The “Americanisation” of Cardcaptor Sakura

Picture by artist Moonknives, who does the most gorgeous Sakura art.

Taking a course on Contemporary Japanese Popular Culture this past semester, I was fortunate to find myself in the company of many other like-minded people who shared my passion for Japanese Animation and the preservation of its originality. For our class research paper, we decided to do it on the Americanisation of Anime, using the series that I and my group mates adore, Cardcaptor Sakura, as a case study. Since term is now over, and after consulting with them, it is my pleasure to bring you our paper in it’s unadulterated form.

Do note that this is somewhat different from the other articles that you have read on this blog due to the nature of it being an academic paper. Not to mention, do be prepared for a ton of text as I don’t think I’ll be putting any pictures in this article beyond this point. However, if you are a fan of Cardcaptor Sakura or Anime and just want to know what went on/goes on behind the scenes, I do believe it’s worth a read. Do also note that the paper will be in standard British English.

The paper is written by myself, Jovi, Wei Lun and Anmari.

Without further ado:

The “Americanisation” of Cardcaptor Sakura

INTRODUCTION

In today’s globalised world, it is not uncommon to see cultural texts traded between states and nations. Often, these texts undergo some form of adaptation to suit their new local context[1]. Nelvana, the Canadian-based children’s entertainment company in charge of adapting the anime Cardcaptor Sakura for North American consumption in 2000 certainly thought so. Cardcaptor Sakura was originally produced and distributed in Japan by Kodansha Ltd, and first aired in 1997. It chronicles 10 year old Sakura Kinomoto’s quest to re-seal magical cards she had initially set free.

With the failures of earlier attempts to penetrate the U.S. market with Japanese cultural products and former Bandai President Makoto Yamashina’s caution that they were: “too foreign for Americans and needed to be translated for American tastes”[2] in the back of the licensers’ minds, Nelvana worked alongside American broadcasters Kids WB!, subjecting the popular series to a process known as Americanization, or “the altering of the characters and setting of an anime series according to social class and ethnic background of the North American target audience”[3].

We see that in this process, Nelvana adhered to stereotypical perceptions of the American audience, adding and removing elements in order to appeal to a clearly defined target age and gender demographic. In addition, on top of merely dubbing the series in English, foreign cultural features deemed to risk confusing, alienating (or even offending) the American audience[4] due to historical concerns were removed. In this report, we explore the likely motivations behind Nelvana and Kids WB!’s (which henceforth may occasionally be referred to collectively as the producers or distributors) attempts to culturally streamline Cardcaptor Sakura.

In order to examine the producers’ individual concerns effectively, we have divided the edits applied to Cardcaptor Sakura into three broad categories. First, we examine the producers’ changes to the series’ micro elements, found within episodes, including opening sequences, location names, as well as character names and personalities to better define their assumptions. Next, we discuss edits to the series’ macro elements such as the episodic structure and romantic subplots in order to reveal the producers’ motivations from a business perspective. Lastly, we look at the role censorship played on the adaptation of the series as a whole, noting the producers’ knowledge of America’s distinct historical and cultural context and sensitivities.

EDITS TO MICRO ELEMENTS

Encountering anime in its unedited form for the first time, a non-Asian American respondent of a focus group conducted by Alexander Nghiem Frasier as part of his Master’s thesis revealed that “… we sat here looking at it going oh my gosh, look at this, oh my gosh look at that, and we weren’t really getting the main point. I probably couldn’t really tell you what really happened in all of that, but I could tell you about the things that I wasn’t used to. So, I think I paid more attention to that things that were not normal to me than I did the message.”[5] The distributors of Cardcaptors were probably aware of this disjunction in American viewers. A non-localised product, with the original cultural references in the forms of customs, behaviours, visual features and names could alienate the audience to the point where they were unable to properly identify with the plot. Park Myoungsook observed that American audiences were often stereotyped to be culturally ignorant and indifferent to world history and geography.[6] Nelvana appeared to agree with Park and adopted the following measures as part of the Americanisation of Cardcaptor Sakura to minimise audience discomfort:

Firstly, locations were either anglicised or left ambiguous[7]. The town of Tomoeda, Japan was renamed Reedington. The exact location of the town was left unspecified but was assumed to be in America. References to cultural specific landmarks such as the Tokyo Tower were removed and generically renamed the radio tower. The origins of two characters, Li Shaoran and Li Mei Lin (stated to be from Hong Kong in Cardcaptor Sakura) were also left out. To further remove cultural specificity, all visible writings in Japanese Kanji were removed, and food was changed to those that American audiences are familiar with.

Secondly, Characters’ names were substituted with a western equivalent, as in the case of Rika Sasaki to Rita, or changed entirely to fit western trends[8]. The main character, Sakura, kept her name but had her last name changed to Avalon, while Shaoran’s name was reversed, so that Li became his first name instead. The pronunciation of the names was also changed to resemble western usage. For example, Sakura’s pronunciation was changed from SAH-koo-rah to sah-KOO-rah, with the emphasis shifting from the first syllable to the middle syllable. This was to allow the audience to identify with the characters, as Japanese names were judged to be too difficult to pronounce.

Thirdly, several character personalities were altered to suit the American context. While Cardcaptor Sakura mostly polite, soft-spoken and reserved Japanese children, Cardcaptors portrayed them in a manner closer to what the target audience expected. In the dub, the characters became much more outspoken. Most drastically, Sakura’s best friend, the wealthy and refined Tomoyo Daidoji’s elegant speech pattern was changed to “valley girl” speech[9] along with her “new” name, Madison Taylor, deemed to have greater resonance with the American viewer.

At this point, it is important to note that Nelvana had retitled Cardcaptor Sakura (emphasizing the female lead) Cardcaptors (plural and non-gender specific) with the goal of a demographic shift in mind. Originally intended for girls of the same age as its heroine, Cardcaptor Sakura would have been described as very “cute” and “girly”. The changes to Sakura, the main character’s personality en route to the U.S. reflect both cultural streamlining and audience stereotyping. Her naivety, insecurities, and fear of ghosts were removed in the dub and replaced with bravado and an aura of a ‘strong’ female lead. Sakura was a more considerate character in the original, much more in line with Japanese stereotypes of schoolgirls. In the English dub, however, she is much more assertive and brash in her speech. For example, in one episode, she tells her rival Shaoran to ‘Stay out of this!’

