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Screwed By The Lawyers / Anime & Manga

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  • The spectacular legal pileup on both sides of the Pacific Ocean between multiple rightsholders in the Macross franchise has ensured that precious little of the franchise can ever be released in the United States:
    • Bandai was going to release the video game Macross VFX II in the US — even releasing a demo disc with one of the major game magazines. Harmony Gold forced them to stop.
    • Macross 7 and Macross Zero will most likely not be released, because of bad blood between Harmony Gold and Big West making such a release impossible (at least without having to change all names and logos from the original Macross series). In Macross 7's case, another obstacle is the music licensing, which is a tangled weave.
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    • Macross Frontier also didn't make it over largely due to music rights issues (the manga crossed the ocean with no problem). The legal snarls over the series are less than they were (Harmony Gold's legal team is a shadow of its former self, a lot of the legal rulings in their favor are unlikely to hold up if they actually get in a fight, and much of the bad blood between the various combatants has dissipated) but the music rights are still a tangled mess on the Japanese side.
    • Numerous attempts to bring out the widely praised Yamato's Macross transformable toys have met with C&D letters. Yamato even tried to release the toys with all Macross indicia removed, under the name of "Sunwards". It failed.
    • The only reason, apparently, that Macross Plus and Macross II were released and still enjoy widespread release in the US is that they came out at a time in which HG was "not minding the store", according to rumors that they were weakened after a head-hunting raid by Haim Saban. And that the Japanese side of the pileup was actually listening to the fans and the rest of the industry.
      • Tracks from Macross Plus are being steadily removed from YouTube, due to complaints from the copyright holders to the music.
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    • It's still a minor miracle that the original version of Super Dimension Fortress Macross attained a US release, first through AnimEigo and then through ADV.
    • The big one, though, is Macross: Do You Remember Love? This is considered one of the holy grails of old-school anime fandom. However, numerous companies — the usual names in the conflict, such as Big West, Studio Nue, Tatsunoko Production and Harmony Gold, as well as other companies such as Shogakukan, Japan Victor Musical Industries, and even Godzilla studio Toho — are all squabbling, making a veritable legal Gambit Pileup, one so intractable that some names in the anime industry think we'll see a cure for cancer and world peace before DYRL? is legally released again outside Japan.
      • Unlike 7, Zero, and Frontier, though, DYRL? was released on VHS in the US and the UK during the mid-1990s. The US got a heavily-cut version titled Clash of the Bionoids (released by Celebrity Home Entertainment), and also a version with fewer cuts or no cuts titled Superdimensional Fortress Macross (released by Best Film and Video), both of which had an English dub commissioned by Toho, which was similar to the dubs for Toho's Godzilla movies. In the UK, Kiseki Films released a version with the dub and a subtitled versionnote , both uncut. Now that DYRL? has been released on Blu-ray, the unavaliability-to-those-without-a-region-2-player issue has been solved.
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    • In an apparent effort to partly apologize for this mess, the official Blu-ray release of Macross Delta has English subs.
    • As of June 2017, looks like the case is ending: a California court rejected Harmony Gold's claim of holding the Macross license in perpetuity (after losing a legal scuffle with BattleTech publisher Paradox Interactive). The license will officially expire in 2022; if Tatsunoko doesn't care, Harmony Gold will also lose the rights to Mospeada and Southern Cross, and Harmony Gold will not be able to produce any Robotech media. This doesn't mean they can't cause this in the meantime, but their days of being able to do so are numbered now. Of course this can make the trope go in the opposite direction for Robotech fans due to the franchise ending.
