What Do Japanese Fans Think of the Original English Dub?

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Mar 8, 2012
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[DISCLAIMER: I do not know Japanese. All translations of Japanese text given below are my best attempts to organize Google Translations into grammatical and coherent passages, and as such are subject to errors. If any kind members who are more knowledgeable in Japanese note any inaccuracies, please point them out so that I can make necessary changes. Thank you.]

For quite some time now I've been curious about what Japanese fans of Sailor Moon think of the original North American dub. I remember Brad's (@MoonKittyNews) tweeting about playing the dub theme song for some Japanese fans while they waited in line to see La Reconquista, and reporting they enjoyed it. This made me wish someone would do a YouTube video of Japanese fans' reactions to the original dub. I sort of got my wish when That Japanese Man Yuta uploaded his "Japanese React to English Dubbed Anime (Interview)" video in which some people watch and favorably react to a brief clip from the first episode of the DIC dub, and which I posted about.

Interesting as Yuta's video was, it didn't really shed any light on what Japanese fans think of the original dub (if anything). Now, I knew from her author's notes in the manga (via the Tokyopop translation) that Naoko has/had the American dub on tape, yet was still excited to watch the show live on TV during a brief trip to New York. Her only comment was that she found Sailor Moon's voice a bit low. Not that I'd expect her to comment on the dialog, but it would have been interesting to learn her thoughts on the different music or the various added VFX. Still, given her excitement, it's probably safe to say that she enjoys/enjoyed the old dub.

Okay. So we know Naoko knows about the original dub. Well, duh! What about the rest of Japan?

After coming across that brief announcement of the Codename: Sailor V OVA in the October 1995 issue of Nakayoshi, I continued to peruse MissDream's scans of Sailor Moon's serialized run. An announcement on the title page from the July 1996 issue caught my eye:



Nakayoshi was giving away twenty copies of an "American version 'Sailor Moon Book'"!! Specifically, they were giving away "Friends & Foes", which had recently been published by Kodansha's then-US branch, Kodansha America Press. Though I'm not sure why that book was chosen and not their first SM release, "Meet Sailor Moon," I find it fascinating that twenty lucky Japanese fans received a copy of this book that's chock-full of dub information. I wonder what they thought as they read about the "Negaverse" and "the wedding [of] Princess Serena to Prince Darien" (which, granted, isn't something that actually happens; the dub merely says that they were to be married)? Heck, were they even able to read it at all?

I already knew Nakayoshi's giveaway wouldn't be the only officially-facilitated exposure to the original dub Japanese fans would have. Two years later, in August 1998, the first Sailor Moon Memorial was released, featuring as its "Disc End Special" a segment entitled "Foreign Version - Famous Line Collection." This segment included clips from the original English dub (as well as the Mandarin and Mexican dubs), giving Japanese viewers a taste of the dub's voice actors, BGM, and attack phrases.

With all this in mind, I felt more determined than ever to find out what Japan thinks of the original dub. As I continued doing research, I quickly discovered something intriguing: the Japanese Wikipedia article for each of the main characters includes their name from "the North American version by DIC Entertainment", rendered in both Latin letters and katakana:

Serena Tsukino(セリーナ・ツキノ)
Princess Serena(プリンセス・セリーナ)
Amy Anderson(エイミー・アンダーソン)
Raye Hino(レイ・ヒノ)
Lita Kino(リタ・キノ)
Mina Aino(ミーナ・アイノ)
Darien Shields(ダリアン・シールズ)
Rini(リニ)
Sailor Mini Moon(セーラーミニムーン)
Amara Tenou(アマーラ・テンノウ)
Michelle Kaiou(ミッチェル・カイオウ)
Trista Meiou(トリスタ・メイオウ)

(Interesting seeing their Japanese surnames rendered in katakana.)

It's true that anyone can edit Wikipedia articles, so there's no way of knowing who added those details or why, but this does mean that any Japanese fan looking up Sailor Moon characters on Wikipedia will learn their original North American dub name. It's notable, too, that Chibiusa's is the only article that includes a section on what she's named in various overseas translations; every other article only mentions the character's DIC/CWI dub name.

What's also interesting to me is that Hotaru's article mentions how "in the North American version published by Mixx (now TOKYOPOP), she was named Jenny(ジェニー)when she first appeared, but this was later corrected after fans protested." This detail is not included in her English Wikipedia article. (At least not in its present version.)