The aesthetic differences between their respective opening sequences support this assessment. The Japanese opening sequence features a very upbeat, cheerful tune, sung in a sweet high-pitched voice, with suitably accompanying visuals of the main characters prancing around cheerfully[10]. The Cardcaptors opening however, is sung by a male vocalist in an excited, almost aggressive tone, while images of flashing lights and swords and animals baring teeth speed across the screen[11]. There are also obvious lyrical differences between the two openings. While Cardcaptor Sakura’s tells a romance story of unrequited love and longing, Cardcaptors’ emphasises intrigue and adventure, with a repetitive chorus.

The above changes to the opening sequence, the lead character’s personality, and the anime’s new American title, all suggest a deliberate shift in target gender demographic made by the U.S. distributors; towards young American boys instead of young Japanese girls. The implications of this shift will feature prominently in our discussion of the distributors’ changes to Cardcaptor Sakura’s episode structure and plot.

EDITS TO MACRO ELEMENTS

So far, we have established that Nelvana and Kids WB edited specific elements within Cardcaptor Sakura episodes to fit their perceptions of the U.S. market. We shall now examine the impact of gender demographics on the producers’ editing decisions regarding the structure of Cardcaptor Sakura’s episodes and subplots.

Prior to the advent of animation blocks aimed at older viewers established in the latter half of the 2000s, the primary American animation audience was largely considered to be young boys. This must be taken into account along with the fact that in America, children often made stark distinctions between masculine and feminine elements in animation. Historically, it was expected that boys like masculine things – action, adventure, sci-fi, etc., and thus cartoons, comics, and video games featuring wish-fulfilling male characters that act within these themes are what they like. Meanwhile, girls were expected to like feminine things – prettiness and cuteness, romance with handsome “princes,” etc., and thus they’d like cartoons and games that feature wish-fulfilling female characters within these themes[12].

Beyond that, elements which were deemed to increase the series appeal to six to nine year old boys were added, while elements that may have detracted from that demographic were removed[13]. The following edits to Cardcaptor Sakura’s narrative are illustrative of Nelvana and Kids WBs’ intentions to attract and sustain the attention of their new target audience: elimination of episodes that would not appeal to boys, the reordering of remaining episodes (thereby placing more exciting card captures early in the series), and the removal of the subtly blossoming romance between the main characters.

In Cardcaptor Sakura’s eighth episode, Li Shaoran, Sakura’s male rival through the series, also seeking to capture the cards and take advantage of their power, is introduced. The demographic shift to include an audience of boys for Cardcaptors prompted Kids WB to raise Shaoran’s status within the narrative through several moves, most notably the elimination of all seven prior original episodes which preceded his entry into the story[14]. Cardcaptors proceeded to run in the U.S. for 39 episodes (as compared to Cardcaptor Sakura’s 70). This resulted from other episodes later in the series which did not sufficiently feature Shaoran either being eliminated or edited in such a way that scenes in question were replaced by those from the following episode, in the end essentially “creating” one Cardcaptors episode out of 2 original Cardcaptor Sakura episodes[15].

Nelvana also took liberties in changing the original’s episode order. Nelvana’s official Cardcaptors website explained that “the character of Li Showron (Shaoran) was more prominent in later episodes. Nelvana and Kids WB evaluated kids’ preferences and learned that kids wanted to see Li featured along with Sakura as a lead character. We are therefore airing the episodes in an order that makes this possible.” and declined to commit as to whether the first seven episodes would ever be broadcast[16]. Unsurprisingly, if the distributors went with their original plans to maximise the series’ action and excitement, only 13 edited episodes would ever have made it on air[17].

In addition to edits made to the episodic structure of the series, Cardcaptors drastically reduced the original’s cuteness content. The girlish interplay that dominated the original was written out almost entirely[18] and every ounce of romantic subtext was excised from the show – not simply relationships that might have been considered inappropriate for an American children’s show (which will be touched upon later in our discussion of censorship), but the heterosexual relationship between Sakura and Shaoran as well[19]. Fans of Cardcaptor Sakura have noted that Shaoran’s love confession to Sakura at the end of the series is removed in the dub, Shaoran never makes or gives her his teddy bear, and the emotional airport scene where he leaves for Hong Kong is never shown (All he does in Cardcaptors is tell her that he’s going back home the next day)[20]. As discussed earlier, this could partly be due to Nelvana’s conscious censorship of the characters’ origins to adequately Americanise the series.

Part of Cardcaptor Sakura’s appeal to American distributors involved “superheroic” elements. Sakura to some extent did acquire and possess superhuman powers and was portrayed as a force for good[21]. However, these elements would have been predictably edited as well given our present understanding of Nelvana and Kids WBs’ target demographic. In Anne Ellison’s article “Sailor Moon – Japanese Superheroes for Global Girls”, a Mattel executive quoted: “under these marketing decisions is the idea that, in America, girls will watch male-oriented programming but boys won’t watch female-oriented shows; this makes a male superhero a better bet.”[22]

In order to understand the Mattel executive’s point of view, we must first note that the presence of females as featured heroes in manga, animation, and live action shows has been much stronger in Japan than in the United States, particularly since the 1980s[23]. Some commentators note that in America, a girl’s cartoon is considered sissy stuff, and faces a difficult fight for broadcast or distribution[24]. Female superheroes as a whole and Sailor Moon in particular, have not achieved the same level of success in the United States as they have in Japan[25].

The role of superhero has traditionally been reserved for males, and targeted at a predominantly male audience[26]. In Allison’s article, a number of younger American children, in the 7-to-12 age range the both Sailor Moon and Cardcaptors targets, commented that Sailor Moon seemed too “Girly” to be taken seriously as a superhero[27]. The American distributors of Cardcaptors probably realised that the preferred model for superheroism remained strongly masculine in the United States and strongly biased against a female hero, particularly one who behaved in a feminine or girly manner as Sakura often exhibited in the original, and factored that into their changes prior to Cardcaptors’ broadcast Stateside.

