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Mr. Ishihara or How I learned to stop worrying and love Bill 156

December 21, 2010
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Before more panic ensues, rest assured the title is only intended as a wordplay on the dark comedy “Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb“ and doesn’t reflect my sentiments on Bill 156, also known as the ‘Tokyo anime & manga ban’.

The title of Stanley Kubrick ‘s movie somehow stuck in my mind after Mistakes Of Youth’s crossover of it with “Strike Witches” and it led to the wittiest title I could come up with for this post.

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Much digital ink has already been spilled on the volatile subject that is Tokyo’s anime & manga ban as after initial reports on the bill, many otaku made heated protests in outrage. The fact some sources indulged in populist writing to artificially stir up panic did not help.

Several voices have more eloquently responded, interesting articles by Ramblings of a Dark Mirage, Behind The Nihon Review and Dan Kanemitsu come to mind. A common thread with those is that there currently is no reason for panic.

Nonetheless, Bill 156 is a cause for concern, mostly because it is very vague, risking that the administration which shall enforce it might abuse its broad terms to impose severe censorship that may cause the anime and manga industry harm.

A gripe I -like most people- have with this vaguely worded ordinance is that while its original intent may be good, the fact it specifically states it omits normal literary works, real life photos or footage and as such excludes normal pornography cannot be seen as anything but targeting the anime and manga industry.

The most obvious question then is, was it necessary to specifically target anime releases and manga publications to protect youths from any improper material in it with such a separate law?

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Wouldn’t a regulation encompassing all types of publications with more clear definitions of what can and can not be shown, what may and may not sold to youths be more effective in protecting those who might be adversely affected by seeing such publications at an unsuitable (young) age?

Alas it seems the middle road to find a good balance between protecting those who need to be protected, preventing obviously unsuitable materials from being published and allowing freedom of speech isn’t quite the road this law is taking.

However, that’s still an uncertain claim in itself too at this point because the law’s vague terminology makes it near impossible to predict exactly what effect it will have.

A practical question which comes to mind is, would the Japanese government, especially the administration in Tokyo willingly risk crippling an industry focused largely in their geographical area that is still significant in terms of employment, revenue and consumerism?

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Hypothetically, guess that a most likely effect we might see is a shift occur in mainstream anime and manga titles, where they become less explicit again while titles that now air as mainstream broadcasts or populate the shelves between all others might move to late night slots, OVA format or even the adult range.

A possible effect of this law could be that anime -and manga- revert back to what its mainstream releases were like several years ago.

Although some of you may not enjoy reading this, it cannot be denied that the amount and level of explicit content has gradually increased these past years to the point where it now seems that some series are simply trying to outdo each other in how much explicit content they can plaster on screen each episode.

Whether it be broadcast uncensored or not, having series as explicit and with that much explicit content as for example “Yosuga No Sora”, “Seikon No Qwasar”, “Ladies Vs Butlers”, “Kanokon”, “Queen’s Blade”, “Kiss x Sis”,… in the state they aired and the frequency each season would have been near unthinkable even a few years ago.

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If such series would have aired during prime broadcasting hours then, it is likely they would have been more censored or simply toned down with less explicit content. No doubt some of these series would have been just as good and enjoyable even if they had less explicit content in them.

Must confess that I think this wouldn’t necessarily be a negative possible evolution. After all, with most of the otaku opinionated factions still warring on topics like moe, not all that many seem to genuinely wonder if the current explicit content in series is really good or even necessary. Must such series really have that type of content to be good, gather a viewing audience or sell DVD/BR’s?

If one’s goal when watching such shows is to revel in the explicit content, then wouldn’t one be just as well served by watching soft-core or hentai? Do normal series really need this content or are the viewers that expect such content perhaps watching mainstream titles with the wrong expectations?

The real and more pressing concern should be if Bill 156 will impede on rights like freedom of speech by being enforced so strictly or absurdly that it filters out anime and manga which could hardly be called objectionable.
Plus it’s not to my liking that they would have the power to stop series like “Yosuga No Sora”, “Seikon No Qwasar”, “Ladies Vs Butlers”,… from being released at all.

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More ideally a more well defined standard by which to judge publications and a well regulated body to determine what age category it can be released to seems far better. After all, isn’t it our society’s task to guide youths and provide them with the proper mental framework to absorb and process such material correctly, at a suitable age once they can choose to watch or read it?

Though it isn’t as we should not have anticipated such a possible event. For instance, pick up any recent issue of Megami or Nyantype magazine, notice how revealing and daring haven’t the illustrations gotten these past years? There’s a lot more bare skin and suggestive poses compared to before and it is possible that this bill might force publishers to go back to that previous state of affairs.

Would it really be so bad to see a cute illustration of say Nanoha in these magazines instead of a near naked Nanoha losing her bikini top as they feature now? While I don’t mind the latter content, personally I do not think that it would be such a disaster to see the explicit content revert to the levels it was at before.

