If I had a nickel for every time I've read a comment about an instance of a localization team removing a reference or changing an outfit being referred to as "sanitization" I could retire at the young age of 22. Most recently a member of the localization team for the game, Akiba's Beat, posted a full thread detailing a few of the changes the localization team made during the game's translation from Japanese to English. Then announces he doesn't want to be in the credits citing the "sanitation" that took place as his reason. He also says he's fighting "the good fight" against censorship.
At the end of the day, I am willing to admit that not being able to see Princess Peach's panties in the US release of Super Smash Bros is an instance of censorship. But I'd also be hard-pressed to find a fuck to give. Either way panties or not, I just can't figure out why anyone would care and I don't want to. So moving on from that. What I do want to talk about two recent instances of localization decisions which people had an uproar. It's not like I'm saying it never matters what localization teams choose to add or remove from a game, I'm saying, recently, the situation has become quite frenzied. People are getting upset at things they shouldn't be upset with and letting slide what they should be questioning. This mistaken placement of criticism is no mistake and I'll tell ya why.
So almost all of the changes Tom, the localizer brings up are pretty benign until you get to the last one. And this is the one that tells you what kind of person this guy is. Let me use his own words since they're right here after all:
"KKK witches" --> "ACQ witches"
"This is the most egregious change IMHO, and is one that I kind of turned into Senran Kagura censorship debate: the sequel. The original was a parody of "NKK switches," a Japanese light switch manufacturer based out of Akihabara. I personally felt "KKK witches" was pretty funny for its shock value, but when I mentioned it to my coworkers, they... were not as amused. For various reasons (some of which do include legitimate localization concerns, but most of which involved personal offense, worries over offending others, or worries over stores not carrying the game due to this "controversial" inclusion), they were insistent upon the name being changed. And of course, I fought this as best as I could, since I saw the forceful change of this as an act of censorship (minor though it be, and even understandable though it be). In the end, however, it was Acquire themselves who voluntarily changed it to "ACQ witches"... sort of. We only ever got as far as emailing them to let them know that the KKK is a well-known abbreviation for a hate group in America, and asking them if the name "KKK witches" had any specific meaning in Akiba's Beat, and the conversation never progressed beyond that point before Acquire simply changed the sign text and sent us a new build. Because of this, calling this an "act of censorship" is indeed rather questionable -- though not unwarranted, I feel, since (1) we would've asked them to change it if they hadn't done so voluntarily, (2) our email did not directly ask them to change it, but... I mean, how else were they supposed to interpret us asking about it at all? And (3) the Japanese version still retains the "KKK witches" moniker, with the change only made to all English versions." -Tom the Localizer
So a few things about this.
One: "calling this an "act of censorship" is indeed rather questionable" -Tom the Localizer
You bet it is. When the creators of the game realized why it would be offensive in the US market they changed it. So to get on the ol' soapbox in the first place is fucking suspect. I think I'd like to believe in this case, that perhaps the makers of this game just didn't want to be ass wipes. But that of course, is conjecture. Everything else I'm about to say, ain't.
Secondly, I think it's worth answering if the reference itself is meant to be as awkward as it translates out to be. In short, I think the answer is no because from the sound of it this is a very Japanese centered game. Why would they reference a violent white supremacist group if they didn't intend to do anything with it? If I was playing Akiba's Beat and suddenly I saw the phrase "KKK witches" on the screen I probably would just be confused and wonder if there was some sort of mistake. Setting everything else aside for a moment, it'd just be odd in an unproductive and distracting way. The average westerner knows nothing about the company, "NKK switches". So that joke is totally out of the window so next, I suppose the team could figure out if there was another joke that could fit. The only thing they had, that didn't change the original name was a reference to a group that has nothing to do with the game. One of the things a good localization does is maintain a connection to the source material but also makes sure the game makes a lick of sense. Tom's co-workers did that. Cut and dry.
And that entire paragraph left out the fact that the "joke" Tom liked so much wasn't even the slightest bit funny. Not from my subjective point of view but of the objective point that a joke is more complicated than saying something taboo. That's like 4-year-old saying words they know are naughty and laughing just for the naughtiness of the word. Lastly, and I don't have anything to add to this at all but the sentence itself. The KKK isn't fucking funny.
Fire Emblem Fates:
There were a few controversies surrounding the localization of the most recent full Fire Emblem release. There was this one mini game in the Japanese version where you could "pet" your allies and they would blush sort of suggestively. In the Western release, localization team, Nintendo Treehouse, changed this into a mini game where you blow on your allies and they blush suggestively and people nearly had an aneurysm.
I tell you this story just to point out how wound up this crowd really is. I really want it to be known that I don't give a shit how people get their rocks off. As long as it's between consenting adults, we're cool. And if it would have stopped people from whining so goddamn much, 1000 times yes, I would have loved to see it kept in.
The other huge deal, however, bothers me a lot so let me do some explaining. In Fire Emblem Fates there is a character named Soleil who a gay girl. Gay to the point where she gets distracted by pretty girls on the battlefield. So, in the original Japanese release, she asks the male avatar the help "cure" her. Eventually, so helpfully, the male avatar puts a powder in her drink which makes her see men as women and women as men. Naturally, some folks had some concerns mainly, he literally drugs her, secondly, she asks of her own volition as a Queer woman to be "cured" of her homosexuality and then is. People felt as though she was undergoing something akin to gay conversion therapy.
I can't read Japanese and just as I've just described it I don't get gay conversion therapy, myself. But that doesn't change the fact that once it was explained to me I understood how one could interpret it that way. She also, without any room for discussion, IS DRUGGED.
Nintendo Treehouse altered the scene so there was no drugging or anything that could be construed as conversion therapy. And gamergate lost their natural fucking minds over it as though it were an affront to their gods.
Changing that scene was the right thing to do. When things are outdated or we realize they could be better we revise them. We revise our laws, we revise our papers, we revise our books and even ourselves under certain lights. This revision of what amounts to around 15 lines of optional dialogue give or take a few lines means nothing in the larger framework of an over 80-hour game and the original scene was really fucked up. It offended enough people that Nintendo, actually, paid notice. Anyone with a shred of empathy would understand why it was worth looking into. Then again these are people who care more about 15 lines than someone else's emotions.
About, that point about having a shred of empathy. The people who complain about larger issues like the two I've talked about are not people who are in connection with their empathy. Tom chuckles to himself about the shock value of the KKK because he has a horrible sense of humor. Well, obviously but no, it's because he's never had to worry about the white supremacists coming for his family members. He's never had some kids dress up in KKK uniforms and harass him at night on his college campus (this happened to me!) It isn't real to him. Just like date rape and conversion therapy aren't real to the people raging about Fire Emblem Awakening. And that's pretty fucking scary.