In the early 1900s, animation began to thrive worldwide. The Walt Disney Company created Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which inspired the legendary creator Osamu Tezuka. By studying their techniques, he learned how to create his animated series with a smaller staff and shorter budget. Thanks to the techniques Tezuka studied, several popular manga series were adapted into anime series. Although there were several different genres of manga, there were series for all ages to enjoy.
In North America, views on cartoons remain mixed from the 20th to the 21st century. Many still believe that cartoons are "only for children." Adults who watched cartoons were often mocked or seen as childish. Although views on cartoons have slowly changed and the masses have grown to accept the medium, localized anime series still face heavy cuts and changes.
To make anime more accessible for children and American audiences, most of the series face name changes and removable of all Japanese references. Heavily criticized localization companies, such as 4kids and DiC Entertainment, wanted children to believe they were watching original American shows and hid the origins of the cartoons they enjoyed. Their censorship and poor voice acting became an example of how not to localize an anime series.
We've compiled a list of anime series that have faced censorship when adapted from their Japanese versions. To ensure the list is more accessible to everyone, we've referred to the series names and characters by their English dub names.
20 Censorship That The "God of Manga" Couldn't Agree With
Astro Boy was created by the legendary "God of Manga" Osamu Tezuka. After being rejected from his creator for being unable to grow into an adult, Astro Boy becomes a hero. He is equipped with special powers that help him slay evil. The series was highly successful in Japan, and NBC Enterprises took notice in the early 1960s.
NBC immediately went to work making the Japanese series more appropriate for American audiences, such as changing the names of characters. Tezuka spoke of his frustrations with American censorship in the pages of the Astro Boy manga. NBC Enterprises chose not to localize an episode where a dog had an operation. NBC found it to be too horrifying for American audiences. Tezuka expressed that Americans ate animals and hunted them for sports, so he didn't understand why the episode was entirely left unaired.
19 A Battle To Become Ruler Had To Be Less Violent
Zatch Bell follows the story Kiyo and his partner, Zatch Bell. Kiyo helps Zatch bell win battles to become ruler of the Mamodo World. The series spanned over 150 episodes in Japan. It was English dubbed on Cartoon Network and debuted in March 2005 during Toonami. Though fans were grateful Viz were handling the localization and not 4Kids, there were still several censored moments.
Viz left in most gun usage, but would poorly edit their usage. Sometimes they would obviously shoot into their targets, but others, the gun would be blurred out. The American version retained all of the violence but removed all blood. All nudity was also censored. Zatch Bell enjoys running around completely nude, which is more normal in Japanese culture but against the rules on American television. Viz made sure to cover him up.
18 Toning Down The Bloodshed During War
Robotech is a long-running series adapted from the popular Super Dimension Fortress Macross franchise. Robotech told the story of an alternate Earth and their battle against the "Protoculture." The localizer Harmony Gold USA, Inc. attempted to adapt it for American audiences while keeping the drama from the original series. The series had to be a minimum of 65 episodes, so Harmony Gold rewrote three different Macross series, so it featured three generations of heroes fighting against the Protoculture.
The original Macross series itself was complicated and not originally meant for younger audiences. Harmony Gold wanted to make Robotech more accessible to a broader audience. All names had to be changed to be English-friendly. Any nudity was censored, and excessive violence or gore was removed. Though the series featured adults, any scenes featuring excess drinking had to be removed.
17 Becoming A Better Role Model For Children
Disney XD debuted the long-running Doraemon anime series in July 2014. Before it reached American television sets, several changes had to be being made. Many of the changes had to be made to lessen some Japanese references. Most of the characters had their names changed for American audiences. Any signs with Japanese characters were swapped with English words. Any scenes where Japanese currency was used has been modified to US Dollars.
Scenes featuring meals were also changed. At the dinner table, chopsticks were swapped with forks and knives, even though the Japanese use both. To promote healthy eating habits, some sweet treats the children indulged in were exchanged for fresh fruits. Disney didn't want children to develop poor eating habits by emulating the show.