  • Sailor Moon was completely unavailable worldwide outside Japan (and France actually) for close to a decade thanks to legal problems, the details of which are still speculated. Toei Animation and Kodansha declined to renew any Sailor Moon licenses worldwide beginning in 2003, which caused ADV Films (who had the US home video license to the first two seasons at the time) to hastily release box sets of the show sub-only before it expired. This also prevented the final season of the 90s anime, Sailor Stars, from seeing the light of day in North America at all. With its popularity resurging in 2009, Toei and Kodansha began licensing the series worldwide for a second time beginning with the Italian broadcast of the 90s anime in 2010. In North America, the manga was re-released in English beginning in 2011 (courtesy of Kodansha Comics USA), and the 90s anime began its re-release (including the unreleased-in-America Sailor Stars) in 2014 (courtesy of Viz Media), both with brand new localizations, along with Sailor Moon Crystal.
  • The 1997-2002 legal battles between the co-creators of Candy Candy over ownership of the series led to the prohibition of a massive number of merchandise on the series for a long time. Said merchandise included home video releases, preventing anyone from legally releasing the anime anywhere, not even Toei Animation in their home country; a halting that persisted for several years. Though recent re-releases in Latin America starting in 2012 suggests that the halting was either relaxed or discontinued.
  • In 1982, TMS and DiC decided to collaborate to create a spin-off series of Lupin III that took place in the future, titled Lupin VIII. One episode was already completely animated and given sound and music, but before they could add a vocal track, the Maurice LeBlanc estate (who owned the rights to the Arsène Lupin name) threatened to sue their collective butts if they were to broadcast it in Europe, so cancellation was inevitable. VHS tapes containing the first episode without voice-overs are still in circulation, however. Incidentally, the cancellation of Lupin VIII directly resulted in the creation of Inspector Gadget, when DiC was told to come up with a replacement.
  • Viz has not yet released the majority of the Monster anime on video, nor will it ever, due to the series's use of licensed music. The first half was released on DVD with the licensed music replaced, but the second half has "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" as a plot point and thus cannot be easily changed to something else. (This hasn't stopped Viz from distributing this show digitally or it airing in its entirety on television, however. The fact that the series apparently sold very poorly is probably a bigger factor than the music.)
    • The Australian company Siren Visual has released the entire series on DVD. However, it is coded to region 4, so you need to either live in that region or have a modified DVD player if you live elsewhere and want to watch it.
  • In 2008, Disney's Brazilian branch announced they would be publishing the Kingdom Hearts manga in the country (it was a match made in heaven — Disney's comics were already good sellers, so the manga served as a way to attract both readers of those comics and manga readers). However, Square Enix objected to the idea and stopped it from being published (after it was already announced), for the (rather odd) reason that the game was never officially released in the country, therefore getting Adaptation First on shelves was a no-no. BR Disney and Square Enix's squabble lasted for quite a while before the manga could finally be released in 2013, 5 years later.
  • A legal squabble between Shogakukan and Makoto Raiku over Zatch Bell! resulted in Raiku gaining all rights to the series (including the anime). He proceeded to immediately void all international licence agreements, which forced Viz to halt their manga release three-quarters of the way through.
  • While Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam was released in the US, the DVD/Blu-Ray release had altered opening and ending music. This is because the opening and ending themes were written by 60's pop maven Neil Sedaka, who for reasons unclear (whether licensing fees, Old Shame or worries about being seen as Japandering) has not assented to their use outside of Japan. This also affects Japan as whenever Zeta Gundam is used in a Super Robot Wars or Gundam Vs Series game, they end up using one of the series' incidental musics instead.
  • A peculiar case of this trope in Gundam Build Fighters: Due to legal agreements with Japanese TV networks, Mobile Suits that have aired on MBS and TBS in the last 5 years cannot be shown. This means the suits from the latter half of Mobile Suit Gundam 00 and from Mobile Suit Gundam AGE cannot be entirely used. Apparently averted with the Gundam 00 movie and Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn, due to their nature as a feature film and OVA, respectively.
    • That said, the appearance of the Amazing Exia Repair in the final episode made fans squeal for joy... especially when they remembered that 00 Season 2 suits became fair game two days before Episode 25 aired. Even so, the Amazing Exia is a double case of this: Careful examination reveals it's not actually an Exia, but an Exia Repair II. The staff did mention on Twitter doing something that pissed off the brass...
