Netflix’s English Localization Of ‘One Piece’ Anime Changes Term ‘New Kama’ Into ‘New Trans’
In the latest case of the Western anime industry overwriting a Japanese creator’s original creative vision with their own and ironically stereotype-based worldviews, the subtitles to Netflix’s in-house Japanese-to-English localization of Toei Animation’s One Piece anime adaptation have been found to feature a loaded change to series creator Eiichiro Oda’s concept of ‘New Kama’.
Ever since its launch in 1997, One Piece has been and continues to be one of the most genuinely diverse series in the history of anime and manga, its large roster of characters and locales offering representation to nearly every possible identity on the face of the Earth.
Obviously, this includes the LGBT+ community, who Oda most notably included in his shonen adventure story by way of The Kamabakka Kingdom’s resident population of Okama.
Named after the Japanese slang word used to refer to not just gay men, but specifically those who are particularly effeminate or engage in crossdressing, the Okama people’s consist entirely of crossdressers, drag queens, and transgender women, all of whom swear fealty to their own, Rocky Horror Picture Show homage of a leader, Emporio Ivankov.
However, thanks to his active support of Luffy’s father, Monkey D. Dragon, and his Revolutionary Army, Ivankov eventually comes to find himself captured by the World Government and subsequently thrown into their ‘ends of the Earth’ prison facility, Impel Down, and as such removed from his fellow Okama.
Not one to let a bad situation keep him down, Ivankov quickly accommodates to his new cage by forming New Kama Land, a secretive ‘home away from home’ hidden away inside the forgotten caverns of Impel Down’s lower basement levels and wherein he and its rag-tag population of like-minded prisoners can find a reprieve from their sentences.
But despite their similarities to The Kamabakka Kingdom’s Okama, the New Kamas differ from their brethren in one key way, as whereas the former were limited to identifying as their new identities through simple cosmetic changes, the latter’s exposure to Ivankov’s Horu Horu no Mi devil fruit – which grants the user the ability to change a given subject’s core genetic make-up via hormone manipulation – has allowed them to transcend gender by experiencing life in both a ale and female bodies.
As declared by Ivankov in the One Piece Chapter 537, “A man, a woman, an Okama, you should be whatever you want!! The borders between genders…I…No…We left them far behind!! This is our new humanity!! New Kama!!!”
Yet, though Oda was explicit in his definition of ‘New Kama’ as being associated with those who underwent a gender change on a genetic level thanks to Ivankov, Netflix still chose to ignore this definition in favor of ‘transgender representation’ in their subtitling to One Piece‘s 441st episode, ‘Luffy Revives! Iva-san’s Jailbreak Plan Begins!!‘
Therein, following his recovery from Impel Down Chief Warden Magellan’s poison, Luffy tells Ivankov that as part of his plan to break into the prison and save his brother Portgas D. Ace, his enemy-turned-ally Mr. Bon Clay, an Okama himself, had hoped to rescue his Kingdom’s leader in the process.
Offered an invite to come aboard by Luffy, Ivankov initially rejects the opportunity on the grounds that his compatriot, Dragon, has yet to make a move, and thus he wishes to avoid tripping over the Revolutionary leader’s carefully laid plans.
However, his hesitation soon turns to shock when Luffy reveals that not only does he know of Dragon, but that he is his own, flesh-and-blood biological son.
Putting two-and-two together that this familial connection also means that Ace is Dragon’s son, Ivankov quickly changes his tune and decides that he must do whatever it takes to save his ally’s children.
Ivankov then informs his New Kama Land subjects that, in service of this goal, he will be joining Luffy in venturing deeper into the belly of Impel Down, and invites all who are willing to join them to ready themselves for a potentially fatal battle run.
And it is here that Netflix’s alteration occurs.
In the original English subtitles for the episodes, as produced by Funimation, Ivankov’s rallying cry is met by a number of agreeing shouts from his followers, including one who proudly declares, “It’s a new beginning for the people of New Kama land!”
But in contradicting Oda’s long-established lore, Netflix’s subtitles for the series instead have the eager warrior declare, “It’s a new beginning for the new trans!” – which, as noted above, completely throws out Oda’s nuanced concept in favor of taking a side in one of the Western world’s current ‘hot button’ issues.
Unfortunately, no comparison point exists between this alteration and the original manga, as in the initial depiction of the scene presented by Oda, Ivankov’s rallying cry is met not by outright support, but a brief moment of shock and hesitation from his followers over the suddenness of his decision.
However, it should be noted that a card directly named after Ivankov’s secret paradise featured in Bandai’s One Piece trading card game uses the ‘New Kama’ translation in all its official printings.
At the time of this writing, Shueisha, Toei Animation, Eiichiro Oda, or Netflix have yet to comment on the localization change.