Since Halloween has arrived and Perfect Blue is celebrating its 20th anniversary in the cinema, I decided to make a post about an era that changed anime distribution here in the UK.
For those who aren’t familiar with the term ‘Video Nasties’, this was a common trend during the 1970s to early 2000s when the public, film board and the press were expressing their concerns over films that were deemed ‘too inappropriate’ or ‘too violent’ for UK distribution. A number of movies were either banned, heavily censored or given much higher ratings than what they would have received in present time. For anime however, this was an interesting time to start its exposure. I often described it as ‘Anime Nasties’ with the amount of titles getting high ratings for its content and also the English dubs adding foul language to increase them.
The regular public had always seen animation as something for children, but Japanese anime completely changed that with the introduction of more mature themes and a target audience varying from children to even older teens and adults. Some have managed to become very successful without any issues, like Akira and Ghost in the Shell, however a number of other titles received some criticism and concerns. The film board, British Board of Film Classification, decided that the distributors will need to accept that cuts or tweaks will be required for certain titles in order to see a UK release legally.
Here are a list of anime that were no doubt affected by the BBFC. You’ll notice a trend for some of these titles and it might even fit your horror mood. Some of the cuts are rather short, but for others it can be as long as a couple minutes or more.
Also please be advised that virtually every single title on this list is rated 18 and over by the BBFC and is not suitable for a younger audience. Some of the titles I’ll be mentioning are also considered Not Safe For Work so I recommend reading this in your own free-time and not in a public place like work.
Some titles did receive cuts but they were under the request of the distributor. Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise is a perfect example of this, where they removed a scene to lower the rating from a 15 to a PG (and the film’s latest re-release from Anime Ltd does bring back the scene with a chapter option to skip it entirely).
Urotsukidoji: Legend of the Overfiend
Released: 1987 (OVA), 1989 (Movie)
Well-known as one of the biggest and most successful hentai titles released to date, Urotsukidoji gained notorious reception thanks to the publicity it had received by the press and the ratings board. Based on the manga written by Toshio Maeda in 1986, Urotsukidoji became a cult classic among anime fans throughout the community. For the UK it was handled by distributor Manga Entertainment and they brought over the two compilation films of Legend of the Overfiend and Legend of the Demon Womb in one release. Both films were notoriously edited by the BBFC because of the amount of sex that’s featured throughout (it is an erotic hentai after all). It is kind of a shame in a sense, as Urotsukidoji is one of the few hentai titles to actually have ‘story’ and not just ‘plot’ in the same place.
At least 2 minutes 12 seconds were cut from the first film and 3 minutes 12 seconds were cut for the second film. And it doesn’t stop there. The release was so successful that distributor Revelation Films brought over the sequels which also got butchered to death. Urotsukidoji IV: Infernal Road even had two of the three episodes produced be given refused classifications, leaving the third and final episode on the disc. While the franchise will remain butchered over here there is some good news to share – Media Blasters‘ adult label Kitty Media have released the Legend of the Overfiend OVAs uncut & uncensored in North America, while FAKKU teamed up with the original author to distribute an English translated version of the manga source material which is available on Rightstuf.
Legend of the Overfiend remains available on DVD from distributor Manga Entertainment and if you’re a PlayStation UMD collector it was also released on that format.
La Blue Girl
Another big hentai series also written by Toshio Maeda in 1989, La Blue Girl was the second major title that distributor Manga Entertainment tried to release for the UK. Despite the trailers appearing on various VHS titles distributed by Manga, the OVA series instead got refused classification by the BBFC. The reasons behind it is primarily because of the fact that it’s literally a hentai series and I’m amazed that Manga was even trying to get this one out. The BBFC explained that due to the numerous amount of sexual violence throughout a ton of cuts would leave the remaining work literally unwatchable.