And it doesn't stop there: The general "List of Sailor Moon characters" article cites Smile magazine (via the Sailor Moon Wikia article on Sailor Cosmos). The "Dark Kingdom" article mentions how the DIC dub censored the Sailors' deaths at the hands of the DD Girls in the season 1 finale (and how the Viz dub doesn't). Even the main article on the series mentions how "before the official live-action drama version, [Sailor Senshi] was translated as 'Sailor Soldier' (or 'Sailor Scout' in the North American version by DIC Entertainment, referencing the Girl Scouts), but has since been translated as 'Sailor Guardian.'" ETA: It even mentions that the Ginzuishou was called the "Imperial Silver Crystal" in the English dub.

All these references to the DIC dub in various Sailor Moon-related articles on Japanese Wikipedia indicate to me that this information is relevant to Japanese readers; that Japanese fans are interested in learning about the original North American dub. Indeed, I was able to find a couple of people asking about the dub on Yahoo Japan.

Before long, I'd found another Japanese wiki site, AniwotaWiki, that mentioned the DIC dub. Its article on the season one finale states:

In the North American version by DIC, [this episode] was broadcast as episode 40, which combined the last two episodes into one. Usagi's image song "Carry On" (sung by Jennifer Cihi) was used instead of "Moonlight Legend." As well as death scenes being cut and censorship of homosexual expressions, the BGM was changed and "Moonlight Legend" was replaced as the opening song. "Carry On" was made for the battle against Beryl. It's quite a burning song, so please do listen to it.
(An article on part one of the finale also mentions that the DIC dub censored the scenes of the DD Girls killing the Sailors.)

Not only does this article provide a bit more information on the dub version of the season one finale than JP Wikipedia's "Dark Kingdom" article did, it also contains some glowing praise of the dub's music. And it's not the only example of a Japanese SM fan singing the praises of the original dub's music. Check out this glowing, five-star review of the first dub soundtrack CD on Amazon Japan. Not only does this reviewer love the songs (particularly "Carry On" and "Rainy Day Man"), they also seem to know in what scene/episode most of them were used! (Their lack of familiarity with "Only a Memory Away" and "She's Got the Power" suggests they've only watched/read about the first season of the dub, and maybe some of the Doom Tree arc.)
 
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I next discovered a Japanese fan page on Geocities dedicated to "Sailor Moon in the USA." If Google and my understanding of its translation are correct, this page seems to have been written by a Japanese housewife who lived in New York when the dub was airing, so it provides an interesting perspective on the dub and how the series fared in North America. She says that most of the changes aren't noticeable and finds it amazing how American fans compare the Japanese and English versions. She does note things like the differences in character names, power phrases, the theme song, the flashback scene added to the start of the first episode, the addition of scene transitions, scenes getting cut or edited for violence or sexual content, Zoisite being made a woman, Ann and Alan being from the Negaverse, etc. She likens the term "Sailor Scouts" to the term "Sailor Team." She comments on "Sailor Says," saying it's the most different thing about the dub. She calls the lessons in them very American and finds the one about not doing drugs the most amazing/remarkable/weird :lol:.

(Also, curiously enough, since she wrote this page in 1998, she mentions that because the rest of the series (from the end of R on) hadn't yet been dubbed by DIC, there were fans trying to put together a fandub. She says she tried to make Michiru "Michelle." Prescient!)

From there I quickly stumbled upon an archived version of a similar web page from sailormoon.jp created in 2001. After providing an overview of the dub's broadcast history, the author notes that "the production concept for DIC's Sailor Moon is not a translation, but an adaptation for North America." They say that they find the term "Sailor Scout" laughable and a downgrade from "Sailor Senshi" and in general seem to be a bit more critical of all the changes the dub made than the previous blogger was. (They also seem to be suggesting that some local stations made additional cuts to the show on occasion, which is something I've never heard before. Were there really any stations in the US that felt the DIC dub needed MORE censorship???) However, they do seem to like the voice actors (especially Melvin!), though they also note that Molly sounds like a kogal with a New York accent and Luna sounds like a witch's grandmother with an English accent. Still, they say they like the opening song and appreciate how the show is in stereo instead of mono.

