This is not a political site. And while I certainly have no qualms about debating politics in real-life, I have no desire to turn it into one. Nevertheless, since this site (like it’s owner) is obsessed with Japan and otaku culture, I don’t think it can ignore what’s happening in Tokyo right now. In short, I’m referring to the innocuously named “Tokyo Youth Ordinance”. It forces the government to:
“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”
There’s lots of spin about this one, but here’s the reality – the bill is not restricted to depictions of sex, violence or child pornography. It’s worded in such a way that the Assembly or it’s neo-fascist head, Shintaro Ishihara, can decide what to ban and what not to ban. And given that Ishihara is a racist, homophoic, xenophobic, anti-foreigner Nanking denier, that might be any depiction of homosexuality. Or schoolgirls whose skirts don’t fall below the knee. Or a pirate acting too violently. If Ishihara says it’s out – it’s out.
Note too that “except for real-life photography” clause, which is a fascinating one. For you see, Ishihara is a novelist and playwright whose own works include lovely topics like the gang-rape of underage girls. This isn’t about protecting anyone – it’s a targeted missile shot directly at the anime and manga industry. Live-action movies, plays and books are exempt – they can depict whatever they want. It’s only the “deviant” arts like anime and manga that are to be regulated.
What impact could the passage of such a bill have? Well, almost half of the exhibitors in the 2011 Tokyo Anime Fair – one of the largest exhibitions in the world – have already pulled out in fear that their products might be banned. Every title in the mega-popular Shounen Jump might be banned – or effectively banned by forcing it to be labeled as “18+”. There are already reports of skittish publishers telling their authors to cancel any work set in a high school and not to depict anyone in a school uniform. Due to the vagueness of the law and the nature of it’s creator, studios and publishers will likely self-censor to avoid any possible legal action down the road.
The fact that this ordinance applies only to Tokyo is moot. Tokyo is overwhelmingly the economic, political and cultural capitol of Japan. No major release could be financially viable if it were not sellable in Tokyo. And given the stigma attached to labeling something as “porn” anything with an 18+ tag attached to it is as good as dead financially. This isn’t a law – this is a personal vendetta, a bitter and misogynistic old man attempting to settle a few scores and impose his morality onto the rest of the country. And it’s about to be passed into law tomorrow, December 15. The PM, Naoto Kan, did come out against it in his blog yesterday – but his party appears ready to sign off.
It’s impossible to calculate the chilling impact this could have on the art form so many of us know and love. This is an attack on free speech and an attempt to marginalize a sizable chunk of the Japanese population, label them as perverted and destroy an entire industry. It’s impossible to say whether it will succeed to that extent, but at the very least it will largely stifle creativity in the industry by cowing the studios and publishers into compliance. There’s probably not much any of us can do to fight it, but there is a way to contact Mr. Kan and let him know your feelings by following this link:
Any time free speech is under attack, we are all under attack. This one hits pretty close to home, sure – but if this is allowed to go unchallenged, what (and where) will be the next onslaught?