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Looking Beyond: Freedom of Expression

Nodame

 

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…

 

Nodame wondering

“What is wrong with playing the piano freely as you like?”

July 6, 2007 at 11:32 pm
31 comments »
  • July 6, 2007 at 11:43 pmBigJim

    Hellz yeah. I totally agree with that PoT issue. I would totally be against having an OP/ED taken out only to be replaced with something else by someone else who had nothing to do with the production in the first place. Viz obtained licensing rights, and that’s all they should get their hands on. It’s a pretty big slap in the face to the people who put work into making the anime to begin with afterall.

  • July 6, 2007 at 11:45 pmmeh

    i think your are free to change and create off someone else’s work but only for yourself not for profit or gain. with viz media changing BGM I’m not to sure. if the can legally do it then theres nothing to stop them but why would they change it what do they find so wrong that they would change it

  • July 6, 2007 at 11:55 pmklazyguy

    OOOOOHOHOHOHOH!!! I totally did basically the same question you asked for my year end grade english project about free expression and speech (tho i got pretty bad on it). However, I’m too tired to type out my long opinion on this since i finished typing out some long ass thing for my friend.

  • July 7, 2007 at 12:25 amDelirious Dragonfly

    as long as u credit the original and not for profit..i think its ok..and exactly, “whats wrong with playing the piano freely as you like?”

  • July 7, 2007 at 12:32 amandi

    your question has only one answer:

    money.

    if that doujin never sold a damn cent’s worth of copies the company wouldn’t give a crap.

    if the creators of pot cared at all about american customers and creative control, they wouldn’t sign a license agreement that would allow the distributors to f with the show.

    obviously they could care less about the american fans and just wanna make a quick buck.

    after all, they already made the show they wanted it in japan.

    so, as an artist you can freely express yourself, but that shiite don’t fly if you want some cash. or a clean legal record xD

  • July 7, 2007 at 12:47 amcbhl

    When one person has to pick either-or, then the debate seems pretty tough. But to me, your question,
    Do we have the right to tamper an original work in order to suit our taste?
    should have only one answer: if you are going to change it to suit your tastes, make sure that everyone has access to an unchanged version (probably from someplace else).

    On the other hand, I would answer other question,
    “What is wrong with playing the piano freely as you like?”
    with “Absolutely nothing.”

    When it comes to the PoT issue (which I find highly disturbing), it, to me, seems outrageous that Viz would force something like this for “creative” reasons, simply because they are not the creators of the work. It should be equally outrageous for any other reason, simply because a version which does not contain the changes in question is simply not available (legally) to people within areas serviced by Viz. Sure, they put the original OP/ED in the “Extras”, but that also requires changes/manual access of its own, and it’s not possible to buy a DVD without this new OP/ED or watch the original OP/ED with the rest of the content as was intended. (The quality of PoT OPs and EDs is, in my opinion, irrelevant here, although I wouldn’t be surprised if someone brought it up.)

    On the other hand, I would say piano is totally different. Unfortunately, I don’t play the piano, so I probably lack the discipline which is necessary for an objective, unbiased answer. However, there are many, many pianos in the world, and many, many people who can play the piano. There is almost always one person who is capable of playing the piano “right”, i.e. in the way that a particular listener feels the piece was intended to be played. I think that if you don’t like the way someone (e.g. your child) plays the piano, then you should go listen to someone else play, rather than force something onto someone (the child) that they probably don’t (doesn’t) want and possibly are (is) incapable of doing.

    At the moment, only Viz is capable of releasing PoT to North American audiences, and so I feel that it is wrong for them to mangle with the creative aspects of that work. It’s not like PoT fans have a choice. On the other hand, if there were three companies releasing PoT at their own pace, (and the market could handle it) and only one of them performed this modified OP/ED cut, then it wouldn’t seem like such a big deal. Or, if the (North American) community had the option of licensing PoT (my understanding is that legally I don’t, regardless of my fiscal (in)capability to do so) and releasing it myself on DVD without a modified OP/ED, at least the community would have something to strive for if they really didn’t like the change.

