Cousins: Accidentally Awful or Intentionally Idiotic?

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Mar 8, 2012
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#1
This isn't exactly brand new information: The original English dub censored Uranus and Neptune's relationship by making them cousins instead of same-sex lovers. Twenty years later and "cousins" is still a meme. It is the absolute absurdity of the change that has made it a decades-long running joke in the fandom, and I can't help but wonder if perhaps that was the intent all along. Here's why:

  • According to this contemporary article, producer Nicole Thuault insisted that if it were up to her, she would have retained all the characters' original genders and relationships, but her hands were tied by the censors. While the censors denied her claims, I'm more inclined to believe her and say that the dub team would have kept Uranus and Neptune a couple if they could have, but they weren't allowed to.
  • The most logical solution to this would have been to make them just "really good friends." That would have been enough to get past the censors while still being ambiguous enough to mostly appease fans in the know and, at the very least, not completely confuse fans not in the know. Instead, despite doing an uncut dub (and even the edited-for-TV version didn't exactly omit every instance of hand-holding between the two), they decided to make them cousins, a fact that they reiterated a bizarre number of times. The absurdity of that choice and the absurdity of the amount it is brought up leads me to suspect it was a deliberately stupid choice.
  • Though I don't have the links handy, I know from watching various panels with members of the original dub (Jill Frappier, John Stocker, and Roland Parliament in particular) that the people who worked on the dub really hated the Sailor Says segments, and as a bit of an inside joke/middle finger to the higher-ups would often include footage that had been cut from the episodes proper in the Sailor Says bits. With that general sentiment and sense of humor at play, it seems entirely reasonable that the people working on the dub would have thought, "Oh, they want us to censor out the lesbians now? Okay, what's the dumbest way we could go about that, just to make fun of how stupid it is? I know, we'll make them incest cousins instead!"

So what do you think? Was the "cousins" thing a sort of frustrated inside joke designed to be ridiculous in order to mock the situation, or was it an earnest attempt at appeasing the censors that went horribly awry?
 
Sep 6, 2014
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#2
  • According to this contemporary article, producer Nicole Thuault insisted that if it were up to her, she would have retained all the characters' original genders and relationships, but her hands were tied by the censors. While the censors denied her claims, I'm more inclined to believe her and say that the dub team would have kept Uranus and Neptune a couple if they could have, but they weren't allowed to.

  • I think the interesting thing here is she blamed the CRTC and a spokesperson denied this. However, the Canadian made show Brace Face, which came out around the same time did in fact have a gay character (I believe those episodes didn’t make it to the States because of this) so the CRTC spokesperson might be telling the truth.
  • Toonami, however, almost certaintly did have issues with gay content despite claims to the contrary. This is why Tenchi Muyo had to re-record dialog of Ayeka and Ryoko getting hit with a love arrow and falling in love and almost kissing to them becoming “friends”’ and the almost kiss got cut out. Another episode had a character with a stereotypically gay lisp have all his dialog re-recorded to sound less “gay” There’s also Outlaw Star which I believe had a homosexual character who was censored down for the Toonami broadcast. In Toonami’s defense the first run syndication episodes censored a gay character in Sailor Moon too so there was a precedent for the dub doing just that without Toonami’s demands. The real culprit is 90s and 00s American values. There was no way in hell gay characters were going to be on a kids show in the Us without parents and religious groups complaining and sponsors pulling from the show.

  • [*]The most logical solution to this would have been to make them just "really good friends." That would have been enough to get past the censors while still being ambiguous enough to mostly appease fans in the know and, at the very least, not completely confuse fans not in the know. Instead, despite doing an uncut dub (and even the edited-for-TV version didn't exactly omit every instance of hand-holding between the two), they decided to make them cousins, a fact that they reiterated a bizarre number of times. The absurdity of that choice and the absurdity of the amount it is brought up leads me to suspect it was a deliberately stupid choice.
    They definitely should have done the really good friends thing. I also think Michelle mentioning boyfriends should have been enough to throw watch groups off (bisexuals don’t exist as far as the masses are concerned) Best friends should have been the solution. Especially since its not unheard of for close heterosexual women to be touchy feely with each other even in 2000.

  • [*]Though I don't have the links handy, I know from watching various panels with members of the original dub (Jill Frappier, John Stocker, and Roland Parliament in particular) that the people who worked on the dub really hated the Sailor Says segments, and as a bit of an inside joke/middle finger to the higher-ups would often include footage that had been cut from the episodes proper in the Sailor Says bits. With that general sentiment and sense of humor at play, it seems entirely reasonable that the people working on the dub would have thought, "Oh, they want us to censor out the lesbians now? Okay, what's the dumbest way we could go about that, just to make fun of how stupid it is? I know, we'll make them incest cousins instead!"
Possible? Worth noting the cousin thing seemed a last minute decision. It’s not until their third proper appearance is it revealed that they’re cousins and said by a character who had no reason to know this.

