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What's The Big Deal With Adapting Japanese Entertainment For Non-Japanese Audiences?

Hi! This would be my first post. So okay, I am no expert in Japanese Entertainment or anything, I am just here to share my insights. You know me only by my Blogger Name as Sean Akizuki. I would like show my first post as an editorial rather than copy/paste from my previous works (which is lazy). Now I'd like to discuss on the issue of adapting Japanese entertainment. Is it good or bad? I always had my issues with the issue of Japanese entertainment getting adapted for different cultures.

What is an adaptation? Adaptation means that adapting from something from a movie, book, play, etc. where it gets modified to be presented in another form. Japanese entertainment tends to get adaptations done when it wants to enter into the international market. Rather than show their television show (Anime, Tokusatsu, etc.) as it is, it gets tailored to fit into a certain situation. This topic might be very touchy especially for Japanese entertainment purists so I hereby proceed with caution.

Adapting Japanese entertainment into live action shows for a non-Japanese audience

Meteor Garden is a licensed adaptation of Hana Yori Dango using the story in any way they believed would fit the Taiwanese audience. The characters were given Chinese names close to the Japanese equivalents like Dao Ming Si was equivalent to Doumyoji or Tsukushi's name was changed to Shan Tsai, which stayed true to the meanings in Japanese. Some characters may even get a huge makeover or some characters may not exist at all. Some Manga-only characters were added while other characters like Tsukushi's younger brother were not present in the Taiwanese version.

You may also notice that the setting of Meteor Garden takes place in Taiwan, not in Japan. By changing the setting from Japan to Taiwan, it gets localized for the Taiwanese audience. My favorite localization of Hana Yori Dango is Meteor Garden where the cast really knows how to bring their character to life like Jerry Yan and Barbie Xu Wang knew how to act their characters of Dao Ming Si (Tsukasa Doumyoji) and Shan Tsai (Makino Tsukushi) in such a memorable way. Zhen Xiu Zhen (甄秀珍) the Taiwanese actress playing the main antagonist Dao Ming Feng (Kaede Doumyoji in Hana Yori Dango) really made the Manga/Anime villain come to life in a splendid and magnificent way you hate her character but applaud her performance.

There are other shows that I can mention. For Taiwanese drama, Some may remember the Manga series Yamada Taro was adapted into the Taiwanese comic series The Poor Prince. Other non-Japanese live adaptations shared the same title (with permission) with the Japanese versions such as Prince of Tennis, Marmalade Boy and Combat Butler Hayate. The Manga called City Hunter was soon give a South Korean TV drama of the same name where the setting was changed to that of South Korea instead of Japan. I can't really name so much considering my memory is pretty blur about them.

Why do I think that these live drama versions were created? Not everyone in Asia may be a fan of Manga or Anime. I am not exactly all that familiar with Taiwan or South Korea but I think they would prefer live drama over Anime or Manga. When a Taiwanese or South Korean company is allowed to make a drama based on the Anime or Manga, it actually gives the Japanese company extra income from royalty fees.

Adapting Tokusatsu for a non-Japanese audience

Now this would be a very touchy topic right? I remembered the post from Orends Rangethat said Power Rangers is not a Super Sentai rip-off. I agree with that the writer Ukiya Seed said especially when it came to the issue of copyright and contracts. Purists will always insist that the show is a fake or bootleg which begs them to answer the question, "So you say Power Rangers is bootleg? So tell me then why hasn't Toei sue Saban into oblivion?" Sidenote, the term "legalized theft" cannot apply to Saban or any company that legitimately pays Toei to adapt their shows; the term only applies to taking advantage of one's power to steal and misuse public funds.

Power Rangers is actually part of Toei's plan to reach the American audience. It was said that Haim Saban wanted to air Bioman but it was rejected. Just a note, Super Sentai is culturally different than Power Rangers. Back when I first saw my first few raw episodes of Zyuranger (now taken down by Youtube along with some Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers episodes), I always wondered why was it necessary to create Power Rangers instead of just air it dubbed in the United States? The key phrase is "differences in culture". It's just like why McDonald's in Hong Kong serves a different type of hamburger compared to McDoland's in the Philippines.

