SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT
THE 90S ENGLISH DUB IS CANADIAN
Note: Although I am using generalizations here for simplicity purposes, this post does not refer to all American fans. Just certain ones who have made some easily correctable errors (which I’m hoping to inform people about here). This article is intended to explain why referring to the 90s English dub as the “American” dub is incorrect. Although Canada is part of North America, “American” is an adjective exclusively used to refer to something/someone from the United States. Referring to a Canadian person/place/thing as “American” is completely incorrect, and frankly is borderline erasure.
As a Canadian Sailor Moon fan living in Toronto, I take a lot of pride in knowing that the 90s English dub of Sailor Moon was produced here in Canada. Yes, it has its flaws. But many of us credit the DiC & Cloverway dubs for introducing us to the series. The dub also has very good voice acting, and in the case of the DiC dub, great music & high production values. In October 2013 I attended Unplugged Expo, a “geek” themed convention that reunited most of the original voice cast of the first 65 dubbed episodes. They are all funny, kind, insightful and wonderful people. And, with only one exception, (Naz Edwards, who played Queen Beryl) the main cast is all Canadian.
Optimum Productions is based out of Mississauga, Ontario, which is a city just west of Toronto. All of the scripting, recording, composing and editing was done there. American audiences were the main marketing target, as the plan was to sell the series for syndication to American television channels (plus there are a lot more Americans in general). However, the dub was not produced solely for an American audience. The series premiered on Canadian channel YTV first, on August 28th, 1995. I happened to tune in that very day – I get the bragging rights that I was one of the first North American fans. 😉 American channels began airing the series a few weeks later. The series was fairly successful on YTV as it was shown on weekday afternoons, whereas American channels were airing Sailor Moon in ridiculous time slots, like 6 am.
For the first few years of Sailor Moon fandom, it was much more popular in Canada than it was in the US. The website S.O.S. (Save Our Sailors) was an attempt to unify the community and send out a message that we wanted the rest of the series dubbed. It took a LONG time for the “campaign” to work, and a lot of money was spent on merchandise, such as the Irwin dolls and toys (which were, yup, produced in Canada). We got the last 17 episodes of R in 1997, the three movies were released around 1999, and finally S and SuperS were dubbed around 2000. That’s FIVE years we had to wait – and the series was never even completed. This is why I caution people to be patient for a dub of the rebooted series – these things take a lot of time, a lot of negotiations, and a lot of money.
The last episodes of R and the three movies were handled by DiC, but their licensing rights would expire afterwards. Enter Cloverway. They are the international branch of Toei Animation, and they took over dubbing Sailor Moon S & SuperS 2 years later. This time, Cartoon Network was holding the televising rights (as the reruns they were airing in their Toonami programming block were very popular), and were putting pressure on Cloverway to deliver the new episodes as soon as possible. Now, although there is a distinct difference in style between Cloverway and DiC, the scripting, dubbing & editing was still handled by Optimum Productions.
This time, American audiences got the preferential treatment. The “new” episodes began airing on Cartoon Network in 2000. YTV wouldn’t get these episodes for several months later. The biggest problem with the Cloverway dub was that the episodes were ridiculously rushed, thanks to Cartoon Network pressuring them. The writers were obviously not agreeing (or even discussing with each other) on the direction they wanted to take the series or the names for terms, which would switch from episode to episode. It’s believed that Lisa Lumby-Richards was the heavy-handed scriptwriter who wanted to change everything she could (she was also credited as a writer for DiC episodes). The music was left unchanged – and I’m not sure if this was a conscious “Let’s keep it more like the original” decision, or because they simply didn’t have time/money to compose new music for the series. Note that “Tear Our Hearts In Two” and “Let’s Fight” are just straight lyric rewrites of “Ai No Senshi” and “Sailor Team no Theme” rather than new songs. There was certainly at least one writer who was dedicated to doing a straight translation of the dialogue (and bless whoever they are). Two episodes (#119 and #152) were skipped in their initial run because Optimum hadn’t finished digitally censoring them yet – that’s how rushed this whole thing was.
Speaking of censorship, people repeatedly use the term “Americanization.” Although it is definitely true that many Japanese cultural aspects of the series were changed to suit Western ones, as well as 90s slang being inserted into the dialogue, it is important to remember that Americans were not the sole audience of the series, and it was Canadians who were writing the scripts. Canadian and American culture isn’t that different. The more appropriate term would be “Westernization.”
Nudity, violence, homosexuality etc are just as taboo in Canadian children’s television as they are in American television. (And this is not likely to change anytime soon!) So the censorship was not made solely to fit the needs of American audiences, but for all English-speaking children’s audiences. They were definitely shooting for a younger audience than the original content seemingly dictates – this does NOT mean that the original Japanese series was intended for teens. If you YouTube some of the Japanese toy commercials, they feature little girls playing with the toys. Nakayoshi Magazine, which originally printed the manga, is aimed at a female audience aged 9-15. (Accordingly, the manga has somewhat more mature content than the anime.) Regardless, Sailor Moon has always been intended for children. Most “Toyetic” series are. If the anime had been translated faithfully and not censored in any way, for a Western audience, it would have been aimed at teens. But it wasn’t. It’s important to be aware that we are judging/perceiving the Japanese series from a Western lens. We have very different cultures and very different values.
One of the reasons I decided to write this is because I was very annoyed by an extremely old bit of misinformation thanks to file sharing networks. “My Only Love” is one of the songs from the DiC dub, and it was performed by Jennifer Cihi. Cihi performed all of the songs meant to be sung by Serena, including “Carry On” and “The Power of Love.” Her performing credit is listed right in the CD liner notes, but somehow, someone credited Jennifer Love Hewitt as the performer instead. This makes no sense at all. Jennifer Cihi is based in Los Angeles (and is thus one of the few Americans involved in the DiC dub’s production), but frankly, Canadian productions don’t have as much money to throw around compared to American ones. JLH would have been much too expensive. Just because they both have the name Jennifer, this confusion started? Yes, JLH is a singer, but her voice sounds NOTHING like Jennifer Cihi’s. I’m mystified that this incorrect information has survived so long. Google is your friend!
It’s important to be a knowledgeable fan. People repeatedly refer to the 90s English dub using terms like “The US version” or “The American dub.” Please stop doing that. It was not made in America. It was not solely intended for Americans. It aired outside of America. “The English dub” is perfectly correct, and it doesn’t exclude anyone. (Heck, saying “DiC dub” and “Cloverway dub” are correct as well!)
There is an entire world of Sailor Moon fandom out there, and Americans are just one part of it. If you got into the series via the English dub, please give credit to the Canadian actors, writers, composers, etc for producing it. America is powerful, America is populous, and America produces most cultural media. But don’t forget Canada exists too! 😉
Artbook II scan from http://mangastyle.net/
If you were sent this link on Twitter by @Sailor_Moon_CA, please be advised that I am NOT affiliated with this person, and despite what his Twitter profile claims, he is NOT OFFICIAL. The man who runs that account is a blatant liar who has taken his obsessive vendetta against VIZ so far past the level of acceptability that they have threatened law enforcement if he ever directly contacts them or their employees again. I have repeatedly asked him to stop linking to my blog and he has paid absolutely no attention, so this is the only option I have left. If he has linked this article to you, please don’t look me up on Twitter, because I want nothing to do with this man whatsoever. Maybe do me a favour and tell him to stop being such a fucking creep. ❤