16 Hamsters Shouldn't Handle Firearms
Hamtaro was a cute show featuring a variety of rodents and their adventures when their owners were away. The show was targeted towards younger children but still had to face some censorship when it was localized by Ocean Productions. Hamtaro had several small cuts due to time restraints, so it's likely that English viewers did not see most of the original episodes in their entirety.
As with most localized anime, a majority of the character's names were changed to make them more English friendly. Japanese text was removed or cut. Some comedic violence, such as Howdy hitting Dexter on the head with a toy hammer in "Watching Over Cute Penelope" was censored. Alcohol use also had to be censored. In "In Search of the Pendant," Laura's dad comes home drunk and argues with her mom. This scene was completely removed.
15 Changing A Grumpy Character's Backstory
Sonic X was an anime adaptation of the Sonic the Hedgehog game. Instead of Dr. Robotnik being the only person resembling a humanoid, animals and humans resided on Earth together. 4Kids handle English dub and made several edits that upset viewers. As with most localized series, Japanese text was removed, and names were swapped to be more accessible for younger audiences.
Violence was toned down, and references to deaths were removed. With the removal of death, pivotal scenes had less impact, such as Shadow's background. Fans joke about Shadow the Hedgehog being a cringy edge lord, but there is a reason for his personality shift. He was close to Maria, the granddaughter of Dr. Robotnik. Originally, she was shot and killed trying to help Shadow escape the Space Colony ARK. 4Kids censored her death instead, changing it to her being "taken away" and was never seen again.
14 Changing Empty Threats Of Destruction
In the late 90s, Toonami began adapting anime series to play in the afternoons. Gundam Wing included some darker tones, but Cartoon Network was so interested in bringing it to American audiences that they took the risk in localizing it. The localizer was able to keep most of the show intact compared to other localized anime and didn't change most of the names.
Since the show aired in afternoons after school, the violence and blood had to be toned down. All profanity was removed, and the word "kill" was rarely used. Heero Yuy's infamous empty threat "I'll kill you" was also changed to "I'll destroy you." His fellow pilot Duo Maxwell's title of "The God of Death" was also changed to "The Great Destroyer."
13 Cat Girls In Bikinis Are More Offensive Than The Afterlife
Yo-Kai Watch is currently airing on Disney XD. In each episode, Nate and his yo-kai friends try to stop other yo-kai from playing tricks on humans. Since the show airs on a network for children, several changes had to be made. Japanese names for both the humans and yo-kai were changed to be more English friendly.
Some scenes that aren't sensitive to Japanese audiences were also revised. In one episode, Nate and his friends had a sleepover. They stay up late because they want to watch adult programming, which includes watching cute girls in bikinis. In the English version, their excitement is turned down, and the girls' bikinis are swapped for one piece swimsuits and shorts. In the original version, the boys also catch a show of "macho men" exercising in speedos, but this was censored for a cooking show.
12 Pirates Are Really Just Adults Looking For Fun
One Piece revolves around a group of pirates and their adventures. When it was announced that 4Kids Entertainment would be handling the English adaptation, fans were skeptical. 4Kids’s heavy censorship was so extreme that they cut out important story elements, leaving plot holes and confused viewers.
Violence was toned down to make the series more child-friendly. Guns were replaced with hammers or knives. Characters did not die, and instead, they were held captive and never seen again. Any references to drinking and alcohol were swapped with tea or juice. Sanji’s infamous cigarette was swapped for a lollipop. In fears of racism, any person with dark skin tone was traded with lighter skin tones. This change was seen as more racist than anything 4Kids could have initially feared.
11 There's No "I" In "Captors"
At first glance, Cardcaptors may seem like an inoffensive child-friendly show. References to Japanese and Chinese culture were swapped with English words or removed. The most obvious the show's title, which was originally Cardcaptor Sakura. The localizer made the show more about a team of Cardcaptors instead of focusing on Sakura. Many of the characters had their names changed to more American names, but the names that were not changed were mispronounced.