So what do you think? Was the "cousins" thing a sort of frustrated inside joke designed to be ridiculous in order to mock the situation, or was it an earnest attempt at appeasing the censors that went horribly awry?
I think with the sheer amount of times they said cousins and even had the characters who shouldn’t know better call them cousins makes it a possibility it was the writers having fun at unneeded censorship.

on the other hand that production was a rushed mess so who knows?
 
Mar 8, 2012
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#3
The gay character in Braceface debuted a couple of years later, so it's possible policies were changed in the meantime, but it's more likely Nicole was mistaken about who was responsible for requiring the censorship. She voices frustration over the cousins thing which suggests either she wasn't in on the joke or it came from Cloverway and thus, perhaps, Toei themselves? It's such an odd choice and I just wish I could understand the reasoning behind it.
 
Sep 6, 2014
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#4
Given how little Cloverway seemed to care (they were fine with the one daimon being uncensored until Toonami said no) I have to wonder if they would have even suggested the cousins thing.

It’s unfortunate that we know even less about the Cloverway era than we do the DiC era. At least with DiC we have stuff from Fred Ladd and Roland Parliament to give us a vague idea of the production of the 65 syndicated episodes. We don’t even know if the decision to keep the Japanese music was a creative decision by Cloverway or a financial decision (not wanting to pay DiC for the music) or a decision by Optimum due to the extremely rushed production schedule.
 
Jun 30, 2010
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#5
Like you, I'm pretty sure the "cousins" thing came from Cartoon Network, not anyone else. Even though Toonami was on cable, there remain limits on what one can broadcast.

It should also be mentioned that by the time S aired, most of the active fandom was already aware of Uranus and Neptune. The leading cover theory was that they would be best friends. For the first few episodes, people were surprised at how close the scripts (aside from the dub names) were and thought it wasn't going to be censored...until the episode of the love contest.

As for the why "cousins", though, part of the reason is that while one could go the "best friends" route, this is a series with female friends, and none of the five friends acted like Neptune and Uranus. Plus, facially, Neptune and Uranus do share similar proportions even when their features differ. They look substantially different from the other girls and superficially resemble each other.

I do think it was an earnest attempt, despite how clumsily done it was. This is the same season which had "Jupiter Thunder Power" and the "Ambassador of Good" as temporary terms. If it had been a joke then instead of being worried of Lita finding new a new best friend in the episode where she starts idolizing Amara, they would have been worried Lita would have become part of the "family" and the joke would have gone past the censors heads.
 
Jun 6, 2006
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#6
It was a lazy coverup. We all know how rushed the production of the CWI dub was. They probably didn't decide on it at first, hence why they didn't mention how they were cousins for five episodes. Similar thing happened with Fisheye, where his gender wasn't revealed for 10 episodes. Even then, they made allusions to what Fisheye could've been (though nowadays, their censorship move made the dub kinda progressive?)

Honestly, whoever made the "cousin" call was probably just very paranoid, which is stupid. In Italy, all they did was soften the dialogue between Uranus and Neptune. The worst change was probably Bunny referring to them as being "like sisters". Their more affectionate scenes in Stars were censored however (but restored for 2011 release). CWI definitely could've just enforced the whole "we're good friends!" angle, or kept having Michelle talk about her ex-boyfriends. Ironically, they didn't seem to have a problem with Amara being very butch or acting flirtatious with the other girls.

I wish I knew who was calling the ultimate shots for censorship. Obviously the DIC dub was most censored, while the movies were slightly more lax (like leaving in Rini using a toy gun on Moon), and the CWI dub was significantly less censored.
 

ChibiBoi

Luna Crescens
Jan 2, 2010
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#7
It was a lazy coverup. We all know how rushed the production of the CWI dub was. They probably didn't decide on it at first, hence why they didn't mention how they were cousins for five episodes. Similar thing happened with Fisheye, where his gender wasn't revealed for 10 episodes. Even then, they made allusions to what Fisheye could've been (though nowadays, their censorship move made the dub kinda progressive?)
LOL Fisheye is trans: confirmed
 
Sep 6, 2014
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#8
It was a lazy coverup. We all know how rushed the production of the CWI dub was. They probably didn't decide on it at first, hence why they didn't mention how they were cousins for five episodes. Similar thing happened with Fisheye, where his gender wasn't revealed for 10 episodes. Even then, they made allusions to what Fisheye could've been (though nowadays, their censorship move made the dub kinda progressive?)
I do enjoy through sheer carelessness and rushed writing Fish Eye went from a problematic gay man in the Japanese version to a MTF transgender in the Cloverway/Pioneer dub.

It’s like how the dub accidentally made Raye bisexual in S. Why would Chad be jealous of Amara, who he knew was a girl in the dub, unless he knew Raye went both ways?