Perhaps the most curious fan page of all, however, is the UraNep American USA Report, a Japanese Geocities site dedicated to the "Sailor Moon S" dub, focusing particularly on Uranus and Neptune's depiction. The page includes a list of the dub episode titles, a guide to the characters' dub names that's pretty interesting, and summaries of and commentaries on the first 19 episodes of S based on the Uncut DVD version, including Japanese translations of the dub dialog. (Presumably they were going to cover the entire season, but perhaps they got too busy or were unable to get the rest of the DVDs.) The author says that Japanese fans enjoy watching the English dub (they find it funny, but they also sympathize with the dubbers who had to make all sorts of changes to appease censors) and were eager to get their hands on the S dub once R finished. When they finally saw it, they were shocked that Uranus and Neptune had been made cousins. Still, the site's author seems to be a genuine fan of the dub and she includes a section on how Japanese fans can buy and play the English dub DVDs. A truly fascinating website; I strongly recommend checking it out!

Okay, so we've heard from the fan sites. What about more official sites? Do they have anything to say about the dub?

Well, check out this article from 2012: 【意外過ぎて驚きシリーズ】『セーラームーン』の“ミートボール・ヘッド”って誰のこと?([Surprisingly Surprising Series] Who is "Meatball Head" in 'Sailor Moon'?) Noting the series's popularity overseas, the article reports on what the main characters are called in other countries like Italy, Malta, Germany, and China. The section headed "Which character is Amy Anderson?" is devoted to the American dub. The author states that "Serena" is a "fashionable name" probably derived from the Greek goddess Selene and notes that Ami (Amy) is the only Sailor to get an American last name. They also mention that in the English dub, Usagi's nickname is "Meatball Head" (meaning "meat dumpling head"), remarking that American children's favorite food is spaghetti and meatballs. The author wryly notes that this nickname makes them visualize Usagi's head covered with ketchup, and they wonder what American viewers think of the nickname.

These remarks are more or less echoed in a 2016 blog post from Japanese TV personality REINA: Under a photo of her in front of some Sailor Senshi cut-outs, she writes that she lived in America when she was little and that there Usagi is called "Serena" (named for the Greek goddess Selene) and her nickname is "Meatball Head" ("meat dumpling head").

Reading those two posts reminded me that in the recently screened official subtitled release of "Le Mouvement Final", "odango-atama" was translated as "meatball head." Clearly that nickname is still well-known and popular in Japan!

As my research draws to a close, I have a few more links to share. Here is a blog in which a Japanese fan compares the dub episode "An Animated Mess" with the original version, and here are two blogs that discuss the Toon Maker Sailor Moon project. Yes, they even seem to know all about that! (After all, Tuxedo Unmasked recently came across an animation cel/rough sketch from that project in a shop in Japan!)

All right. That's enough out of me for now. I am bleary eyed and exhausted from compiling all this research. I need sleep. Let's talk in the morning...
 
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Umino

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#3
Serena Tsukino(セリーナ・ツキノ)
Princess Serena(プリンセス・セリーナ)
Amy Anderson(エイミー・アンダーソン)
Raye Hino(レイ・ヒノ)
Lita Kino(リタ・キノ)
Mina Aino(ミーナ・アイノ)
Darien Shields(ダリアン・シールズ)
Rini(リニ)
Sailor Mini Moon(セーラーミニムーン)
Amara Tenou(アマーラ・テンノウ)
Michelle Kaiou(ミッチェル・カイオウ)
Trista Meiou(トリスタ・メイオウ)
Interesting they don't mention how Princess Serenity retains her name post the Lost Episodes, and Amy retains her original last name in the CWI dub. Where exactly did "Shields" come from? Because I'm positive Darien was never given a family name in the dub. Likewise, Lita and Mina never had their family names stated in the dub.

These are great finds!
 
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I'm pretty sure "Shields" comes from the Tokyopop manga, though it's possible someone on the dub staff came up with it and just never used it? As for Princess Serenity, she is actually called that in "A Reluctant Princess", though she's not called that again until the R movie dub.

I also just came across this item on Amazon JP - a hair styling device for women to give them a "meatball head." Seems that "meatball head" is a Japanese phrase for this bun hairstyle. Who knew?!
 

Umino

Luna Crescens
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Ha! I could've sworn she was exclusively "Princess Serena" in the DIC dub. Interesting. Was it just a random mistake, or did they imply "Princess Serena" could've been an alternative name or something?

The page on the CWI dub fascinates me, because most people seem to forget it exists. Nobody ever seems to talk about the SS dub at all.
 
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Copy & pasted from the episode's transcript, Luna says:

THE MOON KINGDOM WAS FOREVER DESTROYED. HER POWER BROKEN, QUEEN SERENITY USED HER LAST STRENGTH TO SEND THE PRINCESS SERENITY AND HER COURT TO A NEW FUTURE ON EARTH. YOU GIRLS WERE ALL PRINCESSES OF YOUR OWN RESPECTED PLANETS BUT ALSO PART OF SERENA'S COURT.
It was probably just a mistake, but it can be taken to mean that her proper name was Serenity and that "Serena" was simply a nickname used to distinguish her from the Queen.

