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So the latest entry in your favorite series has just come out. But what's this? "Rated M for Mature?" "Parents Strongly Cautioned?" "Not for children under 17?" What's all this nonsense? The last work in the series, the one before it and all of its predecessors have been perfectly family-friendly. Sure, there might have been a little violence, an odd bit of innuendo that flew over your head 20 years ago that makes you chuckle looking back or a joke or two that pushed the boundaries of what would today be considered good taste, but certainly things haven't changed that much, have they? Has the franchise taken an unexpected turn for the Darker and Edgier while you weren't looking?
You pop in the disc (or crack the cover) and find, surprise surprise, that the series hasn't really changed at all. What's changed is how its content is seen. Something that might have been perfectly innocuous and acceptable 20 or 10 or even five years ago is now regarded as unspeakably heinous and instant grounds for a rating bump. Even if everything else in the series is all rainbows and unicorns.
This can be justified as ratings systems grow more robust over time, introducing more tiers of ratings and allowing for more accurate classification. More Egregious cases can be chalked up to overzealous Media Watchdogs.
Anime and Manga
- School Rumble consistently received ratings of TV-PG to TV-14 on YouTube, up until the ninth episode of Second Semester. From that point on, the ratings were bumped up to TV-MA... with hardly any change at all in the romantic comedy formula. Granted, the first episode of the second season has a surprising amount of violence, even if it was All Just a Dream.
- El Cazador de la Bruja received a TV-MA despite its predecessors Noir and Madlax receiving TV-14 ratings.
- On the DVD version you get to see Ellis' naked rear a couple of times.
- And the dub swears once or twice.
- On the DVD version you get to see Ellis' naked rear a couple of times.
- A single, comedic-toned filler episode of Naruto got a 16+ rating for the Hungarian broadcast. It may have been because of one use of the S-word, though since the word is used very often in other, more serious episodes (along with other instances of foul language), one has to wonder why they picked this one to be "too much" for the standard 12+ rating. Since the TV channel stopped using rating signs, this phenomenon ceased to be a problem. Now you don't know the rating for anything.
- In Australia the first volume (and as a result the later box set and complete collection) of Azumanga Daioh were rated MA15+ while the rest of the series were rated G or PG. The reason is because of Kimura's joke about drinking the pool water and more specifically because child prodigy Chiyo-chan was present and the rating board decided it could be interpreted as being included. The rest of the series generally makes it clear that Chiyo-chan is not one of Kimura's targets, hence the lower ratings... though let's face it, a pedophile teacher being acceptable in an otherwise family friendly show is one of those things you just have to go with when viewing works from Japan.
- The Ah! My Goddess manga in America was, when it was first released in flipped left-to-right format, rated for readers 8+. Its second release, in original right-to-left, was rated 13+. There were no substantive changes between the two beyond the flip (and maybe a few more references to Japanese culture); if anything, the original's language was a bit cruder.
- Despite the kiddie nature of the show, UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie has an TV-MA rating. However, Spain apparently aired on a kids network, to no problem, though.
- Averted by Ghost Stories, whose first volume may have warranted a TV-PG rating by ADV Films, but the show continues to get more explicit, and continues with the same rating.
- Tintin in the Congo is usually considered Afrophobic by modern standards and has often been classified as for adults only because of this.
- This isn't a totally straight example, though; the early Tintin books (this was only the second) were undisguised propaganda, and the author made an enormous effort to improve the series later on. He would later refer to Tintin in the Congo as "a mistake".
- This trope is at the heart of the "Han Shot First" controversy surrounding the Star Wars Special Edition. The scene in Episode IV: A New Hope where Han shoots Greedo after being threatened by him flew under the censors' radar back in 1977, but would have bumped the rating up to PG-13 two decades later. So the scene was edited so that Greedo shot first, and thus the Internet Backlash was born. Especially hilarious because the film was almost rated "G" -- yes, G -- back in 1977. (This despite the fact that it features charred corpses, a bloody severed arm, multiple violent deaths, and a "heroic" character who starts out as a Jerkass smuggler.)
- It actually was rated U, the equivalent of G in the UK, which doesn't carry as much of a stigma.
- Transformers: Dark of the Moon received a rating of 16+ in Hungary, whilst it's considered to be anything from a PG-13 to G movie in the rest of the world. What makes this especially peculiar is that the dub even removed or toned down most of the original movie's foul language, making the rating decision seem even more unwarranted. Yet the far more obscene and about equally violent Revenge of the Fallen only got a 12+ (along with the original installment).
