Untangled: What Are Your Thoughts on Watching a Series That is Censored?

On Beneath the Tangles, we invite readers to ask questions of the staff.  We’d love to hear your concerns and questions, and maybe give you our feedback.

A couple of weeks ago, VW, a Catholic Christian and anime fan, dropped in with a question.  For the sake of space, I’ll just present you bits and pieces of her email:

Let’s take a series like Mashiro-iro Symphony. I found myself really enjoying it! It was a really sweet and endearing series, with positive views on friendship and relationships.
However, Crunchyroll aired the censored version. Apparently (and I’ve looked this up specifically to see exactly what it entailed), the uncensored version (BD release) has nudity. This is something that I really don’t like in my anime, and almost always sets me on edge or makes me feel guilty.

Oh yes, the censored version.  I’m not really the anime enthusiast other anibloggers (and anime viewers) are, but I’ve certainly noticed that Blu-Ray releases in Japan frequently contain more questionable content that otherwise isn’t (or can’t be?) shown on Japanese television.

Here’s more:

What I’m getting at is…I love this series, really. It was so good that I really want to re-watch it. But I love the censored version.

What are your thoughts on watching a series that is censored, knowing that there is uncensored nudity in the “real” version? Especially when the positives of the series are very strong?

VW’s question really made me think of my own viewing habits.  I think there are three questions I ask myself when deciding whether to continue watching a series I’ve started – perhaps not actively, but these questions do bounce around in my mind:

  1. Is there a redeeming or positive element to this story?
  2. Am I enjoying this series?
  3. Does this series encourage me to sin?

The first is important to me personally for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that I want to watch series that espouse significant themes about which I can blog.  It’s also just an exercise in faith to look at and learn from different forms of media.  For VW, Mashiro-iro Symphony fits into this category.

The second is obvious; I’ve dropped a number of shows that were chock-full of terrific stuff to blog about just because they bored me to death.  But as for VW, Mashiro-iro Symphonyis a series she definitely enjoys.

Note that the answer to one of these questions might be “yes” and the other “no” and I would still be willing to watch the show.

The last question is a little different.  Much more as an adolescent than now, I was heavily influenced by the media I watched – sometimes obviously and sometimes subtly.  Some series, even now, encourage me to think and act in ways that I would count as sinful.  I believe there’s a line for all of us where we feel a show just might not be good for us.  It’s our decision whether or not we continue with a series that crosses that line.

Luckily for VW, Mashiro-iro Symphony doesn’t cross that line – at least not the censored version.  And so, I would take total advantage of that and enjoy the series!  It’s almost like two different series – one VW would watch and the other she would not.

VW is really in a lucky position – there are too many series that scream “yes” to #1 and #2 but maybe “no” to #3.  Off the top of my head, Tenchi Muyo! comes to mind – there was a big hubbub about Toonami’s “digital swimsuits” painted on the girls in the show when it aired long ago, but I was glad for these edits.  I wish my DVD version at home had these censored items.

What about you all?  Do you see any problem in watching a show, but knowing the real version might be morally troublesome?

28 thoughts on “Untangled: What Are Your Thoughts on Watching a Series That is Censored?

  1. I don’t mind censorship, as long as it doesn’t affect the story that much.

    I also don’t mind nudity, as long as the show is rated appropriately AND it is relevant to the story. That said, I prefer no nudity. Those uncensored versions are just tactics to sell more DVDs. 😛

    1. Yeah, censorship can definitely affect a show. I used to watch a lot of cable as a kid, and I remember watching movies that had an erratic flow because of edits.

      Nowadays, if an anime has to be censored to that extent, I can guarantee it’s not a show I’d be watching in the first place.

  2. <What about you all? Do you see any problem in watching a show, but knowing the real version might be morally troublesome?

    I won't be one of those frothing at the mouth fans who feel censorship, in any form, is wrong. Most anime is made for broadcast television anyway so the censorship doesn't bother me.

    The uncensored stuff doesn't bother me either…if I know what I'm getting into. Back in the day, anime used to be sold to Westerners because of the sex, violence and nudity. Unfortunately, that stigma is still with us to this day. I'll also admit that it was one of the reasons why my non-anime friends used to watch anime in the first place.

    For those who are watching the ecchi stuff and its censored…well..my heart goes out to you. But, as stated in this post, there's always the uncensored DVD/Bluray.

    1. You bring up a good point – these series are originally made for TV, so the censorship is necessary (I’m guessing – I don’t know a whole lot about media in Japan). I know I’d find it problematic if my kids were exposed to some of the stuff on uncensored anime DVDs, because try as we might, practically it’s very hard to know everything questionable in every thing one’s child watches.

      1. The days of the OAV (Original Animation), or OVA (Original Video Animation) are pretty much over. Back in the day, those were the direct-to-video anime productions that were (in)famous for their sexual and/or violent content.

        Most of that has moved, in a lesser form, to late night television in Japan — thus the censorship.

        But you’re right. I would be upset if I watched a censored version of a television show, bought the DVD/Bluray and took it home to show the kids and it suddenly got very violent and/or raunchy.

