Why Do I Still Call Chinese And South Korean TV Dramas Based On Japanese Media To Be Localized Versions?

So what's the difference between adaptation and localization? Here's the definitions that could be used to prove the difference between them but they're both similar in some way in doing business from the Business Dictionary:


1. Edited or revised version of a work aimed at serving a specific need.
2. Modification of a concept or object to make it applicable in situations different from originally anticipated.


The practice of adjusting a product's functional properties and characteristics to accommodate the language, cultural, political and legal differences of a foreign market or country.

Let's take this example with City Hunter which had both a Manga and Anime (Japan) and the City Hunter live action series which was made in South Korea:

City Hunter in Japan both has a Manga and an Anime adaptation based on the Manga. The Anime adapted from the Manga was meant for the Japanese audience where the changes don't reflect the need to adjust to a local culture. Both the Manga and Anime may have their differences but they're still basically Japanese. The Anime and Manga are most likely made to match the preferences of the audience. 

Now what about Lee Min Ho as a Korean version of Ryo Saeba known as Lee Yoon Soong? The show may share similarities with the Japanese version but some plots are changed due to the Korean market. There are even times that the character can be a radical departure from the source material like the character can be meaner or kinder depending on which version. It's like how Meteor Garden was adapted from Hana Yori Dango but it was localized to fit for Taiwanese audiences. It goes beyond adapting from a Manga or Anime within its home country.

Where the difference lies between adaptation and localization

An adaptation is not necessarily a localization. A localization is a form of adaptation but it was meant to adapt to an entirely different culture. Both are similar yet different. Here's another definition of localization from the Globalization and Language Association which defines localization as a form of adaptation:

Localization (also referred to as "l10n") is the process of adapting a product or content to a specific locale or market. Translation is only one of several elements of the localization process. In addition to translation, the localization process may also include:
  • Adapting graphics to target markets
  • Modifying content to suit the tastes and consumption habits of other markets
  • Adapting design and layout to properly display translated text
  • Converting to local requirements (such as currencies and units of measure)
  • Using proper local formats for dates, addresses, and phone numbers
  • Addressing local regulations and legal requirements

Let's use City Hunter and its three forms as a Japanese Manga, an Anime series and a South Korean TV drama series. An adaptation is not necessarily a localization even if the latter is a type of the former. City Hunter as an Anime was adapted straight from the Manga but it was still meant for the Japanese audience. One could say that the South Korean version of City Hunter is an adaptation based on the Manga and Anime. That is true but why do I say it's also a localization? It was adapted to fit to a specific locale or market namely South Korea.. In form it's a live adaptation of the Manga and Anime while in plot or substance it's a localization tailored for South Koreans.

For more information, you could also try reading through these slides since one:


So if I like the South Korean and Chinese versions of Japanese media then why don't I like Americanized versions of Japanese Tokusatsu?

What  do I think makes the localized versions of Japanese shows for South Korea and Chinese countries superior to the Americanized versions of Japanese Tokusatsu? It's all about filming everything from scratch. There's really more effort on the part of the South Korean and Taiwanese companies with how they localize Japanese media. Not only do they alter the story as they're allowed to by their Japanese franchiser but they also start everything from scratch. They even try to exceed what the legends already started by making their own action scenes and not relying on fight footage that the Japanese company allows to be used in the production.

It just reminds me of how impressive it is to bring to life a lot of Manga and Anime action scenes and make me go "WOW!" Watching the action scenes come to life is truly hard work. Saban's splicing and dubbing of fight footage together the stunts that the main cast do themselves usually ends up with very awkward result. Just watching these South Korean and Chinese TV drama based on Japanese media makes me appreciate that filming all your footage instead of relying on footage is noteworthy. I know Toei allows Saban to use the fight footage but that just feels awkward for me. The whole use of footage with Toei's permission usually creates a lot of awkward results.

But again, I still understand the need to localize. American culture and Japanese culture are still different from each other. What I'm talking about is how the implementation is done and not which came first. 


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