To Adapt, or Not to Adapt? The Prison School Debacle

Editor's Note: This is a special post put up because of timing. We may do more of these in the future, so heads up!

*Sigh* The internet loves it controversies, doesn’t it?

I don’t need to introduce FUNimation Entertainment; after all, they’re responsible for some of the best anime dubs ever made. I love them, you probably love them, anyone with a respect for anime dubbing as a whole loves them! Which is why it hurts to have to criticize them, even when it’s necessary. And in this case, it’s absolutely necessary! Here goes:

You all know GamerGate, don’t-hey, come back here!

Anyway, it’s a movement that sprang up last year in the late-Summer, and it’s been pretty prevalent in the video gaming and anime community for some time. The goal of the movement, according to them, is to spread the concept of “ethics in games journalism”. However, not everyone agrees, labelling them a hate group out to harass women in the industry. Whenever the topic gets brought up, everything falls to the mad house. I’ve even lost some close friends on the internet because of it, but that’s for a different piece.

I’ve been trying to avoid discussing GamerGate on Infinite Rainy Day for a while now. Not only is it a sore topic, but I’ve always felt that my personal views would get in the way of any sensible response; in fact, the only reason I’m mentioning it at all is because FUNimation has already done that pleasure with one of their latest dubs for a weird fetish show called Prison School. In it, one of the girl characters makes a remark about a guy being a “GamerGate creep” in an arcade. And thus, despite also criticizing Social Justice Warriors in another recent dub, everyone online went crazy.

But wait, it gets better! The situation got to be so unruly that Tyson Rinehart, one of FUNimation’s prime script adapters, came out on Twitter and made the following statement:
“If you think rape threats against women in gaming are acceptable, I'm glad my script pissed you off. #PrisonSchool #itwasjustonelineyounerds”
That’s not the kind of response you’d want from your staff, especially when they cater to a large group of individuals. Of course, that too was blown out of proportion, and not for reasons anyone would want. On one hand, Rinehart was correct in stating that rape threats aren’t acceptable in gaming. They’re not acceptable anywhere, and that they still exist in this day and age is depressing. On the other hand, Rinehart’s comment, aside from being aggressive, was irrelevant. Because he made a dumb of everything for one reason: disrespect for the material.

Perhaps some context is needed. Remember Steven Foster, aka the guy I briefly mentioned in my Ikuhara piece? To recap, Foster was one of the big kahunas of a dubbing studio in Texas known as Sentai Filmworks. Originally ADV Films, Sentai had a bad habit of using Foster to dub pretty much all of their work. This’d be fine if Foster didn’t have a reputation of blatantly disrespecting his given material. In case you need a reminder, this is the cream of the crop of his handiwork:

Lovely, isn’t it? (Courtesy of YouTuber MrHagarenViper.)

This is what Foster was: a jokester known for taking a script, regardless of quality, and messing with it for his own amusement. He did it so often that anime fans reviled him, even celebrating his eventual retirement from anime. The reality of the situation was made more depressing in hindsight considering his outlook on his time spent at Sentai Filmworks, but even separate from that it was clear he didn’t care about what he was doing. At all.

Which leads back to Rinehart’s remark. On one hand, I understand that working with adaptations on a time and budget restraint is hard work. I’m not oblivious to that harsh reality. I also recognize that Rinehart is human, often getting called in to fix scripts that people like Jamie Marchi and J. Michael Tatum have worked on, and he’s bound to miss the odd line that Marchi’s “pop-culturized” or Tatum’s made too flowery with his advanced diction. So yes, I understand the position Rinehart’s in most of the time.

That having been said, this doesn’t excuse a deliberate attempt at sabotaging a dub for laughs. It’d be one issue if this were a gag dub. Contrary to popular opinion, I do, in fact, have a sense of humour. But this isn’t a gag dub, it’s a Broadcast dub being shown to the entire world. Unless the material calls for it, you don’t mess with something for the sake of airing your own dirty laundry. Especially when the original writers are trusting you with a decent translation of their work.

It’s especially problematic because this isn’t a liberal translation keeping with the spirit of the material. That I’m fine with too, as sometimes it’s necessary during the localization stage to make the material flow better. No, this is a line that was put in out of disregard. It doesn’t matter what you think about GamerGaters in general, you don’t do that. You don’t parody your material and insult your audience, because some of them actually care and will be pulled out of it with such blatant disrespect.

It doesn’t help that Rinehart’s response was so intentionally unapologetic. Even if he, again, hates GamerGate, it’s not only that audience he’s insulted. He’s insulted the original writers, the show in question and any fans that aren’t part of GamerGate and want a good time. In short, he’s being a jerk, and that’s not cool. And I know that some people will defend him regardless, but I’m not one of them.

