Hey there, fans! This first post of the year is going to be of a relatively different tone than that of my past posts, as it deals with politics. Yes, the world of real laws, rules, and governments is making an unwanted appearance in this happy world of exaggeration, freedom, and creativity, due to the recent passage of a bill in Japan that will make a huge impact in the anime/manga industry, in terms of censorship and creative restrictions. Here’s an excerpt of what the bill is from the Anime News Network:
The current ordinance already prevents the sale and renting of “harmful publications” — materials that are “sexually stimulating, encourages cruelty, and/or may compel suicide or criminal behavior” to people under the age of 18. Bill 156 would require the industry to also regulate “manga, anime, and other images (except for real-life photography)” that “unjustifiably glorify or exaggerate” certain sexual or pseudo sexual acts. Another section of the revised bill would allow the government to directly regulate the above images if the depicted acts are also “considered to be excessively disrupting of social order” such as rape.
The assembly also approved a non-binding supplemental resolution urging newly designated harmful publications to be carefully regulated, with the work’s merits based on artistic, social, and other criteria to be taken into account in the evaluation process.
Although it may seem like a reasonable bill initially, there are more sinister implications to the entire thing. A more in-depth analysis, from the otaku perspective of course, is found on several articles on Japanator (including one that paints otaku as “freaks”), but the one passage that really struck a chord with me was from this article (emphasis carried over from the original article):
Keep in mind, the [Tokyo Metropolitan Government] already has the power to regulate material in this way. The bill instead gratuitously expands its scope and coverage. Think of it as going from “too” to “any and all” with regard to sexual acts, so long as the acts would be illegal in real life and “unjustifiably glorified and exaggerated”. It’s isnt an outright ban, but its practical effects would amount to same: any retailer in its right mind would refuse to sell material that risks being caught under that incredibly vague umbrella of language, and most publishers would avoid green-lighting such material for fear of being publicly humiliated by the TMG.
To cite some examples, manga, anime, or game adaptations of The Tale of Genji, Oedipus Rex, Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, and American Beauty could potentially be affected, as well as currently running anime like OreImo, Yosuga no Sora, MM!, and Panty and Stocking, so long as sexual relations depicted within are perceived as “unjustifiably glorified and exaggerated”.
As a possible future English teacher, I have always been a proponent of the freedom of speech and an opponent of censorship, even if I don’t necessarily agree with what’s being said, and this bill right here is nothing short of just that. As I mentioned before, this is going to affect the creative powers-that-be in the entire anime and manga industry in Japan, which in turn will affect all of the properties that will reach the U.S. However, I must admit that there are some political undercurrents that are in play here that I can’t possibly comprehend, so it would be unfair to unleash a full torrent of spite against the makers of this bill when I cannot understand exactly what’s going on, both in terms of the language and the politics behind it.
That is not to say that people aren’t fighting the bill tooth and nail. Everyone, from the mangaka who work on individual titles to entire anime studios, has taken steps to fight the bill, from making doujinshi (self-published manga) that poke fun and criticize the Bill and its makers to pulling out of the 2011 Tokyo International Anime Fair in protest, going even so far as to hold their own convention. On the Internet, many voices have been raised against such a bill, and even more so after its passage in the government. Some of the more informative essays about the bill are found in the websites already mentioned as well a few good ones that stand on their own on other sites, but the best one I’ve hit on is this piece by Dan Kanemitsu that goes through the entire history of the bill itself, and the negative implications it has made. His site basically lists his battle plans and other writings that would help illuminate the situation more.
Fans, this may seem like a trival bit of legislation happening on a group of islands thousands of miles away, but the simple fact is that creative freedom is being oppressed; as passionate lovers of works created from a foundation of such freedom, I implore you all to send this small piece of information throughout the Internet in order to create awareness about it. I am the last person to get politically-charged about an issue, but is a reminder that something like the passage of Bill 156 does happen and it could happen in your part of the world too.
Here’s hoping it won’t. See you later, fans.