Engineering:Dub localization

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Dub localization, also often simply referred to as localization, is a form of a voice-over. It is the practice of voice-over translation altering a foreign language film, art film or television series by voice actors.

Dub localization is a hot button issue active in cinephilia amongst aficionados of foreign filmmaking and television programs, particularly anime fans as dubs are still a popular form of translation of animated series. While some localization is virtually inevitable in translation, the controversy surrounding how much localization is "too much" is often much-discussed in such communities, especially when the final dub product is significantly different from the original. Some frown on any extensive localization, while others expect it and, to a degree, appreciate it.

Some dub localizations are considered so extreme as to have produced a different show or film entirely.

Controversial dub localizations

Many localized dubs are the object of much controversy. One relatively famous example of a controversial dub localization is the Sailor Moon series by DIC Entertainment, which was heavily edited to remove episodes, change the animation (such as flipping the animation in some scenes so that cars were not driving on the "wrong" side of the road compared to U.S. driving laws)[1] and extensively using valley girl slang and other slanguage.[2] The first 65 episodes were the most famous for this. Later seasons had less editing on the Japanese cultural contents and virtually none of the animation. However, the Cloverway Inc. dub of the third and fourth seasons is still controversial due to multiple character name changes, inconsistencies in things including names of attacks or plot-important items,[3] the changing of a crossdressing character's sex,[2] the making of Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune into cousins in an attempt to disguise their originally lesbian relationship,[4] and the referring of Japanese kana in the context as "symbols" instead of the original context of having no Kanji. Despite these changes, many fans of the series like the dubbed version because of its nostalgic value. The first two seasons of Sailor Moon were eventually released in unedited, subtitled DVD box sets, and the third and fourth seasons had uncut dubbed, edited dubbed, and subtitled home video releases in addition to bilingual DVDs.

Many of the anime dubs by 4Kids Entertainment, such as those for Yu-Gi-Oh!, Yu-Gi-Oh! GX, Yu-Gi-Oh! 5D's, Sonic X, Tokyo Mew Mew, Pokémon, Shaman King, Kirby: Right Back at Ya!, and most notably One Piece are controversial amongst many anime fans largely because of localization issues, including extensive and sometime bizarre censorship (such as changing a gun to a pop gun or a cigarette to a lollipop) in order to release it on American children's television. Similar treatment was given to other foreign titles they obtained the rights to such as Winx Club, Kikoriki, and Tai Chi Chasers. Anime series they obtained broadcast rights to such as Dragon Ball Z Kai were often heavily edited as well. When Saban Brands obtained the broadcast rights to this series, they reemplace the 4Kids version of the dub with the original Funimation/Nicktoons one due to his bad reception during the air of the series in the Vortexx programming block.

One series in particular, Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, was given two heavily localized English dubs in the form of Battle of the Planets from Sandy Frank, and G-Force: Guardians of Space from Ted Turner and Fred Ladd. The Battle of the Planets production added new animation to the series, changed one character from a young boy to an artificial life form with a speech impediment, added a whole new main character, anglicized all the character names, deleted several entire episodes, and was heavily edited for content. G-Force was a more accurate adaptation, but still anglicized all the character names, and heavily edited the footage for content (though to a lesser extent than Battle of the Planets). The first localization was a mild success, wheres the second was more popular overseas, but was still shown in the US. Its two sequel series, Gatchaman II and Gatchaman F were also heavily localized by Saban Entertainment in the form of Eagle Riders, and also experienced the same heavy censoring of episodes, and character names. This localization was only briefly shown in the United States, but was shown in full in Australia. The original Gatchaman series was finally given a straight, uncut English dub years later by ADV Films.

Another highly controversial dub localization was Kids' WB's broadcast of Cardcaptors, the English dubbed adaptation of Cardcaptor Sakura from Nelvana, which not only Americanized the setting and names, but changed the personalities of the characters and the focus of the show, to the point where the hero was Syaoran Li instead of Sakura, and the series' genre was effectively switched from shōjo (girl-oriented) magical girl, to shōnen (boy-oriented) action fantasy-comedy; this alteration proved to be unpopular, with the American DVD and VHS releases of Cardcaptors being canceled after only 27 episodes due to poor sales and the uncut subtitled release outselling the dub in the end, despite being released separately with little fanfare and virtually no extra features. However UK and Australian broadcasts of Nelvana's localization featured less edits (albeit still heavily edited), and even featured English adaptations of the original Japanese theme songs.

Popular dub localizations

Some dub localizations are quite popular in their own right, with even a handful of greatly altered titles proving equally if not more popular than the original.

Several examples include some of ADV's comedy dubs, especially the "alternate", dub for Super Milk-chan and the (admittedly still quite controversial) English dub for Ghost Stories, which contrary to the nature of the original show, was adult in nature and primarily a work of parody, and thus proved popular with a very different audience from the original children's series.

However, the best example of a localization - indeed, an extreme localization - which proved to be extremely popular and in-demand (even more than the original version), is likely Samurai Pizza Cats, the English version by Saban of which is still praised for its humor and often pointed to as an example of an extreme localization that worked.

Robotech, the result of several series dubbed, and merged, has formed its own fanbase, and has even spun off several movies and series. Macross, one of the series included in Robotech, later received an uncut English dub by ADV Films. A similar production, Voltron, an English dub of Beast King GoLion and Armored Fleet Dairugger XV, has also been very successful in the United States, and has spun off into its own franchise.

The only exception of this is the tokusatsu series Power Rangers, because in an adaptation of the fighting scenes of the Japanese series of the same genre; Super Sentai, but with different history and exclusive characters of the American version, such as Zordon and Lord Zedd of the first series, converting to a different franchise series and therefore is not considered a dub localization.

A reference to localization was done in a Futurama episode Reincarnation parodying dubbed anime such as Speed Racer and Robotech.

See also

  • Dubbing (filmmaking)
  • Translation
  • Editing of anime in American distribution
  • Anime
  • 4Kids Entertainment
  • Voice-over translation


  1. Wheeler, Robert; Bednarski, Dan. "Sailor Moon Uncensored:Episode 10". Retrieved 2007-06-18.  Full list of changes made for English dub
  2. 2.0 2.1 Wheeler, Robert; Bednarski, Dan. "Sailor Moon Uncensored: Sailor Moon SuperS". Retrieved 2007-06-18.  Full list of changes made for English dub
  3. Wheeler, Robert; Bednarski, Dan. "Sailor Moon Uncensored: Sailor Moon S". Retrieved 2007-06-18.  Full list of changes made for English dub
  4. Sebert, Paul (2000-06-28). "Kissing cousins may bring controversy Cartoon Network juggles controversial topics contained in the "Sailor Moon S" series". The Daily Athenaeum Interactive (West Virginia University). Archived from the original on 2008-02-08.,07,01.html. Retrieved 2007-02-21. "Although the L-word has yet to be uttered by a single character, the gay subtext still exists. ... the two girls referred to each other as "cousins"."