MANGA AND ANIME IN TROUBLE: SCANLATIONS, MARKETING DIFFICULTIES AND NEW LAWS ABOUT SEX AND MINORS

MANGA AND ANIME IN TROUBLE

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Lolicon
Manga sales peaked in the United States in 2007 and fell off in 2008 and 2009. There has been a number of lay offs and closures at U.S.-based anime and manga distributors, publishers and producers. Mangaphile Frederick Schodt said the market is “cratering” because despite poor sales interest in manga and anime seems to be a strong as ever based on the number of people that show up at manga and anime events. Scantalations and the availability of free stuff available on the Internet are probably the main reasons behind the downturn. Why should anybody pay for the stuff when so much is available for free? [Source: Roland Kelts, the Daily Yomiuri]

Are Japanese content producers rising to the challenge, showing some flexibility adapting to the constantly changing environment? Apparently not.Roland Kelts wrote in the Daily Yomiuri in 2010,”Most Japanese companies are vacating their U.S. offices...cutting back on expenses, turning inward just as their Asian competitors may be usurping them. Anime producers are hemorrhaging money, and manga publishers are trying to stamp out Internet piracy in an effort to stanch the losses.” [Ibid]

In Japan there is a diminishing domestic youth audience for anime and manga. Roland Kelts wrote in the Daily Yomiuri: Many worry about the quality of anime currently being produced in Japan. In a tight market, content producers cling to the "tried and true." This often means so-called moe narratives, featuring cute--and sometimes eroticized--young-looking female characters. The genre has a dedicated following in Japan, but is unlikely to find an export market. "Moe [and other niche genres] are a safe bet for making money over one season," says Macdonald, "but the problem is that they don't grow the audience." "Quality is actually more important to us than quantity," adds Gao. "In Japan, this is not the golden age of anime." [Source: Roland Kelts, Daily Yomiuri, November 25, 2011]

With the sale of manga and anime content in decline and a number of threats coming from sources that don’t recognize copyrights, the manga and anime industry is facing a grim future unless it can better capitalized in its markets. If Japanese content prudcuers want to make money overseas they need better marketing and to know their audience better. The websites for major manga producerss are often Japanese-language only and even then they are often amateurish, difficult to navigate and dull. Promotion campaigns in the United States often emphasize characters like Doraemnm which most Americans---even manga and anime fans--- have never heard of. [Ibid]

Problems with Manga Today

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On manga today the famed mangaka Jun Ishikawa told the Yomiuri Shimbun, “There’s a lot of manga you may never hear of if you are outside of the target readership, even if it’s a million-seller. Manga also has become sometimes difficult to understand. Many pages are dedicated to just one work. Manga used to be very easy to understand. These days you cannot follow the story with just one episode in a weekly.”

Another famed mangaka Fujiko Fujio said, “Editorial work has also changed into something like a production system. When we were younger, editors just told us how many pages we could draw, and we drew whatever we wanted to. But now, editors works as producers. The producer decides the theme of the manga based on “selling elements” and decides which original story will be produced, and with which mangaka. Mangaka themselves are not sure whether what they draw is what they really want to draw.”

Ishikawa said, “When we were younger, we came up with many things we wanted to draw, as soon as we were given pages. But these days, mangaka say they have nothing they want to draw, although they do have technique. I have heard that some mangaka nowadays, even when their editors tell them to draw whatever they want, still have to ask what they should draw.”

Another blow to the manga industry has been manga fan-subbing or scanalations---the practice of foreign enthusiasts scanning Japanese manga and placing them on free fan websites with translations of questionable accuracy. Popular manga such as Naruto, One Piece and Bleach are widely available in this format as they are in fan subbed anime.

Some lament the trend away from magazines to cell phones. Mangaka Fujiko Fujio told the Yomiuri Shimbun, “We mangaka produce changes that are achieved by turning the page after reading a two-page spread, for example. We cannot accept having our pages read frame-by-frame on a cell phone.”

Scanlations and Scanned Manga

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Lolicon Akibachan
In the late 2000s it became increasingly common in Japan for people scan manga and put them in their Ipads, Kindles and other e-books and tablets in process known as Jisui ---or “cooking for myself.” The system allows users to have many more manga at their disposal and organize them---plus they are easier to read on a train. The only problem is that scanning each page can be time consuming (there are companies that will do it of a fee).