One could quip that legislation like Bill 156 is unlikely to be changed or averted by mere phrases in the digital realm where none of those responsible for this bill’s birth see it or are affected by it. A peaceful yet firm protest formed by a mass of determined, unmovable fans flooding the streets of Tokyo would no doubt impress the likes of Shintaro Ishihara more.

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Although several large publishers like Kadokawa Shoten or Shueisha boycotting the Tokyo Anime Fair in protest didn’t seem to phase him. Nonetheless such an approach by companies seems a more proper step to effective protest.

Though the question is if politicians like Ishihara are even susceptible to listen to reason and willing to consider different opinions. Based on the few reports read of public comments made by Tokyo’s governor and keeping in mind the infuriating hypocrisy he stands for when you consider his earlier literary works depict what he now opposes, personally I doubt any constructive dialogue with such people is possible. However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t at least try.

So while I don’t think there’s a reason for panic just now, we should nonetheless be weary of the effects Bill 156 may have if it should seriously compromise the anime and manga industry due to exaggerated censorship.

Spiced up all this text with a few illustrations of some of my favorite series.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. December 21, 2010 8:43 pm

    I’m actually a little indifferent towards the bill and any potential effects it might have on anime. I’ve heard the hubbub, but really haven’t paid much attention beyond listening to the crowd roar. Part of me thinks the bill won’t change anything, but if it does…maybe we’ll start getting more college age characters. Where I’m it is kind of like your section above…would it be so bad if…

  2. December 21, 2010 9:09 pm

    I have to say I am in agreement with your observation. Fan service has been in the dominance for some years now. I have never had problem with a little fan service here and there, but when fan service become the center stage, it becomes a problem. Instead of raging about this new legislation, I will choose a wait and see approach; if anything I can always rely on the adult genre to keep me entertained XD

  3. December 21, 2010 9:58 pm

    @super rats
    We’ll just have to see what effects the bill may have if any. Though with the possible economic repercussions for their own region, I doubt the Tokyo administration would do something too harsh and regarding freedom of speech and basic rights one has to tread carefully.
    Just makes you wonder if titles like “Yosuga No Sora” will be held back or simply animated without explicit content, working more on suggestion.
    @Wolfheinrich
    Wouldn’t label it as fan service but more as explicit ecchi service? After all even a Gundam launch sequence or telltale transformation scene is fan service. The mecha kind of fan service then.
    Could be that more titles move into the adult genre or that eroge adaptations become less common and some go into the hentai genre.

  4. temperus permalink
    December 22, 2010 1:11 am

    The one good thing about this bill is precisely that it might help to diminish the amount of pointlessly obnoxious fanservice in anime. I can barely take it anymore. Not because I’m a prude mind you, but because I find it difficult to take an anime seriously when it is busy behaving like it’ll break out into a softcore porn any second. Just because the rest of TV is heading that way doesn’t mean anime has to go that route as well.

    You can be tongue-in-cheek about it and say “consider it an improvement on the quality of ecchi anime” but frankly it’s getting ridiculous. It’s just too bad that this will be a side-effect of a ban that seems to be aiming at .. far loftier goals.

  5. Devastator001 permalink
    December 22, 2010 8:26 am

    Personally based on the the wording of the law it doesn’t seem bad and better quality anime that don’t rely on fanservice is always a plus. I guess most of my concern comes from the idea that a facist-nazi wannabe is in charge. (sorry, but after all his corrupt DNA spiel it’s hard not to picture Ishihara in an SS uniform shouting “sieg heil!” :P).

  6. December 22, 2010 8:01 pm

    @temperus
    Can fathom that, while ecchi doesn’t bother me, lately in some series it is becoming too obtrusive or becomes a defining element of a series that indeed it’s more softcore or hentai almost. While I have nothing against people who like ot see that, the question is do we need or want it in mainstream series aired during regular broadcast hours?
    @Devastator001
    A concern is that it may not only affect titles with abundant explicit scenery but also other titles that feature heavier themes or violence, for instance it could affect “Candy Boy” for its yuri twins or even “Code Geass” for its patricide. Then that bill would really have a devastating effect.
    Yes, seeing politicians over the world like that makes one wonder who ever voted for them or how they got such high political careers while having such ridiculous ideas.

  7. December 22, 2010 9:11 pm

    I think the recent rise in fan servicey stuff in mainstream anime is simply a reflection of global changing attitudes in all media. This is what the society today can handle and even appreciate as mainstream. The bill is doing a disservice to all by trying to control that. Sure, it wouldn’t be a disaster to have things back to how it was in the 2000s, but why force things against societal trends?

    Anyways, I agree there’s no reason to overreact right now. We’ll have to see what actually happens.

  8. December 23, 2010 8:00 pm

    @Yi
    Could be, whilel I’m not an advocate of such stringent regulations, am not really that keen on the increase of explicit scenery where it’s not necessary or uncalled for.

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