Published by VegettoEX
27 August 2000, 8:30 PM EDTComments Off

The 26 August 2000 edition of the San Jose Mercury News ran an article about Viz, the translation of manga into English, and release concerns.


People once fretted that the world was becoming unified under an American framework of McDonald’s, Hollywood and Air Jordans. But the winds of trendiness now blow across the oceans in all directions, with none stronger than those swirling around the Pacific Rim.

And no enterprise defines pop culture’s internationalization better than Viz Communications, a Japanese-owned company in San Francisco.

Viz was created in 1986 as a tiny publisher for U.S. versions of Japanese comic books. “I thought I could contribute something as a bridge between the United States and Japan,” said Viz founder and president Seiji Horibuchi.

Today, the company is an elite center for the redesign and translation of Japanese entertainment. It features videotapes of dubbed and subtitled animation, news and anthology magazines, soundtrack CDs from TV series and video games, a slew of books and a warehouse of merchandise such as T-shirts and posters.

Just in recent years, the Japanese influence on U.S. life has ranged from the mania over Tamagotchis — “virtual pet” devices — to popular tattoos and logos of “kanji” writing symbols. At Viz (, the emphasis is on art and storytelling that vast numbers of Japanese adults embrace, but which traditionally have attracted only cult fans in the United States.

Viz’s ongoing target is consumers of all ages. Yet the company has soared in prominence because of licensing tie-ins with the kid-based Pokemon craze.

Revenues jumped tenfold last year to more than $100 million, said Horibuchi. He projects a leveling-off this year to $40 million — still huge compared with a few years ago.

Land of the rising profile

As dramatic as those figures are, they obscure Viz’s long-term goal of generating broad U.S. understanding and appreciation of all genres of Japanese comics and animation.

Even as the Pokemon phenomenon was going into overdrive last summer, it was easy for Viz employees to maintain perspective. Jaime Starling of the marketing department gave a series of library talks to children about anime and manga — Japanese animation and comics — and the kids’ reactions epitomized Viz’s cross-cultural challenges.

The young collectors in her audience, for instance, were stunned to hear that many Japanese throw away comics after reading them.

“One girl stared at me and said, ‘You lie,'” said Starling.

The ultimate payoff for Viz would be a much deeper blending of Japanese and U.S. cultures. American kids would grasp why Japan’s black-and-white comics are so disposable (it’s because the paper is cheap and quantities areenormous). If Americans could adjust, Viz wouldn’t have to reverse layouts on comics that read from right to left in Japan.

Still, the company has made obvious headway. Japan’s imprint, and Viz’s, has become increasingly prominent in any store with books, videos, comics, toys or games.

One of Viz’s newest efforts is a comic based on the “Gundam” space-battle stories. With luck, it will piggyback on the success of “Gundam Wing” on cable’s Cartoon Network, which carries a four-show “Toonami” lineup from 4 to 7 p.m. weekdays — programming that exemplifies Japanese animation’s growing U.S. prominence.

Gilles Poitras, author of “The Anime Companion,” says anime conventions seem to be drawing more middle-aged people in addition to kids, teens and college-age fans.

Viz staffers are highly conscious of the chance to capitalize on that expanding curiosity. “The trick, after Pokemon and all the other exposure, is to maintain the interest these things generated,” said Dallas Middaugh, Viz’s new senior marketing manager.

Shared eccentricities

Jeff Yang, co-author of a guide to the Asian impact on American life, suggests that Japan and the United States are surprisingly alike in profound but subtle ways.

“When Japanese people take off their external masks, they display an individuality and eccentricity that matches American eccentricity,” said Yang, who’s also publisher of A. Magazine. “That shows up in their fantasy life — in things like comics and animation.”

Viz’s Horibuchi, slim and soft-spoken, describes being “shocked” by his first encounter with U.S. pop culture: the taste of Coca-Cola when he was a boy in Japan. “I liked it so much,” he recalled.

Horibuchi, 48, responded with the same type of intense fascination when introduced to other American experiences over the years. Moving to the Bay Area in his 20s, he said he tended toward a “hippie” lifestyle, lacking any steady career direction.

