First they came for the lolis

The whole principle is wrong; it’s like demanding that grown men live on skim milk because the baby can’t eat steak.

– Robert Heinlein (commonly attributed to Mark Twain)

Fans raged on twitter and IRC channels today as FUNimation announced that Dance in the Vampire Bund DVDs would be released censored. Ordinarily, broadcast versions of risque anime are censored, and DVD versions contain the full content as an extra enticement for fans to purchase the DVDs. In an age of increasing backlash against the sexualization of minors, however, FUNimation may be feeling the pressure to conform to Western social norms.

The announcement was made at the official FUNimation blog:

After viewing the unedited as well as the Japanese broadcast edit of the series Dance in the Vampire Bund, we have determined the series contains controversial elements which, when taken out of context, could be objectionable to some audiences.

With this in mind and with approval of the licensor, we will edit select scenes from the series in streaming and home entertainment release. These are scenes which are inappropriate for U.S. viewing and are not essential to the storyline.

Criticism there was no less heated, and a majority of comments expressed disapproval:

Dear Funimation,

If you cannot release a show without hacking it up you should just stay the hell away from it and save yourselves the licensing fees. I refuse to buy censored anime, and I know many other will feel the same way.

I wholeheartedly hope that your release of Dance in the Vampire Bund is an abysmal failure so that you’ll learn your lesson.

Censorship is and always has been an egregious offense to free speech and creativity.

Another fan wrote of the PR aspects:

FUNimation, is this really alright? Is it worth it to you?

This backlash from fans is just terrible PR for you . . . All I can do is hope you reverse the decision, and that fans can forgive you. I don’t want your reputation to crumble because of something like this.

Perhaps if Martin Niemöller were an anime otaku, he might write thus:

First they came for the lolis, and I said nothing, because I was not a lolicon;
Then they came for the panty shots, and I did not speak out—I was not a pantsu fetishist;
Then they came for the political references, and I did not speak out—their politics did not interest me anyhow;
Then they came for originality—and there was no reason left to watch.

34 thoughts on “First they came for the lolis”

  1. lololololololololololol “censorship”

    We are talking about the sale of commercial products by a private company. They do not have any authority to use force to stop anyone from saying or thinking about sexualized scenes of rubbing lotion onto little girls’ chests. The only thing that they do have is the rational self-interest that it is better for their company to release edited videos lacking sexualized scenes of rubbing lotion onto little girls’ chests rather than unedited videos containing sexualized scenes of rubbing lotion onto little girls’ chests or no videos (with or without sexualized scenes of rubbing lotion onto little girls’ chests) at all.

    Why is it not “censorship” if nobody licenses it at all? The end result is the same: no sexualized scenes of rubbing lotion onto little girls’ chests.

    (The $64,000 question with this title is “Does anybody give a shit about this show for any reason beyond the sexualized scenes of rubbing lotion onto little girls’ chests?)

  2. @jpmeyer – So you don’t feel that self-censorship can be as damaging as censorship by a government agency?  After all, to use your phrasing, “the end result is the same,” right?

    I don’t think anyone questions the economic motives behind the editing.  I do think, however, that the very fact that this decision may be profitable is offensive to many.

  3. “If the First Amendment will protect a scumbag like me, then it will protect all of you. Because I’m the worst.” – Larry Flynt

  4. btw, while I understand that a company has the right to censor its own releases at will, it’s pretty clear that Funimation chose to edit the series out of fear.

    “These are scenes which are inappropriate for U.S. viewing and are not essential to the storyline.”

    Inappropriate for U.S. viewing? Obviously Funimation believed that it would draw federal attention if it released the DVDs in their original state. Therefore it was not truly self-censorship. It was heading off potential trouble at the pass.

    Freedom of speech must be protected until such time as authorities can *prove* that it should not. (Real child pornography, for instance, is *not* protected and is illegal for a reason, because it actually harms children.)

  5. I don’t even think it’s self-censorship because they are a middleman that exists to profit from selectively choosing other people’s stuff to sell. But the other stuff has to exist in the first place for them to choose whether to sell it or not!

    Their goal, simply, is to make money. They will engage in practices that they feel will make them money. They have no kind of civic duty towards preserving “free speech”, whatever that even means in this kind of context seeing how we’re talking about something that’s Japanese in origin in the first place.

    The self-censorship angle to me creates a kind of unarguable point similar to that “Glenn Beck raped and murdered a girl in 1990” joke.

  6. @TheModernBunny – Nice quote.

    The really interesting thing to me is the way jpmeyer reflexively refers to the topic being censored, as if some things are more worthy of censorship protection than others.  I’ve seen others take this line too – “Oh it’s just loli.” But if we allow that distinction, then we’re basically censors ourselves.

    @jpmeyer – The original creators approved it.

    If FUNi’s only goal is to make money, then you must admit that the threat of boycotts is an excellent economic deterrent.

  7. It’s not that I look at it as some things being “ok” to censor, but rather that (and I THINK I’m not getting into no true scotsman territory) it isn’t actually censorship if there’s no real authority behind it and if there is a way to directly fight it (in this case, not buying things that you normally would buy from that company).

