While the occasional popular anime series Astro Boy, #Voltron, Battle Of The Planets found themselves creeping over to the Western world from about the late '60s onwards, anime experienced a huge swell in popularity in the late '90s to early '00s. Thanks mostly to the success of #Pokemon and #DragonballZ, networks scrambled to obtain the rights to other #anime series, all hoping to stumble upon the next big thing.
There was one key problem with this, laying in the still prevalent belief Western society that anything animated must be meant for children. This had never been true of anime. In their haste for the next hit, networks bought up series without doing much research, ending up with quite a few that weren't actually meant for children. Their solution was usually heavy edits, completely butchering a series in the near impossible task of making it child friendly.
In some cases, dub work was rushed and badly translated. Even when a series wasn't edited beyond repair, the young "intended audience" often could not truly understand or appreciate the more complicated stories being presented, more likely judging a series based on whether the fights looked cool.
Which brings me to the point of this article. Like watching an episode of an old favorite cartoon and catching a joke that had once flown right over your head, there is much enjoyment to be found from watching an anime series you may not have fully appreciated as a child. Here are seven worth revisiting.
1. 'Battle Of The Planets' / 'Gatchaman'
Airing in the late '70s to mid '80s, Battle Of The Planets was an English adaptation of the anime series Science Ninja Team Gatchaman. Each episode of the series began with the following narration:
"Battle of the Planets! G-Force! Princess! Tiny! Keyop! Mark! Jason! And watching over them from Center Neptune, their computerized coordinator, 7-Zark-7! Watching, warning against surprise attacks by alien galaxies beyond space. G-Force! Fearless young orphans, protecting Earth's entire galaxy. Always five, acting as one. Dedicated! Inseparable! Invincible!"
The series, which enjoyed a popular seven-year run, featured voice work from well-known voice actors Casey Kasem and Janet Waldo, and even spawned one TV film, Battle Of The Planets: The Movie. Watching Battle Of The Planets with adult eyes, it becomes much more obvious that cuts were made. Before any city-destroying battle, a quick cut to or voice over from G-Force's robotic supervisor, 7-Zark-7, would explain that the city had been evacuated before the fighting began. If it seemed as though something unpleasant was about to happen, another cut to 7-Zark-7, who would explain the unpleasantness away.
The Japanese source series, Gatchaman, was much darker. It included swearing, death, and disagreements between team members. In the case of Ken and Joe (Mark and Kevin in BoTP), these disagreements often escalated into physical violence. This violence was cut in the English version, resulting in scenes where those characters appeared with unexplained bruises. The original also featured a hermaphroditic villain, and towards the end of the series, the death of one major character. If you loved Battle of The Planets as a kid, I recommend checking out Gatchaman, just to see how different they really are.
2. 'Pokémon The First Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back' (Including Mewtwo's Origin)
While Pokémon was and remains known as one of the great "kiddie" anime series, it does occasionally deal with more mature themes. This is especially true of the original Japanese cut of Pokemon The First Movie: Mewtwo Strikes Back. The Japanese version of the film begins with a 10-minute sequence detailing Mewtwo's origin story.
Mewtwo was originally one of five clones, the others being Bulbasaurtwo, Charmandertwo, Squirtletwo and Ambertwo — the latter being the cloned daughter of one of the professors. Sadly, Mewtwo is the only clone strong enough to survive, and his memory of the other four is wiped in order to keep him from destroying himself in a grief-fueled psychic meltdown.
This sequence was dubbed, but cut from the English release for being too dark. This is a shame, as it greatly improves the story of the film. Ambertwo's message to Mewtwo that, "Life is wonderful" provides a better explanation for Mewtwo's sudden change in behavior after Ash's miracle resurrection. Mewtwo Strikes Back remains one of the strongest Pokémon movies, even without the "Origin Of Mewtwo" sequence. Watch the film with that sequence included and you may find yourself seeing the story in a whole new way.
3. 'Digimon Adventure' / 'Adventure 02'
Digimon Adventure, the first season of the #Digimon anime, followed a group of children who found themselves transported to the Digital World after an unusual storm strikes their summer camp. The children discover that they are the DigiDestined, and must save both the digital and physical worlds from destruction. While Digimon was popular with children, and often beat Pokemon's "Adventures In The Orange Islands" season in the ratings, many dismissed the series as a cheap knock-off looking to cash in on Pokémon's success.
Upon actually watching Digimon, they would find that, aside from the titles ending in the syllable "-mon," the similarities the two series share are surprisingly few. In some ways, the Digimon anime is vastly superior to Pokémon. Pokémon is often criticized for its lack of character development, with eternally-10 Ash seemingly undergoing a reset at the beginning of each new season.
