Viz has announced that starting this month their Dragon Ball comics will no longer be edited for content and will carry a '13 and Up' label. Back in Dragon Ball Part 3 #3, Viz announced that they were bowing to parental complaints and would henceforth edit the English language versions that they produced. Dragon Ball fan Jason Grybowski started an on-line petition to bring back the uncensored Dragon Ball and was able to get more than 10,000 signatures. The new '13 and Up' label will appear on the comic and on the new trade paperback collection Dragon Ball Vol. 4 to indicate to fans that these are the uncensored versions. Viz is currently in the process of reprinting Dragon Ball Vol. 1-3 with the addition of the panels that had been cut out or altered. The reprinted volumes will be uncensored and will carry the '13 and Up' label.
Why is Viz doing this now? Well, the extent of the fan reaction is clearly part of it. As more anime appear on network TV or even the Cartoon Network, the bowdlerization process that they undergo has made fans more sensitive to censorship issues. A distaste for censorship has led to increased sales for authentic, uncut Japanese versions that are now available on DVD. Recently Dark Horse, which in the past has edited certain panels from its manga line, announced that it would be publishing an 'adult' version of the new Ghost in the Shell series (see 'Ghost in the Shell 2:Man-Machine Interface.'). It does appear that publishers and video companies alike are starting to pay attention to expressed wishes of the teen and adult fan base. This is a positive step, but it will require increased vigilance on the part of the retailer (see 'Avoid Hidden Cameras in your Store'), and it will expose manga and anime to increasing levels of culture clash as uncensored Japanese material comes into contact with large segments of the American population that still associate animation and comics with children.