Since Cardcaptors’ release, some have argued that the source of Cardcaptors’ changes in targeted gender demographics could be narrowed down to a simple fear. The producers were painted by some fans as “cowards, creating animation fodder for children’s television… to satisfy producers’ assumptions about what North American children and parents would accept.”[28]. Others have suggested that Kids WB! and Nelvana were merely afraid of deterring viewers and that a girls’ series would achieve suspect popularity in the U.S., which would in turn lead to lower ratings and reduced profit for them[29]. However, it is important to also examine Cardcaptors’ gender demographic adjustments as a business decision.

It is almost certain that beyond “fear”, producers were also attempting to use the broadcast of Cardcaptors to create more revenue for themselves through advertising and merchandising. According to Laurie Cubbison, associate professor of English and Director of Writing at Radford University, young boys were considered to be the principal cartoon audience in the United States because of the toy market, and TV programs were targeted at this audience in order to lure advertisers[30].

Cubbison’s analysis bore some resemblance to Shiraishi’s notion of Japanese image alliances, where “producers of… television… and character merchandise work together to expand artistic creativity and innovation in one popular medium into other media”. Mutual beneficial relationships among these “divisions” of Japan’s cultural industries not only work to increase the size and earnings of those industries[31].

Michael Hirsh, Co-Chief Executive Officer of Nelvana at the time of Cardcaptors’ first broadcast in the U.S. supported Cubbison’s view: “Cardcaptors is one of Nelvana’s most promising new properties. Its increasingly strong television performance[32] is driving demand for merchandise and we are optimistic this brand will have substantial marketing legs.”[33] Hirsh was referring to Nelvana’s master toy and timepiece licensing agreement with North American merchandise licensing company Trendmasters to market Cardcaptors plush toys, dolls, collectible figurines, dress-up and role play toys, as well as other novelties. In January 2002, the producers also collaborated with the restaurant chain Taco Bell for a month long promotion in which four Cardcaptors toys were available in their kids meals[34].

To maximise potential revenue from advertising and merchandise, Kids WB! also adopted the following strategies: Firstly, much like how the episodes themselves were edited, Cardcaptors was advertised mainly to a younger male audience, airing commercials which featured Shaoran as the prominent character and Sakura a secondary character[35]. Secondly, the show was broadcast alongside Pokémon (another popular Japanese import)[36] in the middle of kids’ “prime time”[37]: Saturday mornings at 9.30am[38].

Like the changes in micro elements such as character names and personalities, Nelvana and Kids WB!’s decisions to edit macro elements the structure of Cardcaptor Sakura along gender lines played a role in aiding the series’ assimilation to the American culture based on generalisations of viewership. Beyond that however, the macro changes we have just discussed revealed some of the producers’ business savvy, using the broadcast of the series to avail themselves to additional sources of potential revenue by setting up an image alliance with merchandising firms.

CENSORSHIP

We have so far explored why producers found it necessary to Americanise anime brought over to America to be shown on television. However, as Cardcaptors was broadcast in the States, it soon became apparent that numerous other changes had been made to it outside the realm of names, locations, or episode order as has been discussed in the previous sections. These changes served to remove any material throughout the series that was deemed inappropriate for a young American audience.

Material censored from the show included relationships between characters with lesbian or homosexual undertones, such as the ones between pre-teen female characters Tomoyo and Sakura, and teenage male characters Toya and Yukito. Homosexual relationships in anime have rarely gone down well with American censors. In the 1990s, the homosexual relationship between Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune on Sailor Moon was completely edited out[39].

Insinuated relationships between minors and older males were also censored, such as the one between Sakura and Yukito, as were student – teacher relationships like the one between 10 year old Rika and her significantly older teacher, Tereda Yoshiyuki. Why were these relationships cut from the American television broadcast of Cardcaptors when it was acceptable for them to be shown on Japanese television? Why was there a need to censor the mature themes that were present in the anime?

The straightforward answer to that would be because apart from their concern over gender demographics, Nelvana aimed Cardcaptors at a decidedly young audience, namely American children between 7 and 12 years of age[40].

To understand the need for Cardcaptors to be censored in America given this target audience, we have to first look at the perception of cartoons (and anime by association) in America. As stated by Dorothy Ann Phoenix, “in some Western countries such as the United States, comic books and cartoons have traditionally been relegated to the realm of childhood, while in Japan, some anime and manga are targeted at child and adult audiences”[41]. Susan Napier added that American adults may have perceived “fantastical animation as childish”[42]. In Japan however, Anime was not restricted to one particular audience and could appeal to a much broader audience, literally “from pre-school to adult”[43].

Besides opinions on unedited anime (as discussed earlier), Frasier’s focus group findings also revealed that most Americans viewed cartoons as harmless children’s entertainment. When confronted with Anime that dealt with complex and mature themes, most of the participants reacted with surprise, shock and disgust and found them “extremely weird and unentertaining… And when you see a cartoon you’re not prepared to see that and there is the shock value. You are not expecting to see that.”[44]

As Phoenix, Napier, and Frasier have shown, cartoons in America have traditionally been seen as mainly for children. Thus, when anime were brought over to America, they were viewed in the same light as traditional American cartoons, simply due to the fact that anime was animated. Along with these perceptions that cartoons were traditionally for children, there was a general consensus amongst Americans that children’s cartoons should not deal with mature themes like death, violence and of course, sexuality and especially homosexuality. This relationship partially explained why the producers found it necessary to censor certain mature themes in Cardcaptor Sakura.

Frasier’s results proceeded to argue strongly that one of the main contributors to the different perceptions of animation by Japanese and American consumers lay in their upbringing. Generally, Frasier’s American respondents, who were brought up almost exclusively on Disney, perceived that all cartoons were supposed to be like Disney, child-friendly and safe. The majority of Japanese respondents however were brought up on anime and therefore used to the mature themes present in it[45].

