The internet has changed a lot over the last ten years. Facebook has become a breeding ground for idiocy. There are twelve streaming services for every day of the week. Easily abused copyright systems allow people who don’t actually understand copyright law to take a piss all over fair use.
You know why that last one hurts me so bad? Because it’s almost single-handedly murdered the anime abridging scene.
For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, let me explain. In the early days of YouTube, people would take anime footage and create comedy parodies out of them. Some of these were very simple; just a dude cracking jokes over mute anime footage, trying his best to sync up to the lip flaps. Others featured a larger list of voice actors, custom edited lip flaps to better line up with the newly recorded lines, and even music and sound effects.
Back in the day, if you watched anime videos, you’d more than likely stumble into one of these. Mainly because every major series under the sun had an abridged version. Some even had multiple different versions made by different people!
Some of these got super huge. Team Four Star’s Dragon Ball Z Abridged is the most famous of the lot, lasting up until the end of the Cell saga and evolving to the point where many consider it on-par with an official release. LittleKuriboh’s Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged is one of the most influential of them all, being the spark that ignited a fire way back in the day. Sword Art Online Abridged by Something Witty Entertainment is considered by many to be even better than the actual show!
Can you really compare a black comedy parody to… anything that isn’t that?
There are a lot of reasons to love these. The first reason is simple: they can be damn funny! Some of the gags in these are so damn quotable and entertaining that I’ll sometimes catch myself muttering them without even remembering where they came from! I cannot count the number of times I’ve whispered “Why are you buying clothes at the soup store?” to myself while chuckling like an idiot.
I miss PurpleEyesWTF.
The second reason, and the one I more buy into, is the creativity it takes to make one. How do you take this established series and put a spin on it that would work with the footage given? Who looks at Hellsing Ultimate and thinks “I can make that a comedy as black as coal!” and how would they go about doing that? Both on a technical and creative aspect, the actual production of these things is a sight to behold!
Plus, it’s an excellent and fun way to both praise and critique a series. This can lead to some truly hilarious or emotional moments. When you watch the Abridged version of… basically any iconic scene from DBZ, you can tell that everyone involved had a ton of passion for it and wanted to do it justice. When Abridged Kayaba says he can’t remember why he trapped everyone in a video game, then laughs and says “Wouldn’t that be stupid?!”, it is equal parts hysterical and scathing! It’s a fun and constructive way to talk about anime!
Unfortunately, the heyday of anime abridging is basically over. Unless you’re an already established and popular abridging channel, it’s almost impossible to get your series off the ground. Especially since YouTube’s copyright system works in a way that screws over the creator at basically every turn. So, even if your series does start getting views and popularity, you always have to live with the fear that whatever anime studio behind the original show could swoop in and put an end to all the fun like a cop at a party.
It sucks to admit it, but the golden age of abridged anime is a bygone relic of the internet. Now, only a few remaining monuments to that era still stand. Hopefully, they’ll be able to stand the test of time.