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CSBG Archive

NANA Project: Special

This time around we take a break from our usually scheduled NANA Project to discuss an instance of censorship in Viz’s release of Ai Yazawa’s NANA in the U.S.  Danielle tracks down the anime adaptation to find out what exactly has been cut from the manga, while Melinda theorizes about why these cuts might have been made and then we all discuss the challenges of adapting Japanese comics for the American marketplace.

Danielle:  So a few days ago I discovered (via manga critic extraordinaire Jason Thompson) this thread at Mania.com, detailing instances of censorship in U.S. publishers’ adaptations of manga for the American marketplace.  Being such a devoted fan of NANA, I was shocked to find volume 4 on the list and not only had the volume been edited but four entire pages had been excised (the content of which I will detail shortly).  I think a part of my shock was the fact that this new information undermined my belief that the time period when Viz released NANA and created the Shojo Beat Brand / Magazine was part of a new era of manga in the U.S. (2005 and later).  This new era is — in my mind — defined by publishers’ greater understanding that manga fans want as “faithful” adaptations as possible and that they are getting better and better at (cost-effectively) giving fans what they want all the time.

In order to figure out what had been “censored” I went to Hulu.com and compared my volume of NANA volume 4 with the 17th episode of the anime (both are adapted by Viz and cover the same period of the story).  Here is the content that appeared to have been excised:

Just before the Trapnest concern starts, Nana separates from Hachi and finds a quiet space to have some time to herself.  She lights a “Blast” cigarette (in the original a “Blackstones” cigarette, I believe) and reminisces about how the Ren-Nana-Yasu-Nobu band originally got its name.  Back in the day, all four are gathered together trying to brainstorm a name for their new band.  Nana spots Yasu’s cigarettes and tries one out, commenting that “Black Stones” might be a good name for a band.  Nobu is enthusiastic, noting that they can shorten the name to “Blast,” which Yasu likes because it also means a “strong gust of wind”.  Nana’s also chagrinned when Ren takes the cigarette she lit and chokes on the disgusting taste (of the cigarette, of course, but Nana’s a little hurt anyway).  Ren asks Yasu to make a “celebratory announcement” and as “band leader” Yasu declares that they should only smoke Blast / Black Stone cigarettes from now on.  Everyone’s response – “Smoke it yourself!”

The story then returns to the present, with Nana taking a private moment to smoke and think before the Trapnest concert begins as Hachi waits for her at their seats.  In the manga, the entire interlude is excised so that if you read the book you only know that Nana sits and smokes before the concert begins and aren’t given any indication that she is thinking about a very specific moment when their band was basically created (and not, for example, thinking of a romantic or painful moment she shared with Ren, her former lover).

The following questions spring immediately to mind after I had viewed this version of the excised content — why delete these pages entirely in the manga rather than edit them (perhaps edit out / adapt references to the brand name)?  Could these pages even be edited sensibly, especially considering the fact they do revolve around using brand names to create the *band* name?  And how much have we, the readers, lost through the editing?

Melinda:  I was initially really confused by the removal of those pages (and I mean literally confused–when, in volume seven, Hachi makes a cake that says “Black Stones” on it, I had no idea what that meant) but when I stop to consider trademark law, I can understand why Viz might have been at odds over how to handle the situation. I’m not a trademark lawyer, but I’ve had to deal with registering trademarks for the company I work for and I can immediately see the issue, just based on what I learned from that.

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A quick search through the the United States Patent and Trademark Office Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) reveals that a trademark for the printed word “BLACKSTONE” has been held since 1926 by Swisher International, Inc. in the category of G & S: Cigars.  In fact, if you look at a photograph of the packaging Yazawa’s drawings are modeled from it is easy to see the registered trademark symbol just under the name.

Given this, there is no way Viz could use this trademark (either on the cigarette package, or in any printed dialogue referring to cigarettes) in their manga without fear of lawsuit, save for paying to license the trademark from the company (assuming this was even an option).  This gives Viz a couple of immediately obvious choices:  keep the scene, but omit use of the trademark by changing the name of the cigarettes (and therefore, the band) to something else, or remove all references to BlackStone cigarettes by omitting the conversation in which the characters name their band after them, leaving readers confused later (as I was) but allowing them to keep the name “Black Stones” as it appears later on in the manga.