He eventually met a young executive of a major Japanese publisher, Shogakukan, and they decided to create Viz as a foothold for their trans-Pacific vision. By the spring of 1987, Horibuchi and a skeletal staff had three comics ready for sale.

There are now 50 employees at the open-studio offices south of Market Street. Of late, Viz’s growth has been stoked by glitzier Japanese material that’s becoming almost mainstream U.S. entertainment.

More than anything else, that means Pokemon. Viz publishes Pokemon comics, helps market the video compilations of TV episodes and puts out specialty items that include Pokemon origami, paper masks and a sticker book.

Other high-profile content ranges from Dragon Ball Z comics and Sailor Moon soundtracks to movie-length animation such as “A Chinese Ghost Story.”

But Viz has stretched U.S. imaginations in more formidable ways, too. Niche titles have accrued loyal followings, seeding the market for increasingly diverse genres and wider American acceptance of black-and-white comics art.

Among the leading examples are the extensive sets of “Ranma 1/2” videos and trade paperbacks. It’s an action-comedy about a teenage martial artist who is transformed from a boy to a girl when splashed with cold water, then back again with hot water. It originated as comics and was adapted for animation.

A customer magnet

“Ranma was the meal ticket for a decade,” said Oliver Chin, the Viz sales director until recently joining a Redwood City Internet company.

Joe Field, owner of the Flying Colors Comics store in Concord, credits “Ranma 1/2” and other Viz publications for “bringing in people who don’t come to the store for any other reason.”

Ann Palmer, 43, is a Field customer who discovered “Ranma 1/2” through her 15-year-old niece.

“It delves into issues that American comics don’t deal with, such as sexual orientation and misadventures,” said Palmer, an office manager. “It’s a hoot.”

Viz’s material, said Field, offers a distinct alternative from the U.S. superhero comics aimed at adolescent boys. Viz buyers, he said, are often men, women and girls.

Even in the case of Pokemon, Viz publishes a lesser-known comic adaptation, “Magical Pokemon Journey,” that focuses on the adventures of a girl. It’s a reflection of the large girls manga market in Japan.

It’s not easy summarizing the rest of Viz’s products. Many are mature-rated videos and novelized comics, which have varying degrees of sex and violence. Others include art and reference books. The defining factor is the breadth of subjects and the serious literary aspirations.

The trade paperback comics, known as “graphic novels,” span politics and romance, crime and magic. Among the most sophisticated titles is “Eagle: The Making of an Asian-American President.” It’s a tale of politics and relationships, tracking the U.S. presidential campaign of a Japanese-American.

Viz is not the only U.S.-based anime and manga publisher, but the head-to-head competition among companies is tempered by a common desire to expand the overall American interest.

Horibuchi says his bridge-building efforts won’t be successful until that larger U.S. market has evolved.

“There’s still a cultural barrier to overcome,” he said. “But I think we have a chance.”

Thanks to Chibi-chan on for the heads-up!

Published by VegettoEX
09 August 2000, 12:00 PM EDTComments Off

Kidmark (the distributor for FUNimation’s dub of the original DragonBall series) will be releasing a DVD (possibly a set of DVDs?) that contains English-dub-only versions of the first thirteen DragonBall episodes, as well as the first movie (called “Curse of the Blood Rubies” by FUNimation).

Special thanks to Hasmukh Patel for the heads-up on this one.

Published by VegettoEX
28 July 2000, 12:00 PM EDTComments Off

Steven J. “Daimao” Simmons of has been under contract with FUNimation to provide the translations used for the Japanese version in the DVDs of DragonBall Z episodes, and has posted up his own opinions about how the DVDs are turning out.

EDITOR NOTE: is no longer available, so the text of the article has been retrieved from and pasted below.

Concerning the DVDs (07/26/00)

Well, now that the first two DVDs are out in circulation, I figure it’s safe to give my own two cents about how things turned out, as well as address a few things that have come up.

