The Most Offensive Anime Dub Ever Has to be Heard to be Believed
If an anime dub is disloyal, it is often condemned. Even if a sentence is adequately translated, changing it causes fans of the original version to go crazy. Both Zombieland Saga and Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid have faced criticism in the past for either correctly translating or localising content, which changed how fans of the original version understood it to be. There doesn’t seem to be a proper technique to localise anime screenplays.
With the exception of one very noteworthy instance from the year 2000, when a studio completely rewrote an anime’s screenplay to create one of the finest joke dubs ever. Before Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series or Dragon Ball Z Abridged became famous, a not-so-popular anime acquired its own parody dub, which ultimately turned out to be something that is appreciated. It would be wrong to believe it was created by fans, as the other aforementioned series are, given the self-referentiality and degree of offensiveness in its comedy. Surprisingly, this Ghost Stories dub was authorised for publication. How in the world is something like this created?
Ghost Stories Was Originally Aimed at Children
The movie Ghost Stories, also known as Gakkou no Kaidan, is a translation of Tru Tsunemitsu’s novels of the same name. The goal was to create a children’s television programme that would present traditional Japanese folklore to young viewers in a fresh manner. Remember that terror was a larger concern than ever in Japan at this time. Children would have heard about the popular adult horror films Ringu, Ju-On, and Audition that they were unable to view since they were hitting the screens. Theoretically, Ghost Stories would have seemed like a simple hit to take advantage of this.
This was regrettably not the case. Ghost Stories lost viewers and money since no one watched it. The studio Animax tried to dub the anime, producing an accurate screenplay and dub that was eventually thrown away. At the time, Animax was trying to broadcast programming on its North American television channel and generate content that may convert this flop into gold. Then, Animax resorted to the dub company ADV Films.
ADV Attempted to Dub an Acceptable Version of Ghost Stories
Older anime enthusiasts are familiar with ADV thanks to their work on the popular dubs of Neon Genesis Evangelion, Excel Saga, and Azumanga Daioh. Even then, however, ADV had stirred up debate by making changes to the dub that made it more palatable to an English-speaking public. An excellent illustration of this is how Tiffany Grant’s depiction of Asuka in Evangelion translated several of her English phrases into German. This sparked a great deal of debate among fans. While some believed that sticking to the original screenplay hindered the final result, others contended that it contributed to and improved Asuka’s character.
ADV Films was an obvious choice to dub Ghost Stories since it was one of the biggest brands in anime at the time. But it received a very intriguing — and maybe exclusive — agreement. ADV was given practically complete freedom by Animax as long as it made sure the programme was successful. There were just three requirements: don’t change the character names (including those of the ghosts), don’t alter the manner in which the spirits are dispatched (a nod to Japanese tradition), and don’t alter the central message of each episode. ADV was free to do anything it wished after that. And from that inch, it took a mile.
Even the Studio’s Voice Actors Contributed to the Ghost Stories Script
The ADR script for Ghost Stories was created by Steven Foster, the ADR director, and Lucan Duran, the translation’s translator (which included Greg Ayres, Monica Rial, Chris Patton, among many others). To what their characters would say or what running jokes would be repeated throughout the series, the actors gave their own thoughts. Whoever arrived in the recording studio first for a particular episode would make up material, and everyone who arrived later had to expand on the tone and gags created in the beginning. This method of decision-making was used to determine the writing process. Yes, this official dub was written in that manner.
The performers also discovered other ways to go past the three guidelines that were assigned to them. Greg Ayres commented on Animax’s conditions at a conference Q&A, saying: “We had to murder that individual in the manner in which it was killed—if it was killed by rubbing two sticks together and reciting a word, so be it. However, we might alter the magical utterance.”
While they couldn’t alter the plot of each episode, they could add whatever crude and offensive humour. And so a kid-friendly cartoon rapidly transformed into an obscene love letter to terrible taste. The amiable kids from the original tale have been replaced by a crude, profane teenager, a youngster with a severe learning disability, a hypocritical, Jesus-obsessed evangelist, a persistently victim of antisemitism, and an arrogant brat who, quite frankly, is probably the least socially awkward of the entire cast.
The writers’ room became meta as each writer had their own ideas for jokes to tell. The writer-actor alliance also began making pop culture gags, making fun of notable celebrities at the time (Christian Slater, for some reason known only to Greg Ayres, is a favourite target), anime clichés and tropes, as well as the series’ really subpar animation and character designs. The fact that these authors thought of these jokes is not very noteworthy in and of themselves. What is amazing is that Animax, the company that licences a children’s programme to this studio, would approve of anything was provided to them. In fact, they loved the modifications more than anything.
The Humor In the Ghost Stories’ Anime Dub Is Highly Objective
Nowadays, Ghost Stories clips are often uploaded as montages of the finest, craziest anime dubs ever. It is often credited as inspiring the Abridging mania that took over YouTube. But tell that to the folks who despised it when it first came out. The first time around, Ghost Stories wasn’t met with unanimity of praise. Purists despised the modifications and deviations because they saw them as flagrantly contemptuous to Japanese culture. Others just saw it as insulting to morals and human decency, which only served to show that the jokes—which were purposefully crafted to be as hurtful as possible—were effective.
In hindsight, Ghost Stories’ comedy is still very individualised. Although other people may not find the inappropriate humour amusing, it was a major thing for anime lovers. It’s true that the pop culture gags haven’t held up well over time, as contemporary comedy often does, but this was one of the first major films to poke fun at anime’s uneven animation, uncomfortable stereotypes, and, of course, the fact that the genre sometimes lacks logic. The programme delighted in it rather than being spiteful about it. It praised every absurd aspect of anime. And Animax got exactly what they desired—a complete failure that turned into riches.
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