Neither of these options is particularly attractive, and I think the compromise they came up with for the anime works pretty well–keeping the scene, but rewriting the dialogue so that Nobu’s suggestion of “Black Stones” comes from out of the blue (though it’s certainly a little random)–but I don’t think that was probably an obvious solution at the time, since it does require rewriting the scene significantly, something fans also complain about.

Obviously my comments here are largely conjecture (I don’t actually know for a fact that this is why Viz removed the pages) but I think it’s a pretty fair guess.

Michelle:  I was confused by that scene in volume seven, as well. If I recall rightly, there was no editor’s note to explain it, either. Perhaps they thought that readers who came for the “sex, music, fashion, gossip, and all-night parties” were not going to have much interest in trademark issues, but it still would’ve been nice had they made some mention of it. Perhaps they’ve had so much backlash for their other, sillier bits of censorship that they didn’t even want to broach the subject here, even though it’s a special case.  Heck, they certainly haven’t been shy about retouching scenes where nudity and underage smoking are involved… why not just blur out the logo or something like that?

Melinda:  Well, even if they’d blurred the logo, they would have been left with the problem of what to do with the scene, since the entire thing is about naming their band after the cigarettes and they can’t actually print the name of the cigarettes, logo or no logo. But it would have been nice if they’d figured out how to explain it at some point without opening themselves up to lawsuits.

Danielle:  Am I crazy for thinking they just should have excised the logo and gone for a slightly non-sensical scene rather than just getting rid of it entirely?  I mean they could just pretend the brand of cigarettes is called “Blast,” and edit the dialogue accordingly.  Or is this expecting entirely too much?

Melinda:  Well, that’s what they did with the anime. Perhaps they didn’t consider that idea way back when they were translating the manga. Like I said before, it kind of works (though it makes Nobu’s suggestion of “Black Stones” pretty random) but it requires so much rewriting, I can see why it might not have been an obvious choice.

Danielle:  I’m just hung up on FOUR ENTIRE PAGES OF FLASHBACK being cut.  Flashbacks are soooo incredibly significant in NANA I can’t imagine an editor not wanting to move heaven and earth to keep them.  (On the other hand, of course, I think censoring anything when adapting is problematic, this is just the first time I think I’ve been faced with such an extensive cut of the actual story in manga.  i.e. this isn’t the same to me as using a Britney Spears reference instead of another Japanese pop idol name).

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Melinda:  See, you’re facing their exact dilemma here. They can’t legally print it without extensive editing. So what are they supposed to do? Fans will complain either way. If they cut the pages, they’ve “censored” it (which I find to be an interesting choice of words, since it’s usually used to describe alternation or removal of what some nefarious governement power has deemed “dangerous” or “objectionable” which suggests motivation that does not appear to be a factor here). If they edit the scene as extensively as they’d have to in order to keep it without running afoul of the Swisher corporation, fans would complain that they “butchered” it or something like that. I’ve seen massive fan outrage over the alternation of a single name.

This trademark issue is not something a manga editor can do anything about. Can’t we offer some level of understanding here? I’m really not talking about you Danielle–the outrage over editorial choices in fandom overall frustrates me frequently. I’m not pro-“censorship” by any means, it’s just that any adaptation from Japanese to English requires some level of editing (some more than others), and it bothers me that fans seem unwilling to consider that there may be factors involved that are not immediately obvious to them. Would we rather they just never translated it at all?  That’s the vibe I get often from fandom.

Michelle:  I don’t get particularly bent out of shape over adaptation choices; though I’d prefer it if original references and names were kept. It doesn’t *really* change the story significantly that the names are different in Case Closed for example, and though I wish they weren’t, I can still enjoy the series and support its release. And I completely understand that VIZ’s hands were tied, but wish there could’ve been something there. Even a note like, “At this point in the original manga there is a scene” blah blah.

Danielle:  Melinda’s points suddenly reminded me about the flap over Viz’s translation of Fumi Yoshinaga’s Ooku.  Many, many people have criticized the translator or editor’s choice to use “archaic” language to demonstrate the time period (the work takes place in a fictionalized version of historical Japan), and I’ve seen a few individuals that refused to buy the work because of those adaptation choices.