The odd-ordering of episodes and removing several also bothered fans. The first episode in America was episode eight when Li Shaoran is first introduced. The second episode was episode twelve in Japan. The continuity was inconsistent, which meant the plot was harder to follow. This change was intended to increase the action to make boys more interested, but it was confusing for all viewers.
10 All Bathing Must Be Done While Wearing Full Clothing
Tenchi Muyo! appeared on Cartoon Network's Toonami along with Gundam Wing and Dragon Ball Z. Tenchi Muyo! was one of many anime fans' first taste of harem anime, where the male protagonist has several females who are romantically interested in him. Though most of the characters retained their original names, many of the typical Japanese scenes had to be censored for American audiences. Baths and hot springs become popular with the cast. Digital bathing suits or towels had to be added when any nudity was displayed on-screen to make it past American TV censors. Even if a character was initially wearing a towel, shoulder straps had to be added, so there was no implication of nudity.
Tenchi Muyo! also featured several fights. Though many were of slapstick nature, such as Ryoko and Ayeka fighting for Tenchi's affections, any more serious scene involving blood had to be scrubbed out.
9 Saban Attempts To Change Japan's Glittering Girls
If you're unfamiliar with Glitter Force, you may recognize it by its original Japanese title Smile! PreCure. The PreCure series is still ongoing and popular in Japan. Instead of airing on American TV, it went straight to Netflix. By going to Netflix first, you might rightly assume that the show wouldn't face many cuts. Saban was in charge of localization and wanted audiences to feel the series could take place in any American town. The series removed many of the Japanese cultural references and swapped them for English names and text. Two of the episodes were entirely removed because they focused too much on okonomiyaki, a type of Japanese cuisine. Another episode was cut because it included Japanese comedians. In an attempt to make the series more light-hearted, emotional scenes that focused on meaningful character growth were also removed.
8 Where The Losers Are Banished To The Shadow Realm
Yu-Gi-Oh! was localized by 4Kids Entertainment and faced heavy cuts. 4kids focused more on selling the Yu-Gi-Oh! card merchandise rather than focusing on the plot of the series. Character names were changed to be more English-speaker friendly. Violence was heavily censored to remove blood. Gun use was removed and replaced with less lethal weapons or making a gun reference using fingers. Due to the amount of violence and focus on the Shadow Games instead of cards, Season Zero never made it to American audiences.
All implications death were removed. The Shadow Realm, where souls were trapped forever, was created by 4Kids. Instead of dying or having their soul absorbed into a card, people were sent to this imaginary realm instead.
Some of the artwork on the Yu-Gi-Oh! cards also had to be revised. Dark Magician Girl's was changed to be less endowed and other humanoid females had more clothing added.
7 Censored Cat Girls Lose Their Powers
When 4Kids Entertainment first localized Mew Mew Power, one of the first things to be revised was the title. Since localizers like to make shows feel more American, the series removed the "Tokyo" from "Mew Mew" from Tokyo Mew Mew. Any additional Japanese text was removed or changed to English. All of the original background music was changed to an original music score by 4Kids, including new English tracks. Mew Mew Power faced heavy censorship by 4kids. The first episode to be aired was originally the twelveth so that the series could quickly focus on bringing the entire cast together.
Similar to Sailor Moon, any lines on the body during transformations that imply nudity were removed. Mew's Lettuce transformation was entirely removed. Renee's weapon was censored out because it was in the shape of a cross. Additional cuts made to the plot to make it an appropriate airtime length hindered the story. The plot became hard to follow and several character building moments were removed. The series only lasted 23 episodes in America before being canceled.
6 Removing The Violence From Digital Monster Battles
Digimon was born around the time digital pets like Tamagotchi became popular with kids. Wanting to make digital pets more accessible to boys, Digimon was born. The series came to America in the late 90s. 4Kids and Saban localized the series for American audiences. Most of the characters had their names changed. Any references made to Buddhism or religion were removed, instead of being changed to a non-denominational chant.