  • Similar to the Zeta Gundam example, the first opening of Kodomo no Omocha suffered the same fate. Tokio's contract prohibited their music to be used overseas so Funimation used the second season's opening instead. Furthermore, a member of Tokio cameos in the first episode while the forbidden song plays in the background. The English dub track simply renames the band "Kyoto" and again swaps in the 2nd opening song. On the Japanese track...silence.
    • It's not just overseas releases that suffered this fate. Johnny's Entertainment has a reputation for having a controlled, iron grip over its acts. The opening theme for Akazukin Chacha was originally sung by SMAP, but in all home releases, the opening theme was re-arranged and sung by a different vocalist. Also, 4Kids Entertainment originally streamed the original Japanese episodes of Yu-Gi-Oh!, but were forced to take them down because of contract regulations with Shunsuke Kazama, Yugi's voice actor (who is part of Johnny's as an Idol Singer).
  • Dragon Ball
    • Kenji Yamamoto, one of the composers for Dragon Ball Z and the main composer for Dragon Ball Kai and various Dragon Ball video games, was fired after Toei Animation learned that a distressingly large amount of his portfolio was plagiarized from various Western musicians (two notable examples are Dragon Ball Z's "Battle Point Unlimited" taking phrases from numerous songs on the Propaganda album "A Secret Wish" and Kai's "The Ebb and the Flow" being an almost note-for-note copy of "War" from Avatar). Additionally, Yamamoto's entire soundtrack for Dragon Ball Kai (save for the opening and ending themes) was replaced with Shunsuke Kikuchi's score for Dragon Ball Z,note  and the HD re-releases of Dragon Ball Z: Budokai & Dragon Ball Z: Budokai 3 had their music replaced with the American soundtrack for the Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi series.
    • As a tribute to Team Four Star and Dragon Ball Abridged, Funimation allowed the Abridged actors to voice a short skit in the English dub of Kai (the So Bad, It's Good re-enactment of the Cell Games). Toei Animation, who have never liked the Abridged series, intervened and refused to allow that to be broadcast, forcing Funimation to re-use their old lines from the original Dragon Ball Z dub. The TFS lines were briefly available on catch-up steaming services, but were hastily replaced.
    • Despite FUNimation's association with the Dragon Ball franchise, the company for the longest time did not have the rights to an English-language version of Dragon Ball Super (and neither does any non-Japanese company, for that matter). The reason is because Toei Animation requires Dragon Ball Super to be shown on TV in the country that it's distributed to, and streaming doesn't count. This is an absolute deal: No TV broadcast, no rights, no exceptions. With FUNimation still going through Dragon Ball Kai on Toonami and thus there is no room for Dragon Ball Super on US airwaves, Toei withheld Dragon Ball Super from Funimation for a while until November 2016, when it was finally licensed in North America.
    • Toei animation insisted that the English subtitles for Dragon Ball Super: Broly use the dub terminology and spellings (i.e. "Frieza" over "Freeza"), despite Funimation using a consistent set of more accurate transliterations for every previous entry in the franchise.note  Toei is assumed to be the reasons why the simulcast of Dragon Ball Super also used the dub terms, which in that case were corrected for home video.
  • Funimation was forced to rename their release of Detective Conan by TMS Entertainment because they (the licensors) were afraid of a lawsuit by the estate of Robert E. Howard over the trademark of "Conan". Moreover, the name changes (which include the show being renamed "Case Closed") were even forced on Viz by TMS, making it one of the rare examples of a Market-Based Title that actually wasn't the English production company's decision. Viz's English release of the manga was also affected as a result.