Now, I’ve defended the translation but not because I necessarily believe those were the “correct” or “right” choices, but because some thought was put into those decisions and I don’t think the final effect of the translation obscures or undermines the artistic work as a whole.

In the instance of NANA, the choice to remove those four pages pains because it was ultimately unnecessary (as I believe the anime adaptation reveals) and while we may chalk it up to editorial “learning experience” I think it is perfectly acceptable to criticize Viz because I do want to see more and more *challenging* manga titles officially adapted for the U.S. market.  I also feel very strongly that U.S. publishers are getting better and better at learning what it means to be adapt material even *with* all the constraints they face (trademark, of course, just being one example).  Melinda’s point about fans basically being so over-protective of works that they assume U.S. adapters can’t possibly do justice to these works is *very* well taken, but I argue that thoughtful critique of those choices has its place and that is what I am trying to forward here (also I don’t think it is out of line that I *mourn* the loss of those pages — I love this work, I’ve supported it by buying not only the manga but also the anime adaptations and will continue to do so long as it is officially released in the U.S.).

Melinda:  Perhaps I’m just not picky enough as a reader, but since any translation from Japanese to English requires considerable adaptation just to make sense (from what I understand) I admit I’m pretty forgiving about most choices. As a reader, my priority is that the work reads smoothly and effectively in English, even if that means changes had to be made. I suppose that’s why I’m feeling forgiving about the cuts in NANA as well, since the one possible adaptation option we’ve discussed (the one employed in the anime) leaves some things making almost as little sense as they do with the pages cut out completely. Both are poor options, and there’s no perfect way to handle the situation.

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It’s interesting that you bring up Ooku, because though you’d think it would have bothered me a lot (based on what I said above), after a chapter or so I stopped noticing the issue and got swept up in the story. So perhaps in the end I can be okay with anything as long as the story is still good enough.  Which I suppose brings us back to my original irritation. I’m endlessly baffled by people who are so upset about a single change or adaptation choice that they would abandon an entire series over it, as if that one issue trumped everything else the author had put into the work.

All that said, Danielle’s points are well taken and not at all unreasonable.

Danielle:  I had the exact same experience, Melinda, with Ooku!  I kind of feel you have to abandon yourself to a work like that even if a part of us rebels when we first encounter the so-called “archaic” language.  Once I was able forget the “alien-ness” of the language, I could then sink into the story without a problem.   However, I try to understand that some people just can’t do that and the choice of language is too great a barrier (even though I’m really sad that some have had to abandon such a great work because of that hurdle).

Well, I was hoping we could wrap up this special edition on a positive note by naming any manga adaptations / titles we have really, really enjoyed.  Have either you ever thought a certain script flowed very well, or a title had a smart use of slang, or what have you?  Or do you think that in good adaptations we shouldn’t “notice” such things?  (i.e. a good adaptation is one where you don’t “see” the work behind the translation?)

Michelle:  A lot of times I don’t really notice adaptations, which I feel somewhat guilty about since obviously it requires a lot of work. The first time I really paid attention, though, was with the adaptation for Shinobi Life by Ysabet Reinhardt MacFarlane. I thought the dialogue and style suited the characters extremely well, particularly for Beni, the lead character. Punchy and snarky, it captured her personality nicely.

Melinda:  I’m especially fond of William Flanagan’s adaptations of xxxHolic and Mushisi, both of which I think are fairly esoteric works in their own way but read extremely well in English. I think it’s absolutely the case that most of the time a good adaptation is kind of invisible. But those are the two that come to mind immediately for me as. Also (and this is a Korean comic) I love the vintage screwball comedy feel of NETCOMICS’ new translation of Full House.

Oh! And I can’t overlook Joyce Aurino’s work on Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei, which had to be one of the most difficult adaptations *ever*.

Danielle:  The two adaptations that came to my mind immediately were xxxHolic and Fruits Basket.  I think because both those works convey so much about the characters and their emotions and yet most of the time they are also about *withholding* information because the storytelling style demands it.  I imagine those were challenging works to adapt but when you read them you can tell that the folks involved in the adaptation really, really cared about them.