        All I can say is caveat emptor: Buyer beware.

        1. Ah, yes – the days of the OVAs! Going back to my Tenchi Muyo example, I remember seeing the marketing for other anime DVDs in that collection and thinking that Tenchi was very modest in comparison to some of these series.

          Also, kudos for using one of my favorite Latin phrases!

  3. I find a lot of the censorship to be quite annoying in the way it disrupts viewing. It’s too often obvious and distracting.

    I recently watched Tenchi Muyo! on Hulu and didn’t find the nudity to be particularly interesting or titillating, but I think I would have found painted on swimsuits to be too incongruous in a bath.

    I’ve also seen shows where the nudity is about the same as a department store mannequin. I can’t get all that excited about wanting to censor those at all.

    Overall I think some of the ideas are far more dangerous than cartoon nudity.

    1. You know, you’d think the swimsuits would be weird…but they weren’t. I just kind of bought into it. If I remember correctly, Sasami was of course dressed in a swimsuit, so the rest wearing them just fit naturally.

      Could you extrapolate about what you mean when you write, “some of the ideas are far more dangerous”? I’m interesting in hearing what you mean!

  4. I ask myself the question – does it affect the show?

    For something like One Piece, editing the story so there’s no blood or that instead of a cigarette, a character has a lollipop, there’s an issue with fundamental characteristics of the story being changed. It’s not a kid’s show, and making that way vastly affects how I would enjoy it.

    Did editing Mashiro Symphony change the story? No. Chances are the nudity is pointless and there to sell DVDs. It’s not changing the story of the characters. Since CR has the edited version, then continue to support it.

    1. I definitely get that. I think that’s how most people feel – kind of a middle ground and one that emphasizes artistic integrity.

  5. I feel ambivalent about the issue of censorship. If it’s meant to be shown to young people under 10, maybe I’ll favor some form of censorship, like showing a couple doing something intimate in bed. T still can’t watch anything with kissing with my parents. Just last year, my Mom fast forwarded something while we were watching a film. lol

  6. In the example described the series was fine as is. It doesn’t appear to be on crunchyroll anymore so I can’t confirm that for my self.

    It also sounds like the elements added to the blu-ray were for no better reasons than a) we can or b) the fans will like it.

    At which point my basic reaction is: you fail story telling 101.

    Adding elements that will enhance the story, or that were temporarily blocked for relevant events (c.f the Buffy season 3 episode Earshot which got pulled from US broadcast due to a high school shooting), I have no problem with. If anything I would prefer that those be broadcast to begin with. But this example doesn’t sound like that.

    1. I think fanservice rarely, rarely needs to be added to enhance the story. That part of the “enhancement” seems to fall into the reasoning you suggested for the series discussed (and probably is true for many of these “uncensored” BD editions these days).

      Now, adding extra scenes to enhance a series? That’s often pure joy – I sometimes can’t contain myself when I get to the extras part of DVDs that contain cut scenes, or when watching the director’s cut of certain films (LoTR!).

  7. As long as it doesn’t affect the show and plot or downgrade the artwork in any way, then censorship is usually okay for me. Sometimes, though, censorship is taken over the top; take One Piece for example (which I’m not a fan of really, but I’ve seen quite a few episodes waiting for Naruto and Bleach to come on). On Adult Swim/Toonami, Sanji’s cigarette is replaced with a lollipop in the U.S. version. They also edit out most of the blood. On quite a few stations, they also blur out girls when they are in swim suits (I can remember seeing this in Dragonball and being totally confused as a kid). I feel like it’s really changing the art and story too much. It takes away from the characters and changes the show.

    I do think it’s fine when the original creators make censored versions. In the censored version of Kodomo no Jikan (which I’ll admit, is slightly perverted, but there’s nothing even close to nudity), even the littlest things are censored, because it was also made to be enjoyed for children (so there are blocks when even the girls wear bloomers/spandex in gym class haha).

    I think some of the censorship is due to not only trying to make anime on the TV in the U.S. suitable for all ages and due to cultural differences. When you edit an action anime aimed toward teens and adults by taking out the blood, you change the show. It’s not made for kids, and they shouldn’t watch it in the first place. If it’s not originally for young audiences, don’t try to change it.

    With cultural differences, we see some things being edited out that are totally normal for all audiences in Japan. Bath scenes in anime are common, and are usually not meant to be erotic because they’re so normal there. When it’s edited for American audiences, it changes the culture in the show itself. Cursing also seems to be more accepted over there, as there are even curses in anime aimed at younger viewers. And after watching Deadman Wonderland, I think I’d rather hear the actual words than hear the annoying *bleeeeeeps*. I’d much rather accept the culture and learn from it than change the plot of the anime.

    …..Darn I typed too much again. But, basically, I usually don’t like censorship on a regular basis. It changes the show too much sometimes. If you’re watching a show that is inappropriate in nature, why the censorship? If you feel guilty abut watching it, you probably shouldn’t be. On my part, I’m really not “influenced” by what is in anime, though I definitely understand what you mean. It really can desensitize us, and thinking of that, I try to watch anime that isn’t inappropriate in nature.

