Update: Upon getting some info from mombot, I’ve learned that Tyson Rinehart’s significant other is fighting cancer. The GamerGate jab was uncalled for and you’re free to detest it. But on an act of humanity, please don’t attack the guy. You may be civil, but do remember real people exist behind Twitter avatars.
When you think of FUNimation, chances are you probably think of animé such as DragonBall Z—especially if you’re a 90’s kid. What you probably don’t think of when it comes to FUNimation or animé in general is GamerGate. The movement itself isn’t really a huge thing in the land of the rising sun as it is in the West.
A writer for FUNimation by the name of Tyson Rinehart decided to name-drop GamerGate in an episode of the animé Prison School and was met with some criticism. What is Prison School? It’s a lewd animé. A very lewd animé. The basic premise is an all girl school that recently became co-ed—you can tell where this is going. After being caught peeping on the girls, the guys get sentenced to the school’s prison system in which they are basically at the mercy of dominate women with large breasts. Yes, this is an animé catered to horny guys with a dominatrix fetish. Not exactly safe for work.
I’m not that big on animé personally. At least not on the otaku level, but I do enjoy the Dragonball series sans GT, Initial D and Tokyo Ghoul to name a few. Regardless, what drew me to this mini controversy was the fact I’m against butchering source material—I’m also in a relationship with a Japanese-American woman who doesn’t like others disrespecting her culture. Not that you should consider animé as a stand in for actual Japanese culture, but to remove cultural references completely denies the viewer a window to another world. Case in point, that one time 4Kids called rice balls “jelly donuts” in a Pokémon dub.
From a purist standpoint, subs are preferable as they contain the least amount of deviation from the source material. If you don’t feel like reading subtitles nor care about alterations, you have dubs—some are actually pretty good. The purpose of a dub isn’t to offer a 1 to 1 translation, but to make the material digestible to the demographic it’s airing in; this is especially true when there are vast cultural differences. It isn’t unusual to add pop-culture references in these dubs for the sake of being relatable to the viewer.
Unfortunately, script writers can get carried away with this and come off as being culturally insensitive by whitewashing cultural references entirely or completely change the script to be something that was never intended by the creator. Only in some rare cases does a complete script re-write salvage the original. Ghost Stories is one of those animé’s that was so bad, the joke dub actually saved it. I haven’t watched more than 2 dubbed episodes of Prison School to get a good feel for it, but randomly inserting GamerGate into a line and using a dated Happy Days reference with Arthur Fonzarelli doesn’t give a very good impression. Happy Days was a great show, but how many people are even going to get the reference in 2015?
Here’s that now infamous clip of the Prison School dub which mentions GamerGate vs the actual dialog:
Notice something missing in the original? GamerGate. This isn’t an instance of rewriting a line to make it appealing to the English speaking audience, it was a pointless insertion that shows the writer’s bias.
Being a fan of artistic integrity, I took to Twitter and responded to a Japanese GamerGate supporter who goes by the alias “mombot.” Big mistake not untagging Tyson in that tweet. I went from an outsider observing to being in the middle of the fray! It gets hilarious, though. I say my piece how it’s disrespectful to a creator to doctor their work in such a way that you speak through it and made a note how such writing causes my girlfriend cringe. His response? I’ll let this tweet from mombot speak for itself.
— Best Mom Eva (@mombot) September 29, 2015
Yep, that really happened. Nothing quite says “Gotcha!” like doing your best impression of a junior high student. Keeping in mind this is a guy who writes professionally for a large studio. At least Rinehart was courteous enough to not call her a sock like a certain game dev. Moving up the inanimate food chain! During this entire exchange, my significant other and I had to fight back our laughter while a mini army of otaku tried to back this guy up to go against a woman with Japanese heritage. PS: her nickname is “body pillow” now, thanks Tyson Rinehart!
I wasn’t the only one Rinehart insulted over finding the out of place GamerGate mention to be pointless flame bait. As you would imagine, there were several tweets tagging FUNimation trying to get answers or at least an apology. This sentiment wasn’t strictly shared by GamerGate supporters. Even those who didn’t care for the movement at all were bewildered at the mention of GG—my girlfriend included.
FUNimation did take notice and have tried to distance themselves from Rinehart according to Niche Gamer. In a blog post posted by FUNimation Entertainment, this is how the studio responded to feedback:
Last week’s Broadcast Dub episode of Prison School generated significant feedback from anime fans. While the company is not able to answer each person individually, FUNimation does read and review all fan feedback, without exception.
In creating English dubs over the past 20+ years, FUNimation has always modified each Japanese script to appeal to Western audiences. This ensures that North American audiences can enjoy a high-quality viewing experience regardless of their familiarity with Japanese culture.
Neither the dialogue in our shows nor the personal statements of our actors or writers reflects the views or opinions of FUNimation. Official statements from FUNimation are only released via company owned channels (i.e., website and social media profiles) or newswire.
FUNimation will continue to pay close attention to fan feedback on Prison School and will take it into consideration in the future. FUNimation is committed to providing the highest quality entertainment possible.
It’s nice that FUNimation put out a response at all, but it’s all PR talk that fails to address the issue and seems more like a way to avoid any liability.
As mentioned previously, dubs are not going to be a 1 to 1 translation and are intended to get the viewer engaged no matter their knowledge of Japanese culture. None of that is an issue. What’s causing outrage is that a writer took a script, rewrote it, and worked in a completely non-related topic for politically charged reasons. Makes as much sense to replace a line about being a grade higher to “GamerGate creep” as it would for a re-dubbed Sailor Moon to talk about #cyberviolence.
A user by the name of “g-o” sums up the feelings of many on the FUNimation blog:
Yeah, after seeing the tweets from these guys, I’m done as well. I wanted English dubs of anime, I didn’t want PC-bro’s politics forcefully inserted. <- “that’s a joke because Tyson’s tweets infers anyone who supports gamergate advocates for rape” I’m I [sic] paying to be treated like this? Well I’m not paying anymore.
The reality is the vast majority of people don’t even know what GamerGate even is. Who is going to know about GamerGate? A small subset of gamers that typically frequent Twitter, Reddit and Chan boards—not mainstream animé fans. It wasn’t clever writing; it’s just confusing for everyone.
These are real people, the very same people that give those writers a job. Insulting your customer base is a common trend observed in GamerGate and one that ultimately hurts sales. Only this time, it’s not only GamerGate supporters that are upset, but many various parties with or without affiliations to any movement. End result will be more people torrenting for subbed animé and turning their nose to dubbing studios they don’t trust.
Are you an animé fan, a GamerGate supporter or a neutral who agrees? Even if you have your own take on this situation, we’d love to hear your take!