Since Digimon features several action-packed scenes, more violent moments had to be removed. Digimon 01 and 02 completely removed all gun use. Gargomon is allowed to keep his guns in Digimon Tamers. He commits a mass shooting, but in the American version, the bullets never strike a target. Digimon Tamers also removed down some inappropriate moments, such as Fifth Grader Zoe expressing she wants to be a gravure model called "S*xy Dynamite."
5 Knights Will Do No Harm
When Saint Seiya was released in America, both the manga and anime series were censored. In many countries, the title itself was changed to Knights of the Zodiac, which was more friendly to English speakers. In localization tradition, all Japanese names were changed to their English variant. Though it's not a surprise the Japanese audio was switched to English voices, the dub was poorly done and was seen as distracting and amusing.
Knights of the Zodiac contains a fair amount of action and gore, which had to be reduced by DIC Entertainment in the American versions. The Knights didn't kill their opponents. Instead, the enemies were banished to jail and never seen again. Blood was repainted as blue instead of red. The episodes also had to be edited and cut to fit the air time.
4 Ninjas Are Forced To Clean Up Their Act
Naruto quickly rose to popularity with a popular manga series and even more popular anime. In 2005, Naruto debuted on Cartoon Network in America. Since the show aired in the afternoon, edits had to be made to tone down the violence and blood. Any scene featuring blood was scrubbed clean. Any dead bodies that remained were removed. If blood was too difficult to remove from the scene, it was colored yellow. Scenes that featured the casual use of a weapon were censored, leaving characters holding out their arms and hands for no reason.
Some fans who pair Naruto and Sasuke together were horrified when an accidental kissing scene was removed in Episode 3. Like with most edits, the reference to the scene was left in duringEpisode 16.
3 Reducing Power Levels for the Children
The Dragon Ball series is highly popular in Japan and was almost immediately just as popular in America. Several edits had to be made to make the show more child-friendly. Nudity was covered up, and the violence was toned down. Red blood was often swapped for more different colors or completely removed. As with most localized series, a few name changes were made, but most were retained. Mr. Satan had to be changed to Hercule, though this would later be changed to Hercule Satan by Funimation. Mr. Popo didn't have an offending name, but due to fears over possible "blackface" accusations over his literal black skin, his skin was changed to blue.
One ridiculous change was when Goku is killed. He has to travel through Heaven and Hell to return. In the censored version, this is changed to "Home For Infinite Losers."
2 Removing All Culture From A Fictional World
Pokémon has been a long-running video game and anime series in both Japan and America. The American adaptation of the anime has faced heavy censorship. Many of the names had to be changed, and Japanese culture references were changed or removed. Most viewers can remember Brock’s onigiri, or rice balls, were referred to as donuts. Some episodes were completely banned from being aired in America because they were too racy, such as “Beauty and the Beach.”
A few characters had to be edited because they may be found as racist. 4Kids feared that Jinx would be seen as a blackface character, so they changed the Pokémon’s skin color from black to purple. Gym Leader Lenora’s apron brought implications of a “Mammy” stereotype, so it was completely removed. A Team Rocket scene that eerily resembled a Nazi salute parade had to be censored for younger audiences.
1 These Long-Time Girlfriends Are Actually Related?
Sailor Moon saw several changes when it was localized for American audiences. All of the characters’ names were changed to be more English friendly. Japanese text was changed to English or removed entirely. Violence was toned down, including slapstick humor, and decreasing the number of times Raye slapped sense into Serena. Any references to death, such as the significant story arc at the end of the first season when the four Inner Sailor Scouts died, were changed to “being captured.” Censors also made edits to make the characters better role models for children, decreasing the number of sweets they ate on screen and adding a “Sailor Says” segment at the end of each episode.
The most shocking change was changing Sailor Neptune and Sailor Uranus from lovers into cousins. Their preference was also changed from being straight instead of lesbians.