    Unfortunately, the world isn’t as simple as anyone would like it to be, I think. As far as I know, the legally correct answer to your questions are “if you have the (legal) right to do so” and “nothing, so long as you don’t violate the law”. And when it comes to the rest, people will probably say “it depends”. It makes me worry sometimes, because when, and if, we (as a society) come to an agreement on this question, the world will be a very different place compared to what it is today.

  • July 7, 2007 at 12:52 amKoll

    With regards to Nodame, here’s a couple of things to keep in mind as you ask a question that critics have debated since like forever. Composers themselves were known to edit/improvise their own music.

    Bruckner had various versions of published music of his symphonies and therefore when an orchestra plays one they have to refer to it by the publisher as well.

    There’s a legend that Liszt once a Chopin piece in front of Chopin and started to improvise it in front of him. Pissed off, Chopin started playing the same piece and improvised it better that even Liszt had to admit it.

    Rachmaninoff wrote 2 version of his 3rd Piano Concerto and made several edits just so it could fit on a LP.

    And don’t forget Mozart’s Requiem, finished by one of his students. Is it, or is it not his?

    Nothing is clear cut, even when it comes to composers.

  • July 7, 2007 at 12:54 amMalchus

    Doujinshi infringes on intellectual property — thus it is technically illegal, but since it represents a whole different market, publishers usually turn a blind eye. When a certain doujinshi, such as the doraemon example you listed, gets too big for its shoes, then the publisher will certainly have to take issue.

    Music is a whole other matter. For modern music, bands can certainly pay the original composer and do a cover. For classical music, it is not the song itself that is copyrighted, but the interpretations and/or the scoring and notations done by current people. Example: a Mozart piece. The music belongs in the public domain, but any scores you can buy in the store contain modern notation or editing, and any recordings contain a performer’s own take on a piece. These you can’t xerox or distribute without permission. But you can certainly do your own interpretation.

    Anime licensing? It really depends on the terms of the contract. Fairness doesn’t enter into the equation if the licensing contract is freely entered into by both sides. We can speculate about the reasons behind it, though.

    And Nodame? If it’s an open competition, she’s certainly entitled to put her own spin on it, whatever it is. Worst comes to worst the people in charge kick her out. She can put on her own solo performance and do whatever she likes.

  • July 7, 2007 at 12:58 amGStrike-

    wow people with their huge comments =.=;;

  • July 7, 2007 at 1:44 amMajestic

    Wouldn’t AMV’s also fall into this category? Just thought I’d bring it up since they are also fan creations. Although I guess the difference is in the profit.

  • July 7, 2007 at 3:14 ammutio

    Money, it’s always around money. The world is rules by this shit and you post remembered me well about that.
    But lets prohibit fansubs, dojin, ams, MADs..
    I’d probably kick those companies asses for real then..

  • July 7, 2007 at 3:35 amShippoyasha

    As for Prince of Tennis DVDs, that could be because of money issues with licensing the OP/ED stuff.

    As much as it’s Viz’s fault, I think the fault lies equally in the copyright laws of Japanese works regarding OP/EDs. There’s just too many hurdles for it and it’s not the first time I heard about them changing intros due to that fact.

    And as for doujinshi, I find it preposterous that a single person is to be singled out and targeted like that. I don’t want them going after all doujin artists, but it’s really messed up when a single doujinshi artist makes a respectable tribute and it’s not okay, but it’s totally okay for other doujin works to have rampant sex and violence not found in the source. It just reeks of hypocrisy. That said, I feel fan works shouldn’t be touched by authorities and copyrights personally.

  • July 7, 2007 at 4:03 amW.Wolf

    In regards to PoT and all the other Animes that have had music, BGM, dialog and even scene editing done to them. In general terms I have always thought such changes were horrible and often an incredible waste of a companies time and money. They always seem to do it because they think their target audience won’t be as attracted to a show with a Japanese OP than one with an American rap/pop song (see almost any Anime to Saturday Morning show). Or the censors get in a hissy fit over something no one noticed until they changed it. So in short they do it because they think the change = more money.

    Personally I hate it when they change the songs to an English song. If you read the lyrics of a lot of these songs you realize how ridiculous the song is and if had been in English you would have thrown it in the trash. So being in a foreign language makes it mysterious and attractive, makes you want to know what the song is about and the only way to do that is to watch the show.