  • A number of disputes involving CBS (who now owns the entire TV back catalog of...), Viacom (the English version's original distributor, and Nickelodeon's parent company; now a separate company from CBS), DHX Media (who absorbed Cookie Jar, who were previously known as Cinar, the original producers of the dub) and licensors Studio Ghibli (the successors to the original studio that produced the series) and Tohokushinsha Film Corporation have kept The Adventures of the Little Koala from seeing a Region 1 DVD release. Only one VHS release was ever sold in the US, and that was only because the series was still running on Nickelodeon's Nick Jr. block at the time. Hope you were lucky to have taped the show then.
  • The first three Pokémon movies had not seen the light of day in the U.S. and the rest of Region 1 since their original theatrical and DVD releases. With the exception of occasional TV broadcastsnote , Warner Bros. (who distributed the three films to theaters) wasn't been able to warm up legal relations with Nintendo, The Pokemon Company (both of whom license the anime) and Toho (the owners of the Japanese versions of the movies), making the prospect of a remastered DVD or Blu-ray release highly unlikely. The issues were finally resolved in December 2015, just a few days after a Blu-ray set of the movies was released in Australia, and both Warner Home Videonote  and Viz Media confirmed that a Blu-ray set containing all three movies would be released in February 2016 in a Limited Edition Steelbook (albeit presented in the 4Kids dub and no special features).
    • The fifth, sixth, and seventh movies are currently affected as well. Unlike the first three did for so long, they never went out-of-print, but because they were distributed by Miramax, whose distribution rights to the four they released did not expire a decade after each film's release, The Pokémon Company International was unable to release them digitally along with the other films for the franchise's 20th anniversary. What makes this somewhat confusing is that the fourth movie was released on iTunes, Google Play, and Amazon with the other movies, but current DVDs of said film are released by Lionsgate (Miramax's distributor) instead of Viz Media. Said movie was recently removed from iTunes and Google Play (but not Amazon) for reasons unclearnote .
    • The Pokemon TV series is an odd duck in the states. Because of the various Channel Hopping caused by the series' meteoric rise to fame — from syndication to Kids' WB! to Cartoon Network to Disney XD - various portions of the anime can only be seen streaming-wise on different programs. For instance, Netflix only has the first 52 syndicated episodes, X and Y, X, Y and Z and Sun and Moon, TubiTV has Black and White and Hulu has Advanced Generation and Diamond and Pearl.
    • And then there's the character of Kadabra. Because Uri Geller thought the character was an unauthorized spoof of himself, the character hasn't appeared in the anime since the 2006 episode "Fear Factor Phony".
    • When it came to Pokémon: Genesect and the Legend Awakened, The Pokemon Company couldn't obtain the rights from Takeshi Shudo’s estate (the original writer of the first movie) to use the original Mewtwo. As a result, this movie uses a different Mewtwo (to legally distinguish it from his).
  • When the Haruhi Suzumiya anime's first season was finally licensed in North America, it came with a massive viral marketing campaign that often reached out to fans, and one of the things Bandai Entertainment did with that was regularly promoting fanworks. However, this was at the exact same time that Kadokawa in Japan was sending out wave after wave of copyright claims on Haruhi videos. An effort to try and clamp down on full-episode uploads ended up making it so that the AMVs, cosplay videos, and fan performances of things like the ending theme dance that the North American licensors were actively promoting were quickly shut down by the original copyright holders in Japan.
  • Streams of Shirobako had the endings revolving around Mari Tateo's play removed because it's an all-female version of Waiting for Godot. Samuel Beckett, the original writer of the play, hated the very idea of all-female versions and would frequently sue any theatre that even tried it, a practice his estate still seems to practice. The episode was later revised with new dialog that doesn't quote the play.
  • Eden of the East uses the Oasis song Falling Down as the opening theme song... in the Japanese release. While FUNimation was able to license the song for the English release they could only do so for the first episode with later episodes (and other international releases) replacing the song entirely.
