The late great George Carlin once famously spoke of words that cannot be said on television. Japan, too, has its own list of words and phrases that are taboo.
As of last count, there are over 350 words and phrases deemed “problematic” if used on air. While none are legally forbidden, use of any of them is strongly frowned upon. Most television studios will self-censor, preventing the use of any of these words or phrases on the air.This self-censorship is also spread to other forms of media aside from television.
But what about media that has already been released before specific words were put on the no-no list? Publishers will either discontinue such works or, in some cases, go back to previously existing works and “update” them. Considering how many of such “updated” works are a product of their time, often with specific meaning to the use of what currently is regarded as questionable terminology, such edits can result in the store getting watered down or even losing its impact or message entirely.
Featured on the blog, Himajin Sokuhou, here are some such incidents in manga:
- From the manga, Youkai Hunter
①Original text: “What’s with these guys, it’s like they’re demented”
② Updated text: “What’s with these people… Do you think they’re mentally challenged people?”
Analysis: In the story, characters travel to a village where the mortality rate is extremely low. They find a village of immortals who are people who have eaten from the Tree of Life, but not the Tree of Knowledge. Upon encountering the villagers, one character exclaims that the people look like they are “痴呆” (“chihou” demented/retarded) a word deemed derogatory and insulting and was thus altered to the more politically correct, “知的障碍者” (“chiteki shougaisha” mentally challenged).
Technically, this actually makes the manga insulting to the mentally challenged.
- From the manga, Hokuto no Ken (Fist of the North Star)
① Original text (no manga image found): “A pig belongs in a slaughterhouse…”
② Updated text 1: “A pig belongs in a pig pen!”
③ Updated text 2: “I have nothing to say to a pig!!”
Analysis: The dilution of the dialog goes against both the atmosphere of the world portrayed in Fist of the North Star, and the situation at hand. Apparently the censors tried to counter the subsequent watering down of the dialog by adding a second exclamation point at the end.
- From the manga, Black Jack
Analysis: Throughout the manga, the word “katawa” (“カタワ” a derogatory term for someone who is handicapped) has been replaced with the word “sick.” Ironically, the storyline, which involves teaching a young boy that calling his younger brother a “katawa” is wrong and discriminatory, completely loses its meaning as a result.
Hurray for diluted literature, I guess.