Project Abstract (2017)

American media is a global powerhouse. Its influence is so pervasive that most international media has traces of American culture, a phenomenon described by MIT journalist Annalee Newitz as “media imperialism.” However, Japan’s strict regulations on trade have allowed Japanese media to be devoid of much American influence, resulting in “reverse cultural imperialism.” In other words, Japanese media has had a larger cultural impact on American media, not vice-versa. Of Japanese media, anime has emerged as the most prominent representation of reverse cultural imperialism. Anime has grown to be a multi-billion dollar media industry within America. However, before anime can be distributed here, it must be translated through a process known as dubbing—where the Japanese soundtrack is replaced with an English soundtrack. According to Tufts Professor, Susan Napier, when an anime is dubbed, there are various thematic changes that “Americanize” the anime. Although there is a consensus among cultural anthropologists that thematic differences exist between the Americanized and Japanese version of the same anime, there is yet to be any research on what specific themes are changed. This research paper focuses on identifying those themes through a thematic analysis which tracks and evaluates thematic changes across the original and dubbed versions of various anime. Specifically, this research focuses on the largely popular Dragon Ball Z, Cowboy Bebop, and Spirited Away. The thematic changes can give insight into how America interprets Japanese culture. Moreover, this research can broadly reflect how Americans react to foreign culture and media.

Cultural Deception: An analysis of the "Westernization" of foreign culture in America through Japanese animation.