    Honestly, I think that the “some audiences” doesn’t mean in their audience, but in the chattering classes who might catch wind of this and make a stink about how anime is a gateway to raping YOUR PRECIOUS CHILD! A don’t hate the playa, hate tha game scenario for Funimation, if you will as they have far more to potentially lose in this situation than they could possibly gain. Good luck trying to hawk your cash cow of the DBZ license, for example if people are wary of your company for being skeevy.

  8. I am typically an advocate of anti-censorship because I believe that as long as it’s not physically harming anyone, just let it be. If people find such things objectionable, then they should just shove off and go watch something else. There are plenty of alternatives available. Just because you don’t like something, doesn’t give you the moral right to bitch about it. Other people might like it.

    However, I do support Funimation’s choice because I also believe that a company should have the rights to make their own choices, for whatever reason. If someone disagrees with Funimation’s choice, then they can just get the anime from somewhere else.

    C’mon: you aren’t honestly telling me that Funimation is your only avenue to getting this title, are you? Ever heard of the Internet?

  9. @jpmeyer – Of course they don’t mean the fans who are angry about the decision. They’re afraid of groups outside of their core audience.  And naturally, the only thing the fans can do in response is boycott all FUNimation products to try to swing the fiscal bottom line the other way.  Some are willing to do it; some aren’t.

    It’s not that the boycotters don’t understand economics, and therefore don’t understand the reasons behind the decision – it’s that they understand it very well.  On twitter, I saw several reviewers call a nonspecific boycott “overboard,” but economically, there’s really little else people can do.

    @Ehrgheiz – I think the point is that these fans try very hard to support the industry.  They therefore want to buy licensed titles from the official distributors.

  10. I honestly don’t know whether to give either side too much or too little credit with the whole economics thing. I can just as easily see Funimation as having accounted for a backlash as I can see them believing that people wouldn’t react as harshly for removing something which isn’t essential to the plot, just like I can see fans thinking that they can or can’t change anything at Funimation if they launch a targeted/general boycott.

  11. I think the issue I have with the announcement is just the statement that scenes are inappropriate for U.S. viewing. There’s no clarification as to why that is, it is just supposed to be accepted as fact. If they had just said that they didn’t think they could afford the legal ramifications from releasing it uncensored, then I wouldn’t see it as an issue.

    Then there’s the issue of licensing it at all. Obviously they think they can make money off of it in this format since the backlash would probably be minimal in this case.

  12. The funniest part is how Niemoller quote is a total crap. Firstly, he was running with it like a blind hen with a worm. Secondly, one the them is not like the others. Communists are murdereds. So, who can object to rounding up the communists? Only communists! Niemoller’s aim was to push the evil communist agenda by building a fake equivalence between communists and Jews, communists and whoever (he tried many various versions of the same aphorism at various times).

  13. Pretty much I’m really confused in arguments about censorship. I have my own tastes but now I’m worried if I say “who cares about lolis” – I would become a censor as well.

    I live in a ludicrous backwards country that wants to control what we see on the internet, and refuses video games classification, effectively banning them.

    Censorship makes me angry because there is no way anybody can win in this argument, whether in a civil debate or the gun of a politician asking you to dance (ie. vote) for them or die.

    I’ve become very depressed about the state of humanity lately and I don’t expect it to get any better soon. As soon as the Singularity comes I’m joining the robots if they let me live.

  14. This is the result of the progressive agenda notion to change behaviors they deem unacceptable, whether that behavior is smoking, eating, drinking, reading, or watching a stupid anime. So a company like FUNimation caves rather than run up against Big Brother. Frankly, though I’ve no interest in this series, I wish FUNimation would have passed on it. I’m guessing it is a package deal though.

    1. @ AstroNerdBoy – thank you. Though I don’t think it’s about politics, let me add to that: ultra crazy conservatives, especially Glen Beck, have been coining and pushing a term, “the Progressive Agenda”, and calling people “parasites”, in order to perform what the Nazis did in WWII – incite unnecessary anger, fear and aggressition. Deep in the dark side are they.

  15. I don’t know which elements they were talking about, they need to be more specific. Lack of explanation. Yet Dance in the Vampire bund is not like Kodomo No Jikan, that content itself is quite controversial.

    1. @ Monsieur LaMoe – Is Kodomo no Jikan controversal even in Japan? Anyway, there’s no way any company in the US will ever license that. They do not want to face the wrath of lynch mobs.

  16. A few Japanese TVs canceled airing. And even though it was aired, a lot of scenes were self-censored. The last episode of School Day was also suspended. But this notoriety gained more viewers.

    I thought Japan was the only country among G8 where sexuality was utterly suppressed when I lived in Japan. How many otakus Japan got. I thought American culture was very sexual from watching Hollywood films, MTVs. So I didn’t know sexuality was actually suppressed this much, even sending an ero-manga collector to jail. Very shocking, and appalling.

  17. @Jacob

    That’s why I was always under the impression that censorship requires that it be done by those in power with a way to enforce what you are supposed to say or think. Otherwise, it’s ludicrous because you would be required to hold basically every belief in your head at once and aren’t actually allowed to decide what you want to think or say.