In 1997, Princess Mononoke, an Anime film by Studio Ghibli, was screened in U.S. theatres to little acclaim. It was “considered a failure in the U.S. market, because it had too much violence, sexuality and was unsuitable for family audiences”[46]. Susan Napier predicted that Princess Mononoke would have had to have undergone edits if it were to be shown on television in America[47].

Frasier’s findings and the poor performance of unedited anime like Princess Mononoke were likely to have influenced the perceptions of anime held by not just consumers at large but by the producers of Cardcaptors as well. Nelvana’s censorship of Cardcaptor Sakura would likely have been an attempt to fit the series into traditional notions of cartoons held by the majority of Americans so as to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, thereby increasing their chances for garnering advertising and merchandising revenue.

Interestingly, despite Cardcaptor Sakura being able to appeal to audiences of all ages, it was mainly targeted towards a similar age group in Japan as well[48]. In light of this, several censorship decisions would also have been attributed to the difference of moral values which exist in mainstream America and Japan. This would mainly have been affected by what people deemed suitable for children’s programming as a result of their upbringing, religion and parents’ parenting styles.

Different parenting styles present in America and Japan and could explain why the producers felt it was necessary to make the changes to Card Captor Sakura when they adapted it for an American audience. American parents were not receptive to the idea that cartoons should contain mature themes as unlike the Japanese, they saw cartoons as “feel good and happy” and “simply there to entertain”[49]. The Japanese on the other hand, used anime to a certain extent as a teaching tool to introduce mature themes to their children. Using anime to introduce said mature themes, the Japanese were then able to discuss them with their children. This would not have been common in America, where the predominant view was that “cultural issues such as sex, violence, and religion should be explained by the parent (directly)”[50]. American parents often deemed cartoons as “a fantasy world” that was “used for escaping from reality for an hour and a half. Americans did not use anime and animated movies to educate children about cultural, adult, and mature themes”[51].

Religious concerns are likely to have played a part in encouraging producers to censor Cardcaptor Sakura. Most Americans have been raised in traditional western Christian family and household, and are likely to have believed that “the cultural issues found in anime were inappropriate”[52]. Unlike Americans, the Japanese, primarily of Shinto and Buddhist faith, were more likely to have adopted the Buddhist monks focus on spirituality, mediation and rituality[53] and were therefore receptive of homosexuality, a stark contrast to Christian missionaries[54].

The differences in the upbringing and religion discussed above may explain why many more Americans than Japanese were unreceptive to alternative sexualities such as those portrayed in Cardcaptor Sakura. Producers probably played it safe by assuming that all Americans were conservative and hence took liberties cutting out anything which may have been unacceptable to their imagined clientele. It is also remotely possible that Nelvana or Kids WB! executives themselves might have been raised with a conservative Christian ideology, which in turn subconsciously affected their decisions regarding censorship.

It is important to remember that like all businesses, one of Nelvana goals would have been to maximize profits while simultaneously straying away from anything that could result in a loss of profit. “If a network feels that certain violent or sexual content will be bad for business, then those scenes will be cut”[55]. With this in mind, it would be possible to conjecture more reasons for the censorship of mature content in the production of Cardcaptors.

In Japan, the popularity of filmmakers like Osamu Tezuka and Hayao Miyazaki made it alright for people of all ages to read manga and watch anime that dealt with mature themes and issues[56].However, censorship in America particularly for Children’s content had been dictated by various laws and regulations for some time. The reasons that cartoons are the way they are could be traced back decades to when American laws such as the Production Code of 1934, the Federal Communications Code and the Motion Picture Association of America’s (MPAA’s) rating system first began enforcing the censorship of mature themes in cartoons[57].

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) stated that any “material that fails to conform to ‘accepted standards of morality’” was indecent and subject to regulation[58]. Interestingly, the rules were ambiguous and did not have clear guidelines as to what failed to meet “accepted standards of morality”. The fine for violating these guidelines, however, was a decidedly unambiguous $10,000[59]. The Producers who were subjected to such arbitrary regulations could have been tempted to remove almost anything that may have resulted in a large fine as an added precaution.

Some Asian countries “did not (and have never) use(d) a rating system”. If a ratings system was present, “it was not heavily enforced” unlike countries such as the United States[60]. In America, the V-Chip rating system, developed in 1996 due to the Telecommunications Act, designed to “block viewers from accessing programs above a certain rating. The rating system was intended to rate programs according to target age groups, and eventually additional ratings for types of content were included”[61]. Nelvana could have censored Cardcaptor Sakura just to get a lower rating, TV-Y7, for Cardcaptors to reach their target audience (aged 7 to 12). Nelvana has since released an uncensored edition of Cardcaptor Sakura directly to DVD which received a 13 and up rating[62], showing that the additional content was only deemed appropriate for an older audience by the MPAA, clearly above Nelvana’s targeted age range. This helps us make a little more sense of Nelvana and Kids WB!’s edits back in 2000 when Cardcaptors was broadcast in the U.S.

Throughout history, producers and networks have occasionally attacked by Christian groups and gay-rights political groups if they portrayed any form of alternative sexuality or gay stereotypes in television programming (especially children’s programming), leading to show cancellations or law suits[63], as in the case where Reverend Jerry Falwell, a powerful religious and political figure in the States accused a Teletubby of being gay[64]. It would not be a stretch to assume that Nelvana wished to avoid such a backlash. The producers could have made censorship decisions just to avoid possible controversies and the resulting impact on their profits.

CONCLUSION

In this report, we have discussed the motivations behind Nelvana and Kids WB!’s edits to the anime Cardcaptor Sakura.

First, the changes to micro elements ironed out possibly confusing cultural differences allowed the producers to shift the series’ target gender demographic towards young boys instead of girls due to American viewership statistics and stereotypes.

Next, the edits made to macro elements added to the demographic shift and allowed the producers to capitalise on an image alliance with merchandising firms, thereby potentially earning them more profit.