Honestly, whoever made the "cousin" call was probably just very paranoid, which is stupid. In Italy, all they did was soften the dialogue between Uranus and Neptune. The worst change was probably Bunny referring to them as being "like sisters". Their more affectionate scenes in Stars were censored however (but restored for 2011 release). CWI definitely could've just enforced the whole "we're good friends!" angle, or kept having Michelle talk about her ex-boyfriends. Ironically, they didn't seem to have a problem with Amara being very butch or acting flirtatious with the other girls.
Yes they very easily could have stuck with “what do you mean lesbians? Michelle talks about boys! See see!”

They had Amara tease Serena about going after Darien, which was super weird and forced, but this was the only time they really tried to pass Amara off as straight. All other instances her sexuality was treated ambiguously.

I wish I knew who was calling the ultimate shots for censorship. Obviously the DIC dub was most censored, while the movies were slightly more lax (like leaving in Rini using a toy gun on Moon), and the CWI dub was significantly less censored.
When Funimation had Saban handling the distribution for syndication for DBZ they had to bow to Saban’s demands of what was acceptable. I believe the syndicated episodes for Dic were distributed by Seagull Entertainment? So probably them.

S and SuperS I believe had to deal with Toonami’s internal bs&p
 
Likes: Umino
Jun 6, 2006
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#9
They had Amara tease Serena about going after Darien, which was super weird and forced, but this was the only time they really tried to pass Amara off as straight. All other instances her sexuality was treated ambiguously.
I always figured that was more of Amara joking anyway. Obviously they rewrote the scene so "Amara" wasn't hitting on "Serena", but it's still clear Amara wasn't serious. She goes on record saying she doesn't want a boyfriend, and still playful flirts with the girls ("You could be the prettiest formula 1 driver on the circuit"). As far as the dub universe goes, Amara is still very much a lesbian.

S and SuperS I believe had to deal with Toonami’s internal bs&p
Which is weird, because they let Sailor Moon get away with things that other shows didin't (implied nudity, smoking) but they got on them for other dumb stuff.
 
Aug 5, 2017
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#11
This isn't exactly brand new information: The original English dub censored Uranus and Neptune's relationship by making them cousins instead of same-sex lovers. Twenty years later and "cousins" is still a meme. It is the absolute absurdity of the change that has made it a decades-long running joke in the fandom, and I can't help but wonder if perhaps that was the intent all along.
As is "Having the most Talent".
 
Aug 2, 2012
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#12
Another small reason why I think it might have been intentionally idiotic is that they chose to go with 'cousins' instead of 'sisters'....I mean it would make more sense for sisters to spend so much time together than cousins....
 
Jun 30, 2010
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#13
Another small reason why I think it might have been intentionally idiotic is that they chose to go with 'cousins' instead of 'sisters'....I mean it would make more sense for sisters to spend so much time together than cousins....
There are a LOT of problems with making them cousins...but in my (myopic) view, this isn't one of them.

Assuming that the two of them are the same age and are only children, it would make sense for the two of them to develop a close relationship, like that of sisters. If anything, making them sisters would cause even more problems, as they'd be fraternal twins by necessity.
 

blondibear_17

Luna Crescens
Mar 3, 2017
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#14
It could have been meant as an inside joke but I still do think the point was to not leave any room for ambiguity. The dub obviously wasn't made for fans of the source material otherwise they wouldn't have alienated them like that.
 
Mar 8, 2012
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#15
To throw in another point: It's never stated, afaik, what kind of cousins Amara and Michelle are. They could be first cousins, but they could also be fifth cousins twice removed for all we know. It's not terribly uncommon for people to marry their cousins, and if their cousin-ship is sufficiently distant, can a relationship between them really be considered incestuous / does their being "cousins" necessarily preclude their being a (non-incestuous) couple?
 
Jun 6, 2006
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#17
To throw in another point: It's never stated, afaik, what kind of cousins Amara and Michelle are. They could be first cousins, but they could also be fifth cousins twice removed for all we know. It's not terribly uncommon for people to marry their cousins, and if their cousin-ship is sufficiently distant, can a relationship between them really be considered incestuous / does their being "cousins" necessarily preclude their being a (non-incestuous) couple?
They did say they grew up together...
 
Mar 8, 2012
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#18
But then they apparently spent some time apart and then reunited, so the exact timeline is unclear. And even if they grew up together, that doesn't mean they were raised to think of each other as sisters or anything. There are lots of stories about close childhood friends who grow up together and then fall in love as adults. Not saying it wouldn't be kind of weird, but I don't know it's really uncomfortable enough to warrant being labeled incest.
 

Rachael

Luna Nova
Jun 2, 2011
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#19
Cousins don't have to be blood-related, either. They can be related through marriage. That's my headcanon and I'm sticking to it!