Concerning the Names

The names on the Ginyu discs are spelled the way they are in FUNimation’s English version. Thus you get “Krillin” instead of “Kuririn,” “Guru” instead of “The Grand Elder,” “Goku” instead of “Son-kun” (as Bulma calls him), and so on. This also meant that Japanese name suffixes, such as “-san” and “-chan,” were taken out as well. These were changes from the script that I provided that I had not been warned about until I saw them in the subtitles for myself. I am assured that after the Ginyu discs, name spellings will remain as scripted.

Concerning the Subtitles Themselves

I urged FUNimation on several occasions to use a yellow-on-black color scheme for the subs. Apparently, they tried it first, but it didn’t work out for them. They told me “the yellow on black was way too hot and blurred beyond the border. A mute orange was pretty good, but kind of overkill. The [light] gray was the best color for not blurring.”

I wasn’t very satisfied with the typesetting for the subtitles either. One line would stretch out the entire length of the page, then wrap around to finish a sentence with a single word, without any regard for keeping the lines looking balanced (examples). I brought this up after seeing the discs for myself, and my boss agrees that it should be addressed. I’m anxious to see how that turns out.

Concerning Translations

Right from the start, Gen Fukunaga made it clear that he did not want any swearing on these discs. When the time came to finally translate, however, there was no list of taboo words in place for me to reference. There are two words frequently used as mild curses in the original language, and for the more severe of the two, I left it up to the producer’s discretion how strong a word they wanted in English. The other curse I translated variously as “crap,” “crud,” “shoot,” and so forth, depending on which I felt fit the situation best. As far as that goes, crud was the strongest among that list in the neighborhood I grew up in, but I’ve heard otherwise from many of you, and the point has been taken.

After three or four episodes had gone by with these holes in the script as to how strong a curse I was allowed to use, someone within the production suggested that curse-substitutes be used, such that the subtitles would read like “Get out of here, you @$#! scum!” Of course, that idea went over like a lead balloon with me, so after reminding the powers that be that DVDs had some parental lockout functionality if it were that big a problem, I started scripting appropriately strong words and submitted them, thinking that if some producer somewhere disapproved, he could very well change it himself. But, nobody seems to have had any problems so far, and you can see the changes start for yourself part-way through the “Ide yo Shen Long” episode (the second one on the Double Cross disc).

Concerning Typos

There are a few of them. For some reason, dashes (—) and double-quotes (“) from the script did not appear in the subtitles where they belong. Moreover, there doesn’t seem to be any way to create italicized characters. If you can get past the fact that not all the sentences ended with periods, here are the more confusing typos and their corrections.

Then my transmitter gets all
broken—nothing is going right.

I know, even if it is Vegeta, I’ll just say, “Send
me back to Earth” first, and I’ll be fine!

It appears you cannot regenerate your energy as
well—your battle power has dropped.

Goofing-off, she says.
“Gouge, gouge.”

Concerning Timing

I didn’t find out until seeing the discs what kind of line width and character spacing was going to be used. As you might expect, some of my longer lines were too long to fit on the screen, and had to be split up into two lines, or otherwise spread out. In other places, two short scripted lines were joined together into one line, for whatever reason. Since I time the scripts as I translate, and those times correspond to the lines I submit, breaking up those lines naturally affects the timing involved. There are a few places where this happens, and you might notice the subtitle comes in really late, or doesn’t stay on the screen as long as it should. It doesn’t happen too often, but we are working together on coordinating the lines better in these cases.

Concerning Anything Else

The theme songs will be subtitled after the Ginyu discs. I’m not even sure why they weren’t subtitled this time around. Also, starting with the Trunks discs, expect animated menus and extras of some form or another, including the episode recaps that appear before each episode. The previews that appear after each episode are a bit more problematic, as I’ll explain. The episode masters that were provided by Toei apparently include the video footage for each preview, but not the accompanying voice-over soundtrack. The sounds that are present are those that accompany the video being used in the preview (sample in rm format). I don’t know why this is exactly, but I suspect they were left this way so that Fuji TV could arrange to have the voice-overs recorded so as to reflect whatever programming changes may arise. At any rate, without the voice-over soundtrack, there’s nothing for me to translate, and thus we probably won’t be seeing them (except with an English voice-over) on any upcoming discs.