I think intellectually I agree with Melinda’s point that a good adaption should be “invisible” but sometimes I kind of appreciate an adaptation that is a little showy.  For example, I just finished Dorohedoro by Q Hayashida which had a kind of hilariously matter-of-fact foul sensibility in the script.  I’m sure that comes from the original too, but I thought it was a great English-language adaptation.

Michelle:  I actually have a small quibble with the adaptation of Fruits Basket, which, I now realize, is completely one of those situations where a person states that the fan translation is better.  You see, Fruits Basket is one series where I bought the Japanese volumes as they were released and followed along with fan-created text translations.  In one volume, Yuki is thinking about his feelings for Tohru and says, essentially, “To me, you are so very dear.”  In the English versions, this came out as “I love you.”  While one could argue that “I love you” does not necessarily imply romantic feelings, I still prefer the earlier version. In a way, it perhaps withholds *less* information by casting Yuki’s love in a non-amorous light.

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Not that this kept me at all from buying and enjoying the English Fruits Basket volumes or anything, and there are plenty of laudable things about it—speaking of conveying character, great things are done with Ayame!—it’s just that what sticks out for me is this one instance where I was disappointed in how an important moment was handled.

Melinda:  Since this has come up, I’ll throw in an instance where I felt the opposite!  There was a time when I used to read scanlations (as you know), especially for keeping up with series I was already reading in English. In volume ten of xxxHolic, there is a really important moment between Watanuki and Himawari, in which Watanuki finally confesses his feelings. The setting is hugely dramatic. Watanuki has nearly died, Himawari has revealed her worst secret to him, and emotions are running high on both sides.  The confession is made in a large panel that takes up the majority of a page, with a close-up on both Watanuki’s an Himawari’s faces, indicating the strength of the emotion behind it. The fan translator chose to translate Watanuki’s confession as, “I like you.” Bill Flanagan translated it as “I love you.” Since I don’t read Japanese, I have no way of knowing which is the more precise translation of CLAMP’s wording there, but I can tell you that the difference in emotional impact is *huge* and it was Bill’s translation that (in my opinion) best matched the dramatic resonance of the visuals and brought tears to my eyes (literally) as I read it.  To me, *that’s* adaptation.  Taking everything into account–wording, visual cues, and the emotional buildup of the scene to best bring the work to life for English-speaking readers.

Michelle:  I think both of our examples serve to illustrate the impact that adaptation has on one’s enjoyment of a series and bringing its best qualities to the fore to be appreciated by an American audience!

Danielle:  I couldn’t agree more and I am going to take advantage of Michelle’s graceful summation of our last thoughts on adaptation to conclude this edition of the NANA Project.

Join us next time when we return to regularly scheduled programming and discuss volumes 11 and 12 of NANA!


In the case of xxxHolic, I’m pretty certain the original word would be ‘suki’, which can be either ‘like’ (if you’re being literal) or ‘love’ (very likely more appropriate in that context). The Fruits Basket line, on the other hand, sounds awkward in the fan translation but might well be capturing an important shade of meaning.

That definitely seems like a bit of a circular argument there. No one likes it, but the solution isn’t really anything anyone likes either.

On translations….
That line from Furuba by Yuki…he doesn’t say it out loud, does he? If I remember correctly, it’s an inner thought. At the point it appears in the story, it’s sort of like “Wait, what?” I mean, everyone knows he’s affectionate toward Tohru, but he’s admitting the feeling to himself. Now, later in the story, we understand that he DOES love her, just not in ~that~ way, which may have been implied in the earlier dialog. But if you read into it enough when it does first appear, you understand he doesn’t mean it romantically really.

I wonder if anyone have read I Hate You More Than Anyone from CMX? You guys mention Ayami’s dialog in Furuba…. The main male character, Sugimoto, in IHYMTA speaks in a similarly effeminate way. It reads really weird sometimes. And I think it’s kind of hard to convey in text. In Japanese, it’s based on the form of the verbs and pronouns you’re using, yeah? (Like how in Ouran HS, Haruhi says something like “Well, I’ll just call myself “ore” now,” but they translate it into “I’ll just start calling everyone dude and bro.”) In America, if you’re not careful, it can translate into a stereotypical caricature of the way a homosexual speaks. They make mention all the time that Sugimoto talks like a girl, but I mean…what does that even mean, really? I don’t really get it, but I do get the feeling that it’s not being translated in the best way.

