Just Get To The Fighting Robots - Escaflowne on Fox Kids
"Letters from the New York Otaku"
By David Cabrera
#20 – Just Get To The Fighting Robots - Escaflowne on Fox Kids
As I detailed, there are many cases of censorship in older American broadcasts of anime/manga. A brushed-out splash of blood here, bare breasts painted over with a “swimsuit” there. Why, in Gatchaman there was a whole segment added in which a robot buddy explained to the team (and the kids watching) that nobody died in this episode's deadly battle against Galactor. Character deaths were explained off as vacations, a lesbian couple were explained off as “cousins.” If you asked me the worst one, though, I'd certainly say the version of Escaflowne that ran on Fox Kids.
The Vision of Escaflowne was a 90s fantasy show by Sunrise that deliberately combined elements that traditionally appeal to boys-- transforming robots, a medieval world at war-- with elements that traditionally appeal to girls-- an ordinary female protagonist caught between two beautiful young men. It was also already a big hit with American anime fans, so the lucky show had a shot at a rare TV broadcast in 2000. There was only one problem, and that was the network.
Fox Kids was very interested in those elements we mentioned appealed to boys, and quite uninterested in the rest. In fact, it really wanted that stuff gone. Escaflowne was heavily edited to appeal to boys, at great cost to the show's integrity.
The first episode of Escaflowne deals with the romantic angst of the high school heroine, Hitomi, and her transport to the land of Gaea... and that entire episode was chopped right out. That beautiful opening sequence? Gone.
You see, Fox needed action. They didn't trust the kids watching to care about the story: their goal was just to get to the action and robot fights as quickly as possible. This already very fast-paced show was put on fast-forward. Everything but the base minimum of dialogue that told the viewer the immediate situation was chopped out. Silences were filled with new, generic music that clashed badly with Yoko Kanno's score. The viewer was not trusted to be able to pay attention, and the people editing the show didn't care if the series could actually be understood. The show was now a running, screaming mess.
In this form Escaflowne was a sad and wretched thing to behold (search Youtube for “Fox Escaflowne” if you're curious), and it only ran for nine episodes before Fox pulled the plug. In Canada the show was aired unmolested on YTV and completed its run.
The Fox Kids version of Escaflowne wasn't the most radically changed anime to run on American TV, nor was it the most heavily censored. The reason I think it was so terrible was that it edited away the show's character, stuffed it with condescension, stripped it of its soul. When American anime fans get scared of what a TV station will do to their favorite show, they imagine things like Escaflowne on Fox.
An old fan parody video from a few years ago, “Casey and Friends”, re-imagined the famous horror mystery Higurashi no Naku Koro ni as a light-hearted family comedy in which Casey (Keiichi) and his friends Rachel (Rena) and Millie (Mio) have a fiesta. Syringes are changed to tacos, and in the climactic scene Casey pummels two pinatas with his baseball bat to some lively Mexican music.
You see, it's true that such a travesty hasn't happened in a long time... but American anime fans are still on their guard.