Highlighting New Publications: Urutsokidoji and the Transcultural Reception and Regulation of Anime

Japanese animation is, of course, animation created in Japan (even if, increasingly, a significant percentage of the actual “animation” work is out-sourced to other Asian countries), by Japanese creators – and designed primarily for distribution to Japanese audiences. But, since at least the early 1960’s, Japanese animation – first feature films, then television series – has been presented to audiences around the world.

And, each of these presentations has involved taking the original film or television series, and modifying it in some way. At the very least, this modification can be a translation of the script into another language – that, as any translation, can be more or less accurate. The script can also be rewritten entirely, so the end product is only tangentially related to the original. The characters’ voices will most likely need to be provided by different actors. And, some parts of a particular film or television series can be left off entirely.

These different kinds of modification practices present an obvious opportunity for anime scholars. How exactly is a particular anime modified for distribution outside Japan? Why? And, how do these modification practices differ from each other – across both time, and across space. For example, one of the most well-known examples of this kind of “modification” is the way that Osamu Tezuka’s Kimba the While Lion series was changed for distribution in the U.S. – a process Fred Patten examines in “Simba versus Kimba: The pride of lions” (in The Illusion of Life II: More Essays on Animation). Similarly, Brian Ruh examines the changes that Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind underwent before it could be released in the U.S. as Warriors of the Wind in Transforming U.S. anime in the 1980’s: Localization and longevity (in Mechademia v. 5: Fanthropologies). These kinds of studies are not limited to releases of anime in the U.S., either – consider Cobus van Staden’s Moomin/Mumin/Moemin: Apartheid-era dubbing and Japanese animation, or Ilaria Parini’s Censorship of anime in Italian distribution.

And now, in the new issue of the Journal of British Cinema and Television, Emma Pett (University of East Anglia) expand on these, with a case study of how anime has been presented to audiences in the U.K. – and the way that British authorities responded to this presentation.

Pett, Emma. ‘Blood, guts, and Bambi eyes’: Urutsokidoji and the transcultural reception and regulation of anime. Journal of British Cinema and Television, 13(3), 390-408.

Overfiend“The regulation and reception of anime in Britain has, historically, been fraught with difficulty. In 1992, the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) rejected the first instalment of Urotsukidoji, a controversial series of erotic anime, on the grounds of its sexually explicit content; this decision set a precedent for the way in which they would continue to censor anime for the following two decades. Nearly twenty years later, in 2009, Clause 62 of the Coroners and Justice Act, also colloquially known as the ‘Dangerous Cartoons Act’, made it a criminal offence to possess non-photographic pornographic images of children, including CGI, cartoons, manga images and drawings. Through an examination of the BBFC’s archival materials on Urotsukidoji – Legend of the Overfiend, supplemented by references to a small number of newspaper articles published during this period, this article offers a range of insights into the historical context in which the current series of debates surrounding the ‘Dangerous Cartoons Act’ can be situated and assessed. These are used to consider the transcultural flow of genres across national borders, and the difficulties that a regulator from one culture encounters when dealing with controversial material originating from another, such as Japan, that has a substantially different set of social values and artistic conventions. Furthermore, this case highlights the important role played by distribution companies in shaping the production and evolution of genres within the transcultural marketplace.”

Previous English-language scholarship on this anime is largely limited to Susan Pointon’s 1997 essay Transcultural orgasm as apocalypse: Urotsukidoji: The Legend of the Overfiend. But, Joel Powell and Lee Garth Vigilant, in their essay “Way better than real: Manga sex to tentacle hentai” (in Net.seXXX: Readings on Sex, Pornography, and the Internet) call it “the notorious icon for the hard-core manga and anime of the late eighties and early nineties”, and in fact, plenty of other scholars have referred to this anime in their writing –  one that comes to mind right away is Annalee Newitz, in Magical girls and atomic bomb sperm (1995). Pett’s essay, though, moves beyond textual analysis, and, in fact, connects very well with other scholarship that emphasizes the roles of other “actors” in how anime and other popular culture products are created, produced and distributed around the world, and how these products reach their audiences – such as Nissim Otmazgin’s Anime in the US: The entrepreneurial dimensions of globalized culture (flawed as it may be), and the essays in the forthcoming Palgrave Studies in Comics and Graphic Novels anthology Cultures of Comics Work.

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3 thoughts on “Highlighting New Publications: Urutsokidoji and the Transcultural Reception and Regulation of Anime

  1. “Previous English-language scholarship on this anime is largely limited to Susan Pointon’s 1997 essay Transcultural orgasm as apocalypse: Urotsukidoji: The Legend of the Overfiend.”

    And the 20,000-word chapter on the subject in The Erotic Anime Movie Guide (1998). The quote attributed to me on page 399 is not from Anime: A History, but from my afterword to the EAMG.

    I encountered Pett at a Norwich symposium a few years ago, and I am pleased to see that she is still engaging so eruditely with the workings of the BBFC.

    • Jonathan,

      The last time I actually saw a copy of EAMG was at the long-gone Tower Records on 20th Street in Washington, DC. Then again, until their last day, they also made sure to have the latest issue of Newtype right there on the shelf. Which is to say, I apologize for the oversight. But, at this point, how many potential readers can even get their hands on that book even if they really wanted to…

  2. Point taken, Mikhail. I’m actually very glad that Pett’s research embraced this 18-year-old obscurity, although as a British academic, she is more likely to have more copies closer to hand than her American colleagues. The lack of availability of the EAMG in modern times is at least in part authorially derived, since both authors would prefer readers to access updated materials in the Anime Encyclopedia. The filmography at the back of the EAMG has long since been superseded by that in the AE, but some of the chapters still retain some historical relevance.

    For what it’s worth, Worldcat lists 42 copies in library circulation:

    http://www.worldcat.org/title/erotic-anime-movie-guide/oclc/40716627&referer=brief_results

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