The Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly is deliberating stronger regulations on sexual images of minors
in manga comic books, animation and video games.
If the revised ordinance is passed, publishers will have to exercise greater restraint on content with sexual depictions of characters that people can assume to be underage. The tougher ordinance would also designate publications
that express sexual violence and other material deemed outside the social norm as noxious and restrict young readers' access.
Cartoonists and others have lodged protests over the proposed crackdown, which was introduced by the metropolitan government, arguing it could violate the freedom of expression.
While Japan's mainstream manga industry continues to enthrall adult and children alike with innocent tales of spy adventures, sportsmen and even ambitious salarymen, authors and publishers are concerned at Tokyo authorities' latest attempt to curb explicit
content in adult manga –- heavily restricting the sale of comics that show what are described in the plan as nonexistent juveniles in sexual acts.
Though deadly serious, the plans took on a farcical edge last month. The move to tighten rules on books with depictions of sexual acts was, at least temporarily, rejected in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly in June.
What scuppered instead was the frank admission by controversial Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, known for not mincing his words on sensitive matters, that he hadn't thoroughly read his own proposal. That led to the matter being deferred pending further
consultation. According to a DPJ representative, further discussions are expected to continue in the next session of the assembly starting September.
Outside the assembly, however, reaction to the proposal is anything but fuzzy, polarized between segments of the manga industry and children's rights groups.
The main concern that opponents to the plan raise is the vague definition of the term nonexistent juvenile . In Governor Ishihara's proposal, books that show characters apparently under-age –- as defined by the characters' clothing, belongings
etc. — involved in sexual acts can be designated as an unwholesome book and as such subject to heavy sales restrictions.
Once a manga is labeled as an unwholesome book , it can no longer be carried in Japan's ubiquitous convenience stores. And non-bookstore purchases account about 60% of total sales of comic magazines, says Tamio Kawamata, an official at the JBPA.
A joint statement released by 1,421 manga authors and 10 major publishing companies -– including heavyweights Kodansha Ltd. and Shogakukan Inc. — argues that the vague nonexistent juvenile makes it possible for authorities to restrict the publication
of books at their discretion, and has a damping effect on the industry. They argue that it will restrict the freedom of speech, protected under Japan's constitution, which allowed manga to develop greatly in Japan and led it to be highly valued
around the world today .
The Tokyo metropolitan government's bungled proposal earlier in the year to broaden its powers of censorship over manga and anime it deemed harmful to minors is set to return for another attemmpt.
The fuss started back in March, when a formal protest by manga artist luminaries was followed by similar objections from IT giants Google, Rakuten and others. By June, the legislation was flatly rejected, but not without a vow from Tokyo Gov. Shintaro
Ishihara to revamp and try to push it through again this autumn.
So now we have Version 2 of the nonexistent youth bill, so-called because of its opaque language promising to monitor depictions of fictional characters government officials decide are too young to be engaging in the fictional activities
government officials decide are too harmful to real youth that government officials decide are too youthful to view or read about them.
The metropolitan government's latest efforts are being tracked by the indefatigable Tokyo-based translator Dan Kanemitsu, a half-Japanese writer whose blog, Dan Kanemitsu's Paper Trail (http://dankanemitsu.wordpress.com/) is a font of cranky
observation and excellent insight. According to him, Ishihara and Co. are trying to sneak the legislation into approval by making its language vaguer, its goals sanitized.
The metropolitan government now aims to control what Kanemitsu calls the danger posed by fiction that is not obscene, not extremely sexually stimulating, and not strongly prone to compel youth to conduct criminal acts, but is still harmful to youth
because it deals with the subject of minors and sexuality in a realm of fiction, especially if presented in an 'anti-social' manner.
The Tokyo metropolitan assembly has enacted an ordinance to restrict the sale of manga comic books and anime containing extreme depictions of sexual acts, despite claims from writers and publishers that it could breach freedom of expression
and stifle creativity.
The ordinance calls on the industry to impose self-regulation to prevent those under 18 from purchasing or accessing comics and anime containing depictions of rape and other sex crimes and those unduly lauding or exaggerating incest.
Comics that the metropolitan government determines as particularly malicious will be designated under the ordinance as unhealthy books and publishers will be banned from selling them to young people.
But the metropolitan government also added a clause stating it will give consideration to artistic and social expression and apply the ordinance carefully, although the clause is not legally binding.
The requirement for self-regulation and restrictions on sales will take effect on April 1 and July 1 next year, respectively.
In an assembly plenary session Wednesday, the ordinance gained approval from members of the Democratic Party of Japan, the Liberal Democratic Party and the New Komeito party.
Eight animation companies are planning to boycott the Tokyo International Anime Fair in March to protest at Tokyo's tightening of sexual expression in manga and anime will stage a competing event to run at the same time.
The companies, including Kadokawa Shoten, publishers of the Haruhi Suzumiya teen novel series, will hold the Anime Content Expo on March 26 and 27 at the Makuhari Messe convention center in Chiba, they said.
The eight companies in the event's organizing committee include the producers of such popular animation series as Naruto , Neon Genesis Evangelion and Pocket Monsters .
The organizing committee will ask other companies boycotting the Tokyo fair to take part in their event.
The Tokyo fair, whose organizing committee is chaired by the censorial Governor Shintaro Ishihara, will be held March 24 to 27. Ishihara has said the boycott doesn't matter and the event will go ahead with whoever shows up. But others report that the
boycott could put the event in jeopardy.
When lawmakers enact censorship they rather assume that the people doing the censoring are somehow morally or intellectually superior to
people thought to be in need of censorship.
Tokyo recently enacted a law to give city government powers to censor manga on grounds of promoting illegal or immoral sexual activity.
have published a fine example showing the dregs of intellect that may hide behind the label of 'censor'. This was taken from meeting minutes of the 2nd Miyazaki Prefectural Commission for the Promotion of Healthy Youth Development . At this
point, the commission was discussing boys love and ladies comics which, although not-pornographic, do tend to be rather risque.
Committee Member A:
In these books there is some violence and cruelty, and most have sexually provocative material.
In particular, many include scenes of women taking the lead ahead of men, and I think they'll promote the prejudiced view that women want this.
And if you keep getting these depictions of women taking the lead, matters soon develop in a homosexual direction and it must become difficult to develop sexually in a normal fashion, mustn't it?
This may not always be the case, but I think for the male consciousness they may end up thinking they cannot take the lead themselves, and so they tend to turn homosexual more often as a result.
I can't help but think it is very dangerous to our young people, should they see this sort of material mixed in amongst normal books.
No objection to these ideas were recorded in the minutes, but some comments have suggested this may be due to the Japanese custom of avoiding public criticisms of others, particularly those more senior.
The group suggested that some manga should be labeled as urgently designated harmful entertainment, but did not recommend any specific titles for the classification.
Japan's Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which has a supermajority in the lower chamber of the National Diet has formed an alliance with minority parties the New Komeito Party and the Japanese Restoration Party, and together, they have proposed a law that
would criminalize possession of sexual images of individuals under 18, according to the Japan Daily Press.
The proposed law doesn't distinguish between sexual images of actual children and drawn images that can be found all over Japan in the form of animated short features ( anime ) and sexy comic strips in book and magazine form ( manga ).
If the proposed law passes, and the proposing bloc have enough votes to force it through regardless of opposition, then Japanese citizens possessing sexy anime will face fines of Yen1,000,000 (US$10,437) per offense... and if the person has been found to
possess the material for the purpose of satisfying sexual curiosity, add a sentence of up to one year in prison for that enhancement.
The bill's sponsors hope to have the law in place by the time the current legislative session ends on June 26.