Finally, to maintain the corporation’s financial as well as reputational standing, producers made the decisions to censor the series as a whole to fit anime into the traditional notion of cartoons that Americans were used to, as well as to avoid themes deemed “inappropriate” for an American audience by law or political and religious implication.

 

— END —

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[1] See Iwabuchi, K. “Marketing “Japan”: Japanese cultural presence under a global gaze”. Japanese Studies 18.2 (1998): 165-180.

[2] See Allison, Anne. “Sailor Moon – Japanese Superheroes for Global Girls” Japan pop! Eds. T J Craig. London: M.E. Sharpe, 2000. 264.

[3] See Cubbison, Laurie. “Not Just for Children’s Television: Anime and the Changing Editing Practices of American Television Networks” Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture 8.2 (2008). 17 March 2011. <http://reconstruction.eserver.org/082/cubbison.shtml>

[4] See Ruh, Brian. “Transforming U.S. Anime in the 1980s: Localization and Longevity.” Mechademia 5 (2010): 31-49. Project MUSE. Web. 29 Feb. 2011. <http://muse.jhu.edu.libproxy1.nus.edu.sg/>.

[5] See Frasier, Alexander Nghiem, “A Clash of Cultures: Cultural differences within American and Japanese animation.” Diss. The University of Texas at Arlington, 2007.

[6] See Park, Myoungsook. 2009. “Hollywood’s remake practices under the copyright regime: French films and Japanese horror films.” Fear, cultural anxiety and transformation. Eds. S. A. Lukas and J. Marmysz. Lanham. MD: Lexington books, 2009. 107-128.

[7] See Cardcaptor Sakura Apr. 2010. Anime Wiki. 10 March 2011. <http://en.anime-wiki.org/wiki/Cardcaptor_Sakura#English_Dub>

[8] See Nelvana. Official Cardcaptors Website. 02 March 2011. <http://www.nelvana.com/cardcaptors/html/home.html&gt;

[9] Being characterised as a “valley girl” also led to situations where she appears less intelligent than the original, such as being unable to spell ‘broach’ in a spelling test. See Cardcaptors? Feb. 2008. Mahou Shoujo. 15 March 2011. <http://ccs.sky-bound.org/index.php?id=cc>

[10] Card Captor Sakura ~ Opening 1 [Catch you Catch me] Jul. 2007. YouTube. 04 March 2011. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Coo8fxNg8k&gt;

[11] Card Captors – Opening (english) Mar. 2007. YouTube. 4 March 2011. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80skdc_D2QE&gt;

[12] See Anime – Blurring the Distinction between Masculine and Feminine. Jun. 2010. Mainichi Anime Yume. 16 March 2011. <http://animeyume.com/blog/2010/06/09/anime-blurring-the-distinction-between-masculine-and-feminine/>

[13] See Editing of Anime in American Distribution. Mar. 2011. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopaedia. 03 Mar. 2011. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Editing_of_anime_in_American_distribution>

[14] See Cubbison, Laurie. “Not Just for Children’s Television: Anime and the Changing Editing Practices of American Television Networks” Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture 8.2 (2008). 17 March 2011. <http://reconstruction.eserver.org/082/cubbison.shtml>

[15] See Cardcaptors. Mar. 2011. World Lingo. 18 March 2011. <http://www.worldlingo.com/ma/enwiki/en/Cardcaptors>

[16] See Nelvana. Official Cardcaptors Website. 02 March 2011. <http://www.nelvana.com/cardcaptors/html/home.html&gt;

[17] See Differences Between Cardcaptors (U.S.) and Cardcaptor Sakura. Aug. 2008. Kawaii Sakura Shrine. 21 March 2011. <http://kss.mysticalaura.com/tv/main.php?page=tvdiff>

[18] See Considine, J. D. “Television/Radio; Making Anime A Little Safer For Americans” The New York Times 20 Jan. 2002. 13 March 2011. <http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/20/movies/television-radio-making-anime-a-little-safer-for-americans.html?scp=2&sq=sailor%20moon&st=cse>

[19] See Cardcaptors. Mar. 2011. World Lingo. 18 March 2011. <http://www.worldlingo.com/ma/enwiki/en/Cardcaptors>

[20] See Differences Between Cardcaptors (U.S.) and Cardcaptor Sakura. Aug. 2008. Kawaii Sakura Shrine. 21 March 2011. <http://kss.mysticalaura.com/tv/main.php?page=tvdiff>

[21] See Allison, Anne. “Sailor Moon – Japanese Superheroes for Global Girls” Japan pop! Eds. T J Craig. London: M.E. Sharpe, 2000. 261.

[22] See Allison, Anne. “Sailor Moon – Japanese Superheroes for Global Girls” Japan pop! Eds. T J Craig. London: M.E. Sharpe, 2000. 274.

[23] See Allison, Anne. “Sailor Moon – Japanese Superheroes for Global Girls” Japan pop! Eds. T J Craig. London: M.E. Sharpe, 2000. 268

[24] See Considine, J. D. “Television/Radio; Making Anime A Little Safer For Americans” The New York Times 20 Jan. 2002. 13 March 2011. <http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/20/movies/television-radio-making-anime-a-little-safer-for-americans.html?scp=2&sq=sailor%20moon&st=cse>

[25] See Allison, Anne. “Sailor Moon – Japanese Superheroes for Global Girls” Japan pop! Eds. T J Craig. London: M.E. Sharpe, 2000. 274.

[26] See Allison, Anne. “Sailor Moon – Japanese Superheroes for Global Girls” Japan pop! Eds. T J Craig. London: M.E. Sharpe, 2000. 261.

[27] See Allison, Anne. “Sailor Moon – Japanese Superheroes for Global Girls” Japan pop! Eds. T J Craig. London: M.E. Sharpe, 2000. 275.

