2 anime series are translating the controversial phrase ‘lolicon’ to ‘pedophile’

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Two anime series currently airing in the Summer 2019 anime season and subtitled in English by entirely different localization companies have made the decision to translate the phrase “lolicon” to “pedophile” in recent episodes–and the internet has taken notice. 

“So, new ep of the Okada show just aired and guess what? LOLICON WAS TRANSLATED AS PEDOPHILE AGAIN,” One Twitter user pointed out. “Probably wont see ppl whining about this one tho, because LITERALLY THE SHOT BEFORE HE’S CALLED A LOLICON THE GUY IS FONDLING AN 11 YEAR OLD GIRL.”

Most hardcore anime fans are at least somewhat familiar with the phrase “lolicon.” The term is directly related to the “Lolita complex,” referred to in Vladimir Nabokov’s 1955 novel Lolita in which a middle-aged man experiences sexual attraction to a prepubescent child. When it appears within the dialogue of an anime, the phrase is often left untranslated to an English equivalent. No direct English translation exists, and the term has permeated the culture of anime to the point that a large portion of viewers understand it without a translation. 

The anime series that have translated “lolicon” directly into “pedophile” are Araburu Kisetsu no Otome-domo yo. (O Maidens in Your Savage Season) localized by Sentai Filmworks and Kawaiikereba Hentai demo Suki ni Natte Kuremasu ka? (Hensuki: Are You Willing to Fall in Love with a Pervert, as Long as She’s a Cutie?) localized by Funimation. Both series directly deal with sexual topics and situations through a comedic lens.

Lolicon, as it is perceived by anime fans who play devil’s advocate for the concept, refers to people who have an attraction to “young-looking” women rather than actual underage girls. Those willing to go a step further in this argument will say that being a lolicon isn’t bad, because no actual person is the subject of a lolicon’s attraction, and the actual subjects being ogled are ‘just drawings.’

In July, the hentai repository, known colloquially as “Sad Panda,” was shut down out of nowhere after nearly two decades. The reason given by the website’s owner for the sudden shutdown was that legislation had changed in the Netherlands, the location of the website’s servers, and it wanted to avoid legal consequences. Although no specific legislation was referenced, some speculated that the site’s deletion was caused by the fact that some of the content the website hosted was in the “loli”(hentai depicting underage-looking girls) category. 

In instances of translating languages, variations occur within context. The Japanese word “hentai” directly translates to “pervert” but can also be used to refer to Japanese adult animation. The decision by two individual localization companies to directly call out “lolicon” behavior as outright pedophilia has frankly, been a long time coming and a conversation that absolutely must be had. The controversial subject matter has long gotten a free pass within the anime community as an established trope and translation decisions such as this signal a shift in the conversation. As anime continues to become an even more mainstream component of American and international pop culture, it is inevitable that cultural growing pains such as this will have to be engaged with directly. 

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Ignacio Martinez

Ignacio Martinez

Ignacio Martinez is a journalism student at the University of Texas at Austin and an intern at the Daily Dot. His work has appeared in the Texas Observer and on the airwaves at KVRX 91.7 FM.