    That’s not to say I am totally opposed to changes, it’s just if there is a change it should significantly better the show in terms of it’s creators original vision, otherwise why spend more money. For example say a show really wanted a classical track for it’s OP but all they could afford was an off the rack love ballad. When it comes over to America they have a second chance to achieve their original vision. Of course peoples definition of better is always different, so what I think is good you think is horrible.

    Do these companies have a right to make these changes? Well they do it all the time so clearly the contracts give them that power. Plus the 1st amendment can probably be thrown into the mix here too, but that depends on how much power the contract gives the licensing company.

    For the Doujinshi it really comes down to money, same thing with fan subbing too. The companies usually don’t care if it’s so low level that it doesn’t effect their sales and may even help build a devoted fan base. But the second (especially in America) it “may” cost sales they will sue. They’re probably overreacting most of the time, but ask yourself this do you want to be the guy with a million DVDs sitting in a warehouse costing you money because everyone just watches their fansubs instead?

    AMVs certainly fall under this topic but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone trying to sell them so I doubt any company would care about them, heck you could even hold a contest to get fans pumped up and put the best submitted AMV on the DVD (copyright, no free ideas for licensing companies, lol).

    Nodame, assuming she is playing classical music she can play it however she wants. The copy write on those songs ran out decades, centuries or never existed at all. But again if you play it differently it had better be because you think it makes it better, that it reflects your feelings of the piece, not just because you want to be different.

    I apologize for my lengthy response it’s the middle of the night and I’m hyper from too much soda. :)

  • July 7, 2007 at 4:19 amBROOKLYN otaku

    mmmm ,ah uuuh daaaaaaa. . . xpression good

  • July 7, 2007 at 4:53 amYuri Rocks

    First, let me say that many of the posts here raise a number of fascinating points. But I think that a more basic question is this: Is it truly possible for anyone to truly know what another person is thinking? We often speak of creative influence, and intent behind a writer or composer’s work, but particularly with older works where we have no means of asking the creator what was the driving theme and influence behind his creation, arguably the creator’s intent is obscured despite good faith attempts to remain true to the creator’s theme. Nevertheless, it is the attempt to pay tribute, be it by playing the notes as written or otherwise, that make imitation the sincerest form of flattery. The attempt to stay as true to the original as possible is tribute to the work.

    But the attempt to change things to appeal to American sensibilites would appear to be a gross diversion from this. Cutting out openings, changing endings, replacing J pop songs with hip hop, speak to a more disturbing trend. American marketers simply do not believe that the American public would be willing to give a Japanese form of entertainment a fair chance if it were presented as is. As a fan of the medium, the merits and faults of anime should be apparent on its own terms. This is not to say that English translators cannot swap grim reaper for the term shinigami, but the changes mentioned in these earlier posts detract from the total presentation the original envisioned.

  • July 7, 2007 at 5:53 amMalchus

    It’s impossible to anyone to truly know what another person is thinking. That’s why we have the very flawed court system…

  • July 7, 2007 at 10:45 amTyper

    To be honest i never really understood the greatness of piano playing at the highest level. Just sounds rather…plain to me. Some of the more mainstream songs that are played by lesser people actually sound better to me. I guess at the height of the piano world it’s ran by people who like the strict style of play.

    For us ordinary folks, it doesn’t amount to much.

    Anyhow, Licensing? Pfft, just watch the original japanese version on the DVDs. If ever anime got popular in the western world, it should stay dubbed.

  • July 7, 2007 at 10:46 amTyper

    I mean subbed. Dubbed is bad. Even the bests dubs fall short of the original. Original Japanese voices = win.

  • July 7, 2007 at 10:49 amSlightly Bald Wizard

    It boils down to a couple of things: 1) That humans have the tendancy to urinate all over something they bought like a cat and claim it as their own property/territory. That’s what Michael Bay did with the Transformers movie. And those who didn’t give him hell had put their trust in him.

    2) The original creator’s blessing. Did Viz asked the 1st company to change the music? It’s not like the situation with Zeta Gundam when the guy from $unrise said “No, don’t use that song.”

    Yeah. I would like to introduce 3) though: There’s the original work. And then there’s anger stemming from the widely unacceptable performance/ending; which begets the creation of doujins with alternative storylines and endings. Why is it that, in Japan and their conventions, that talent scouts are doing their search over there? “Such raw talent being wasted on doing work at their own free will. How can we, the industry, get them to utilize their power for OUR purposes?”

