Editor’s Note: This article was written in part by Ryan Pearson.
Sony is expanding the company’s anime operations by using its subsidiaries to produce tie-in products for franchises they own, as part of Sony’s “One Sony” concept.
Nikkei Asian Review reports two new games for the Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba franchise are going to be released by Sony subsidiary Aniplex within the next year. These were the previously revealed titles for PlayStation 4, and the other for Android and iOS.
Despite third party gameplay trailers, we have not heard anything about either game in five months. News blog GotGame confirmed that both a smart phone title, and PlayStation 4 game will be published by Aniplex with CyberConnect2 developing the titles.
Nikkei Asian Review also reported comments by Sony President Kenichiro Yoshida at a strategy meeting on May 19th. He reportedly stated that “Our group wants to contribute to delivering Japanese anime to fans worldwide,” and that he described animation as a “business that embodies the ‘One Sony’ concept.”
The statement is likely to mean Sony’s goal to be able to cater to a consumer’s every desire for entertainment; games, music, film, television, and animation. This may be concerning to some who fear how Sony has operated in some areas.
In late December 2018, Sony Interactive Entertainment Japan Asia President Atsushi Morita stated the then recent spate of censorship of anime-styled sexual content on PlayStation 4 games had been “to meet global standards.” This censorship was seemingly forced in Japan.
Recently we delved into the rumor that Tencent had influenced Sony in some way to encourage censorship of anime-styled sexual content on PlayStation 4.
Sony frequently cites global and community standards as reasons for their censorship practices. This has led to Japanese developers to release on other platforms, or create different versions.
This was the case with D3’s “Breast-Expansion Dungeon RPG“ Omega Labyrinth Life, which was released uncensored on the Nintendo Switch at launch. A censored version for the PlayStation 4 titled Labyrinth Life (omitting the “Omega” which is stylized as a busty girl in the logo) was released also at a reduced price to reflect the cut content.
As such, it is likely we may continue to see censorship in anime games, especially those involving Sony. However, Sony and its subsidiaries have made similar blunders with anime.
Including their ownership of Aniplex, Sony also acquired a majority stake in Funimation in 2017, which is one of the largest publishers of anime in the west. Ignoring an inaccurate and politically-charged moment in the English dub of Prison School in 2015, Funimation and Aniplex have both drawn ire for inaccurate subtitles and dubs.
Despite claiming to distance themselves from their own writers after the Prison School GamerGate incident, the trend would continue in 2017 with Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid.
There, the usually oblivious and flirty Lucoa said she had changed into a sweater to stop “pesky patriarchal societal demands”– while in the original she stated “Everyone always tried saying something to me, so I tried toning down the exposure”– in reference to characters asking her to dress more modestly as oppose to flirting or making lewd comments.
2017 also saw My First Girlfriend Is a Gal taking similar liberties, by parodying the speech style of President Donald Trump. The series also saw a character decry light novel-fans as “freaks who hate women” seeking “jailbait.” Neither lines are accurate (albeit the former featuring a bombastic speech, and the latter having the character speak poorly of light novel-fans).
In 2019, Interview With Monster Girls several bullies chastise a character defending another from their harassment by calling them a “social justice warrior.” The dub for YU-NO: A Girl Who Chants Love at the Bound of This World (YU-NO) saw issues in its first episode, changing a line to “you’re such a misogynist!“ instead of “how crude!”
This year, Funimation dropped the series Ishuzoku Reviewers (Interspecies Reviewers). The reason cited by Funimation (as we previously reported on Nicchiban) was that the series “falls outside of [their] standards”.
Finally, Funimation kicked up outrage when discussing their involvement with anime production committees in Japan. They discussed in a blog post on what being involved with an anime’s production committee meant.
They described how they would be invited to Japanese committees to aid in funding productions, and in turn granted part ownership of the titles. Funimation stated how they are “trusted by the rest of the committee to use their international expertise to better market the show to foreign viewers and provide more detailed input to the other Japanese companies regarding what fans abroad would like to see. It’s a win-win.”
Funimation concludes, further explaining what opportunities they have gained via their involvement, but also how anime is “no longer focused solely on the Japanese market,” and it being the future.
Many expressed concerns that Funimation (and others) were using localization and influence in the Japanese market to alter Japanese media; allegedly forcing left-wing political messages into anime, and remove elements those in support of those beliefs would deem offensive (or those opposed to them would allegedly enjoy).
With WarnerMedia intending to sell their own anime operations in competitor Crunchyroll, it’s uncertain just how strong Sony’s influence on the animation industry will spread.