  • Western releases of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure suffer from a lesser version of this trope: The series is packed with references to famous songs and musicians, but in order to avoid legal repercussions many of them have to be changed. However, the localization crew usually tries to preserve the references obliquely; Josuke Higashikata's Stand goes from Crazy Diamond to "Shining Diamond", and a minor character from Part 3, Captain Tennille, was renamed "Captain Dragon" (the Captain's real name was Daryl Dragon).
    • JoJo creator Hirohiko Araki even suggested some of the alternate names himself, such as the villain J. Geil being named "Centerfold" after one of The J. Geils Band's albums.
    • Averted with the ending themes; the fact that Warner Bros. Entertainment Japan is one of the companies that funded the anime means they can license music from the Warner label, including Yes's "Roundabout" and The Bangles' "Walk Like an Egyptian".
    • Humorously enough, there's some name changes that just seem quite ridiculous. For instance, a Stand called Limp Bizkit was renamed Flaccid Pancake.
    • The GioGio's Bizarre Adventure video game by Capcom was set for an international release, but Prince's lawyers didn't approve of Gold Experience being referenced in the game and Hirohiko Araki was unwilling to change the name, so the international release was cancelled.
  • D.Gray-Man was hit with this in terms of releasing the second half of the 2006 series. Funimation initially licensed episodes 1-51 and released them in 2009-2010. They were originally going to release episodes 52-103, but those plans were scrapped due to Dentsu asking for more money than FUNimation was willing to pay. Five years later, FUNimation licensed the 2016 series, Hallow, as part of the 2016 Summer Simulcast season, along with licensing the second half of the series a week later on June 30th, 2016.
  • Osomatsu-san's entire first episode had to be pulled and replaced with another episode, as it contained a number of parodies of other anime. As Japan lacks any laws pertaining to parodies, some of the rights holders deemed the parodies as copyright violations and, collectively, permanently got the episode off the air, off of streaming in any country, and off home video releases. The rest of season one still references it from time to time, awkwardly enough. (The third episode had an Anpanman parody removed, but that was due to Executive Meddling—an executive on the channel the anime airs considers Anpanman sacred and does not allow parodies of it—the Anpanman rights holders were completely uninvolved in it.)
  • After Speed Racer Enterprises's North American rights to the Speed Racer franchise expired in 2011, Tatsunoko Production filed a lawsuit against SRE over who owned the franchise in October 2012. When the legal issues were sorted out one year later, the rights were reverted back to Tatsunoko. Because of this, all Western comic book adaptations of the franchise are out of print, with Digital Manga continuing to publish the original manga, as its publication involved directly working with Tatsunoko.
  • In July 2017, GKIDS acquired all of Studio Ghibli's films from Disney for a home media release in North America in late 2017 and early 2018. They, however, weren't able to license Grave of the Fireflies or The Wind Rises for their releases. The former film's rights are owned by Shinchosha instead of Tokuma Shoten; it had already been licensed to Central Park Media, and Sentai Filmworks would pick it up in the early 2010s after CPM's demise. As for the latter film, it is still licensed to Disney.
  • When Hasbro purchased Saban Brands' properties in May 2018, they started to block videos on YouTube related to Saban Brands' properties, including the English dub (or basically, ANY dub based on Saban's) of Digimon Adventure 1 and 2, as well as both Digimon Fusion seasons. They even did this to shows that aren't licensed in English yet but are still part of franchises like Power Rangers and Glitter Force, like Uchu Sentai Kyuranger and Happiness Charge Pretty Cure.
  • Reportedly, certain characters have certain rights to them, so Cure Mofurun is partially obscured in episode 37 of Hugtto! Pretty Cure.
  • The localization team behind Yo-Kai Watch wanted to name Hailey Anne's favorite show Sailor Star instead of Sailor Pierce. But because there was a Sailor Moon series with that exact same name, it was renamed Sailor Cuties.
  • The 2019 Netflix release of Neon Genesis Evangelion had the various versions of "Fly Me to the Moon" during the end credits replaced due to rights issues with the estate of songwriter Bart Howard.

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