[…] NANA Project takes on a special topic this month (or rather, last month a little bit late), following some internet brouhaha around pages […]

Great post Danielle (and Melinda and Michelle of course!). Much of it is hard for me to follow, but I still found myself highly interested, especially in regard to the “censorship” issue and adaptations…and how invisible or visible they are for this medium. Fascinating!

Fascinating conversation. Thank you all. Communication, in any form, at best is difficult. Thanks for pointing out the specific problems with translation.

You know, I watched anime version of NANA before reading the manga, and I actually did not notice that scene was missing. In a way I feel as though I’ve lost a vital scene that properly introduces the symbol of that particular brand of cigarettes, but at the same time it almost feels like trivia that wasn’t essential to getting the story in full. One important point is that that particular scene showed how the band’s name is actually Black Stones, and that Blast is more of a nickname.

I actually checked out the anime again to see how the dub and subbed version handle it differently, and while the dub solution does make it seem like a spontaneous idea coming from Nana, the subbed version actually has her looking at the cigarettes and taking the name from there as “Black Stones”, so maybe this is a print copyright issue? The pack is altered to read Blast as well, so it seems like the issue is with a logo rather than the name itself, which sort of suggests that the scene could have been left in with some alterations.

Also important is that while Blast is symbolized by Black Stones cigarettes, Trapnest also has their own particular brand: Seven Stars. While I’d have to go through the manga again to be sure, I think this brand was also changed to something like Lucky Star, so it really seems like the issue has to do with logos. Or maybe the Viz didn’t want to get in trouble with the strict laws against advertising cigarettes, so they might have sidestepped the whole issue by using fictitious logos.

One last thing (and I don’t mean to go on so long!) I just felt like I should mention that while I have no idea if any of you have been following the news about Ai Yazawa, but she’s apparently been recently released from her stay at the hospital. NANA is still officially on hiatus while she recovers and continues treatment for her unnamed illness, but the more important issue of her improving health is fantastic news and as fans of her work I’m sure you’d all be happy to hear that!

I saw the scene in the anime, but it had been awhile since I’d read the manga (which I only read in Shojo Beat), so I didn’t realise the scene had been missing in the manga.
I don’t know if trademark law is quite as strict as you seem to believe in this case. I’ve seen plenty of brand names used in fiction, sometimes quite prominently (and I’m not counting the paid ‘product placements’). It usually seems to count as fair use. There are lawsuits sometimes, but they don’t hold up in court that often.
It could be that the publishers we’re just a little afraid of the hassle of a potential lawsuit, even if they were assured of winning, as well as the publicity that might come with such an event.

Regarding Ai Yazawa’s illness….
The last I heard of it, it was a “when or if” sort of thing, like she wasn’t even sure she would ever be going back to NANA. Ever. Hopefully it’s a “when,” but these things….. It sounds like her condition was pretty serious, whatever it was.

Very interesting discussion from everyone! I don’t have much to add to the NANA topic, but I appreciated and enjoyed reading the various opinions here. So thanks!!

I also enjoyed the conversation turning to discussion of other adaptations at the end, as it’s something I’ve been paying more attention to myself recently. Shinobi Life stands out to me too as really nicely adapted, although I noticed it more with Kagetora’s somewhat old-fashioned (but not obnoxiously so) and respectful tone. I read Black Butler the other day and I thought that was nicely adapted too, though I can’t quite place what exactly made me like it… Bunny Drop was good too; I enjoyed reading Daikichi’s dialogue.

