, & free will are nothing more than illusory wishes. On the one hand, it's a realization that fits Miura's vision excellently, and the chapter itself is really cool. On the other hand, though, I can perfectly understand why Miura moved as fast as he could to keep the chapter from ever seeing another publication anywhere in the world, & why it was never adapted into either the original TV anime series or the movie trilogy. If you look really hard, you might be able to find this chapter online somewhere, usually in the original Japanese, but considering how much it gives away in terms of world building, do you really want to?

The Legend of Miniryu
On the surface, Pokémon sounds like it would be the least likely candidate to be guilty of having bans put down on it, but to think that would be intensely naive. In fact, a little bit of an internet search will reveal that outwardly innocent Pocket Monsters is astonishingly filled with a smattering of bans of varying degrees of harshness. In Japan alone there have been a few initially unaired episodes, with one of them (Episode 377: Battle of the Quaking Island! Dojoach/Barboach vs. Namazun/Whiscash!!) never being shown & even resulting in moves like Earthquake, Fissure, & Magnitude from ever being used in the anime again. There's another similarly banned anime that most people know of, but I want to go in airing order. Therefore, let's start with the first (internationally) fully banned episode of Pokémon, which is Episode 35 of the original anime series, which aired on November 25, 1997.

After travelling a long way, Satoshi/Ash, Kasumi/Misty, Takeshi/Brock, & Pikachu finally arrive at the Safari Zone, which is controlled by Kaiser, the warden that restricts Pokémon catching to only 30 safari balls. The restriction is because of the story that Kaiser discovered the legendary Miniryu/Dratini there 30 years ago, and when word got out trainers went crazy & nearly caught every single Pokémon that lived in the Safari Zone. Unfortunately, Team Rocket members Musashi/Jesse, Kojirou/James, & Nyarth/Meowth have also arrived, challenging Satoshi to a "Winner Takes All" match to see who can catch more Pokémon in the Safari Zone. The truth of the matter, though, is that Team Rocket only wants Miniryu, and forces Kaiser to tell them the secret location it lives in.

Type & Reason?: North American Ban Due to Visual Content
On the whole, The Legend of Miniryu is not an objectionable episode of Pokémon by any means in terms of what the episode itself is about. In short, it's an allegory about the hunting industry & how, when left uncontrolled, it can potentially lead to ruining the ecosystem of all sorts of animals. Instead, the reason this episode was banned & never shown in North America (at the very least, as I can't vouch for other countries) was simply because of the heavy wielding of a couple of revolvers in the first half. As shown above, Kaiser is intensely strict about enforcing his Safari Zone rules, even pointing one of his guns right at Satoshi's face, point blank; when Team Rocket holds Kaiser hostage to find Miniryu, they even point his own guns at his face. It's been stated that a short scene where Nyarth dons a toothbrush mustache, similar to Adolf Hitler, is also to blame, but I'd say that the blatant use of guns is the major culprit here. One must remember, though, that while 4Kids did eventually deal with guns in rather silly ways in later adaptations (like making them invisible in Yu-Gi-Oh! or having Helmeppo wield an indescribable weapon in One Piece), the company didn't have that kind of money or permission to alter footage when Pokémon turned into its first big hit. There is no indication that this episode was even dubbed into English at all, in fact.

There's a popular joke about Brock calling rice balls "jelly-filled donuts", but that's a legitimate thing 4Kids tried doing in its early days, simply because it was impossible for the staff to alter episodes visually in any way; they just relied on the concept of taking refuge in audacity, hoping no one will notice or care. It was either hope that anything objectionable could be excised completely, without ruining the episode's story, or simply not adapt it, and this episode was a perfect example of the latter. In fact, this was actually the second episode 4Kids skipped over, but the first (Episode 18, Holiday at Aopulco, which featured James in drag for a beach beauty contest), wound up being shown in an edited form twice in America, as the "lost episode" Beauty & the Beach, before being locked away & never seen again. Unfortunately, the lack of The Legend of Miniryu results in a continuity snag, since this is where Ash caught 30 Tauros, something that was only vaguely addressed later on, but overall is treated as something that "just happened & don't ask about it". Overall, this episode is a fun one, worth checking out if you're curious, and the reason behind its ban is admittedly understandable. I mean, let's face it... Kaiser doesn't mess around.