- The explicitly gory Hammer Horror film Dracula Has Risen From the Grave was given a G rating in the U.S. This was around the same time the MPAA rating system was established--indeed, it was the first film to be given an MPAA rating--and therefore, the G rating hadn't yet been truly codified as "kids stuff".
- For a 2011 re-release in UK cinemas, Ghostbusters was passed 12A by the BBFC for "moderate sex references", up from the PG of its original 1984 release (five years before 12 was introduced). The film had still been released on DVD as PG as recently as 2009.
- The 1999 British film The Big Tease recieved an R rating in the United States and the equivalent of a PG almost everywhere else. Although the reason given is language, there are very few instances of profanity, leading some people to believe it was more harshly rated in the U.S. because the main character is very blatantly homosexual.
- ET the Extraterrestrial's original release recieved a G rating in Australia. Because the 20th-anniversary re-release was edited (to remove guns), the film had to be re-submitted, and received a PG rating for "supernatural themes".
- After Midnight Cowboy became the first and last X-rated film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture, it was rereleased with an R rating though no cuts were made.
Live Action TV
- The Sesame Street: Old School DVD collection is shrinkwrapped with a "Not for Children" sticker on the packaging. It appears that what was considered perfectly suitable for preschoolers 40 years ago isn't acceptable now, mostly due to an increased sensitivity to Nightmare Fuel.
The disclaimer doesn’t say, “Do not under any circumstances let kids see this stuff because it’s bad for them.” It just says it “may not suit the needs of today’s pre-school children.” Now, if you had watched these DVDs, you’d know that the first episode includes a slow-moving, seven-minute segment on milking cows with droning, repetitious narration. Does that sound like the kind of thing today’s kids would sit still for?
There’s also a film sequence about unsupervised children playing in a construction site. We could debate whether or not watching that is damaging to kids, but can you blame Sesame Workshop for covering themselves by putting a disclaimer in front of something like that?
- In terms of actual inappropriate content, the biggest issue seems to be smoking--specifically, scenes of Cookie Monster introducing "Monsterpiece Theater" while "smoking" a bubble pipe.
- It's worth noting that some (though not all) of the E-to-E10+ examples listed here are due to the game's volume level - video games with generally chaotic and noisy atmospheres are generally slapped with the higher rating as a precaution in case the end product is too intense for younger players (even if there's nothing else in the game that would call for such a bump).
- The original Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 64 was rated E. Its sequels, Super Smash Bros Melee and Super Smash Bros Brawl, are both rated T, despite having the same level of violence as the original (no blood, no gore, just characters getting smacked around and sent flying). However, some of the sound effects in the first game were replaced with more cartoony ones when the game was released outside of Japan. The higher rating was due to the fact that the graphics of Melee/Brawl were more realistic than the original. Also, Melee was rated before the E10 rating was introduced, and would likely get that rating if it was released today.
- Hilarious related example: the DK Rap originated in Donkey Kong 64, with a line about Chunky Kong declaring, "He may move slow; he can't jump high / But this Kong's one hell of a guy!" The game is rated E. In Melee, this line had the minor alteration from "hell of a guy" to "heck of a guy", presumably to clean up the language to be suitable for all audiences. As noted above, Melee is rated T; a single instance of the word "hell" would be well within the bounds of the T rating.
- Every game in the Digimon franchise to come out in Europe was rated 3+, with the exception of the last two: Digimon Rumble Arena 2 and Digimon World 4 both got a ratings bump to 12+ and a symbol on the back of the box citing violent content as the primary cause. It's speculated that the games didn't sell as well as previous games because of this.
- On a higher maturity level, the original Manhunt was rated M. The second game in the series had to have cuts to keep it M and not AO, but what information has leaked about those cuts indicates that they were all things present in the first game.
- The original Command and Conquer was rated G8+ (for general audiences 8 and up) on original release in Australia, but when it became widely known and re released it was bumped up to MA15+ without any changes in gameplay at all. Should be noted that the original features a man being executed right in front of you (among other things rendered in Full Motion Video), infantry being crushed by tanks with an audible "SQUELCH" as a gameplay mechanic, and very graphic deaths for units killed by fire.