This is not true of Digimon. Beginning as elementary school students in Digimon Adventure, the main characters grow and change throughout the story. These changes remain when those characters are reintroduced as young adults in the sequel series, Digimon Adventure 02.
If you missed out on Digimon Adventure due to pro-Pokemon bias as a child, there's no shame in checking it out now. The story easily has enough substance to keep most viewers interested.
4. 'Sailor Moon'
Reaching Western audiences around the mid '90s, the English dub of Sailor Moon was rushed into production in the hope of capitalizing on the success of the #PowerRangers. The series also had the advantage of arriving just as a "Girl Power" craze was kicking into gear. At one point the series was so popular that there were rumors of a live-action film, with Buffy The Vampire Slayer star Sarah Michelle Gellar pegged for the lead role, but this never came to pass.
The English dubs of #SailorMoon are heavily frowned upon by anime purists. Any material considered too dark or morally unsuitable for children was cut, sometimes resulting in the loss of entire episodes. One of the most obvious changes comes towards the end of the series first story arc. In the original Japanese version, the other Sailor Scouts die in their efforts to ensure Sailor Moon reaches and defeats Queen Beryl (Don't worry, they come back). In the English version, each Scout's moment of death is cut, with the explanation that they have simply been captured, and Sailor Moon will get them back upon defeating Queen Beryl. The original makes much more sense, explaining the intensity of Sailor Moon's emotional breakdown between losing the other Scouts and finally facing Beryl.
For the full, uncut story of Sailor Moon, you have to see the Japanese version. If nothing else, it is the only way to see the final season, "Sailor Stars," which has never been dubbed into English.
5. 'Dragon Ball'
It's safe to say that Dragon Ball is one of the most popular anime franchises in history, recently receiving a resurgence in that popularity with the airing of Dragon Ball Super. The series follows Goku, one of the last Saiyans, as he fends off the various evil threats that face the world. The story consists of three series, Dragon Ball, Dragon Ball Z, and #DragonBallSuper. The original third series, Dragon Ball GT, produced without creator Akira Toriyama, never quite matched the popularity of DBZ and was quietly shuffled out of continuity upon the release of Super.
In many Western countries, Dragon Ball, chronicling Goku's adventures as a child, was skipped in favor of the more action-packed Dragon Ball Z. Dragon Ball also took longer to edit, requiring the censorship of nudity and countless crude jokes. In some countries, Dragon Ball was eventually aired after Dragon Ball Z had concluded, but by that point, many fans were ready for a break.
For hardcore fans, the original Dragon Ball is worth watching. At 153 episodes, the series is long, but is shorter and contains less filler than DBZ, and the filler that does exist is still reasonably enjoyable. Goku's increases in power are also less sudden and convenient than they appear in later series. In Dragon Ball, he truly works for everything he gains. The death scenes are also more affecting, as death is slightly more permanent in #DragonBall than it is later on.
6. 'Fullmetal Alchemist'
First airing in the west during the anime craze launched by Dragon Ball Z, Fullmetal Alchemist was snapped up by Cartoon Network to air on its #Toonami programming block. The series, following brothers Edward and Alphonse Elric as they attempt to regain their full bodies, was fortunate to remain mostly intact for its English translation. Even the series' darker scenes, such as the tragic fate of young Nina Tucker, survived the chopping block.
If you were only young when Fullmetal Alchemist first aired, I highly recommend revisiting it. The series contains many ideas and themes that are easier to appreciate as an adult. If you haven't seen Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, a remake that more faithfully adapts the manga on which the series was based, I even more highly recommend that you watch it. While the original Fullmetal Alchemist was great in its own right, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is excellent. It is also a rare example where the dub equals, if not surpasses, the original Japanese version.
7. 'Gundam Wing'
Also airing on Toonami, Gundam Wing first reached Western audiences in 2000, five years after it first aired in Japan. Following the exploits of five teen Gundam pilots as they attempt to defeat the evil OZ organization, the series is noted for popularizing the #Gundam franchise in the US, as well as reviving the West's interest in Mecha Anime.
Gundam Wing is actually the sixth entry in the Gundam franchise, and really, one of the weaker Gundam series. The great battles that drew youngsters in are not enough to keep them from noticing the series' shortcomings once they become adults. It is not, however, a reason to reject the whole franchise. Check out Gundam Unicorn, Gundam Seed, or if the retro style doesn't turn you off, even the original Mobile Suit Gundam — you won't be disappointed.
Check out all the major influences that anime has had on Western Hollywood in the video below, the be sure to keep watching over at Movie Pilot Video.