Much like Urotsukidoji, the OVA series did see a release in North America uncut for those who dare to even try it out by distributor Central Park Media‘s adult label Anime 18. A sequel called La Blue Girl Returns did see a release in the UK with a ton of cuts (8 minutes 33 seconds from the first two parts and 24 minutes 25 seconds for the second two parts) all to remove the amount of hentai scenes. La Blue Girl Returns was released by a distributor called Goldcrest on DVD and was also available on PlayStation Portable’s UMD Video surprisingly. After the success of the FAKKU Urotsukidoji kickstarter, there are supposedly plans to remaster La Blue Girl‘s manga as well (the original was released by Central Park Media).
Fist of the North Star
The epic and classic shonen action series was brought out by Manga Entertainment without too much issue. However they only released the early parts of the long running series and some scenes had to be removed due to the show’s over-the-top violence causing some issues with the BBFC. That over-the-top violence involved children, so as a result 1 minute 3 seconds of footage were removed.
This didn’t stop the franchise from being brought over though, with New Fist of the North Star from distributor ADV was released completely uncut and the recent video games from Koei Tecmo were all uncut also. SEGA and the team behind Yakuza will also be releasing an upcoming PlayStation 4 title called Like a North Star (Hokuto ga Gotoku). North American distributor Discotek Media acquired the US rights to Fist of the North Star after its first release and have released all of the episodes including the movie without issue. They have also re-released the TV series on ‘SD on Blu-ray’ for a cheaper price.
Ninja Scroll was among Akira and Ghost in the Shell to become one of Manga Entertainment‘s most successful anime films during the 90s. And while it has done very well the film did receive some cuts by the BBFC due to a scene of sexual violence and the use of shuriken weapons (the UK was strongly against ninja-type weapons at the time) which resulted in only 53 seconds of removal.
There is a good news for this film however, as both the 10th and 20th anniversary releases from Manga Entertainment were released with no cuts, keeping the same age rating without issue. You can still pick up Ninja Scroll on Blu-ray from distributor Manga Animatsu right now for a good price, we recommend it!
Violence Jack is a three episode OVA series based on the 1973 manga of the same name from the famous author Go Nagai of Devilman, Cutie Honey and Mazinger Z fame. The series itself says it in the title, it is violent. The anime was released here by distributor Manga Entertainment and prior to the BBFC’s involvement it was already censored with mosaics. The BBFC cuts were related to strong bloody gruesome violence that some would consider to be pretty over-the-top – Slumking is 25 seconds cut and Hell’s Wind is 6 minutes 43 seconds cut.
Manga Entertainment apparently edited the OVA’s second episode Evil Town prior to BBFC submission without further explanation. Upon further research, the episode contained a lot of controversial themes including scenes of rape, necrophilia and cannibalism. The remainder of the episode had 30 seconds cut.
Despite all this, the series remains a cult classic among the anime community. It was even rescued by North American distributor Discotek Media with an complete uncut release on DVD. The mosaics I mentioned are still in-tact with the US release as it was the same in the original Japanese release.
Wicked City received a fair few amount of adaptations. Based on the novel written by Hideyuki Kikuchi of Vampire Hunter D fame, the anime was also adapted by studio Madhouse and director Yoshiaki Kawajiri. The UK release was distributed by Manga Entertainment which even had a UK English dub. The cuts applied to this release has 1 minute 48 seconds removed for similar reasons to Ninja Scroll, which involved the main female lead caught up by some sexual violence.
Wicked City alongside Kawajiri‘s other directorial works Demon City Shinjuku, Ninja Scroll and Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust have been well-received by the anime community. Wicked City was also rescued by North American distributor Discotek Media with an complete uncut release on DVD plus both English dubs alongside the original Japanese audio.
Crying Freeman is also another franchise that has spawned multiple adaptations. The series focuses on a man who works as an assassin who sheds a tear after killing each of his targets. Based on the manga written by Kazuo Koike of Lone Wolf & Cub fame in 1986, the anime adaptation is 6 OVA episodes long and was released by distributor Manga Entertainment for the UK. Most of the episodes got through fine but the latter half of the series received a couple cuts (episode 4 with 3 seconds, episode 5 with 17 seconds, and episode 6 with 58 seconds). The cuts were related to scenes of sexual violence for the most part. Because the last two episodes were edited a fair bit, the distributor decided to release them in a single VHS cape rather than separately like the previous were.