Electric Soldier Porygon
Okay, this is the one that I'm sure any anime fan thinks of when they hear about "banned anime", if only because this episode was an internationally known news day. Only three weeks after The Legend of Miniryu, which was only affected internationally, an episode aired in Japan that, one could argue, changed how anime was produced; in fact, this single episode's impact is still felt to this very day. By far, this is probably the most important episode I'll be covering in this volume of Demo Disc, so let's not waste any more time & check out exactly what's so infamous about Episode 38 of Pokémon, which aired on December 16, 1997.

Satoshi & gang arrive at Matcha City, and decide to visit the Pokémon Center to help Pikachi recover from exhaustion. Upon arrival, though, they see that the transfer system allowing Pokémon to go from one Center to another isn't working, resulting in the wrong Pokémon arriving than intended. Professor Akihabara, the creator of said system, heads home to his lab to find out what went wrong, and when Satoshi & company follow him, they wind up being forcefully made into guinea pigs for Akihabara's new human transfer system, which can allow people to enter the cyber world of PCs. There they find out that Team Rocket snuck into Akihabara's lab, kidnapped his artificial Pokémon Porygon Model 00, and are behind the transfer system problems. With Porygon Model 01 helping them, Satoshi & the others have to stop Team Rocket & escape back to their world before a powerful anti-virus program that Nurse Joy employs kills them all.

I dare not make a GIF showing this moment in action.

Type & Reason?: Worldwide Ban Due to Causing Physical Harm to Children
So far we've seen reasons for banning that range from the silly to the understandable, but at least none of them caused actual harm to actual people; this episode did just that, and there's no way to add levity to it. At the end of this episode's climax, everyone is about to be hit with a quartet of anti-virus missiles, but Pikachu manages to hit them all with Thunderbolt & have them explode before hitting them. Unfortunately, this results in a barrage of red & blue flashes happening in near-fullscreen for 5 seconds, followed by nothing but these flashes for another two seconds. While there were other flashes like this throughout the episode before, none were anywhere near as overwhelming & long-lasting as these seven seconds. Immediately afterwards, various viewers (adults & children) experienced all sorts of effects, ranging from headaches to dizziness to nausea to convulsions & even epileptic seizures. The Fire Defense Agency reported that 685 viewers wound up going to the hospital, with two even having to stay for two weeks. It got even worse when news programs reported on the incident... By showing the same exact scene to even more people! Later, it was confirmed that 12,000 children reported mild symptoms that didn't need hospital treatment. This wound up being called "Pokémon Shock", and it's downright saddening.

Pokémon wound up taking a four-month hiatus, changed time slots (moving from Tuesday to Thursday), had the opening footage changed to lessen the flashing effect utilized, and when the show returned to TV it was pre-empted by a four-minute explanation of why people were affected & how much fans wanted the anime to come back, worried that the incident would get it cancelled. It also resulted in Porygon being effectively banned from appearing in the anime ever agin, minus the rare cameo in movies. This flashing effect, nicknamed "paka paka", was a somewhat standard visual effect used in anime for decades, and mech anime GaoGaiGar (which was airing at the same time as Pokémon), featured a very harsh light/dark flashing effect for the villain Pasder, showing that it was considered normal up until that December evening. When the adventures of Satoshi & Pikachu returned to TV, it was decided that all anime would feature a warning on screen whenever starting, recommending that viewers watch in a brightly lit room & at a nice distance (usually 3 meters, at least) from the TV. Anime fans who remember watching digital fansubs will easily recall these warnings, and some anime even told these warnings in amusing ways. In fact, this warning is still done to this very day, but is generally removed for things like international streams. Okay, with all of that covered, how is Electric Soldier Porygon as an episode of Pokémon?

Simply put, it's great. It's honestly just a fun, imaginative episode that likely still feels pretty original to this day for the Pokémon anime franchise as a whole. Prof. Akihabara is intensely amusing in how crazy he sounds, all because of an excellent performance by Bin Shimada, Porygon is really cool to see in action due to its ability to transform into various shapes & sizes, and having the anti-virus program be shown as a floating ambulance before morphing into (essentially) an X-Wing from Star Wars is just entertaining as all hell. There are conflicting reports about whether Electric Soldier Porygon was in fact dubbed, with some of the original 4Kids cast saying that it was while others refute that, but I must admit that this is a great episode of Pokémon that is well worth the watch for anyone interested... As long as you take the proper precautions. Trust me, I watched this in the complete dark (though at a reasonable distance from my TV), and I wound up with a slight headache over my right eye; this is dangerous stuff.