Kanta Ishida wrote in Daily Yomiuri, “There is something to be said for converting manga and photography books into data for viewing on the high-definition liquid crystal displays, which carry more information and often look better than paper. In that respect, picture-filled magazines will look great on e-readers. In terms of typeset text, however, it is questionable as to how many people will choose to spend tens of thousands of yen on a device when they can just pick up a paperback for only a few hundred yen.”

Scanlations---the scanning of manga, translating the text and and putting them online for free---is presenting a major threat to the manga industry. A group of Japanese manga publishers---Digital Comic Association, which includes Kodansha, Shogakukan and Shueisha---has asked U.S. and European operators of websites to stop offering unauthorized scanned images of Japanese manga and have threatened to take them to court if they don’t comply. [Source: Roland Kelts, Daily Yomiuri, August 6, 2010]

In May 2010, the Japanese Digital Comics Association joined forces with its U.S. Counterparts Viz media, Tokyo Opp and the Hachette Book Group to take legal action against scanlators and their aggregator sites. The largest scanlation aggregates, MangaFox and One Manga, responded by pulling hundreds of manga titles and closing down completely in July 2010. In a Japan a teenage boy was arrested for posting manga on YouTube, with police there said caused $22 million in damages.

Crackdown on Manga Scanlation Sites

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In the of summer of 2010, manga fans worldwide were jolted by the advent of the Digital Comic Association (DCA), a hastily formed 39-member coalition of Japanese and U.S. manga publishers bent on squelching so-called scanlation sites--fan-operated Web sites that translate, scan and post manga to stream or download for free. DCA membership comprised the mighty: Shogakukan Inc., Shueisha Inc. and Kodansha Ltd. in Japan teamed up with Viz Media, Hachette Book Group's Yen Press and the now-defunct TokyoPop in the United States. [Source: Roland Kelts, July 8, 2011]

Their announcement was followed by sporadic arrests in Japan. A 14-year-old in Nagoya and two teens in the Kansai region were among domestic fans accused of posting manga for free via file-sharing sites like YouTube and Nico Nico Douga and reaping personal profit from ads on their sites. Two of the largest scanlation aggregators, MangaFox and OneManga, responded in short order. Operators of the former pulled hundreds of manga titles from their site, and the latter closed down completely.

If the DCA's declaration of war against piracy last year sent chills through some manga readers, the real scare for everyone was in the numbers. As I have recorded in this column, by the summer of 2010, manga sales that had seen sharp drops in North America suddenly began slipping at home. The real problem, a Kodansha editor confided to me over dinner, was that uploads and piracy had recently spiked inside Japan. What was formerly deemed a foreign problem by the industry had fast become a domestic crisis.

New Manga Fan-Industry Fansites

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There is an oft-repeated cliche about Japan's approach to change: It may be a long time coming, but once change begins it can spread like wildfire.As the North American "con season" kicked off last weekend with the Anime Expo convention in Los Angeles, the DCA announced its long-awaited digital manga Web portal, JManga.com, would be officially unveiled at the July 21-24 Comic-Con International in San Diego. A midday panel discussion on the state of the manga industry, featuring heavyweights from Kodansha, Shueisha, Kadokawa Group Publishing Co. and Futabasha Publishers Ltd., will be followed by an evening reception and a "sneak peak" at the first major legitimate gateway for digital manga.

While long overdue, the project marks a revealing convergence. Crunchyroll.com, the former fansite turned legit in 2009, has helped the DCA with system development of the Jmanga site via a partnership with Bitway Co., a Japanese e-book company launched by neolithic printing giant Toppan Printing Co. In other words, guerrilla-style, close-to-the-community fansite staffers were tapped by some of the biggest industry veterans to create an official digital portal for manga.

The DCA-Crunchyroll partnership is not the only industry-fansite tie-up on the horizon. Mangareborn.jp, currently in beta and planning to go live in August, seeks to work directly with manga artists who want to reach an international audience, bypassing Amazon, Apple and possibly even publishers. "We don't want to kill publishers," a Mangareborn developer told me. "We want to help decrease their risks by creating a fan base they can use as a focus group."

The emphasis is squarely on community. While the manga industry has taken wayward stabs in the dark to find its overseas audience, amassing too many misses amid the hits, fansites have cultivated a far more intimate relationship with their visitors.

A former fansite operator puts it this way: "We're the risk-takers. We take the first step in evolution. In the world of piracy, the competition is not about 'free' content, it's about service. And that's what the industry lacks." He pauses, palms outstretched to state the obvious: "We know our end-user, because we are our end-user."