I did some comparison of culture between Japan and America. Zyuranger while it may be considered lighter by Japanese standards, it might be considered pretty dark by American standards. The first season of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers was focused on lighter and softer like having much less nightmare fuel or think - Burai died in Zyuranger while Tommy merely lost his powers. Back then, American TV standards could not allow a scene like Burai's death. Aesthetics also plays a role like the musical scores of Super Sentai and Power Rangers usually have a very different style or that Americans prefer buff superheroes and the Japanese do not care too much about it. Also in America, a TV show usually gets extended if the popularity is that high which from what I heard, Mighty Morphin got an extension, Toei created the Zyu2 footage as requested. However in later years, Power Rangers ended up having a different cast per season format from Power Rangers Lost Galaxy up to Power Rangers RPM. Sad to say but Power Rangers Samurai and Power Rangers Megaforce's decision to split into two seasons may not be the most feasible way of doing the adaptation.

What makes Power Rangers unique in its own way is that it also uses Super Sentai footage combined with their own original footage produced exclusively for Power Rangers. For example, you may notice that later seasons of Power Rangers filmed their own fight scenes using the same set of costumes that Toei allows them to use. What can get annoying though is if certain crew members assigned to Power Rangers ends up with relying too much on footage and becomes too lazy to produce more of badly needed original footage. Toei may allow Saban to use the footage but with great power comes great responsibility. In short, Power Rangers doesn't start everything from scratch - instead Toei allows Saban to use whatever resources he wants within agreement.

When it comes to my fandom of both series, I usually end up choosing Super Sentai out of a personal bias even if I don't hate Power Rangers. I confess, the more I watch Super Sentai, the harder it is for me to really appreciate Power Rangers when it comes to my personal preference. I usually attribute that to my Asian upbringing or two, I really prefer Super Sentai's humor and writing style. I just can't warm up to Dino Thunder compared to Abaranger just like I can't warm up to Japanese curry compared to Indian curry.

I may also bring up Saban's attempt to actually adapt Metal Hero and Kamen Rider Black RX back then. VR Troopers was made from footage of Metalder, Spielban and for the second half, Shaider which I felt wasn't really good. B-Fighter and B-Fighter Kabuto were used for Beetleborgs and Beetleborgs Metalix but I honestly didn't like both shows. Kamen Rider Black RX ended up creating Saban's Masked Rider which really had a very poor execution that it failed in the United States. An adaptation only turns out bad if it's not handled properly or two, it can fail if it doesn't click. I usually think Power Rangers' popularity may have made Toei and Saban to focus more on Power Rangers. The same can go for majority of the Disney era of Power Rangers and as of late, I simply don't like how Saban Brands is handling Power Rangers during Power Rangers Samurai and Power Rangers Megaforce.

Japanese entertainment may also be influenced by foreign companies too

When I discussed about turning Japanese Anime or Manga into live drama shows for a foreign audience, did you know Japan also adapts certain shows from other countries? Knowing Tokusatsu history, did you know Japan actually paid for the rights to use the name Spiderman? I was pretty shocked to learn that Toei actually had its own version of Spiderman. It's pretty different from the idea where Janperson was a TV series inspired by Robocop's popularity. The Japanese Spiderman looked so much like the Marvel Spiderman except that he fought monsters of the week. It was loosely based on the Spiderman I know, love and grew up with. From what I heard, Stan Lee was pretty impressed by it!

Looking at Japanese Anime, did you know some of them are actually based on Taiwanese, Chinese or Hong Kong shows? While I watched the 2006 version of Return of Condor Heroes, what I was so amazed to know was there was also an Anime based on it called "The Legend of Condor Hero" and there were some incarnations of the Wuxia novel that were shown. The only one I really viewed from start to end was the 2001 version. I remembered one of my paternal aunts had viewed the version that starred Andy Lau and Idy Chan. This can show proof that Anime isn't entirely original either and Japanese authors would also be inspired by other ideas not their own. Maybe some of you even heard of how Powerpuff Girls actually inspired the Anime called, "Powerpuff Girls Z" which was a 52 episode long series that actually had a finale in contrast to the original version.

