Localization Through Time: After the Captain Tsubasa Trial

Last month there was some shocking news. A lawsuit was filed against Captain Tsubasa in Chile. Known as Súpercampeones in Latin America and Oliver & Benji in Europe, Captain Tsubasa is an anime and manga that boasts worldwide popularity, and one that Japan takes pride in.

It seems a Chilean examination group fined the public service television broadcaster (TVN) which broadcast the program in February 2020 for depictions of violence against women. TVN appealed the decision however, and at this second trial they requested the fine be invalidated.

source:https://www.adnradio.cl/television/2021/02/02/corte-de-apelaciones-anulo-multa-contra-tvn-por-polemica-escena-de-super-campeones.html

What the examination group saw as a problem was a scene where Tsubasa Oozora’s (or Oliver Atom/Majed in some dubs) rival, Jun Misugi (Julian Ross/Andy Johnson/Mazen) hit his female manager’s cheek. They claimed the show was promoting violence against women. In this scene, Jun finds out that his manager, who’s a woman, told Tsubasa about Jun’s heart condition and asked him to purposely throw the match between their two teams. Jun reacts by hitting her.

In the end the trial determined that the fine did not need to be paid. The reason given was that “[Captain Tsubasa] is not a violent program… it is an animated story that depicts children dedicated to soccer…” and that “[Misugi]’s violence was not because the manager was a woman, but because she told a secret that was not hers.”

I was startled by the news when I heard about the lawsuit, but when I looked into the reason, I was unsurprised. From the standpoint of many Japanese people, this is a scene that occurs often in dramas and anime. Of course hitting a woman (or a man) is not acceptable, but most Japanese people likely won’t see it as a problem upon seeing those sorts of scenes if they know the reason behind it. The Chilean court ruled in favor of the TVN in the end, but it once more reminded me that this is something some would take legal action against.

When we localize, we come across some scenes that, while they wouldn’t be a problem in Japan, would be in another country. In these cases, we suggest erasing or editing them. These are usually political, religious, historical, and cultural issues, so the content does not change significantly year by year, but cases like this are another reminder that we need to be careful about things that do change with the times as well—like gender issues, which differ from country to country. For example, recently the chairman of the Tokyo organizing committee for the Olympics/Paralympics resigned over sexist comments.

The subject of gender issues reminded me of a project AGM was working on localizing that used the word “女子力,” literally “girl power.” In Japan it’s used to refer to a woman’s level of motivation in fashion, makeup, taste in clothes, etc. In Europe and the US this is considered rude, so we proposed deletion.

We create taboo/no good word lists for various countries, so please feel free to contact us when releasing your content internationally.

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