I thought it was amusing that Kris compared Ayame with Sugimoto from I Hate You More Than Anyone! (a series and a character I dearly love; I’m thrilled someone else mentioned it!), especially since FB and IHY are both translated by the same people. I hadn’t thought about the characters’ similarities, though there may be some—as I understand it, Ayame’s speech tends to be excessively wordy and frilly and arrogant(?), and Sugimoto’s is more just girly. Having seen a bit of IHY in Japanese (with my very limited Japanese reading skills), I have an idea of how impossible it is to totally convey his speech patterns, since English has nothing like an equivalent for the use of “grammar for girls”/”grammar for guys” in Japanese (pronouns are an obvious part, but there’s a lot more than than that). So, taking the impossibleness into account, I actually think the translators do a good job, giving Sugimoto a gentler tone than most guys, using occasional pet words like “sweetie”/”honey,” keeping his use of “-chan” for the girl he likes… and beyond that, I think the only thing you can do as a translator/adapter is make your readers aware that the character talks like a girl in Japanese, and let them figure out how to interpret that as they read. The only alternative I can imagine is giving the character some kind of valley-girl dialect, and I think that would be far, far worse than a subtle adaptation that loses some of the nuance.

Ah, nooo! I get on the topic of this series and I just can’t stop talking(/typing) until I’ve written an essay. Sorry!

If the copyright is for BLACKSTONE specifically, it seems the easiest thing to do would be to change the name of the cigarettes to Black Stones… Then it avoids copyright problems, but still allows the naming of the band to make sense.

The copyright problem that really confuses me is Meitantei Conan. I don’t understand how a *person’s name* can be copyrighted. There are real people named Conan! There is Conan O’Brien, of course, but I also went to school with a boy named Conan. I can understand if the Conan the Barbarian people *think* they should be able to keep anyone else from using the name, because people are stupid over copyright. But I don’t understand how they could actually have a leg to stand on…

As far as this edited scene goes, I think the anime was still constricted by the dubbing limitations associated with lip-flap, so I think even if the anime production was able to think of a “better” solution to the issue than simply omitting the scene, the way they did it might not have “worked” well because they simply only had so many syllables with which to create the new origin story for the band name. I think if Viz had thought of the same idea at the time of the manga editing, they would have been able to keep the scene intact, but might have been better able to alter the dialogue to make it a more “spontaneous” idea, less constrained because word balloons, while still constrictive, are less constrictive than lip-flap. Coming up with “black stones” all at once is a little weird, but if it has been a part of a longer conversation, or at least a longer brainstorm (like, say, “;black; should be in the name ’cause it’s cool, oh, and something ‘hard’ like a rock,” and then someone else could say, “how about “stone'” and voila; changing the cig brand name to Blast would cement it the way the anime used it after that).

In all, I already knew the band’s name because I saw the first live-action film first, read the various summaries and, in fact, was confused the other way (I didn’t understand why the band kept being called Blast at first).

As for a good adaptation, the only one off i can think of at the moment is the anime adaptation for BECK, which had it’s own set of troubles. They had to completely omit all references to and even a song from The Beatles rather than pay whatever ridiculous fee the rights holders would have wanted. I think they did a fantastic job with that dub all-around, even down to the English language songs.

Danielle Leigh

May 4, 2010 at 8:02 pm

Thanks to everyone’s great responses! I’m a little tapped out on this topic thanks to the round table but I’m enjoying reading about everyone’s own thoughts on adapting manga for the English-language marketplace.

Also I’m really enjoying all these little informational tidbits — like about “Seven Stars” being the brand of Trapnest (which I think I’ve overlooked somehow), or the Beatles song being adapted for BECK (Cait, I agree, I think the new song for the English dub is actually superior in some respects to the original performance).

I didn’t know about the Beatles and Beck! What song was it?
I only know about the changing of the name of the guitar from Lucille to Prudence, because Lucille is the name of BB King’s guitar.

I couldn’t remember, so I had to look it up. It was “I’ve Got a Feeling.” The thing with the guitar is ridiculous, in my opinion. Not because they changed it, but because BB King trademarked the name.

Err, I made a slight mistake about the whole cigarette thing. Seven Stars aren’t Trapnest’s brand, they’re Ren’s, which is why Nana smokes them, which has some obvious implications. I remember there was one brand that represented Trapnest, but I can’t remember what it was. I guess it would just be whatever Takumi smokes :p

As someone who has worked selling cigarettes in the past (ironically as someone who never used tobacco in any form) as well as staffing anime/manga conventions for ten years, I believe Jose is right –

The issue isn’t as much the brand name, as it is that the band members are effectively endorsing cigarettes (actually, cigarellos, cigarette-like cigars made with a wrapper and flavored coarse-chopped cigar tobacco), and manga, even more so than normal comics, are seen to be oriented toward a teen audience these days.