Difficulty in Promoting Japanese Manga Globally

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Roland Kelts wrote in the Daily Yomiuri,” “In 2007, Yukari Shiina set out to breathe new life into an industry she saw growing stale and self-absorbed. She founded the World-manga.com agency with the goal of introducing non-Japanese artists to domestic manga publishers, negotiating contracts and publicity between them. "I really wanted to bring some diversity into the Japanese industry," she says. "Diversity is one of the keys to survival. It's strange that we have tons of translated novels and films here, and Japanese love those works, mystery novels and Hollywood movies and Disney. But for some reason, we don't like the comics that others [like]." [Source: Roland Kelts, Daily Yomiuri, October 29, 2010]

Shiina surveyed the U.S. industry and found variety galore: Comics by non-U.S. artists are commonplace on the shelves and at conventions, and numerous nonnative born artists and employees work for U.S. publishers. Why not create a similar scenario in Japan? It hasn't been easy. The language barrier, she says, is huge, "much bigger than I thought." In addition, the domestic manga business is strongly driven by fads and trends, with rapid turnover. The Internet may provide the illusion of greater proximity and transparency for overseas fans and artists, but trend spotting from thousands of kilometers away is inadequate. "People think that with the Internet you can follow everything, but that's just not true." [Ibid]

“Thus far, the number of nonnative artists World-manga.com has managed to import and publish matches its years in operation: exactly three---hardly a trend of its own. Nevertheless, at least one of them has garnered considerable attention and praise, and his resume reads like a road map of diversity.” [Ibid]

Kelts wrote in June 2011, “The pressure on U.S. distributors of manga, anime and other J-pop products has proved unbearable in recent cases. TokyoPop, a trailblazing distributor and publishers of manga and anime in the United States, responsible for global versions of the Sailor Moon series, closed its manga publishing division for good” in April 2011. "I'm laying down my guns," wrote founder Stu Levy, who built his company from scratch in 1997. "Some of it worked. Some of it didn't." [Source: Roland Kelts, Daily Yomiuri, June 10, 2011]

Problems Marketing Anime Overseas

Roland Kelts wrote in the Daily Yomiuri: The paradox at the heart of the North American anime market is intimate knowledge to industry insiders: Plummeting DVD sales and shrinking TV exposure coincide with record-breaking attendance figures at anime events across the continent and surging activity online. Anime fans outside of Japan turned to the Internet long ago to feed and fuel their habit, and the prospect of them returning to overpriced, hard-to-find and long-delayed DVD releases is not in anyone's rational vision of anime's future. But try telling that to the folks who make the content. [Source: Roland Kelts, Daily Yomiuri, November 25, 2011]

The past couple of years have been tumultuous for North American purveyors of Japanese pop culture. Bankruptcies and fire sales are now commonplace. In early 2011, TokyoPop---a pioneer in the overseas manga and anime markets that introduced millions to the seminal Sailor Moon series---closed its remaining office in Los Angeles. The abrupt liquidation of Borders, one of the largest bookstore chains in the United States, was "the last straw," according to TokyoPop founder and CEO Stu Levy. "They owed us close to a million dollars," he says, "and represented about one-third of our total sales." [Source: Roland Kelts, Daily Yomiuri, November 25, 2011]

Roland Kelts wrote in Daily Yomiuri: In January 2012, Bandai Entertainment officially announced it would no longer release new DVD or Blu-ray titles in North America after 13 years in the market, canceling all new releases and laying off the majority of its staff and contractors. One week later, North American anime distributor Media Blasters confirmed it was downsizing its workforce, asking most of its employees to continue working only as freelancers. While the New York-based company said it would proceed with its February and March releases, the combined announcements signal the radical shift under way in the overseas anime industry: The market for physical content is dwindling, and few believe it will return. [Source: Roland Kelts, Daily Yomiuri, January 27, 2012]

Bandai Entertainment President and Chief Executive Officer Ken Iyadomi told the Anime News Network that the decision to curtail its North American business was made in Japan."The pricing range for our products kept dropping in Western countries, and people tended only to buy sets with very reasonable prices, which we understand is what fans want, but it lead us to a different strategy than what Japanese licensors wanted," he said. "So we always had a problem [with licensors and consumers having different wants]."

"Our biggest challenge has always been educating Japanese companies," Kun Gao of Crunchyroll said. "The biggest hurdle is convincing the licensors to give us the rights to their content. Not every company [here] is progressive." "It's always about the risk," Gao says. "The conventional way of watching anime in Japan is still on TV. There's no platform like ours in Japan. "The producers and licensors are not thinking, 'Can I do something that's a little risky and get benefit?' It's more like: 'If this thing has a little bit of risk, it will only hurt my business. It can't help.' And I think that's the environment in Japan. It's easier not to take a risk than to do so."