As an aside, this deliberate attempt at mockery ties in with FUNimation’s weirdly off-putting decisions with some of their dubs lately. Not that they don’t still do excellent ones, Yuri Bear Storm has the best dub of Ikuhara’s big three projects so far, but they’ve also put out questionable material too. The Future Diary, for example, is considered a joke, particularly because of Tatum’s bizarre prose being everywhere on the adaptive script. Conversely, Good Luck Girl! has its fair share of weird, dated pop-culture references, courtesy of Jamie Marchi. Granted, what I’ve heard of these two shows isn’t promising, but that you can smell the adaptive nonsense from a mile away is proof of fishy behaviour. And yet, these scripts were approved.

Does that mean futzing around with the material is always “bad”? Not necessarily. The old Digimon seasons benefitted from a variety of additions and adaptive quirks, even if some were questionable, and helped with their memorability. Conversely, Ghost Stories was given full reign on the adaptive front by its parent company, hence the entertainment value of a mundane show increasing. The difference, however, is context. In the former’s case, the writers still cared about the meat of the material they were adapting, and it shows. In the latter’s case, the fact that everyone involved had consent is more than enough to overlook everything. In both cases, a level of respect was present.

With some of FUNimation’s recent output, however, not so much. It’s as though FUNimation Entertainment, either out of frustration or overwork, is slipping up and not doing their job. I sympathize, the dubbing options are much smaller now than even 5 years ago, but if that’s the case why are they picking up so many titles? Between the studio’s Broadcast dubs and seasonal licenses, you’d wonder if they’re over-ambitious and suffering because of that. Perhaps I’m being naïve, but isn’t it better to put less food on your plate and chew it thoroughly than pile everything up, wolf it down and choke? FUNimation has some great talent aboard, but they’re not superhuman!

Of course, there’s also the issue of causing a storm for no reason. I respect Rinehart, I think he’s incredibly talented. His last-minute revisions have eased up some headaches and embarrassments waiting to happen. But this? Show quality aside, these are those exact headaches and embarrassments. Even if you don’t like the venomous snake, if you prod it with a stick it’s bound to eventually bite you.

In short, this isn’t about personal politics, but rather dishonest business practices, weird decisions and being a poor sport. Rinehart should know better, and I’m disappointed that he doesn’t realize that.


  1. I certainly agree with the sentiment in the article. It wasn't worth blowing out of proportion, but the fact is, they meddled with source material for no really reason other than a throwaway line that adds nothing. And besides, of all places to make any sort of political statement or joke, which I would only concede if the material was inherently political, why a B grade fluff show that will come and go fairly quickly? This isn't Attack on Titan or Black Butler we're talking about.

  2. Between this, what happened with Scott Freeman and then the debacle surrounding 'Free's dub casting of Vic, 2015 has not been kind to Funimation. I just hope they can weather it and come out on top, because I am a dub fan and don't want to see talented people squander their talents on silly things like this.

    1. The funny thing about this whole debacle is that Rinehart respectfully acknowledged the validity of this piece and Re-Tweeted the link for it to his Followers on Twitter. So it's not like he's oblivious to criticism, I just think he's not handling it well.

      And yeah, 2015 hasn't been kind to FUNimation at all. Which is pretty depressing, since I like them a lot...

    2. That's good to see. Tyson has been mellowing out and taking a back seat. Also, most of the other VAs have steered clear, which is a relief.

      However, now I'm irritated that the fans, and to an extent even Marchi, are trying to spin this into some kind of 'freedom of speech' victory. The hate was overblown, no one denies that, and Tyson does not deserve firing, but this is hardly some daring stand. Regardless if people think it was worth complaining about or not, you guys still didn't do your job correctly.

    3. Yeah, it really is kinda pathetic. Especially when it reeks of "moral high-ground" nonsense.

      I think fans would be less apt to be defensive if they understood the implications. It'd be like changing "Long live the King!" from The Lion King to "The GOPers are waiting!" It might be funny at the time, but it completely ruins the moment of the scene, adaptive license or not.

      Besides, these same fans gets mad over 4Kids and their edits of One Piece!, so it kinda reeks of hypocrisy...

    4. I was talking to another guy about this, and I predicted: 'there will be a sh*tstorm for a few days, the usual 50/50 arguing between the fans that comes with any anime dub-related topic, and then Funimation will redub the line before DVD release and the whole affair will be forgotten.'

      If they keep it in, then either they assume online power isn't enough to sway change, or it lends credence to a little theory of mine that they deliberately put it in to generate some quick controversy/press for a lower tier show, but frankly, those sorts of conspiracies belong to the ilk of people who think Funimation deliberately 'covered up' Freeman's 'habit', or that Mignogna is some kind of gay-hating rapist.


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