Looking Beyond: Freedom of Expression
This inquiry has been on my mind for about a couple of weeks. In episode 22 of Nodame Cantabile, there was one scene that really made me think. It takes place where Nodame explained Chiaki her true intentions for entering the competition. Then Nodame says, “What is wrong with playing the piano freely as you like?”
It brings up this question: Do we have the right to tamper an original work in order to suit our taste?
Doujinshi is involved in this sensitive issue. We see artists creating their own stories and style by utilizing an anime property created by either the publishing company or the mangaka. Of course, not all doujinshi are based on them. There are fans that create their own characters, design, etc.
We are entitled to a freedom of speech. However, at what point does our rights infringe on someone’s work? On May 29th, 2007, a 37-year old man with a pen name Yasue T. Tajima has issued an apology to the publisher Shogakukan and copyright holder Fujiko Pro for making profits off of his own doujinshi that tells a fan-made ending to Fujiko F. Fujio’ s (a.k.a. Fujimoto Hiroshi) Doraemon. Shogakukan claims that the culprit has been violating copyrights of the manga. The doujinshi, with the price of 500 yen, sold over 13,300 copies.
There are several ways to look at this. People can argue that he was wrong to make an ending because the creator, who passed away in 1996, never finished the manga. Although the manga is resumed by Fujimoto’s protégés, the spark that made Doraemon so great may have disappeared. On the other hand, fans can argue that Yasue paid homage to Hiroshi respectfully by establishing a proper ending to the series.
Here is a comment taken from Comipress.
Yoshiyuki Ito, the president of Fujiko production remarked, “A manga that is created base on Fujiko’s manga world should not be modified and sold by anyone else. We can approve the making of doujinshi among doujin circles. However, in this case the issue was in a whole other level.”
I wish these executives can explain themselves on what they mean by ‘a whole other level’. How else can doujin circles prevent making the same mistake?
A month later, animeondvd.com reports on Viz Media’s panel in Anime Expo 2007. This quote got my full undivided attention…
In regards to the Prince of Tennis openings and closings having their music swapped out, it was stated “It was a creative decision we chose to make.” and they did not answer why the background music was changed. The intend to continue using the new music for future releases but will include the original in the extras. Someone did ask about the proper use of chapter marks and they indicated that they would look into it.
As you may know from my other column, Unsung Heroes, I have expressed my thoughts on the importance of BGM music. When I read this news, I was appalled. I understand when licensing companies want to change the name of the anime, packaging or even the release format of the DVDs. This, however, is over the line. ‘Creative decision we chose to make’? Last time I checked, I don’t recall Viz writing BGM compositions. In fact, they had absolutely nothing to do with Prince of Tennis besides obtaining the licensing rights. I do know that Watanabe Cheru, who composed PoT, worked on five other anime.
Should Viz have this right because they can sacrifice customer satisfaction for profit? Is it because they have the money to convince the production company to allow these changes? There are lots of arguments from both sides. One can argue that changing the background music discredits the work of the composer. The other can counter by saying it was a business decision (which, in my opinion, is a very poor excuse).
This brings us back to the beginning. Nodame’s comment is very controversial. I have played the piano and can understand how she feels. Playing the piano is very restrictive and requires lots of discipline. From fingering to posture, piano can crush innocent souls. By making even the slightest mistake, you would be required to start from the beginning with perfection. It does suck all the fun of playing the instrument. Let’s not forget the pressure kids’ deal from their parents when they are practicing the piano vigorously in order to perform on stage. Is she honoring them or is she insulting these famous composers (i.e. Mozart, Schubert, Chopin, Beethoven, Dvorak, Gershwin, and Rachmaninoff) with her reckless play?
It comes back to that same query…