Power Rangers itself for me had also influenced Super Sentai as well in a circle of influence. Some people may disagree with my opinion that is okay but at least, let me share my opinion. If Super Sentai would have inspired Power Rangers to take a new route like a new cast per season or having a yearly crossover in their own special way, I think Power Rangers also had its own fair share of influence. You may observe how Super Sentai started to get more kid friendly post-Timeranger. I can also think of how the Magiranger vs. Dekaranger movie used the Power Rangers exclusive Battlizer from Power Rangers SPD into the movie. Kamen Rider Decade would later have a two-parter special with Samurai Sentai Shinkenger in the fashion similar to Saban's Masked Rider meeting the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers in "A Friend In Need' mini-series. You may also consider how Gobusters feels like it's partly inspired by Power Rangers RPM minus the doomsday plot.

Closing notes

What is an original work may not always be good. Some original work may turn out to be really horrible. For example, Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters is an original American Tokusatsu but it really didn't beat Power Rangers' popularity right? On the other hand, Power Rangers may be based on Super Sentai but it ends up as a monster hit that allowed Toei to actually penetrate the American audience as they wanted to do so. You might also consider that Kamen Rider Decade may be a Toei original but I personally find it as horrible as Saban's Masked Rider.

So when you think of it, an adaptation is not necessarily bad unless it was badly done. When I started to look at Zaido, why I didn't like it was not because it was an adaptation, My complaint about the show was because it really had poor visual effects, very slow pacing and the quality wasn't really monitored. The same goes for a bad Power Rangers season. Any Power Rangers season that comes out terrible is not because it was adapted from Super Sentai, it was because the crew assigned to that particular season didn't do any meticulous work to make sure it comes out right.

When you think about it, adaptations end up becoming a necessary component in international marketing. If Power Rangers didn't exist and if Saban didn't pay Toei for the rights, I don't think Toei would have actually acquired a market share with the American market. Adjusting to cultural boundaries is a huge part of business and that's how multicultural marketing works. You adjust to the culture of your prospective market, not the other way around.

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12 Responses
  1. Anonymous Says:

    That sure was a whole lot of text to say absolutely nothing.

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Well anon, you were the dumbass that read it

  3. dhathor Says:

    They want to see real theft or toku-bootlegging? They should look no further than Chaiyo trying to steal Ultraman away from Tsuburaya. That a**hole of a company is the reason why Ginga ended up becoming crappy..... (I mean, instead of the money being invested towards Ginga, it was instead used for legal stuff)

  4. Anonymous Says:


  5. KamenTiger Says:

    Wow, we're getting JeFusion purists now? What the hell.

    Personally, I thought this was a great article. I wouldn't mind you guys posting more like this.

  6. Interesting article.

  7. Anonymous Says:

    @ Anon (July 6, 2015 at 1:22 AM)

    Have you looked at the bottom of the website?
    "Authored by Wordpress Templates | Bloggerized by Falcon Hive"

    Wordpress is a blogging software (actually it's a Content Management System that blogs use) while "bloggerized" is the biggest clue that this is a blog.

  8. Anonymous Says:

    I think a big thing is what you start with. I started with Power rangers, MMPR when it started. Kept going until Lost in space. Gave VR troopers a try, thought it was kind of difficult to follow completely, even as a kid. thought that beetleborgs was kind of lame. Then around 2004 I started finding non adapted toku, thought it was, well, not the greatest, but a step up from the adapted stuff. Been doing subbed toku ever since. But not everyone is going to get on board with the idea. Some localization can be good, some, cannot. perfect example for bad adapting would be the dreaded 4kids, the original pokemon anime had an adapted episode where they called rice balls doughnuts, because at the time Japanese culture wasn't as global as it is today, and young children would get what a doughnut was. Sure dubbing is cheaper, but not always better for television ratings.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    This was a fun read. No new info but it's nice to get a detailed explanation as to why some adaptions suck and why anything can suck.

  10. Unknown Says:

    Wow you must be fun at party don cha?

  11. Anonymous Says:

    A bunch of fucking teenagers on this site. Good write up man. Keep posting more opinion pieces and open up the comment thread for a proper debate. I would love to shame some of these twerps.

  12. Anonymous Says:

    Nice article. - Buy Video Games for Consoles and PC - From Japan, Korea and other Regions
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