- In Europe, the Ace Attorney series has a 7+ rating, except for Trials & Tribulations, which gets 12+ because of the presence of a suicide.
- Cause all the murders, physical/psychological abuse and blackmail is just fine for kids.
- Also, Justice For All features a suicide in the backstory.
- The ESRB ratings box for all four games in the first .hack video game series says they contains "mature sexual themes" - which, apparently, refers to a single line of dialogue in the first game, where a female character clarifies that her offer of her "body" meant that she was offering her help fighting monsters.
- Narrowly averted by Mario Kart 7 - while the final cut is given an ESRB rating of E like the rest of the series, pre-release trailers show that it was originally prepped to have an E10+ despite the sole content descriptor being "Comic Mischief".
- Kirby Returns to Dreamland, also known as Kirby Wii, is the first game in the series to have an E10+ rating, but it's hardly more violent than any other game in the series.
- The Japanese version averted this by having it rated A, which is the E rating for Japan. This would mean that either the Japanese or the Americans are missing something with this game.
- Inverted with Kirby's Dream Land 3, where the game is rated E despite featuring Zero as a final boss, who gorily rips out his own iris. He proceeds to use his own blood as projectiles, too.
- The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess got a T rating despite being only marginally more violent than the E rated Ocarina of Time. Sure, there's more blood, but this time around, it's exclusively Alien Blood.
- Ocarina of Time: E. Ocarina of Time 3D: E10+. Violent or sexual content that changed: almost nil. If anything, there's less sexual content; the perpetually nude female character, Ruto, was updated to look more like she's wearing something, and the Ambiguously Gay carpenters had one of their lines altered to make it sound less like they were hitting on Link. The updated graphics might have had something to do with it (making it seem more "real"), but it's anyone's guess. More or less justified by the fact that E10+ didn't exist during the N64 era, but otherwise fits the trope to a T (or E10+, at any rate).
- Spirit Tracks and Skyward Sword both go into the halfway mark with an E10+ rating.
- The first White Knight Chronicles was rated 16 for "Violence" and "Drug Use". The sequel included the entire first game on the disc, but only came in at a 12 for "Violence" and "Bad Language".
- Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk 2 had one pedo villian. This was cited as the main reason to bump it up to M from T.
- Inverted Trope with The Ratchet and Clank Collection; The original trilogy was rated T, but its HD remakes for the PlayStation 3 will all be marked with an E10+, putting it in line with the rest of the series.
- Inverted Trope with XCOM Reboot strategy games. The first game, 2012's Enemy Unknown, received an M rating from the ESRB, a 18 rating from PEGI and a suitable for 18+ recommendation from (in)famous parental review and advice site Common Sense Media. The Sequel, on the other hand, received a T rating from the ESRB, a 16 rating from PEGI and a suitable for 14+ recommendation from Common Sense Media, despite there being little to no change in content between the games. In fact, XCOM 2 is slightly Darker and Edgier than the first game, which was no cakewalk regardless. In XCOM 2, it's revealed the aliens are abducting humans and converting them into raw genetic material to create their armies, and their ultimate form, their "Avatars". Partially this may be Values Dissonance: The BBFC rated the game 12, but as PEGI replaced them as the UK's game rating board, the game was re-rated 18.
- The Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVD series is labeled "for the adult collector" and "may not be suitable for children", since it has the original, uncensored cartoons, Values Dissonance and all. (The concurrent Spotlight Collection showed the less objectionable shorts for those who wanted to buy the cartoons for the kiddies.) Similar DVD sets had a similar warning. Walt Disney Treasures avoided this by including all the shorts with Unfortunate Implications in a separate section, so that impressionable children would not view them accidentally.
- The first run of South Park episodes on SBS in Australia were rated PG (Parental Guidance Recommended) but when the same episodes were shown later, after the series became the cult classic it is today, they were rated M (15+).
- Family Guy in Hungary went from an initial rating of 16+ to 12+, and being aired early in the afternoon, then right back to 16+ with a strict night-only time slot. The abundance of uncensored swear words in the dubbing may have had something to do with it (besides the original content, of course). Strangely, the even more vulgar dub of King of the Hill didn't get pushed back, they instead gave it an earlier afternoon air-time, and the TV station doesn't supply any information on the rating.
- Averted with Watership Down, despite being the single leading cause of childhood trauma in those exposed to the movie, it has kept it's "U-Suitable For Young Children" rating in the UK.