Roland Kelts wrote in the Daily Yomiuri: The diminishing domestic youth audience for anime in Japan as a key pressure point in Crunchyroll's efforts to motivate licensors who are hesitant to leap online. There's no way you'll have growth at home, he tells them, so you better go global now. Running any business risk-free is impossible, of course, and changes within the Japanese market are fast rendering it unaffordable, too. "As entrepreneurs, our goal is to minimize risk and maximize opportunity. One of their fears is that a title will be leaked online before its TV broadcast. That has never happened with us, and we're the only company who can say that. We try to get [licensors] to understand," Gao says.

Novelists and Manga Artist Sue Firms for Scanning, Selling Electronic Copies of Books

In December 2011, Kyodo reported: Seven prominent novelists and manga artists filed a lawsuit with the Tokyo District Court against two companies on Dec. 20, claiming that the defendants are making illicit digital copies of their works and demanding the firms stop the business. Jiro Asada, Arimasa Osawa, Go Nagai, Mariko Hayashi, Keigo Higashino, Kenshi Hirokane and Son Buron filed the lawsuit against Atago Inc. and Scan X Bank Co. for violations of the Copyright Law. "My books have been treated by strangers in a way that is beyond my control," Asada told a news conference in Tokyo. [Source: Kyodo, December 21, 2011]

According to the complaint, the two companies have taken orders from individual customers, electronically copied the authors' works and sold them for several hundred yen per copy without permission.Attorneys for the plaintiffs said Article 30 of the Copyright Law allows individuals to electronically copy literary works for personal use, but it is a violation of the reproduction rights for businesses to take orders and scan literary works on a large scale for commercial purposes. They also voiced concerns that both the authors and their publishers have been gravely affected by the diffusion of the illicit electronic files through the Internet.

In September, 122 writers and cartoonists as well as seven publishers notified about 100 companies that they would never give them permission to copy their literary works. But when they asked the companies whether they would continue doing so, Atago Inc. and Scan X Bank Co. said they would keep up the copying. The seven novelists and manga artists therefore decided to sue the two firms. They said they would decide on whether to sue more companies after watching future developments.

Hope for the Future of Manga and Anime

Roland Kelts wrote in the Daily Yomiuri,..Instead of attacking overseas fans for their seemingly limitless and illegal access to anime visuals, why not join them? ...Viz media, Funimation and others are working the Internet to offer value-added sites that can beat the piracy that has hobbled the Japanese industry. Providing participatory experiences is just the first step. Entrepreneurs...understand the new need to involve fans in the process of active engagement, whenever they are physically located.”

CyberAgent is a Japanese gaming company that is beginning to exploit anime and manga with a variety of Internet and cell phone applications and other media. Masaru Ohnogi, an American representative with the company, told Kelts, “our goal is to become a virtual Disneyland. We want to entertain people all over the world, with music, games, anime...everything...I believe we can sell to American fans, who trust the quality of the Japanese product. We give them both free access and paid options. Lots of choices. You really need to understand both cultures to make it work.”

Sex Involving Minors in Manga

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Reporting from Tokyo, Hiroko Tabuchi wrote in the New York Times: “In a manga comic book that is well known here, “My Wife Is an Elementary School Student,” a 24-year-old teacher marries a 12-year-old girl as part of a top-secret social experiment. There is no depiction of actual sex. But the teacher’s steamy fantasies fill the comic’s pages in graphic detail, including a little naked girl with sexually suggestive props.” [Source: Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times, February 9, 2011]

“Manga taps into a history of erotica that dates at least as far back as the ukiyo-e prints of 17th- to 19th-century Japan, including Hokusai’s famous portrayal of a fisherwoman and octopi in a salacious encounter,” Tabuchi wrote. “But it was as recently as the 1980s that comic magazines like Lemon People introduced a wider audience to sexual manga featuring young girls.” “There is a culture, an industry that worships youth and innocence,” Mariko Katsuki, who published a book last year chronicling adults who are attracted to small children, told the New York Times. “Much of the attraction is nonsexual, but sometimes it becomes a dangerous obsession.” [Ibid]

Recently manga like these have been the targets of laws aimed at banning the depictions of minors in sexually-suggestive acts in manga. Manga that depict pubescent girls in sexual acts is a lucrative segment of the $5.5 billion industry for manga.