  • July 7, 2007 at 11:55 ammaglor

    >>> “What is wrong with playing the piano freely as you like?”

    This depends on the situation, but usually, you have right to play as you like. If you want to expand your repertoire, however, you have to be able to play it orthodox way before injecting your individual element in it. The trouble with classical music began with recording industries’ monetary ambition. Before phonographs and 78 rpm cylinders, performers not only had to play a piece correctly, they also had to be able to improvise and play something new based on existing piece of work. No concert could be alike even if all the pieces on the program was the same. After birth of recording industry, there was a drive towards perfection that pretty much killed most of impromptu quality of any performance. Now, only jazz maintains the tradition of improvisation. I have seen and heard some musicians trying to get back to the 17th and 18th century style of playing, where you often hear the whole piece as written, in orthodox way, and then hear at least the half of the piece again, this time with performers improvisations and whatever decorations and modifications that came to them at the moment. Good example, for me, would be Emma Kirkby’s rendering of Vivaldi’s “Nulla pax in Mundo” at concert in Purdue university, 1997, where she sang the whole aria, in Da Capo style, with first AB sung according to the music score, and the repeating A part is sung again with many modification. I have heard other performers trying the same thing ( Many of the performers trying out Baroque piece needs to study Gregorian Chants as so much of the Baroque modifications came from the original way Gregorian Chants were sung: many still needs to realize that there is a difference between 2 or more short notes written at same pitch for the same syllable and one long note in place of multiple short notes )

    So again, there isn’t anything wrong with modifying a existing piece of work, provided that you are capable of playing it in multiple ways, and is fully aware of the works’ historical background. It actually will take more than twice the work to play a piece your way in pleasing fashion, compared to playing it in orthodox manner: This is real reason why only very few will deviate from current traditional way of playing, and will sneer at anyone setting out on their own, in order to conceal their lack of preparation and other short comings.

  • July 7, 2007 at 1:48 pmSavofenno

    To Koll(control in swedish)Rachmaninov died in 1943, about ten years before LPs came out.78 rpm records then could contain about 7-8 minutes, so need for shortening compositions occurred frequently.
    This issue about alternating music is something could write much about, but many has already done that so i resign.It could become heavier than needed, this is an anime blog anyway.

  • July 7, 2007 at 1:56 pmKyouya

    Savofenno

    This issue is not just about music. It goes beyond that. I have provided examples to other issues. It is an open topic with no real answer hence the name of the column, Looking Beyond.

    As for everybody else, I like to thank you for contributing to the comments section. I have read all of these posts and found most of them to be very interesting (especially for people who took the time to write with detail).

  • July 7, 2007 at 2:23 pmSavofenno

    Of course i do understand what the real issue here is. I despise all changes to anime/manga, cuts, OP/ED changes, censoring, scrambling episodes and so on. If americans cant take it for what it is, then keep off. American companies taste considering role voices, character voices and bgm music is mostly horribly bad in my opinion. Female voices in dubs are often too old and deep, like transvestites.Male voices funny in ridiculous way. Of course it sounds like that to me because of my finnish origin. Finnish language has 99% more similarities with japanese than with english. English can be very good language in right context, say in shows like Monty Python and Seinfeld.

  • July 7, 2007 at 2:44 pmMajestic

    To build upon Typer’s comment, I completely agree. If you think of anime as an art-form, which it is, then it makes no sense to modify it to the likings of another culture. I’ve never heard of a painter repainting a piece he/she has done so it is more likable in another country. The same should apply to anime as well. Once an anime series is dubbed, in any language other than the original, it is unwatchable. In my opinion if you don’t know Japanese then get the subbed version. There are literally hundreds of fansubbers out there who probably have what your looking for. All dubbing ever does is degrade anime from a fine-art down to the level of American cartoons.

  • July 7, 2007 at 8:57 pmsealouse

    I hope no one forgot what Funimation did to DBZ back in the day.

  • July 7, 2007 at 11:46 pmsvm

    If you haven’t already, I would suggest reading some of Lawrence Lessig’s books and watching some of his lectures on Free Culture. He does a lot of discussion about this idea of modifying works to create new ones.

