When censorship makes anime stronger

School Days was a boring anime that occasionally surprised with outbursts of violence and melodrama, but which was otherwise destined to be forgotten. Just another drab highschool anime from the mid-2000s to add to the massive pile. Yet, by sheer luck and through brilliant marketing, School Days is remembered to this very day. All thanks to censorship and a certain “pleasant ship”.

censorship nice boat blood

For those not in the know, School Days first aired on Japanese TV from July of 2007 until September of that same year. Its final episode would be a long-awaited, violent climax to a story about teenage romance gone horribly wrong. However, the day before episode 12 would air, the nation was shocked by a brutal murder committed by a teenager. The networks responded by cancelling their scheduled airing of School Days‘ finale; a decision that was made memorable by TV Kanagawa replacing the episode with soothing stock footage. A bemused fan took a picture of this footage, which promptly went viral. The “Nice Boat” was born.

While an understandable decision in this particular case, the resulting boom of School Days‘ popularity is a fun example of how censorship can come around to helping a show. Instead of being forgotten, “Nice Boat” has allowed School Days to have a staying power in the anime fandom that most shows can only dream of. It’s the 218th most popular show on MAL and AniList has it as the 7th most popular show of 2007. That puts it just behind Lucky Star, but above the likes of Lovely Complex, Gundam 00, and Afro Samurai. It only barely clings to a 5/10 on both websites, but who cares if everybody still watched the darn thing anyway.

In this scene of Genshiken, a character keeps screaming “nice boat” at her friends

People acknowledge that it’s a bad show, but are still tempted to check it out because they want to know what the fuss was about. They want to see the anime that was so violent that the censorship overlords wouldn’t even air it. I know… because I was one of them.

Censored media has a mystique to it that makes viewers want to investigate and clever studios have capitalized on that for a while. Long before School Days was even an eroge game, Excel Saga made its final episode so crass it would never be able to air; just to name an example. Even on a smaller scale, it’s always fun to see anime producers “comply” with TV regulations by turning censorship into jokes.

Broadcasting stations remain needlessly prudish and censorship, overall, is still a fairly large problem that anime has to deal with. However, it also gives us interesting stories to talk about and stories keep anime alive long past their final episodes. School Days, Excel Saga, and the many misdeeds of 4Kids are clear examples of such.

Further reading:

The Reason Anime Fans Should Care About Banned Shows – by Karandi (100 Word Anime)

Top 7 Movies and Series That Got Sabotaged and/or Banned for Stupid Reasons – by Iridium Eye

9 thoughts on “When censorship makes anime stronger

  1. I kind of feel that censorship probably worked a lot better when people couldn’t instantly communicate and largely if something was censored people just wouldn’t ever know about it. Nowadays when things are banned and restricted we have whole sectors of social media discussing them and more importantly usually sharing ways to access the material anyway. It leads to curious people wondering just what the fuss is about and checking it out regardless.
    Still, sometimes there are understandable reasons not to air something and the immediacy of the murder in this case makes it one of those situations where while I’m still more a fan of simply putting a warning label on something, you can kind of see why they wouldn’t want to be seen as ignoring the situation and being insensitive.

    1. Subtlety also certainly helps. There are old series that I never realized were censored until I happened on violent or nude screenshots on Anisearch, whereas there is no way to overlook that Monster Musume or Terra Formars were censored.

      1. I will admit I didn’t realise as a teen that the English version of Sailor Moon I was watching was censored (both scenes and episodes removed and the dialogue actually not necessarily what was originally intended). The first time I had the chance to watch original Sailor Moon in Japanese I was very surprised at how some things went (and by episodes I never knew existed).

  2. That’s so interesting how you and Karandi made posts about censorship on the same day. I guess censorship in the context that you’ve described it is like a media version of the Streisand Effect where the show or movie becomes a “forbidden fruit” of sorts to intrigue the viewer. Since the internet is a thing, there’s greater access to the uncut works in some way, shape, or form. Sometimes, I may like something even more if there was malicious intent to censor something like Camp de Thiaroye and Jungle Emperor Leo ’97, but you know the reasons why for both movies due to a certain Top 7 list I made months ago for example. Some companies can be very petty when it comes to editing or sabotaging works.

    1. I was very surprised by that as well, but it goes to show how fascinating the topic is. And you are totally right! There’s a cheeky joy to be had in getting your hands on an uncensored version of an anime or to find a raunchy bonus OVA like the scrapped episodes of Outlaw Star and Dream Hunter REM. Some nuance is needed when arguing about media censored for political reasons though, as anti-censorship can also be used in support of radical propaganda material. I am far too under-equipped to debate that topic however.

      1. Certainly. Thanks! It certainly was a surprise when I saw the uncut versions of Outlaw Star as you mentioned or even anime such as Yu Yu Hakusho, One Piece and Sailor Moon in seeing how different it was in Japanese and uncut compared to what they showed on Toonami.

        Good point about the nuance with the political reasons as it’s on a case by case basis. Both censorship and anti-censorship can be used for propaganda, but that’s a whole other can of worms.

  3. Tbh, censorship has that type of mystery, like if it’s censored and you can’t see it– everyone wants to see it. It’s like behaving the opposite way just because someone told you not to. The more they say no, the more you want to do it. And if that’s used in media, then that’s just an excellent marketing strategy.

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