The Hiroki/Takuya Change
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So a lot of people noticed that Hiroki, the character of the day, looks vastly different from Hamilton.
So what happened? Is this a Japan edit or a PUSA edit? What would the reason for this be?
To understand what the big deal is, you have to familiarize yourself with a 1970s show called Dokonjou Gaeru (ど根性ガエル, "The Gutsy Frog").
The series, one airing in Japan during the 1970s and another in the 1980s, is based on a manga that used to run in Shounen Jump back in the day. It follows the adventures of a middle school kid named Hiroshi who, after a bizarre series of events, ends up with a talking frog named Pyonkichi attached to his shirt. The series is a light-hearted "slice of life" type show with each episode being made up of two fifteen minute shorts. You can watch a preview clip here (the one on the upper right...click on the link on the bottom left of the image) and, if you pay about 500円, watch full episodes of the show online.
So how does this tie into Pocket Monsters Diamond & Pearl? Well...take a look at Hiroki again. The guy pretty much has the exact same hair style (only his hair is green instead of dark brown), the same glasses, and the same shaped face as the protagonist of Dokonjou Gaeru. In addition, Hiroki, whose name is only one syllable off from Hiroshi, has a frog pokemon that spends the majority of the episode attached to his shirt. This frog pokemon, nicknamed Gurekichi, is very similar to the frog in Dokonjou Gaeru, Pyonkichi.
Now the popular theory going around the Internets is that the Dokonjou Gaeru people either sued the Pocket Monsters people or at least threatened to sue if the episode wasn't changed. This hasn't been proven - in all my research, I wasn't able to find any sort of announcement for this - but it's the best educated guess we can make at this point. So, the Japanese producers went in and drastically altered Hiroki's appearance after the initial TV airing. In the new version, the shape of Hiroki's face and his hair has been completely redone (it now looks more like every other character in this series), his eyes are a different shape, and his sunglasses are gone. In total, 36 shots had to be redrawn and reanimated in order to complete this change. I took screencaps of all 36 shots - one from the initial TV airing and one from the rental-only Japanese DVD - and posted them here, here, and here.
In addition, a few of the characters' names were changed to decrease the similarities between the two series. Hiroki's name was changed to Takuya, which required Inada Tetsu (Maxi's voice actor) and Nishimura Chinami (Joi's voice actor) to come in and re-record a few lines. Additionally, Gurekichi's name was changed to Gurekko, requiring Soumi Youkou (Hiroki's/Takuya's voice actor) to re-record a few lines as well. I took a screencap of the credits from the TV version (Hiroki) and the DVD version (Takuya) to show the how the names were changed.
One other additional change was made. After the brick breaking competition in the second half, there's a shot where Hiroki jumps out of his chair and then, in the very next shot, starts pumping his fist while speaking. In the original TV airing, Hiroki says 根性、根性、ど根性だ！ (konjou, konjou, dokonjou!, or "We've got guts! We've got guts! We're gutsy!"). That third part there is taken directly from the title of Dokonjou Gaeru, so the producers changed it to 燃えろ、燃えろ、燃えれ！ ("We're on fire! We're on fire! Our fire's really burning!") to be extra safe.
It really feels like I'm doing a Japanese to Japanese comparison instead of a Japanese to English comparison, doesn't it?
In any case...this second version of the episode is the version that Pokémon USA was given when it came time to dub this. Kind of like how 4Kids was given the version of the first movie that had all the CGI added onto it instead of the original theatrical version. PUSA just dubbed what was given to them.
Now some people assumed, right off the bat, that this was an edit done by Pokémon USA and that "they must be getting better" in order to make an edit that looks this good. These people, apparently, do not know how animation actually works. While PUSA may have people who are capable of changing some text or making tiny little edits here and there, they don't have an entire animation studio and the original materials at their disposal, resources that would be required to make an edit of this scale. They would have to make up all new character model sheets, match the coloring with the rest of the scene, erase Hiroki's head, add Takuya's head, reanimate large portions of the episode...it's an incredibly labor intensive and complicated thing to do. A lot of the fans act like changing Hiroki's head is as simple as adding a hat to an Aqua Teen Hunger Force character or something, but that's simply just not the case.
Besides all that...what motive would PUSA have for making an edit like this in the first place? If the reason for the change really is because of Hiroki's copyright infringing resemblance to Hiroshi, the Dokonjou Gaeru people would be suing the Japanese producers, not the people on the other side of the world in charge of a foreign language dub. It's a Japanese problem, so the Japanese producers are going to be the ones who deal with it.
To summarize; the change in appearance between Hiroki (the original TV version) and Takuya (the Japanese DVD release, the English dub, etc.) is a change done in Japan most likely to avoid a lawsuit with the producers of Dokonjou Gaeru. While the change doesn't really affect the episode at all, it's still a really fascinating thing to see happen and is just one more page in the rich history of the Pocket Monsters franchise.
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