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How The Digimon Dub Did Joe Kido Dirty

These days, dubbed anime tends to be pretty faithful to its source material - gone are the days of trying to pretend that a rice ball is actually a jelly donut, or that people get banished to the shadow realm instead of dying. Some of the earlier localizations were pretty funny, but today we're going to talk about one that wasn't - at least, one specific part of it that wasn't.

Digimon was an anime about a group of children who get transported to another world, called the Digital World. There, they meet their partner Digimon, who they must aid in saving the Digital World - and the real one - from nefarious forces. For the first half of the series, the kids are stuck in this new world, with no clue how to get home. They react to it the way you'd expect a bunch of kids, aged 8-12, to react. They cry, they complain, they want their parents and they miss their homes - but then they start to overcome their hangups, pull themselves together, and come up with strategies for what to do next.

Every kid processes their situation differently, and for the most part the dub preserves their reactions accurately. Not so for Jyou Kido, known as Joe Kido in the dub.

Jyou Kido is a cautious 12-year-old boy who feels responsible for the other children because he's the oldest, but because he's actually the youngest in a family that tightly manages its children, he doesn't really feel equipped to take on a leadership role. He's understandably scared, and he likes to approach things in a careful, methodical manner. He doesn't always make the right decisions, but like all the other kids, he's learning to be his best self in a complicated and scary new world.

The dub takes his reticence and blows it up times 10,000. Joe isn't just cautious, he's wracked with fear. He complains constantly about health issues that may or may not exist, and worries about everything from nonfunctioning pay phones to dressing appropriately for the weather. Thanks to the onslaught of negativity, he's a lot of people's least favorite character.

Here's why the changes to Jyou's character are a problem. Not only was Jyou just straight up not like that in the Japanese version, but the dub refuses to treat the version of the character they created with respect. If Joe actually has all the health problems he claims to have, which include severe, potentially life threatening allergies, chronic pain, and asthma, that's actually kind of a big deal. While in the Digital World, he has no access to anything resembling health care, so if his conditions are real, he's probably pretty miserable.

If his illnesses are exaggerated or made up, it means that he's anxious about his health to a degree that is pathological - Illness Anxiety Disorder is an actual thing, and it's serious.

Either way, he's nervous, panicky, and deeply unhappy most of the time. He's twelve. The dub treats the whole thing like a joke - haha, Joe is complaining about being allergic to something again, haha, Joe can't adjust to being in the Digital World as easily as everyone else can. It's not funny. It wasn't funny to me as a twelve-year-old Digimon fan with a chronically ill mother and untreated anxiety issues, and it probably wasn't funny to a lot of other kids for the same reason. Years later, it's still not funny.

To be clear, it's not a problem that Joe has these traits - it's a weird exaggeration of a more nuanced character, sure, but it's not wrong to depict kids with these kinds of problems. Done sensitively, the changes the dub made could actually have been pretty cool.

The other children could have shown genuine empathy, preparing the kids watching do so for people with health issues and mental illnesses that they will certainly encounter in their actual lives. Joe's ability to advocate for his own needs and tell people when something would make him sick or anxious could have been a good model for kids who need to do that in their own lives. This would only work, of course, if those problems - and his willingness to talk about them - hadn't been made the butt of a convoluted and insulting joke.

Let's conclude rant with a picture of Joe being happy and having a good time - because whether we're talking the sub version or the dub version, he freakin' deserves it.



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