TOKYO (majirox news) – Anime writers, publishers and storeowners are crying foul over the approval of a revised bill amending the Youth Healthy Development Ordinance by the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, passed on December 15. At the root of the issue is the increasingly bitter argument about censorship of the multi-billion dollar anime industry.
The bill regulates manga (comics), anime and other images that glorify or exaggerate certain sexual or pseudo sexual actions for those less than 18 years of age. It calls on the government to regulate these images such as those that depict rape, incest or criminal violence–anything that disrupts the social order and encourages suicide or criminal behavior.
Another non-binding supplemental resolution urged the government to regulate any newly designated publications deemed harmful, based on the work’s artistic and social benefits and other criteria
The fall-out has begun. The top 10 Japanese producers of comics, including the Kadokawa Publishing Group, Kodansha, Shogakkan and Shueisha have announced that “under no circumstances” would they cooperate or participate in the Tokyo International Anime Festival held in March. This is the world’s largest anime festival and it attracted a record 132,000-anime fans and 244 booths last year.
Following in their wake, Kyoto Seika University will decide at a special symposium how they will protest the amendment, according to Keiko Takemiya, legendary manga creator and winner of numerous awards for To Terra (a.k.a. Toward the Terra). Takemiya is also professor of manga art at the university.
She believes the bill limits freedom of expression and stifles creativity among writers. Writers should be free to broach any issues in their work, even those considered taboo.
“If porno or rape is necessary to the plot of the story, then it’s OK, and should stay. If it’s not necessary to the plot of the story, maybe it shouldn’t be in. But I am still against any type of censorship.”
She worries the restrictions will expand if it is not contested and young anime writers might not have the strength for the battle.
“In the 1970s, the government approved voluntary censorship,” she told Majirox News. “It got to the point that if we drew two sets of feet on a bed, we were asked to remove it. We fought it and made it through.”
Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishirara, who supported the bill confirmed Takemiya’s statement.” It’s not just about children. We’ve got homosexuals casually appearing even on television. Japan has become far too untamed.”
A 26-year-old manga writer — who goes by the name of Kuriba — agrees with Takemiya about censorship. “The government doesn’t even know if anime causes people to commit criminal acts,” he says.
Anime/manga is a traditional part of Japanese life and culture, which crosses boundaries of age and gender. It shows history, stories of love, danger, violence and sex.
Chinami Kasama, a gender studies professor at Kanagawa University in Yokohama City, says although some anime is brutal and becoming more explicit, she is also against censorship.
“Even if you censor it, it won’t prevent people from going underground. People will sell it and it won’t change. It’s the same as porno, if you prohibit it, they will go somewhere else,” she says.
In fact, anime continues to be the largest segment of all DVD sales. According to the Research Institute for Publications, sales from mangas make up more than 25 percent of all sales, and 20 percent of total magazine sales. Anime has also become a successful cultural export in Asia, Europe and Latin America.
Due to the poor economy, the Japanese government realizes it is time to open the market to other countries, and in preparation for that, it is instilling this type of censorship, says writer and CEO of Rinkya, an anime online auction and shopping center, Heather Russell.
“It’s a pecuniary move, in my opinion under the guise of protection,” she argues. “This is just an excuse to cover up ulterior motives in making that yen!”
Japanese manga/anime as it is, cannot generally be sold in other countries on a mainstream basis because of the content. Other countries have censorship laws and Japan is mirroring that to re-package anime/manga for a more worldwide appeal.
“The Japanese are one of the least violent societies in the world and so obviously, they can process and handle that which is taboo to us as Americans,” she adds.
The Japanese are upset because the government is taking the definitive make-up of their culture and censoring it. “It’s tantamount to someone tying one hand behind your back and telling you it’s the law,” Russell says.
This infringes upon Japanese culture and their rights to express themselves. Japanese culture teaches the Japanese to not be expressive publicly and openly. This idea of “enryo,” is a core tenant of Japanese culture.
“Manga and anime are so beautiful, and the key form in which Japanese fully express all they hold inside all the time,” Russell says. “Manga and anime are doors inside the minds of people whom you would normally never have access to if you met them on the street.
The non-binding supplemental resolution will take effect in April of next year and the sales and rental restrictions will take effect July 1.