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Baneful's Column
Baneful's Take II: On Konami's Card Art Censorship
January 15, 2014

The card arts in the United States and other international countries can often be different than the ones in Japan. Konami alters and censors these cards to cover up nudity, remove sexually suggestive implications, avoid gruesome violent imagery and to avoid conveying any religious themes.

The card name "Trial of Hell" became "Trial of Nightmare". Monster Reborn was changed from an ankh (religious symbol) to a sword. Ultimate Offering was changed from drops of blood to a pair of ghoulish monsters. The Harpie Lady monsters had their breasts covered. Parasite Paracide was violent and Fiend Comedian was disturbing. I'm not even going to comment on the Japanese version of the card Ego Boost. Lots of players (including me) have collect these unedited cards. To be fair, anything out of the usual was collected, like a Goblin Attack Force with a level-star instead of the EARTH attribute.

We've had this debate long ago on whether censorship is cool or not, but I might as well re-open it due to the fact that I've matured on this issue a bit. Is removing or altering content necessary for something that might offend some people or is it catering to people and only reinforcing a bad mentality of being offended? Years ago, I viewed it as just a bunch of thin-skinned old-fashioned people getting upset over nothing. I don't relate to that viewpoint that much anymore. Now, I'm starting to see the good side of it.

Regarding religion, there's a cultural difference between Japan and the United States (that's all I'll say on that). As for the violence part, there's no need for violent imagery. Not that I would have ever protested in favor of disturbing-looking demons and guns being depicted on cards, but I'm not in a hurry to remove it either. In the end, even if it means appeasing people who may get a misconception of what the game is about at first, it's been good for the kids who did not get their cards taken away from their parents because of the explicit content. With just looking at one card, a parent's perception of the company could easily be in free-fall as they wonder what else the company could be promoting.

Nudity is an issue though. Initially, I defended it as free speech and free expression (it technically was). But it went a step beyond just revealing what truly exists out there and angry people trying to censor it. It's not that nudity is inherently wrong. It's that Konami's take on it is often sexist and sometimes it feels like there's an undertone of misogyny beneath their art direction. There are some naked masculine monsters, but men overall are rarely depicted as vulnerably nude. Yet, the stereotypically feminine women depicted in the cards are often given exaggerated breasts and have specific parts of their body revealed for pure sex appeal. Armor is used to protect the male monsters, while used to sexualize female monsters. When breastplates become literal breast plates, that's where I personally draw the line.

Much like how this excessive nudity and an immature take on sexuality (directed to an audience of horny young males) gives a bad image to anime or some video games, these images would've only exacerbated negative stereotypes or assumptions that are often associated with hobbies and media targeted toward adolescents in the United States. Crude content has it's place (TV shows like South Park for example), but not in a game meant to appeal to widespread audience, including children. The content Konami has been displaying is not just a display behind a clear glass window that has to be covered in blinds because of sensitive Americans. It's not a clear window. It's a glass tainted with a filter which, once you notice, is hard to un-notice.

There's nothing wrong with violence and nudity when they are used to express a meaningful message in an artistic manner, but nothing of that sort was done here. In Yu-Gi-Oh!, it is often forced instead of honest. It's often slanted and catering toward a low-common denominator audience rather than actually being grounds for artistic expression. For that reason, even if the original art still unfortunately exists (and still is made) in Japan. Ideally, the creators would be more prudent and aware in the design of their cards, but censoring them for the rest of us definitely averts promoting bad stereotypes and gives us less room to revel in boobs-and-guns.

Contact: banefulscolumn@gmail.com

 


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