Altered in Translation: How Cultural Themes are Handled When Japanese Animation comes to America
Regardless of its cross-media flexibility and its visual appeal, Japanese animation is still produced in Japan and is targeted towards domestic Japanese audiences. References to Japanese culture that have no easy equivalents in the English language or in American culture are prevalent throughout anime series; thus, concepts familiar to Japanese viewers may not be recognizable to a different audience, which can lead to confusion and a loss of meaning. No matter what, translating an anime series into a different language and adapting it for a different audience will inevitably lead to changes in interpretation, however minor they may be. Though anime's fundamental "Japan-ness" can create problems when attempting to translate it for consumption by a foreign audience, this has little to no impact on the popularity of Japanese animation overseas. Anime still features universal themes that can go across cross-cultural borders with ease, and these core themes are understandable by all audiences. That is not to say that they are not unchanged, however. To see how this is possible, four major themes-- teamwork, foreign accents, heroism, and gender-- will be explored using examples pulled from both English and Japanese language versions of three series: Sakura Wars TV, King of the Braves: Gaogaigar, and Neon Genesis Evangelion.
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