Still, I must admit that Porygon remains my favorite Pokémon, and I think it's messed up that it's been framed for harming all of those Japanese children, because it was Pikachu who caused "Pokémon Shock", damn it! That little electric rodent is dangerous, I tell ya!!

Osomatsu-kun Returns
I think most anime fans probably feel that, in modern times, the days of banning episodes due to personal vendettas, revealing too much story much too soon, or legitimately inducing harm onto actual viewers are nothing more than a long gone era; episodes being removed for content may still happen on rare occasion, though. In reality, to think that would be silly & foolish; much like war, controversy never changes. Even in the age of streaming & simulcasting, where fans around the world can watch the hottest, newest episodes within literally hours of them first airing in Japan, the ban hammer can still be brought down. Anime fandom around the world got hit with a strong reminder of that when old-school series Osomatsu-kun returned to TV for the first time in 26 years with a brand new show, Mr. Osomatsu, which debuted on October 5, 2015.

To celebrate what would be the late Fujio Akatsuka's 80th birthday, it's been decided that Osomatsu-kun is returning to TV. Realizing that their new show is literally debuting as they speak, the Matsuno sextuplets Osomatsu, Karamatsu, Choromatsu, Ichimatsu, Jyushimatsu, & Todomatsu realize that their Showa Era antics just won't cut it in the modern Heisei Era world. Therefore, Osomatsu decides that the perfect way to attract an audience in the new millennium would be to completely remake themselves, changing from stubby gag character brothers into a pretty boy idol group who are also the most popular students at Osomatsu Academy who are also so miraculously amazing that when they put their hands together they can shoot an energy blast that destroys a meteor that is on a crash course with the Earth... But can they hold back their Showa tendencies long enough to maintain the illusion?!

Type & Reason?: Worldwide Ban Due to Excessive Parody
When talking about this episode, it is important to remember that Japan doesn't uphold things like parody under the banner of free speech. That doesn't mean that parody is illegal by any means, because there are plenty of things in Japan that poke fun at Japanese culture & media, but it does mean that, when push comes to shove, there is nothing the parodist can do to claim that the jokes are considered free speech. Sadly, the debut episode of Mr. Osomatsu was made an example of this lack of protection, as only a month after it aired it was announced that Episode 1 would not only be excised from the home video release in Japan, but that it would also be removed from any & all streaming services the show was on all around the world. For the first time, anime fans the world over experienced something that had previously only happened to Japan at rare moments, and it sucks. While Episode 3, which parodied children's anime icon Anpanman, was simply altered for the home video release, Episode 1 was outright replaced by an original OVA episode featuring the "Idol Matsunos" that said banned episode introduced. The most annoying thing about all of this, though, is that the episode that was removed is really... damn... funny.

At the same time, though, it's easy to see why this episode was taken to the woodshed, while other similar shows mainly get away scot-free: Osomatsu-kun Returns not only goes hyperactive with the references, especially at the very end, but it also essentially pokes fun at the anime industry for the entire episode. The Matsuno's becoming idols pokes fun at idol anime, them trying to take the heart of female supporting character Totoko pokes fun at reverse harems, the private school setting pokes fun at all of the various anime that take place in such locations, the Matsuno's looking like absolutely perfect people pokes fun at anime that star such characters, and the list goes on. Again, this is all done with absurd jabs, like Totoko literally dying because her heart couldn't take being confessed to by six guys all at once, & Choromatsu winds up becoming the straight man to his five brother's manzai-style antics, but it's easy to see that the writer behind this episode, series composer Shu Matsubara (a Gintama alumnus, naturally), was purposefully aiming at pointing out how rote & formulaic anime might come off nowadays, especially when they aim at pinpointed audiences. The "excessive parody" in particular comes at the very end, when the show goes for jugular with references, both modern & classic, with so many that I don't even dare try count them all, though Attack on Titan is the framework that they all work around. Overall, this is a hilarious episode & a superb start to Mr. Osomatsu, and it's terrible that it's banned for something as silly as parody, but it's a perfect example of just how different Japan is when it comes to free speech & the ramifications of that.
And that brings an end to a slightly different volume of Demo Disc. While the reasons why each of these examples were in fact banned differ wildly, they are still banned to varying extents, so watching them is like a silly attempt at taking it "to the Man", telling them that nothing can stop you from watching what you want. In all seriousness, though, while there are some really good episodes of anime, or chapters of manga, that are being kept from fans' eyes, there are also ones that are either not all that great in the first place or have legitimately good reasons for being officially locked away. Whether or not you're willing to go to the varying lengths to experience them for yourself is up to you.

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