And yeah, that CWI/S page is definitely the most interesting thing I discovered. Never would have thought there'd be a Japanese fansite dedicated to the S dub. I only wish she'd managed to review the entire season.

-

Here is another JP Geocities site, this time a cel art gallery, that for some reason includes the characters' English dub names and a section at the bottom describing the series in English. And here is a blog entry entitled "Overseas Anime Fans Talk About 'If Sailor Moon Were Set in America'."

Also, just came across an article from 2013 reporting on how the original dub cast were going to appear at Anime Expo in 2014. Interesting that a Japanese news outlet (even an anime-oriented one) would do a story on that!

ETA: Found a Japanese write-up of that Kotaku article on the search for the Toon Maker Sailor Moon pilot / discovery of Team Angel.

Also found an article from 2012 on the (re-)release of the manga in English that talks a bit about the old dub, even mentioning SOS!

Finally, the JP Wikipedia article on the original anime has a section on the show's international broadcasts that talks about the DIC dub.
 
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What, you thought I was done finding links? Well, you were wrong!

Here's someone on Yahoo Japan in 2010 asking about the lyrics to the English theme song.

Here's a fanmade opening sequence for R set to the English theme song. I don't know if the uploader made the video or if they just reposted someone else's work (or if they're even Japanese, though the video's title is written in Japanese), but I'd never seen it before and think it's quite good. What's more, in the comments someone wrote the lyrics to the theme song in Japanese, which I think is pretty rad.

Here's a blog entry from 2010 showing the cover art for Geneon's SuperS DVD boxset. Though Google's translation of the entry isn't very good, I *think* the author is saying she came across the DVDs while in America and wonders if she should get them to help her with her English?

Here's someone on a Japanese Q&A site in 2005 asking about the Toon Maker Sailor Moon project.

Here's a 2013 entry from a Sailor Moon fan's blog where she shows off her copies of "Meet Sailor Moon" and "Friends & Foes." She writes that when she went to America, she saw a lot of Sailor Moon stuff. She wishes she had bought some of the comics; instead she got a DVD, but the region isn't compatible with her player. It's not clear, but given that there's Japanese text on the paper wraparound things, she presumably got the books in Japan. Sure enough, the January 1996 issue of Nakayoshi also mentions a giveaway of 20 copies of the "Meet Sailor Moon" book. Perhaps she was one of the lucky few to receive both books? Or maybe she got them from a second-hand shop? Still, very cool!

Here's a thread on the Japanese social media site mixi dedicated to overseas "Sailor Moon" merchandise, with many of the posts being about the North American dolls and other toys! Some posters seem to have bought the items through online auctions; others got them as souvenirs during trips to America. Overall the posters seem to like the dolls (which mostly seem to be the "pretty face" versions), especially the Wicked Lady dolls. One poster seems to have a Sailor Pluto doll that came in a Wicked Lady doll's box! Someone even got a can of Sailor Moon Spaghetti-Os!

And finally, here's a blog post where someone shows off a copy of Sailor Moon Supers #2 (Tokyopop manga) they got as a souvenir while in America and cherish.


So I could probably go on and on finding and posting links, but I think I'll stop now (unless I stumble upon something really interesting). After all, I've already answered my original questions: Do Japanese fans know about the original North American dub, and if so, what do they think about it? It turns out that they do! (They even know about the Toon Maker project!) Not only that, they seem to really like it! Part of that may be due to Japan's general sense that anything English/American/Western is "cool," but a lot of the bloggers seem to have genuinely loved the music and enjoyed watching the show.

When I started this ~quest~ I honestly didn't think I'd turn up anything. I am absolutely floored that I was able to find so many articles, so many blog posts, so many fan sites talking about the DIC/CWI dub. I never would have guessed that the original dub would have something of a cult following among Sailor Moon fans in Japan, but it evidently does. I'm so happy to learn that the dub is enjoyed there. Who ever would have guessed?
 