    For example, right now I’m talking about censorship. Therefore, I’m not talking about say, dinner or geography or colors or guns. But to say that that’s censorship or self-censorship would be ridiculous.

    It gets into that whole gb1990 trap. Why isn’t Warner Brothers making movies about how faggots deserve to burn in hell? Why isn’t Disney making TV shows about how niggers were better off when they were enslaved? Why aren’t they expressing those beliefs? Why aren’t they validating my beliefs? Why are they self-censoring? There’s a non-trivial audience in America that believes in those two points of view, so there should be money to be made in catering to them. Why aren’t they catering to them?

    If people are allowed to think “I like lolicon”, then others have to also be allowed to think “I think that lolicon is creepy and do not want my company to be seen as doing business with one that endorses that”. Otherwise, we’re getting into ACTUAL Big Brother situations.

  18. If you actually buy dubbed anime in the first place, then you have sort of set a general criteria for yourself. Since MOST people (Maybe not all of you) who buy dubbed anime off the shelves do not read into their stuff before they buy it. They’re new to whatever is in front of them. I go to best buy and see so many people just picking random stuff off the shelves. When I ask them if they know anything about the anime, their usual response is “No, i’m new to it” or “No, this is a present for my friend”. I personally buy box sets imported from japan. Had I not known japanese, I dunno what I would have done with myself. So imagine someone’s surprise when they bring that box set to their 12 year old giftees house and tada~, it’s kiddy pron foreplay. I myself find it sickening but it is indeed freedom of speech. So in some aspect I agree with what the fuck was funimation thinking when they picked this one up.

    1. Yeah. It’s a good business decision under this country’s reigning moral regime. It’s sad that people would just buy stuff without looking anywhere for any information, even with the internet available. That said, their views have to be respected. No matter what, the anti-sun lotion scene is offensive to many people.

      Fortunately most people don’t have dirty minds and wouldn’t even react anywhere to the scene. It’s just an 800 year old vampire. After all, vampires all live long years, as one can see in “Interview with the Vampire, created by Hollywood.

  19. @Ray
    That’s a good point. I clearly remember the kiss scene between the loli and Lestat in Interview with a vampire. :x

    1. @ Amukahok – Yep.
      @ Jeremy – damn, firing in all direction, eh? I don’t think JP was flaming as much as just being a little more cynical caring much less. I’ll confess, too, that I don’t care about this one much. That said, you’re right in saying that the overall erosion of freedom is affecting many companies and people. Your thoughts, Mori?

  20. I’m just amused by this, and want to sit back and observe what happens next. I have personal reasons for not being totally against censoring lolicon BUT I find the idea of censoring an anime, no matter what, terrible, as I feel the work shouldn’t be touched.

    Although I’m not sure why they licensed this, it’s a terrible show. I don’t get why they censored this. The art is terrible, and well, you’d have to really try to be turned on by it.

  21. @Moritheil Good job of getting this out there. It makes for good news and discussion.

    Whether or not this could be constituted technically as censorship or not isn’t really the issue, in my opinion. I think this decision by Funimation only points to the real issue elsewhere of eroding freedoms which has in essence helped create the climate for it’s occurrence.

    Furthermore, it is not surprising considering Funimation has had a less than stellar track record in maintaining the original creative integrity of more then a a few anime titles (i.e. a botched Kodocha release). It will be interesting to see how Funimation’s decision fairs for there business and whether it even effects them at all.

    Anything further is just conjecture and/or veritable trolling while demonizing this group or that group instead of conceding the simple fact that people suck! Given too much control of what other people are allowed to do or not allowed to do most anyone would in veritably trample the freedoms of someone else for the sake of “their own good”. I think the idea of individual inherent freedom in tandem with personal responsibility has been misunderstood by much of our society and therefore will no doubt continue to be eroded away.

    People’s freedoms are most often not taken as much as given up.

    Kinda like the way JPMEYER’s mom gave it up to me last night… j/k xD

    See I can flame too, or is that just my freedom of speech….?

  22. @Ray I get it. I just wanted to see if I could stir the pot, wax philosophical and rib some folks all in the same post. xD

  23. Thanks for  keeping this discussion mostly civil, everyone. However I’ve deleted a number of comments that were clearly off-topic and of a personal, vindictive nature that isn’t relevant to this subject on this site. Please keep all discussion about the subject at hand and refrain from personally attacking others. Thank you.

    –Mike, Senior Editor

  24. “Honestly, I think that the “some audiences” doesn’t mean in their audience, but in the chattering classes who might catch wind of this and make a stink about how anime is a gateway to raping YOUR PRECIOUS CHILD! A don’t hate the playa, hate tha game scenario for Funimation, if you will as they have far more to potentially lose in this situation than they could possibly gain. ”

    This is what I think FUNimation is worried about, and given that this type of slippery slope argument is common in our society (and as a sidenote, why I think some people hate on things like moe), it’s good not to stir the pot. Though I guess the question is why bring it over if you’re not willing to show all the goods?

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