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Why Does VIZ Insist on Removing Japan from Manga?

 Official VIZ One Piece website
 Official VIZ One Piece website
Recently, I've been trying to fill out as much information as I can about the series One Piece on AnimeVice. I've filled in information from episodes 1-132, creating profiles and filling them out. I'm only doing the animes and I wont even touch the manga section. Why? It's because VIZ publishes One Piece in the US. I know some of my blogs have been posted on the front page of this site, but this is my own opinion on VIZ and doesn't reflect the thoughts and opinions of the staff of AnimeVice.

In my search on some information I was browsing one one of the other manga/anime message board sites I frequented before I discovered AnimeVice. I was trying to gather some information about One Piece so I could add to this site. I had commented on how One Piece's release were anemic when compared to series like Naruto, also published by VIZ. A person replied with a link to the official One Piece VIZ website. On the front page it advertises that at the beginning of 2010 VIZ will be releasing five volumes of One Piece per month up to June and Volume 53.
This is superb news if you are a One Piece fan. Though I wonder if VIZ is even a good company for manga. This company is notorious for altering popular Japanese series dramatically. Not just the names, but the art work as well. Years back they had to republish the Dragon Ball series, because of fan pressure. VIZ had altered the artwork in the manga and the fans weren't happy. A petition was made and they changed the art back to what it should be.
I have seen myself that they have altered the art work in Naruto. Mostly when it came to any scene of nudity. Though the worst alteration VIZ has done with Naruto is rename all senseis with the title of "master"(i.e. Kakashi-sensei is changed to Master Kakashi). Do they think American readers are somehow too idiotic to understand the word "sensei". This alteration wasn't made for the dub of the anime and both and produced by VIZ. That makes the concept even more confusing that there anime and mangas aren't even aligned.
The dubs have altered scenes done on the original airing, removing most of the Tsunade breast jokes. Though in their defense they do release Director Cut versions of the animes. I haven't had the chance to see them myself, but I would imagine they would have less editing. Given the name Director Cut. Sadly, there are no options for Directors Cuts when it comes to manga.
The worst and most dramatic changes VIZ has ever made is to the series Detective Conan, another in the line of Shonen Jump series. The complete title was altered to Case Closed. In this series every reoccurring character's name is altered, save for Conan Edogawa; thought they change his real name of Shinichi to Jimmy. The villains in the series originally were all named after types of liquors, though I had scene that for the US VIZ altered the names to biblical characters. For some reason the name of Gin was replaced with Melkior. Yes, I'm sure the US audience will be much more familiar with the name of Melkior over Gin. They call the kids group "The Junior Detective League" though the badges the kids wear literally say "Detective Boys". You could argue that they did this alteration out of some act of political correctness, but that seems like a cop out. In the Japanese publication they say "shonentantei". While this does mean Detective Boys or Boy Detectives when translated. It can also mean Detective Kids. Why go through the trouble of creating a name like Junior Detective League when Detective Kids would work and be far closer to the actual intent of the source material? It's as if they went out of there way to use a name that was as far off the mark as possible.

 Imagine this classic scene with changed names.
 Imagine this classic scene with changed names.
You might not understand if you aren't a regular Detective Conan reader. So allow me to put this in perspective for you. Imagine if when VIZ published Naruto they changed the names of Naruto, Sakura, and Sasuke into Nate, Sarah, and Steve, or in Bleach Ichigo and Inoue were altered to Charlie and Irene. How would you feel about that? Detective Conan is a series that takes place in real life Japan. Though you wouldn't know it from reading the VIZ version.

There is also the poor translations of the series. I tried to stomach the altered Japanese names. I bought a few of the US Detective Conan volumes, but repeatedly I saw translations errors. What does that say when people who do tanslations for free on the internet do a far better job then people a company pays. In Volume 15 the art shows Conan finding a rather odd hair on the victim's neck. This was the proof that the victim had been strangled to death by a wig. Yet later the translation says Conan found it on the victim's finger. The translator most likely mistook "kubi" meaning neck for "yubi" meaning finger. The kanjis look nothing alike and a paid translator should know better. Especially when the artwork shows Conan removing the hair from the neck. I find it ironic that in a series where little details are the most important, such as murder mysteries, VIZ makes it's most drastic changes. Some may think this is a silly issue, but in series like murder mysteries. Where the evidence is found is very important. Little details can mean a lot. Part of the fun in reading the series is trying to guess the criminal.

This company has shown dramatic disdain for Japanese culture throughout the years. Often removing as much of the culture as possible in their publications. When they could be used to help educate the reader. It's odd when their publication of Neon Genesis Evangelion has kept the Japanese honorifics, such as Misato referring to Shinji as Shin-chan; and keeping the original Japanese sound effects, explaining them in the back of each volume.  When a company does these alterations they basically cast aside what would be there strongest built in audience for people who probably would never even pick up a manga in the first place. It treats the American audience like idiots who can't understand simple things like honorifics and words like sensei. It's no wonder so many people would rather go to online translation websites rather then buy the mangas in the US. It's the only place we can find translations that stick to the real story.
 Negima! Published by DELREY
 Negima! Published by DELREY
On a personal level, I would never recommend VIZ mangas to anyone. After the complete butchering of my favorite series I boycott all VIZ mangas. It's irritating, because I really enjoy many of the series they publish and I would love to support them. In these times I am not going to waste my money on an inferior product. Not when there are companies out there that treat manga with respect. Such as DEL REY, TokyoPop, and ADV Manga. DEL REY is one of the best I have seen. Their publications of Negima! and Fair Tail are great. At the beginning of each volume it has an explanation of the Japanese honorifics and in the back they explain issues from the volume that might not be clear. ADV Manga's publication of Azumanga Daioh also included these notes in the back of the volumes.

For One Piece VIZ doesn't do many alterations. Their most dramatic would be renaming Zoro to Zolo, and calling the Marines the Navy or Naval Marines, despite the hats, shirts, and sails on their ships saying simply "MARINE" in the US versions. I really enjoy many of the series and would love to support them in the US and add them to my personal library, but not when they show such little respect for the Japanese source material, and there are companies in the US that will treat the series with the respect they deserve. What I plan to do is import the Japanese version of these mangas, such as One Piece and Detective Conan. It was partially because of my irritation with VIZ that I've been educating myself to learn to read Japanese. This is something I plan to keep up until they change the names back for Detective Conan. I don't mind the Case Closed title change, but altering the names of the lead characters is inexcusable and ignorant. It would be a simple simple change since it's just the text. For Dragon Ball they had to replace the artwork back to the original. They may say that they are too far into the series to change them to the proper names now. Isn't that a bit like saying, "We have already dug ourselves into a hole. We might as well keep on digging."?
Let's say for the sake of argument that they do put the names back eventually. There is a certain Volume that I know of that using the English names they have been given will make a translations impossible and have it make any sense. The company decides to republish the past issues with the corrected names and translations. Why should I pay for a manga volume twice for something they should be doing in the first place? Importing will most likely cost me more, but at least I'll be getting my money's worth.

I encourage manga lovers to support companies who treat the series with respect and avoid anything VIZ altogether. The evidence is there that they don't respect the books. Giving them your money will only encourage them to continue these practices. Support books and publishers that show the stories and culture the respect they deserve. I'm currently waiting to see what Yen Press does with Soul Eater, which is due out this month.
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