The easiest and safest way to handle the situation is to simply excise the scene where the “Black Stones” name origin is discussed, and treat the name as having some other origin.

Had the scene been left in (even with the name changed), Viz would have been left wide open for the anti-teen-smoking groups to totally destroy the company (as they would center their attack on the fact that, even with the name change, it was obviously identifiable as Swisher’s product, and you have character saying “let’s all smoke these”), LONG before Swisher ever could have said anything about the trademark violation. Actual smoking, and underage sex, those can be ignored as cultural things and as part of the story – but a character endorsing a brand cannot.

Trust me, the various private, state and federal tobacco groups don’t mess around. the scene HAD to go.

[…] (Melinda Beasi, Danielle Leigh, and Michelle Smith) takes on a special topic in their latest discussion: The four pages that were removed from volume 4, and the other edits to the […]

This is a really interesting discussion. I have been collecting Nana in French, so I checked the french version of vol 4 and apparently it has been printed without censorship. Not only the 4 page flashback scene of the origin of the group’s name has been preserved, but there are also several moments before then when Blackstone cigarettes and their relationship to different group members are mentioned (since I do not own an english language version of Nana, I wonder what happened to those pages in Viz’s edition?) The very first time we see a pack of Blackstones is on page 101 of vol4 (french Delcourt version) where Yasu smokes them before Nana drops by his place. The second time is on p130 where Nana sees a pack on the table of their apartment and asks Hachi whether Yasu had stopped by. When Hachi doesn’t understand, Nana says that nobody else but Yasu would smoke cigarettes with such a strange taste. Hachi responds that cigarettes belong to Shin who started smoking too but is not telling Nana that Shin and Nobu came by and told her the story of Ren’s leaving the group to join Trapnest and Nana’s heartbreak. Finally at the end of chapter 11 there is a scene of Yasu smoking (very reminiscent of the one on p101) where Ren drops by, much like Nana did. It is followed by the last page of the chapter where we see Nana sitting at the apartment table reading a newspaper and smoking (before going to see Ren’s concert) with Hachi’s narrative:” You behaved exactly the same way as usual, remeber? But there was a different scent in the room. The sent of the cigarettes I had confiscated from Shin. The sent of Black Stone that you said you hated so much.”
I don’t know what happened to all those scenes in the english version, but it seems that the cigarettes and the 2 particular brands are used as a bond on many levels between the different band members, appearing especially at intensly emotionally meaningful moments and almost acting as a beacon sign for them.

Tacto, the brand on the cigarette pack reads “Blast” on all of those pages.

I’d agree with Basara up to a point about the edit, but I really do think it is more an issue of trademark than censoring smoking, especially considering there is just so much smoking throughout the series, even and especially by several minors (Shin in particular). Before volume 8, however, all of the volumes of the series are rated T+ and afterwards all are rated M. If they were truly trying to prevent depicting cigarette smoking I feel like we would see more edits of it in the first 7 volumes while they were still trying to fool themselves into believing the series could be rated under M.

Cait: You missed the point.

It was the ability to directly link the teen smoking to a REAL brand that caused the issue. With a fictional brand, there still could be some problems, but that pales compared to the repercussions of using a REAL brand. It would be treated as a direct endorsement and advertising that brand to minors – regardless of whether Swisher knew about it or what. Not only would the anti-smokers go after Viz, they’d go after Swisher – then Swisher would have to go after Viz as well, to prove that they had no part in it, and probably suing Viz for damages from getting Swisher in trouble with the FDA.

Why do you think that you never see a real cigarette brand in use in a mainstream American movie, in the last 40 years or so? IIRC, they had to do several obfuscations in “Days of Thunder” to deal with a number of tracks, races and the NASCAR main circuit being named for cigarettes, including dealing with the ads that were all over the tracks (the absence of which would only stand out to a regular NASCAR race viewer at the time). Identifiable use of real brand names is treated like an endorsement in media (much like product placement of, say, Pepsi or Coke in a movie), unless being covered as part of a news report – and the FDA, BATFE, and the civilian groups against smoking go ape-feces if it occurs.