    1. Thanks for all the great comments! Maybe you should have written this post. By the way, feel free to guest post for us some time. 🙂

      Your comments made me think of two things in particular. First, I liked reading them because I feel I’m getting feedback from a different perspective – that of an artist.

      Secondly, I like that you brought up that much of this material that might be censored teaches us about Japanese culture. It might not be something direct (I hope no one thinks Japan is exactly like its pictured in anime!), but certainly anime can provide implicit details about a culture. And like you said, we learn as we watch.

      1. Haha, I REALLY hope people don’t think Japan is exactly pictured like it is in anime! That would be one crazy country. And thank you very much o///o I really don’t consider myself an artist in any way, just a student, but that really means a lot to me. 🙂

  8. To be honest, I’m not hugely concerned with censoring what I watch, mainly because I like subjecting myself to rigorous challenges. When I have children I’ll likely be much more concerned with censoring what THEY watch, at least up to a certain age after which I’ll try to teach them how to understand certain things that they might see in the world and media around them (I of course still prefer and would prefer that they prefer to avoid SATURATION with fictional depictions of nastiness and Fallenness).

    1. Interesting take! I definitely agree with your point about saturation. The development of media is interesting – while I might argue that we are already saturated with content I object to (but which I admittedly often readily view), the array of choices makes it so that we can avoid a lot of this content as well by making other choices.

      1. The other factor, in my case, is that I’m an aesthetic purist. There are certain things that I just can’t deal with, so if I know that they’re in something I’m thinking of watching or reading, I either just skip over them or close my eyes or something when they come up or, if it’s not something that I feel some essential need to experience, I just don’t read or watch it.

  9. People complain about censorship, but I’ve found it to be somewhat of a God-send in the past. I recently watched Blood-C, a show plagued by censorship whilst airing. Unfortunately I watched the uncensored version and it sickened me more almost more than anything I’ve ever seen before with its excessive, unnecessary gore (now as someone who’s had much experience with the horror genre of books, movies, video-games and anime, that’s a pretty big deal!) I would’ve loved to have had some of that nastiness censored for me- I can’t understand how gore or gratuitous nudity can positively add to anyone’s viewing experience and, as a Christian myself, I don’t particularly want to understand either!

    1. I definitely know what you mean. There are lot of things that I just don’t want to watch, which I don’t find, well, good for me. So in some cases, I’ll enjoy a series more, or give it more of a chance, if some of the gratuity is cut out.

  10. Interesting to note since I am reading the responses, Mashiro-iro Symphony really isn’t an ecchi series. If it were, and especially because it was censored due to something gratuitous, I wouldn’t be watching.
    I came upon MS last winter, when Crunchyroll acquired it for streaming. I have to admit, I love bishoujo-style art, so I was pretty interested in the images that I was seeing while researching the series. I kept trying to find out if it was indeed ecchi (because of it’s, well, disgusting origins), and to what extent the offensive content would go to, and was finding very little of that. It seemed very much not centered on fanservice (and, that which follows: lust), so I took a chance and watched it. And this was true.
    To tell you the complete truth, watching that show, you wouldn’t even know anything was – or had to be! – censored. It was so seamless that I didn’t even know these scenes included nudity. This was the Crunchyroll stream.
    The only time I was ever aware of something offensive in the anime was in one of the later episodes, where there is some of that obvious white censorship mist. It only lasted a couple seconds, though. That was the only time I ever noticed anything needed to be censored. It was just a couple seconds, and I thankfully was watching the censored stream, so I figured I could let that go since the positives outweighed that negative. THAT is how seamless the censorship is. I didn’t even know that there were other scenes of nudity besides the obvious white-mist one. And I doubt you would either!
    I can’t stress it enough – Mashiro-iro Symphony is not an ecchi-fest. It is not a fanservice-ridden plot. The plot itself was not altered through censorship…Just those scenes of nudity. Like I stated earlier, I wouldn’t be watching if it were something lustful. And the censored version wasn’t overtly like this, at least for me. I am in no way recommending it, since I am very conservative in my anime recommendations towards other Christians. But I figured it is worth noting that this series – obviously the censored version – has very little offensive material. The plot itself is even innocent.

    Anyway, I really appreciate this response to my earlier email. Thanks. 😀

    1. Thanks for all the additional feedback! 🙂

      Also, I think maybe with newer series (I might be wrong), the original “censored” versions are actually the, well, original versions. The Blu-Rays, which are “uncut,” may have had fanservice added it. This is what it seems to me…though like I said, I could be totally wrong.

      1. Mmm…what do you mean? Can you give an example? I reread this article, and my views largely remain the same. I think about the quality of a series, the enjoyment it gives me, and whether I think it’s something that will cause me to sin. I have a hyper-tendency to drop series that are chocked full of fanservice.

        If you’re speaking of Yurikumo Arashi (I think you are?), that’s worth noting. Based on the director’s previous works – and particularly Mawaru Penguindrum, which delivered an amazing message of grace – I’m sticking with it for now.

        1. Ah, sorry, it was a reply to VW’s comment.

          YKA, that is problematic too, but is the topic for another discussion.

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