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The page on the CWI dub fascinates me, because most people seem to forget it exists. Nobody ever seems to talk about the SS dub at all.
I've been looking through her episode summaries/reviews and wanted to note a few things:

  • She mentions Lita's infamous "talent" line, so she's obviously very familiar with the full dub. I love that that line is infamous the world over :lol:
  • Stephanie Beard/Rini seems to be her favorite voice actor in the dub
  • She speculates that "Rini" is a portmanteau of "rabbit" and "mini." I'd never thought of it that way before. I could see how that might be the etymology, but I'm still pretty sure it's just supposed to be a diminutive of Serena.
  • She wonders if "Brad" is a reference to "Brad Pitt" :lol: (Someone needs to write a fan fiction about Michelle's high school boyfriend being Brad Pitt)
  • I'm not entirely sure because, well, Google Translate is not good with Japanese, but she seems to be making some sort of connection between how Serena and Rini pretend to be cousins and how Amara and Michelle also say they're cousins. I'd never thought about that parallel before. Serena and Rini do establish a precedent within the SM universe for people claiming to be cousins in order to conceal the true nature of their relationship. Of course CWI did not think that deeply about it, but looking at it from that angle, maybe the "cousins" thing really could just be read as Amara and Michelle simply trying to conceal the nature of their relationship. It's really only during the first half of the season that they lay the "cousins" thing on thick. Once everyone's learned each other's secret identity, I feel like the "cousins" references stop? (Correct me if I'm wrong.)
Anyway, I've also stumbled across a similar blog from 2015 (so a lot more recent) where someone seems to be summarizing/reviewing the DIC dub of season one.

And here's a post on another blog from 2012 where someone reviews the North American trading card game (which they got, of all places, in Germany!).
 
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Guess what? The DIC dub exists. The CWI exists. They will always exist. They will always be remembered. They will always be loved. Build a bridge and get over it.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Here are some Amazon JP reviews for a few of the dub VHS tapes. One parent bought a tape of the SuperS dub to help their 4 year old daughter learn English (4 stars review). Another parent bought an R dub tape to help them with their English, but they also watch the tape with their kids (3 stars review). Finally, someone appears to have bought a tape of the last episodes of season 1 and must have thoroughly enjoyed them as they gave the tape 5 stars!

Here's a site that gives some brief thoughts on some of the Japanese and English insert songs. "Tear Our Hearts in Two" seems to (lyrically) remind them of "Sailor War." Interesting...
 
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Regarding the part about some local stations making more edits: it might be true, but not because of censorship. Some local stations make small cuts to their syndicated programming solely for time to squeeze in more commercials or news breaks. I know one UK broadcast of the original 65 DiC episodes also made further cuts for time.
 
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The blog I linked to that has reviews of the season 1 dub does comment on how they found it confusing at first that Andrew's girlfriend is named "Rita" given Jupiter's name was "Lita," but that's a bit confusing at first in English, too.
 

Umino

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Regarding the part about some local stations making more edits: it might be true, but not because of censorship. Some local stations make small cuts to their syndicated programming solely for time to squeeze in more commercials or news breaks. I know one UK broadcast of the original 65 DiC episodes also made further cuts for time.
At least one episode in the Dic dub had more edits in the Toonami airing.
 
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Interesting... I never knew that before!

Anyway... Found a blog post about that feature length Sailor Moon fan film and another about the shorter fan film the SMA team made. However, while both linked pages are written in Japanese, I'm not sure that they're written by Japanese (nationals). The comments on the latter page seem to be mostly from Americans. Still, it's interesting to come across discussions of these fan films in a language other than English.

Similarly, here's a Japanese article on the "discriminatory regulation of the North American version of Sailor Moon" where I'm not entirely sure if the author and commenters are Japanese, American, or a mix of both. Same with this page that seems to be a compilation of various opinions/reviews of Sailor Moon, some mentioning the North American dub, written in Japanese but with English summations/comments? Idk, it's a weird page :lol:

And here's another blog post, this one discussing all three North American soundtrack CDs.
 

Umino

Luna Crescens
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Interesting... I never knew that before!
I should've mentioned this in my last post, but I was being lazy since I was typing on my phone, lol.

Anyway, the Toonami airing of "Dog Day for Artemis" removed the last scene where a dog urinates on Emerald. You can even hear the audio skip. I was shocked when I got the ADV DVD and the scene was restored. YTV and some of the edited VHS releases also had some additional edits.
 

John

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I just want to say that this has been such an illuminating, engaging, and awesome thread!

This kind of topic is something I've wondered about often in other stories -- for example, there are a lot of opinions about Super Sentai in the Power Rangers fandom, and I always found it interesting when I learned how Japanese Sentai fans viewed Power Rangers in turn. Lots of different perspectives. And I'm kind of seeing the same thing here, too.

Memento, you did an awesome job sourcing so many blogs and comments. I wish I could give you a trophy or something lmao.