Anime on TV has had somewhat of an unusual history. Many people, both inside the anime subculture and out, share fond memories of shows like Star Blazers, or trade jabs about the Speed Racer dub. They know of classics like Voltron and Samurai Pizza Cats, as well as modern gems like Cowboy Bebop. At the same time, anime fans share tales of more infamous hack jobs. One Piece, Tokyo Mew Mew, and Shaman King cemented 4Kids as enemies of anime kind in the eyes of many, and Carl Macek’s name still manages to elicit harsh whispers in a crowded room.
While the overzealous editing done by 4Kids and Harmony Gold was reprehensible, their actions are far from unique. For decades, we’ve seen companies acquire anime titles, edit them to American TV standards, and release them into the children’s TV market. While some of these shows, like G-Force (Gatchaman) gain recognition later in life, there are many others that are simply swept into the dustbin of time. Tonight, we’ll be highlighting seven American anime airings that fell out of the public eye, whether it was warranted or not.
Note: We will not be commenting on specific changes or edits, for the most part, as detailed lists for many of these have been lost to the sands of time.
1. Adventures of the Little Koala
Original Title: Koala Boy Kocky
Aired On: Nickelodeon
Air Date: 6/1/1987-4/2/1993
In the 1980s, Nickelodeon was actually an active force in the anime licensing market. With the cooperation of Saban (who would go on to bring Power Rangers to North America), the company acquired four shows, edited them, and packaged them for American audiences. These shows were aired as part of the network’s Nick Jr. block.
The first of these shows was The Adventures of the Little Koala, a slice-of-life series by Tohokushinsha Film Corporation that revolved around the life of a koala named Roobear. Roobear was the resident of a small utopian village, in the shadow of The Breadknife in Australia.
Each episode contained a pair of self-contained stories involving Roobear or one of the supporting cast members. The nature of these stories ranged from mundane antics to grand adventures, and tended to focus on “teachable” moments. Each episode contained some form of moral that touched upon topics like honesty, friendship, and even environmentalism.
For example, in “A Whale of a Ride”, Roobear and his friends learn a lesson about pollution, when they encounter a school of fish trapped in waters filled with garbage. To save the fish, they must attract the attention of nearby whales, and convince them to bring the fish to sea. Unfortunately for Roobear, though, he’s carted off inside one of the whales, and must find a way to find help before they’re stranded in the briney blue.
Edits to the show were generally light, as the series was aimed primarily at the younger set in its original run.
Original Title: Fushigi na Koala Blinky
Aired On: Nickelodeon
Air Date: 11/1988-4/1993
Noozles was the second of four titles acquired by Nickelodeon in the 1980s. And, like Little Koala, it was edited, dubbed, and ran during the network’s Nick Jr. Block. Noozles was more of a straight-forward adventure series produced by Fuji Eight Company and Nippon Animation. The show had a continuity to its episodes, and didn’t focus on turning every character’s experiences into a string of life lessons.
The series is based on the adventures of Sandy Brown, a spunky kid who receives a most unusual gift. One day, Sandy’s father, a renowned archaeologist, sends her a stuffed koala doll. Sandy quickly finds out that giving the doll an eskimo kiss causes the doll to come to life as a living, talking koala! The bear, named Blinky, hails from the distant world of Koallawalla Land, a magical version of the great down under. The two find themselves dragged on adventures, both on earth and in Koallwalla Land with the aid of Blinky’s magical sister Pinky. At the same time, a pair of mysterious men have their eyes set on nabbing Blinky for themselves.
3. Maya the Bee
Original Title: Mitsubachi Māya no Bōken (Adventures of Maya the Bee)
Aired On: Nickelodeon
Air Date: 1/1/1990-12/31/1992
The third of Nick’s four large anime acquisitions (and the last we’ll be discussing) was Maya the Bee. Maya the Bee was a series based on the German children’s book of the same name. It was originally produced by Nippon Animation, and aired on TV Asahi in the mid-1970s.
The series revolves around Maya, a honeybee born in a time of internal turmoil. Maya’s hive is currently undergoing an upheaval, as the colony begins a painful split in two. During this time, Maya is raised by Mrs. Cassandra, her teacher and mentor in life. Maya wants little more than to explore the world, and see the various sights, though her teacher warns otherwise. Her desires win out, though, and Maya leaves the hive, ultimately becoming an exile from her own kind.
Outside the hive, Maya finds her own way to survive, as she makes friends, and braves the dangers of the world with them. With her friends, Maya experiences great joys, and crushing sadness, which help her mature and grow.
