Change is afoot: Tokyo Govt. Approves New Restrictions to Manga and Anime for Children’s Sake, Part 1

Thank god Sasami is a 700 year old alien… unless you’re watching Magical Girl Pretty Sammy, then she’s 10 years old and you’re SOL.

Thank god Sasami is a 700 year old alien… unless you’re watching Magical Girl Pretty Sammy, then she’s 10 years old and you’re SOL.

Late into the evening of December 14, twitter started to spring to life from Japan. The cause? The passage of Bill 156 in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly.

The infamous bill among anime otaku and people who work within the industry was initially proposed back in the spring of this year by Tokyo’s novelist turned governor, Shintaro Ishihara. The original law stipulated that fictional children had rights, and that the law was designed to protect them. As laughable as it was dangerous, the vague wording led to the bill’s swift defeat earlier this year.

Flash forward to earlier this month when Governor Ishihara reintroduced his pet project bill and received support from the Democratic Party of Japan.  Dan Kanemitsu, a translator for manga and anime who has closely followed this issue, describes that “all sexual acts that would be illegal in real life OR sexual depictions between close relatives who could not legally get married to be treated as adult material if they are presented in ‘unjustifiably glorified or exaggerated manner.’” The bill stipulates that controls need to be placed on sexually suggestive materials, but only for manga and anime.

The question is largely based on who controls the morality of printed subject matter. Whereas manga and anime publishers have been careful to issue their own standards for sale and distribution of questionable materials, the reigns of morality are now in the hands of the Tokyo government.

Controls might be good. (I have, since the age of 16, made a habit of buying Weekly Playboy from the magazine racks whenever I visit. And, yes, the thrill of buying a copy is greatly reduced since turning 20, but I still read it for the articles.) However, the law is heavily biased and forgets to mention the fact that any other medium conveying such images perfectly acceptable (so I’d still be able to buy my Playboy).

Thus we protect the classic instances of children portrayed in books like Tanizaki Junichiro’s Naomi(1947), or the “High School Sexy Fun Times” DVD. (For all I know, that girl is anywhere from age 16 to 30). Meanwhile, we might rule, that Ranma 1/2 is a source of much debauchery and is hurtful to our sensitive children, (the series contains many references to sexual innuendo, violence, and just plain anti-social behavior among youths), enough to perhaps bring it under considerable censorship.

In the coming year, I imagine the industry is going to become quite creative in circumventing these laws, as they call for works to be based on artistic and social merits. After writing so many papers for college, I imagine it will not be long before someone will try to rule Kodomo No Jikan as a critical analysis of sexuality and youths in an avant-garde combination of the two to display our own social fragility (fancy talk for, pointing out the obvious and the awkward regarding child sexuality).

However, what should be noted, above all, is the misconception this law has bred. The law does not “only target” the anime/manga industry, nor is it a sign that the end is nigh. The sensationalism itself may be just as damaging in the long run for creators and publishers, as the law itself.

It goes without saying, the 1986 anime version of Ishihara Shintaro’s Sun of Seasons will be heavily debated over its high school protagonists’ sexual relations, and with poetic justice, be put under sanctions.

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