Overall, things turned out generally well, I thought. The small glitches are being worked out, and certain precedents have been set, so hopefully it will be a smoother ride from here on out.

—Steven “Daimao” Simmons

Published by VegettoEX
16 July 2000, 12:00 PM EDTComments Off has officially announced that Steven J. Simmons (who online fans may be familiar with as “Daimao” from various boards and his own website) is indeed the translator for FUNimation’s DVD releases of the DragonBall Z series. Thanks for the heads-up goes out Brian Real.

Published by VegettoEX
11 May 2000, 12:00 PM EDTComments Off

For the first time, Irwin Toys is breaking away from the mold (pun intended!) of simply using the original Japanese and European molds of the Super Battle Collection and AB figures. Irwin is now making completely new, never-before-seen figures, premiering them with their brand-spankin’ new “Series 14”. The first set of figures includes Bulma with Ginyu Frog, Chaiotzu, Freeza in his second form, Garlic Jr., Kame-Sen’nin with Umigame, Nappa, and Raditz.

Published by VegettoEX
06 May 2000, 12:00 PM EDTComments Off

Special thanks to kind Burger King employee Colin W. Kirk for letting us know that their calendar says they are getting the upcoming DragonBall Z toys on May 29th. Whether or not they start putting them out that day remains to be seen, but it is a good starting point to be on the look-out.

Published by VegettoEX
06 December 1999, 12:00 PM EDTComments Off

Sally Beatty, staff reporter for the Wall Street Journal, has penned an article examining the violence in the DragonBall series and its rise to popularity in North America.

Brutality is a staple. In one recent episode, beads of sweat form on the brow of a character named Vegeta as he is nearly strangled to death by an evil foe named Frieza. In another, Frieza uses the horns on his head to impale a good guy named Krillin through the chest.

Read the full article as archived on Steve Simmons’ personal website.

Published by VegettoEX
03 October 1999, 12:00 PM EDTComments Off

FUNimation Productions, Inc. will be releasing DragonBall Z on DVD, with the future DVDs including their internally-produced English-dubbed version and its specific music track, as well as an accurately-English-subtitled original Japanese version with its music.

As a part of the new initiative, the third DragonBall movie and fourth DragonBall Z movie are also in the works for release. The announcement from has been included below:

10/01/99: FUNimation Announces Subtitled Dragonball Z DVDs

Over the last few weeks there has been speculation on FUNimation releasing Dragon Ball Z subtitled on DVD, mainly from the interview that a friend of this site, Steve Harmon, conducted with Gen Fukunaga. The staff of has known that FUNimation has been researching this possibility for a while and has actually been doing some research for them in this field. FUNimation had been dedicated to this concept since early last summer but has only recently begun to finalize the whole thing. We had been holding out on giving this information to the public for a while now at the request of our contact at FUNimation (who will be designing the actual discs) but with recent revelations the news is ready for the public.

The biggest news in regards to the DVDs is the fact that the original Japanese audio will be included along with English language subtitles! For anyone wondering how the entire staff has had so much faith in FUNimation this is why. We have known that they have been planning on this for a while now and that they plan to do things right. Some people may be afraid of the possibility of FUNimation using the dubbed scripts as the subtitled tracks but it does not look as if this will happen. Our contact at FUNimation has indicated that she is determined to do what is needed to make sure that this does not happen. In other words, it seems as if anyone who has insulted FUNimation by claiming that they do not really understand what the fans want is being forced to eat crow about now.

As for why FUNimation has decided to do the subtitled version on DVD without a VHS release, the reason is not what most people think. Many people have come under the impression that FUNimation will not do DBZ subbed on VHS because the series has not been released on home media in Japan and, therefore, Toei would not allow FUNimation to do the series on VHS here. Although this has been a very mild factor, the main reason has not been the Japanese market, but rather, problems with the US market. Dragon Ball Z is the most commonly fansubbed anime series in the US. This prompted fear within FUNimation that many fans would not buy subtitled VHS tapes of DBZ because they either had fansubs already or they could get fansubs for less. DVDs with dual language tracks, though, could sell to both fans of the dubbed and original versions of the series. For anyone who owns fansubs and is questioning why they should buy DVDs the answer is simple: Better quality, more accuracy, and extras. Most fansub tapes have very degraded picture and sound, while DVDs have incredibly crisp video quality. Although many people collect fansubs because they think that they tell the story right, most fansubs are very inaccurate and have things altered often (despite what Anime Labs would have most people believe, the Z senshi do not swear often.) The extras on the disc, which have not been fully decided on, should also make the discs worth buying.