4. The Jungle Book: The Adventures of Mowgli
Original Title: Jungle Book Shōnen Mowgl
Aired On: Canadian TV – Network Unknown (YTV? Teletoon?)
Air Date: 1990
Adventures of Mowgli is a unique title in this line-up, since it was never aired in the United States. A number of factors prevented it from being aired in the country. However, it was a popular fixture on Canadian networks, hence its inclusion in the list.
Anyway, the series was originally animated by Nippon Animation, and aired on TV Tokyo in 1989. The series, like Disney’s uber-popular adaptation, is a retelling of Rudyard Kipling’s classic stories. Both adaptations star Mowgli, and feature familiar characters like Baloo, Bagheera, and Shere Khan. The base structure is the same, and the inevitable finale is unchanged between the two titles. However, the similarities stop there.
Due to the length of the show, the writers were able to better flesh out Mowgli’s world, and those that inhabit it. The show emphasizes the relationships between Mowgli, his adopted wolf family, and the other residents of the jungle. Likewise, a greater emphasis is placed on Mowgli’s struggle to find his place in the world as a “hateful human” raised by the laws of the jungle.
Because it was free of the American standards boards, the show was ran with minimal content edits. Everything, from tragic deaths of key characters, to a brutal showdown with Shere Khan, were shown in their entirety. Sadly, when the show cycled off the air, it disappeared from the public consciousness. The show recently got a second lease on life, though, as it was re-released on DVD by Shout! Factory.
Original Title: Dragon Quest: Yūsha Aberu Densetsu (Dragon Quest: Legend of the Hero Abel)
Aired On: Fox Kids
Air Date: 1990
In 1990, the video game show was king. Mario Mania was in full swing, and shows like Super Mario Bros. 3 and Captain N ruled the airwaves. Every network wanted in on the action, and they were grabbing at every possible chance to cash in on Nintendo madness. At the same time, Dragon Ball was hitting syndicated networks, and earning a decent amount of ratings in the morning slots.
To capitalize on both of these trends, Fox pushed out an edited, roughly-dubbed adaptation of the Dragon Quest anime. At the time, it seemed like a perfect storm: the character designs of Dragon Ball’s Toriyama mixed with an acclaimed video game pedigree. What could go wrong?
Unfortunately, the show itself didn’t find an audience. It tanked in ratings, and was quietly pulled after thirteen episodes. Despite the generally uneven dub, though, the show’s edits were far from invasive. Much of the title’s original content, including Koichi Sugiyama’s musical score, was retained for the show’s airing.
Original Title: The Vision of Escaflowne
Aired On: Fox Kids
Air Date: 2000
Before I go further, I’d like to mention that 2000 was an odd year for anime on TV. This was a year that received an incredible run of Gundam Wing, which enraptured audiences of all stripes. At the same time, this was also the year that we saw Warner Bros. run an ultra-edited adaptation of Cardcaptor Sakura under the title “Cardcaptors.” There was no middle extreme for this, and anime fans were fairly edgy overall because of the blunt edits made to Cardcaptors in a cynical attempt to get the show to appeal to male demographics. The last thing that they really needed was to see another fantastic title dragged through the mud.
And yet, in mid-2000, Fox was pumping out ads with an obnoxious hard-edged announcer and thumping techno to promote “Escaflown!” Immediately, the bull-pucky detector began to go off, and fans grew wary of the announcement. Outlets like Anime News Network and Anime News Service were taking a “wait and see” approach, arguing that Bandai knew how to handle its properties, even though it was confirmed that the title’s first episode would not air on Fox Kids.
Escaflowne was the second anime series to really inspire a major backlash from the anime fan community. Its run on Fox Kids was a heavily-edited mess, with musical changes, and severe content edits.
In addition to the standard edits for objectionable content, numerous changes to the show itself were made to alter the tone. Fox hoped to have the series appeal to a greater male audience, but faced record low ratings, to the point where the show was quietly pulled from the air.
While it caused a stir back in the day, the people who remember the show’s fateful TV run are few and far between today.
Original Title: Getter Robo G
Aired On: Force Five (Syndicated)
Air Date: 2000
Starvengers is an interesting series, in the sense that it had an incredibly limited run in the US. The show ran exclusively on the Force Five syndicated programming block, which was shown almost exclusively in New England. It was created as a way to capitalize on the sudden popularity of the Shogun Warriors toy collection. The title ran on Tuesdays during the block and enjoyed a great deal of popularity.
The shows were dubbed and marketed as standard cartoons during its run. While other titles in the block like Dangard Ace and Grandizer found an enduring niche audience, Starvengers slipped through the cracks.