You get left with several choices –
edit every reference, and hope none slips through (the “Blast” method)
change the circumstances of how the name “Black Stones” came to be (the method that Viz appears to try in the US version),
or some combination of both of these.

As much as I dislike smoking, I got to understand the business aspects of the industry (and its opponents) fairly well during those 3 years. (and believe me, working selling cigarettes was kinda surreal for someone who can’t stand to be around them in use – but I was the only person in the building all day, and it was a paycheck with the benefits of all the free pop/gatorade and candy bars I wanted when on break, included with the job – though the owner’s son was more prone to abusing that than I was on his days)

No, I don’t think I missed the point, especially since I said I agreed to a point. I might have missed part of your argument– going back and rereading I see you mentioned smoking in general and I must have missed that– but the issue either way we said it was still with the trademark (the brand name), not with depictions of smoking in general.

My real point in the above argument was– or, rather, should have been, as I already discussed it in this thread– about your assertion that the easiest way around the problem was to remove the scene entirely, when my argument had been that they could have just changed the dialogue in the scene the way they did in the anime (and more effectively, not constrained by the limitations of lip-flap), since the brand name was already not the trademarked one in the manga, either. It might have been “simpler” to cut the pages out and not bother dealing with it., but I disagree with the choice to do so, or the argument that it is why they did. To me, it’s the fact that they didn’t remove, only changed, the scene in the anime that is the key here, and I don’t believe it is because the demographic is “younger” for manga. While I don’t have demographic information, I don’t believe manga is consumed by a younger crowd than anime at all, and I know in particular that this title was always marked for an older teen audience to begin with, and then an entirely adult one a third of the way through the series. I think Viz simply didn’t think to do this in the manga, but did when they did the anime later (possibly at the suggestion of the anime production team). Since they didn’t remove the scene from the anime, it seems to me that they weren’t necessarily looking for the “easy” solution.

[…] (Melinda Beasi, Danielle Leigh, and Michelle Smith) takes on a special topic in their latest discussion: The four pages that were removed from volume 4, and the other edits to the […]

Oh… interesting. I didn’t notice that. Though I did know that Blast stood for Black Stones, I think from either the anime or the movie (I really can’t keep it straight in my head any more).

I do have to say though, that when I was clicking on this, I thought you guys were going to talk about how Viz censored the manga to make it so that Shin wasn’t exactly prostituting himself to Reira… which he kind of did, or about how (if I remember correctly) at the fireworks scene Nana said that Hachi was their “madonna”, which stuck out to me as being much gentler and less possessive than the “pet dog” (as it was fan translated). Are you guys aware of these? Because these instances, the changes seemed to have material impact on the dynamics between the characters, and I was. Very. Very. Angry. at Viz.

The consequences seemed much worse than the cigarette name scene, which I must confess I didn’t notice was gone.

Compound that with Viz’s ridiculous “slang” and back cover blurb and I’d stop buying the manga if only I didn’t love it so much. But I really thought the censoring days were behind us…

I’m glad that this was recognized, I found out because a friend read fan-translations of NANA and saw the four extra pages, and I hadn’t and I was SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO pissed.

As stated in the conversation, I wouldn’t have minded if they’d changed the name and switched the reference around. Perhaps saying “How about Black Stones?” and THEN referencing to the cigarette as a good abbreviaton that made it sound fresh.

It was the loss of a flashback, which really IS so important in here, that got me so worked up that I wrote to Viz (not knowing it was already such an issue!)

I think they need to do a reprint of the volume, which includes the scene with the suggested changes. It wouldn’t affect the other volumes but it would mean a lot to fans.

Four pages is just too precious to cut out like that.

Your website is a good source of information. Great post guys! This was helpful.

I agree that the thing is not in copyrights and brand names in itself, but in the very fact of justifying words about cigarettes. And it would be the only way out to excise the scene entirely or wholly rewrite it without using any cigarette brands at all. As though the main audience of the comics are teenagers. And in general, cigarette promotion is the last thing, no matter what is the story about, moreover if this is the authors’ deal that is not promoted by any tobacco company.
Cigs advertisement is the cigarettes stores’ like business that should be hold on the permitted for that ad platforms. As a last resort it is permissible in the films with strict age limits like in “Pulp Fiction” for example.

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