[28] See Cubbison, Laurie. “Not Just for Children’s Television: Anime and the Changing Editing Practices of American Television Networks” Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture 8.2 (2008). 17 March 2011. <http://reconstruction.eserver.org/082/cubbison.shtml>

[29] See Guanche, Chris. “Hollywood Execs Like Slashing Anime” Mecha Anime HQ 31 July 2000. 18 March 2011. <http://www.mahq.net/rants/editorials/hollywood.htm>

[30] See Cubbison, Laurie. “Not Just for Children’s Television: Anime and the Changing Editing Practices of American Television Networks” Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture 8.2 (2008). 17 March 2011. <http://reconstruction.eserver.org/082/cubbison.shtml>

[31] See Shiraishi, Saya. “Doraemon Goes Abroad.”. Japan pop! Eds. T J Craig. London: M.E. Sharpe, 2000. 297.

[32] After four weeks on the air, Cardcaptors averaged a 2.8 rating and 13 share among Kids 2-11, according to the Nielsen Television Index. Among Boys 2-11, Cardcaptors posted an even stronger four-week average 4.0 rating and 17 share. See Nelvana’s “Cardcaptors” Debuts on Kids’ WB! To High Ratings and Critical Acclaim. Jul. 2000. The Free Library. 14 March 2011. <http://www.thefreelibrary.com/NELVANA’S “CARDCAPTORS” DEBUTS ON KIDS’ WB! TO HIGH RATINGS AND…-a063555781>

[33] See Nelvana’s “Cardcaptors” Debuts on Kids’ WB! To High Ratings and Critical Acclaim. Jul. 2000. The Free Library. 14 March 2011. <http://www.thefreelibrary.com/NELVANA’S “CARDCAPTORS” DEBUTS ON KIDS’ WB! TO HIGH RATINGS AND…-a063555781>

[34] See Taco Bell’s Cardcaptor Promotion. Aug. 2002. ICv2 07 March 2011. <http://www.icv2.com/articles/news/1002.html>

[35] See Differences Between Cardcaptors (U.S.) and Cardcaptor Sakura. Aug. 2008. Kawaii Sakura Shrine. 21 March 2011. <http://kss.mysticalaura.com/tv/main.php?page=tvdiff>

[36] See Nelvana’s “Cardcaptors” Debuts on Kids’ WB! To High Ratings and Critical Acclaim. Jul. 2000. The Free Library. 14 March 2011. <http://www.thefreelibrary.com/NELVANA’S “CARDCAPTORS” DEBUTS ON KIDS’ WB! TO HIGH RATINGS AND…-a063555781>

[37] See Allison, Anne. “Sailor Moon – Japanese Superheroes for Global Girls” Japan pop! Eds. T J Craig. London: M.E. Sharpe, 2000. 274.

[38] See Nelvana. Official Cardcaptors Website. 02 March 2011. <http://www.nelvana.com/cardcaptors/html/home.html&gt;

[39] See Phoenix, Dorothy Ann. “Protecting Young Eyes: Censorship and Moral Standards of Decency in Japan and the United States as Reflected in Children’s Media” Diss. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2006.

[40] See Cardcaptors, Vol. 1: Tests of Courage. Jun. 2004. Hastings Entertainment, Inc. 06 March 2011. <http://www.gohastings.com/product/MOVIE/Cardcaptors-Vol-1-Tests-of-Courage/sku/189105810.uts&gt;

[41] See Phoenix, Dorothy Ann. “Protecting Young Eyes: Censorship and Moral Standards of Decency in Japan and the United States as Reflected in Children’s Media” Diss. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2006: 03.

[42] See Napier, Susan J. “The Problem of Existence in Japanese Animation.” Proceedings of the

American Philosophical Society. 149.1 (2005): 74.

[43] See Cubbison, Laurie. “Not Just for Children’s Television: Anime and the Changing Editing Practices of American Television Networks” Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture 8.2 (2008). 17 March 2011. <http://reconstruction.eserver.org/082/cubbison.shtml&gt;

[44] See Frasier, Alexander Nghiem, “A Clash of Cultures: Cultural differences within American and Japanese animation.” Diss. The University of Texas at Arlington, 2007: 63.

[45] American respondents traditionally and intrinsically linked animation to Disney films, which were “safe and could be trusted” and “did not make them think about issues like famine, homosexuality or same sex marriages”. They believed that cartoons should “avoid difficult concepts and ideas” and were “supposed to entertain and make children laugh”. See Frasier, Alexander Nghiem, “A Clash of Cultures: Cultural differences within American and Japanese animation.” Diss. The University of Texas at Arlington, 2007.

[46] See Frasier, Alexander Nghiem, “A Clash of Cultures: Cultural differences within American and Japanese animation.” Diss. The University of Texas at Arlington, 2007: 5.

[47] See Napier, Susan J. Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke: Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation. New York: Palgrave/St. Martin’s, 2001.

[48] See Cubbison, Laurie. “Not Just for Children’s Television: Anime and the Changing Editing Practices of American Television Networks” Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture 8.2 (2008). 17 March 2011. <http://reconstruction.eserver.org/082/cubbison.shtml&gt;

[49] See Frasier, Alexander Nghiem, “A Clash of Cultures: Cultural differences within American and Japanese animation.” Diss. The University of Texas at Arlington, 2007: 86.

[50] See Frasier, Alexander Nghiem, “A Clash of Cultures: Cultural differences within American and Japanese animation.” Diss. The University of Texas at Arlington, 2007: 109.

[51] See Frasier, Alexander Nghiem, “A Clash of Cultures: Cultural differences within American and Japanese animation.” Diss. The University of Texas at Arlington, 2007: 98.

[52] See Frasier, Alexander Nghiem, “A Clash of Cultures: Cultural differences within American and Japanese animation.” Diss. The University of Texas at Arlington, 2007: 109.

[53] See Hirota, Dennis. “Reflections on the Notion of “The Inward Quest” in the Japanese Buddhist Experience.” The Religious Heritage of Japan: Foundations for Cross-cultural Understanding in a Religiously Plural World. Eds. John Ross Carter. Portland, OR: Book East, 1999: 169-195.

[54] See Hawkins, Joseph. R. “Japan’s Journey into Homophobia” The Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide Volume 7, Issue 1. 31 Jan. 2000: 36-38.

