While re-watching old, pun-filled episodes of Pokemon, I ran into a very odd… change. While clearly holding a bunch of rice balls in one hand, Brock asked Ash if he “wanted a donut.” They then proceeded to call rice balls “donuts” for the rest of the episode.
Before you think this was some odd translation error, I highly doubt it. Like many other shows dubbed over by Viz and 4Kids, Pokemon went through quite a bit of “localization” before it was released and broadcast in the US. In other words, Japanese traditions, sayings and even names were altered to sound American/English instead. In some cases, this is unavoidable. Phrases aren’t really translatable and idioms, such as “raining cats and dogs,” are even less translatable. Yet there are some things that should not be altered. Food is a big one. Because, let’s be reasonable, rice balls do not look like donuts. And even if they did, what’s so bad about rice balls? It’s obvious what a rice ball is. It’s not like it has some exotic name that’s hard for English speakers to pronounce. Yet, for some reason, these kinds of unnecessary edits are common practice for companies such as 4Kids. The reason being that these kinds of shows are usually aimed at young kids in America and thus aired on cartoon networks. And when children are involved, people get…. weird. I’ll never understand why, in heaven’s name, people feel like exposing kids to different cultures and their traditions is bad, but such is the case. Anything unique and culturally different from English standards is often stripped from these shows before they’re released. And, of course, these edited versions are often the only ones that are released on DVD as well. Because heaven forbid kids find out the truth about other countries besides America existing.
Just about the only things are are left alone are costumes themselves. So when kimonos or No theater costumes are being worn by characters, it’s left as is. Which only makes things worse really. After all, until those costumes show up, kids think they’re watching a show that’s in their culture. Then these costumes show up and it’s a sudden case of weird-ville.
What’s your thoughts on this kind of thing? Is localization ok in shows that aren’t English-based? Or should it be used only on things that don’t have translations, like phrases and such? Or is it not ok ever??