The episodes are not the only thing coming to DVD. FUNimation is determined to bring out the rest of the DBZ movies in time. The contracts have already been written for the purchase of DBZ movie 4, “Super Saiyan Goku,” and all that is needed now is Toei of Japan’s signature. (Note: This may no longer be the case, as the contracts could have been handled by now.) The other movies should follow after the release of Z movie 4. Original Dragon Ball movie 3 has been scripted for dubbing, as well, but with how much time DBZ takes up this should not be expected soon.

Of all the things that people are wondering about the upcoming DVDs the biggest question is when will all of this happen. As of right now it looks as if the first bilingual DVD to be released will be the DBZ movie 4: “Super Saiyan Goku” in the spring of 2000. The episode discs should follow soon after. This may seem like a long time, but to quote another webmaster from when he was speaking about issues he had about DBZ censorship a few years ago with the censorship of DBZ, “We waited 10 years for this show.” Well, if we’ve waited that long we can handle half a year (Note: I know that I haven’t waited that long, and if the web master in question has then he’s been watching DBZ since he was two years old.) The reason for the six months wait is that FUNimation has just made the decision to do this and is currently research how to do things. At the current time they have not even purchased the DVD mastering equipment, and once they do they will need to take time to learn how to operate the software to program the menus and such. For the moment fans just need to be patient. There is no longer the question of whether or not FUNimation will give fans of the original series what they want, it’s just a matter of waiting. As of right now few things have been decided in terms of content for the discs, but as things develop we will be posting the most detailed and accurate information available.

There is one piece of disappointing news in all of this. Rather than starting DBZ from the start of the series FUNimation will be starting the episode discs at the beginning of “Season 3.” The reason for this is that FUNimation subcontracted the home media releases of the first two seasons of the series to Pioneer entertainment. That means that FUNimation owns the broadcast rights of first fifty-some (or sixty-some, if speaking of the original language versions) and the three movies, but only Pioneer can release videotapes, Laserdiscs, and DVDs of them. Does this mean that we will never see the early episodes of DBZ released subtitled? No, it does not. It just means that Pioneer would have to do the episodes subtitled or FUNimation would have to find a way to regain the episodes from Pioneer. In my personal opinion, though, I do not believe that fans should start pressuring Pioneer to do subbed DVDs yet. The reason for this is that if FUNimation manages to do a better job than Pioneer would with the episode DVDs, then Pioneer would feel the need to emulate them in order to live up to them, and with some of the things that FUNimation is considering I think that that would be a very good thing. If they were to start doing subtitled DVDs before FUNimation, though, they would not have anything to try to beat. Although FUNimation is a small company, I have more faith in them then I have in some of the larger anime companies. Despite what people have been led to believe, FUNimation does listen to what fans say, it’s just that it has taken time to process everything, work with Toei, get enough money together to invest in a project like this, and make a final decision to do it. Expect a lot from FUNimation on this, even more than you would expect from Pioneer or ADVision. This is all of the information I have for now, when I know more you’ll know more.

—Brian Real? Head of PR and Staff Writer

Published by VegettoEX
07 September 1999, 12:00 PM EDTComments Off

Instead of the first two episodes of the third season being shown last Monday (06 September 1999) as previously announced, the new date for their airing will be the 13th. The first half of the Toonami block will consist of the last two episodes of the third season (dub episodes 52-53), with the last half of the Toonami block consisting of the first two episodes of the third season (dub episodes 54-55).

Published by VegettoEX
13 August 1999, 12:00 PM EDTComments Off

After a long while of being down due to the inappropriate actions of a few fans, the forum at FUNimation’s is back up and working, again. Users are now required to enter in a login and password to post on it (presumably their new “security” measure).