[55] See Phoenix, Dorothy Ann. “Protecting Young Eyes: Censorship and Moral Standards of Decency in Japan and the United States as Reflected in Children’s Media” Diss. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2006: 49.

[56] See Schilling, Mark. “Miyazaki Hayao and Studio Ghibli, the Animation Hit Factory.” Japan Quarterly January-March 1997: 38-50.

[57] See Phoenix, Dorothy Ann. “Protecting Young Eyes: Censorship and Moral Standards of Decency in Japan and the United States as Reflected in Children’s Media” Diss. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2006.

[58] See Hendershot, Heather. Saturday Morning Censors. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1998: 16.

[59] See Hendershot, Heather. Saturday Morning Censors. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1998: 15.

[60] See Frasier, Alexander Nghiem, “A Clash of Cultures: Cultural differences within American and Japanese animation.” Diss. The University of Texas at Arlington, 2007: 60.

[61] See Cubbison, Laurie. “Not Just for Children’s Television: Anime and the Changing Editing Practices of American Television Networks” Reconstruction: Studies in Contemporary Culture 8.2 (2008). 17 March 2011. <http://reconstruction.eserver.org/082/cubbison.shtml&gt;

[62] See Cardcaptor Sakura: Revelations. Nov. 2003. Hastings Entertainment, Inc. 06 March 2011. <http://www.gohastings.com/product/MOVIE/Cardcaptor-Sakura-Revelations/sku/171851665.uts&gt;

[63] See Hendershot, Heather. Saturday Morning Censors. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1998: 54.

[64] See Phoenix, Dorothy Ann. “Protecting Young Eyes: Censorship and Moral Standards of Decency in Japan and the United States as Reflected in Children’s Media” Diss. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2006.

21 Responses to The “Americanisation” of Cardcaptor Sakura

  1. Alexeon says:

    TL;DR Moralfags ruin animation and should be shot on sight.

    I have to get out of here…

  2. VillainHana says:

    Very nice paper. Very informative.

    I remember watching “Cardcaptors” as a kid. Okay, I bearly remember watching “Cardcaptors” as a kid, but I do remember thinking when I was watching it, there was always this nagging feeling in the back of my head that I was missing something. Like I missed an episode or didn’t hear dialogue or missed a fight. And now knowing that “Cardcaptors” was 39 episodes as opposed to Cardcaptor Sakura’s 70, that feeling of missing something was entirely justified. I was missing a whole lot of material, so many episodes I didn’t see.

    The funny and sad thing is that the Americanization worked increadibly well. As a kid, I thought that “Cardcaptors”, along with all the other Anime I watched like Yu-Gi-Oh, Pokemon and Digimon (I was born after Sailor Moon’s heyday, so I never saw it), were American cartoons. It was only much later that I found out that these were made in Japan, and even later that I found out just how much was changed in the transfer. The 1st Anime I watched that I actually knew was Anime was Inuyasha, back when Adult Swim 1st started airing it.

    Iterestingly, I actually saw Princess Mononoke as a kid. As a young kid on top of that. My dad showed it to me a week or 2 after the 1st Pokemon movie came to American theatres. It came here in 1999, so I was 7 years old at the time. He was upset that he had to sit through the Pokemon movie, so he wanted to show me what he though was good animation. He rented the movie for me, and we watched it together. At first he was concerned about the violence in the movie (which he wasn’t aware of at the time), but when he noticed me sitting and watching it unfazed by the loss of life and limb, he lost his concerns. The point of this is that if I could watch a level of violence and sexual undertones found in Princess Mononoke at age 7, surely a child of roughly the same age can watch the the tame by comparison stuff found in Cardcaptor Sakura (or at least that’s my impression from your description. I unfortunately have never seen Cardcaptor Sakura in it’s original, unedited form. I have only seen “Cardcaptors”, which I have already said that I thought it was an American cartoon when I was watching it as a kid).

    But such is the word where Children are god, and must be fought for and protected accordingly at all cost. If you expose children to more things when they are young, they will be less shocked and less prone to irrational behavior when they encounter these things in real life. We as humans tend to fear and despise the unknown. And when we act out of Fear and Hate, that is when we as the human race commit our most ghastly attrosities. So by extention, if we are educated and made to know of the world and all things within, we will no longer have the fear and hatred of the unknown, because it is no longer unknown to us.

    That is my opinion on the matter.

  3. Eli says:


    heheh.
    Speaking of Cardcaptor Sakura….

  4. PrimeSonic says:

    Every time the topic of the americanized Cardcaptors pops up, I become more thankful for having lived in Latin America at the time I watched it.

    The spanish dub for latin america of “Sakura CardCaptors” was as faithful to the original source material as possible. It was a direct translation from the original scripts with no censorship, name changes, or edits whatsoever to speak of.

    With that, I got to watch the original “true” story of Cardcaptor Sakura at around age 13, at a time in my life when the themes and subject matter really were starting to challenge my thinking and preconceived notions. I could see, even then, that it was certainly not a show for children and was a bit shocked that it was airing on channels that were known for exclusive children’s programming (Cartoon Network).
    That aside, for young teenagers at the time, it was something that we would forever remember and always look back on with great fondness and respect for being there to not only entertain us but to challenge us as well.

    Around here in Argentina, “Sakura Cardcaptors” has a strong cult following, well after it stopped airing on TV, and is considered a mandatory anime for anime otaku in the area. For many of us, it was one of our first tastes of unedited anime as faithful to the original as a dub could produce.

    -

    This paper was a good read and its insight of great value for those looking at localization of anime. Hopefully the world will globalize enough that such narrow expectations and cultural conditions will stop being such an impediment to the cross-nation propagation of great works of fiction and art, understanding their original audiences and context and being able to appreciate the new perspectives they bring.

  5. Ceren Gunes says:

    A lovely and informative read, thanks for your information and research :)

  6. Jovi Carlin Wong says:

    THEES. ISH. SHO. AWESOMEZZZ!!!!! xDDD

  7. konakonaotaku says:

    Actually, this reminds me a lot of the heavy censorship 4KIds used when “Americanizing” Tokyo Mew Mew (Or “Mew Mew Power”, as it’s called in the US version). In terms of the anime, I never got around to finishing either TMM or MMP, but I probably should either way.