Crying Freeman was rescued and licensed by North American distributor Discotek Media for an uncut DVD release, however they recently lost the license so it will soon be going out of print. The manga was also distributed by Dark Horse for anyone interested.
Another hentai series hits the list and this one has some interesting parts to it. Also based on a manga written by Toshio Maeda in 1988, Adventure Kid was distributed by Revelation Films this time around (who also distributed Urotsukidoji III & IV). The BBFC not only requested cuts to be made but also required the anime’s title to be renamed to avoid parents thinking it was suitable for children. The show was renamed as ‘Adventure Duo‘ (not to be confused with another series called Absolute Duo) and received cuts of around 18 minutes total. 1 minute 8 seconds for the first episode, 7 minutes 35 seconds for the second episode, and 9 minutes 28 seconds for the third & final episode. The cuts applied to the third episode were just enough to warrant a release. All of the reasons for the cuts are the same as Urotsukidoji and La Blue Girl.
Adventure Kid did get released uncut in North America by distributor Central Park Media‘s adult label Anime 18. After the success of the FAKKU Urotsukidoji kickstarter, there are supposedly plans to remaster Adventure Kid‘s manga as well (the original was released by Central Park Media).
Mad Bull 34
Inspired by the buddy cop films, Mad Bull 34 was released in the UK by distributor Manga Entertainment and based on the 1986 manga also written by Kazuo Koike. The 4 OVAs were put out on separate sets much like the other anime titles during the VHS era, but the first half of the series received nearly 2 minutes of cuts. The first part with 43 seconds cut over violence while the second part received 1 minute 19 seconds cut over an attack against a male character that seemed to be deemed inappropriate by the film board.
Mad Bull 34 was rescued by North American distributor Discotek Media with an uncut DVD release.
The last (but not least) example is with the 6 episode OVA series of Angel Cop from studio D.A.S.T. (Battle Royal High School). This series for the most part has mostly gone through without any issues, but a couple seconds have been removed due to its strong bloody violence. References to the international Jewish conspiracy was also removed from both the UK & US releases that distributor Manga Entertainment released on VHS.
At the time of this article, there’s no news of any license rescue whatsoever.
That’s all of the titles I wanted to showcase for this interesting topic. The question that many would be asking is whether the BBFC has relaxed a bit compared to what they were many years ago – the answer I would say for the most part is ‘Yes’.
Numerous titles released over the past couple of years have shown off tons of sexual content and bloody violence, and each one got through without any cuts. Most notable example is the recent 2017 Blu-ray release of Belladonna of Sadness which some have classified as a hentai (though it’s mainly an adult anime film for the most part). Other titles like Berserk, Daimidaler, Deadman Wonderland, Oreimo, Prison School, Rin, and most recently Monster Musume were all rated 18 uncut and uncensored (Deadman Wonderland still retains the censorship from the Japanese release).
There have been some silly cuts such as the infamous scene in Paranoia Agent during the episode Happy Family Planning (which you can watch uncut on Viewster), and a 1 second cut from Code Geass: Lelouch of the Rebellion for something that is probably out of context. But for the most part the rest of the anime being released have gone through without any issues. Fist of the North Star might get an uncut release this time around but it is such a long series to take into account (and the BBFC costs are expensive).
You may have noticed that I have mentioned Discotek a few times during this list, well it’s because their DVDs are UK compatible so feel free to acquire them if you’re interested in the title specified and didn’t want to own the cut UK releases.
Credit to the Manga Muncher blog and its AUKN user Ushio for offering a detailed list on the BBFC Anime Cuts. He also has a list of any other edited titles if you’re interested!