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BLEACH: You Can't Do That on Anime!

Sometimes there are things that you can show on paper but on to TV. Let's talk about a big one.

It's not an uncommon practice for a popular manga to be adapted into an anime series. Many of the larger Shueisha publications often get this treatment. Dragon Ball, One Piece, Naruto, and BLEACH to name a few. Each have had almost scene for scene adaptations of the manga brought to animated life. There are some times though that something has been drawn onto the page that's just too edgy or possibly offensive to be directly animated into the series.

Yoruichi Shihouin manga to anime comparison
Yoruichi Shihouin manga to anime comparison

It was last year that I wrote the satirical article about the Oppai Code on how anime scenes cover up breasts more than they did in the panels of the manga. That was more lighthearted and silly.

Ichigo's Fullbring: Manga to Anime Comparison
Ichigo's Fullbring: Manga to Anime Comparison

Recent events with the BLEACH anime has dragged up issues of imagery that is far more controversial. I'm talking about the use of the Swastika. It appeared recently in BLEACH as Ichigo was trying to regain his Soul Reaper powers by learning how to use Fullbring. The symbol that appeared to represent his awakening power was a swastika, but it's not what it actually appears at first glance. Most of the world recognizes this as the mark of the Nazi Party that took over much of Europe and committed mass genocide in 1939-1945. Despite the fact this mark far predates the Third Reich, any use of it is automatically met with swift backlash. It's a symbol now automatically associated with hate and racial tensions. Most are terrified to use it in any context. The Strike Witchesseries avoided using it despite the series taking place during the era that would be WWII. Even the more recent Captain America movie skipped around the issue by using Hydra as the main villains.

When it came time to animate this very chapter of Ichigo using Fullbring for BLEACH Episode 348. It's style was dramatically altered to a more symmetrical pinwheel shape. This isn't even the first time this sort of issue has popped up for the Shonen Jump line. When One Piece creator, Eiichiro Oda, first drew the Whitebeard Pirates symbol on Ace's back in Chapter 157 that was released in 2000. The design originally used the swastika. This was later changed to a cross for the anime, and even Oda retconned the mark in the manga to match. I guess Tite Kubo never got that memo.

One Piece: Whitebeard Pirates Mark Changes
One Piece: Whitebeard Pirates Mark Changes
Ikkaku Madarame activates Bankai
Ikkaku Madarame activates Bankai

What some may not realize is that this symbol plays another role in the Japanese language. It's actually the first kanji in the word Bankai (卍解). Anyone who's followed BLEACH knows that this is kind of a popular term that gets mentioned occasionally. Anytime someone has activated their Bankai in the manga, the pages show that symbol every single time. It's also a mark that's used in Buddhism. It can be found on the forehead of many Buddha statues or the walls of the temples. Not exactly a group one could link to anger and hatred.

Ichigo Kurosaki's Zangetsu in Bankai Form
Ichigo Kurosaki's Zangetsu in Bankai Form

I guess I just find this so much more jarring recently in BLEACH because Ichigo directly describes his Fullbring as looking similar to the guard (tsuba) of his Zangetsu. It's kind of funny that the anime has him saying something that's contradicting what you are seeing on the screen. If they were going to alter the imagery, why not just cut that small line from the dialog along with it? This kanji has been seen completely unaltered in both the manga and anime of BLEACH on his sword, and no one has ever said a single thing. Is that how they got away with this use? By making it rectangular instead of square.

It's strange that these very images can be shown in the manga, but what is it about having it animated that makes it so much more controversial? These are marketed to the very same age groups. Ultimately, the anime is just an adaptation of the manga. As long as the pages of the book are unchanged it's not a big deal. That's why things that happen in filler episodes are rarely ever mentioned in canon arcs. Animes are fun, but if you want the real story. You go to the book.

Fullmetal Alchemist - Greed scene Japan to US
Fullmetal Alchemist - Greed scene Japan to US

It should also be telling what VIZ Media will do when they come to printing these latest chapters for the US market. These are the same people who thought Shikamaru Nara with a cigarette in his mouth once was too controversial. Will BLEACH Ch. 436 and on be the next victim of VIZ's knee jerk style of localization and publishing? Fullmetal Alchemist readers may remember how VIZ altered the original artwork of the manga for the scene of the first Greed's death. The Japanese version had him tied to a cross, and the VIZ version had him on a nondescript tablet. To be fair, the Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood anime also altered this very scene.

It's not that can't understand the sensitivities behind the use of this symbol, but I feel people often overreact to it. It's more surprising that Kubo never learned from Oda's experience. What are your thoughts to this sort of imagery changes?

-Kristoffer Remmell ( FoxxFireArt) is a freelance graphic artist, writer, and over all mystery geek.- Follow for news updates: @ animevice / @ FoxxFireArt

sharingan_eyeson Dec. 7, 2011 at 11:46 p.m.

i remember that they also couldn't show Rangiku getting her side ripped out either

Manga version
Manga version
Anime Version
Anime Version
TopographicOceanon Dec. 8, 2011 at 2:32 a.m.

It's issues like these that show how pathetically short-sighted many people are. Not even mentioning how I think it's denial of the past (that's a WHOLE other kettle of fish that I won't be brought into discussion about here), it's the epitome of 'there is only side to everything, and it's the side I know'.

Kowtowing to political correctness when it's not apt gets right up my nose. I find it hard to believe that having a Manji appear in the TV show would cause any controversy in the place. I guess it's an over reation as usual, like FoxxFireArt says.

FoxxFireArt moderator on Dec. 8, 2011 at 4:08 a.m.

@sharingan_eyes:

I remember that, but Hiyori was more graphic. Gin sliced her in half for the manga, but in the anime she was just stabbed. BLEACH has toned down violence several times for the anime.

@TopographicOcean:

I thought it was more denial of history when the Captain America movie didn't show the mark, but the Indiana Jones films never had a problem.

pepemetaleroon Dec. 8, 2011 at 10:15 a.m.

Like in Bleach episode 270 where they censured the part where Ulquiorra rip off Ishida's arm but they didn't censored when Aizen id the same to Gin.... (?.?)

Count_Zeroon Dec. 9, 2011 at 9:54 a.m.

Reading this article really impresses on me the fact that the Blade of the Immortal couldn't have been easy to get made - considering that the main character essentially has no name other than "Manji" for much of the manga, due to the fact of the giant Manji (reverse Swastika, as what was used in Bleach) on the back of his clothing (there signifying his semi-eternal life).

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