    All of the names have been completely changed to make them more American, which seriously ticked me off (being a reader of the manga), and a lot of the dialogue was changed as well, along with the ages, jumping them from 12-13 to 16 (For most of the characters), and sometimes decreasing the age number, such as with Shirogane, when he went from 21 to 17. A lot of the attack names were changed as well, along with all of the transformations, due to them being naked in some way or another. All of the crosses seen in the show (e. g., Zakuro’s whip) were censored as well, something that I, as a Christian consider highly offensive. Like with Cardcaptors and Sailor Moon, Minto’s “yuri” fixation with Zakuro was toned down heavily (although I find it extremely ironic that in one MMP episode, where the main heroines were thinking about people they admire, Minto was thinking about Zakuro, where in the TMM version, she was thinking about a male dancer), and Kisshu isn’t as pushy to get Ichigo to love him in MMP as he was in TMM, which is something I find somewhat (and by somewhat, I mean “barely”) rational, but not by much. A lot of the episodes were cut out as well (MMP had 20-something, as opposed to TMM’s 50-something), leaving a lot of gaps in terms of plots, storyline, and the like.

    …But I digress. I found your paper very informative, and I think that for the most part, a lot of the censorship in CCS was irrational, in terms of character personalities, character dialogue, and the like. The apparent homosexuality things, I admit, would have been very heavy for the typical American children’s audience, but you have to understand that this is coming from another country, where censorship values are completely different than over here, and some people may find it necessary to cut some stuff out. However, some themes that may be deemed inappropriate for other people may actually emphasize the state that the characters are coming from (e. g., “Huckleberry Finn”), and I find that in some cases, too much censorship can decrease the….Actually, I’m not quite sure what to call it, but I think you get where I’m coming from.
    …I think I’ll go watch CCS now ^ ^;

  8. Letmewatcththisname…

    high submit. i glance ahead to perusing far more. cheers….

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  12. Daren Kaleta says:

    Pokemon or pocket monster is quite cute. My little kids love all of them specially that Pikachu pokemon thingy. *;,;”

    Take care
    http://www.foodsupplementdigest.com“>

  13. Unit says:

    For example, Sakura’s pronunciation was changed from SAH-koo-rah to sah-KOO-rah, with the emphasis shifting from the first syllable to the middle syllable.

    It’s actually more SAH-koo-rah to Suh-KUR-ah.

    At least they kept her name, but the surname is what killed it. The other characters’ names suffered more than they ever could.

    Overall, good essay and an excellent read. Very informative.

  14. caterfree10 says:

    This is a very educative look into the business side of the infamous editing of Card Captor Sakura into Cardcaptors. I mean, I knew some of these things as a more overt level (editing all the romance out, name changing, etc), but for some reason, I didn’t catch things like personality changes between the versions when I went from the Cardcaptors show to the original manga (I’ve still yet to watch the original anime and should really fix that one of these days). While I can see the logic behind them, I still find a lot of the reasoning sexist and heterosexist at its best, not to mention the cartoon ghetto that American culture continues to perpetuate.

    And I definitely feel one of the above commenter’s things about how they often felt like they’d missed an episode or something of CC while watching and the episode count between the original and the dub is very telling. I always wondered why I never saw the episode where the cards were released or a good number of the 52 cards’ captures and seeing just how much was edited out says a lot.

    Thank you for posting this. It’s something I’d love to reread at a later date for sure.

  15. Squiggsquasher says:

    I loved this show as a kid. I had no idea what was happening half the time beyond “Ooh, sparkly sparkly, YAY!” but I still loved it. Now I realize how much has been cut, I will be rewatching it, only subbed instead of dubbed.

    Anyway, excellent paper, nice job!

  16. arjun kanuri says:

    Hello, I think your site might be having browser compatibility issues.
    When I look at your blog site in Firefox, it looks fine but when opening in Internet
    Explorer, it has some overlapping. I just wanted to give you a
    quick heads up! Other then that, wonderful blog!

  17. […] American audience could not follow the story, or would have difficulty pronouncing Japanese names. (These folks have a great research paper that talks about the business motivations for these changes in much […]

  18. Hi there, its good article about media print, we all know media is
    a fantastic source of information.

  19. Dave says:

    All 70 episodes of Cardcaptors were broadcast in the UK and europe…

  20. […] i used the example of cardcaptor sakura as a queer narrative with strong female characters that was stripped of those elements when it was americanized and i feel that that’s a good case study – its animated media, its got female queer main characters, its got positive relationships between characters and the queer stuff + girl characters are treated as full fleshed out characters and not overly sexualized, and it was changed in very clear ways when it was ported to america (http://actar.wordpress.com/2011/05/28/the-%E2%80%9Camericanisation%E2%80%9D-of-cardcaptor-sakura/) […]

  21. Ziggy010101Zero says:

    Disclaimer: I’ve read this article and I found it very useful. Although I have a bad English, so I apologize in advance

    I’ve read this article and I’ve found it interesting and catching (the story behind it), but at the same time, painfully (in the sense of why it was “heavily” edited).

    In Central America, I’ve watched as a kid during its broadcast in 2001 (being a 13 year old kid and have a cable service) being loyal to its original content, and at the 1st time, I hated it for no reason, then, 2002, the series was broadcast, and for some reason, I started to watch again and begin to love this series through its end. The last time they broadcasted this series was in the middle of 2005, and for some reason, this series made a lot of changes to my own attitude, not for the romances and all that, but how catchy was, is hard to explain, I liked a lot.

    Now then, I heard that there was an American version of this series, and I felt so atrociously discouraged to watched on how absurd and so emptying was the edit; Honestly, I was speechless, and ticked off as well.

    I really appreciate how the article was made, now I know of its “unnecessary” reasons of editing one of the most influential series during the beginning of the 21st century. Believe it or not, this series marked a lot of my per-adolescence (I’m a straight guy, but I learned how to be a real man, without being a common douche of nowadays) and means a lot to me.

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