  • July 8, 2007 at 8:34 pmDrmChsr0

    I have only one thing to say:

    Do you have the money and/or military might to force a company to see it your way?

    If you hate what a company does, don’t support them. If not, just shut up.

    If you can’t influence them, what good reason have you got making such a big fuss?

    Might I add that you still have the freedom of choice in America, so use it.

  • July 9, 2007 at 9:00 amrandomshinichi

    For baroque and classical, there’s pretty much only one right way to play it. Have you heard some ordinary person just playing Mozart? ‘Just playing’ on Mozart pieces sounds horrible. You have to have the right touch. Same with Bach’s Preludes and Fugues. They also require a light touch.

    For Romantic, though, I just go wild. There has to be a limit, though, and that limit is how much you can slow down before forgetting the melody; how long you can pedal before the sound gets too mixed up; and I won’t forget the guy who played Chopin’s Scherzo #6 ‘modern’ style. He totally wrecked it.

    For modern… haven’t played many modern pieces, except for Debussy. I’m not offering any opinion on that.

    In the end, as long as you can listen to a recording of yourself playing and say ‘mmm, that’s actually really good’ you have the right to do whatever you want. I think. I don’t record myself. Maybe I should start.

  • July 9, 2007 at 11:46 amDG04

    This is an interesting topic, I personally believe that in the case of music like playing the piano, it is not wrong to play a piece in a manner that you most enjoy. I used to play the piano as well but stopped after a few years because of how restricting it is, it took the fun of just playing a song and listening to the melodies into tedious practice of training my fingers to come down on the keys at the “right” angle and other little things that really sucked the fun out of playing. If you are playing and practicing a piece of music for your own enjoyment rather then changing it for profit and passing it off as your own it should not matter.

    On the subject of anime though, those companies often mangle certain parts of the original because it does not fit into the mold of what they believe is acceptable or profitable in the american market. Need I mention 4kids? To be fair when translating something from its original language there must be some changes, and rarely does the original is completely preserved in its entirety, but at what point does it does it cross the line? The problem is that for a majority of people who might watch these “americanized” versions of these shows may not have access to the originals and for shows like 4kids version of One Piece and others, it is a very poor representation of the Japanese animation industry as a whole.

    Whenever I see these kinds of discussions I am reminded of my films studies class. Something that the teacher said stuck with me, that it is disrespectful to dub over the original actors and/or change the work of the other staff, who worked long and hard to bring to life the words in a script just to suit the tastes of another culture. I still mostly agree with this, because if you have to actually make changes to fit the market then why not just make your own work tailored for that market instead?

    @DrmChsr0

    I think you are missing the point, this is not whining about whether we dislike what a company is doing but a discussion about whether others have the right to make changes to the intellectual and creative works of the original creator.

  • July 9, 2007 at 4:26 pmShouathra

    I always thought music is a form of art, and I often saw a classical piece much like a great painter’s painting – it’s their art and their masterpiece, and says something about their imagination and talent. And not even the most skilled of 21st century artists would be considered to have right to pull out their oils and ‘improve’ a Van Gogh. The difference with a piece of music is that it’s over in a few minutes and has to be played over to be experienced again – so a true classical musician toils to reproduce the sound to the composer’s intent as the composer’s piece. While Nodame playing from her memory of hearing Rachmaninov may be absolutely lovely, one’s not listening to Rachmaninov at all – they’re listening to Nodame playing Nodame. The arrangements could still have their place, but must clearly be stated as arrangements with the right kind of credit etc. It’ll be an entirely different genre/medium to real classical music.

    And on that point, I don’t technically see any problem with doujinshi; just taking the fanart/fanfic stuff a step further… Provided they make no claim to canon or anything ridiculous like that.

  • July 9, 2007 at 5:25 pmSavofenno

    Answer to DrmChsr: i don`t have anything against Àmericans, your culture, language or anything, i only mean it`s not right to go rough to others works without knowing what damage one`s doing to original creator`s intentions with their work. I woul`d be as critical if american artistic creations we`re chopped and altered with no taste or respect. I`m shivering in disgust to thought for watching Seinfeld dubbed in german, as in fact they do in German TV. Anime is best enjoyed as original as possible. Most people usually come to that, given enough time.