Critics claim such material exploits children and may even encourage pedophilia. “These are for abnormal people, for perverts,” Tokyo’s governor, Shintaro Ishihara, told the New York Times as he angrily threw two comic books to the floor. “There’s no other country in the world that lets such crude works exist,” Mr. Ishihara said. On other occasions Ishihara said that Japan had become "too uninhibited" compared with "Western societies," and readers of offending manga had "warped DNA."

Cracking Down on Sex with Minors in Manga

In February 2010, a 39-year-old American named Christopher Handley was sentenced to six months in prison by a court in Iowa for possessing “drawings of children being sexually abused.” Because he pleaded guilty and was otherwise cooperative he probably will not do any jail time. An American otaku, Hadley had ordered thousands of manga from Japan, of which 12 were cited being child pornography.

In January 2011, a Swedish translator of Japanese manga was fined $864 because manga drawings he stored on the hard drives of his computer were considered child pornography

New Laws Aimed at Sex with Minors in Manga

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In December 2010, a Tokyo city ordinance was amended as part of Tokyo mayor Shintaro Ishihara’s effort to crack down on “extreme” depictions of sexuality . The new law calls for the industry to regulate itself to prevent those under 18 from purchasing or accessing manga and anime containing depictions of rape and other sex crimes or “unduly lauding or exaggerating” incest. [Source: Kyodo, December 21, 2010]

The New York Times reported: “The new law also bans the sale of comics and other works---including novels, DVDs and video games---that depict sexual or violent acts that would violate Japan’s national penal code, as well as sex involving anyone under age 18. The ordinance also requires guardians to prevent children younger than 13 from posing for magazines or videos that depict them in sexually suggestive ways.” [Source: Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times, February 9, 2011]

Kyodo reported: “Manga 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 in April 2011 and July 2011 respectively.

Roland Kelts, wrote in Daily Yomiuri that the new law---known as Bill 156, or the so-called nonexistent youth bill’specifically targets manga and anime deemed "disruptive to society," while exempting live action photography and video, not to mention live human beings who actually possess child pornography...The bill does nothing to address the production or possession of live-action depictions of rape or child pornography. [Source: Roland Kelts, Daily Yomiuri, December 24, 2010]

Earlier in 2010, the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly debated a “virtual porn” bill that called for restricting manga and anime that contain sexualized depictions of “nonexistent minors”--- a controversial concept that describes drawings of characters assumed to be minors. It refers to sexually provocative “visual depictions” of characters who sound and appear to be 18 years old or younger. This bill---which stated that comics and anime depicting sexual intercourse by characters apparently under the age of 18 would hamper the healthy development of children and must be controlled--- was voted down in June 2010 due to opposition from publishers as well as criticism by the assembly’s largest caucus---the DPJ---that the scope of the regulations was vague. The law that passed in December 2010 is a slightly watered down version of that bill.

As it stands now it national laws that address child pornography make it illegal in Japan to produce or sell or works that depict sex with minors. This usually is assumed to apply to photographs or videos of real children. The new Tokyo law calls for restrictions on drawing or animation of characters that be interpreted to be minors. Supporters of the law say it is necessary because there are currently no laws that cover depiction of things like rape and sexual abuse of children in manga and anime.

Impact of New Laws Aimed at Sex with Minors in Manga

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Other local and regional governments, including the Osaka Prefecture, are considering similar restrictions. Otaku columnist Makoto Fukuda wrote in the Daily Yomiuri: “If enforced the ordinance is expected to have a profound impact “even though it is only a local ordinance rather than a national law---because Tokyo is home to many companies that produce, publish and distribute anime and manga.” Tabuchi wrote in the New York Times, “While the revised law applies to an area containing only about a tenth of Japan’s population, Tokyo is the nation’s media capital and a de facto arbiter of the country’s pop culture boundaries.”

The new law specifically bars only the sale to minors of the restricted comics and videos. But industry executives say it will essentially end publication of the material by discouraging risk-averse publishers and booksellers from handling it at all. “There are no victims in manga---we should be free to write what we want,” Yasumasa Shimizu, vice president at Kodansha told the New York Times, “Creativity in Japanese manga thrives on an “anything goes” mentality.” [Source: Hiroko Tabuchi, New York Times, February 9, 2011]

“There have been earlier moves to regulate pedophilic material in Japan, especially after the murders of four little girls in 1988-89 by a man police described as a pedophile,” Tabuchi wrote. “The case spurred local governments across Japan to adopt ordinances setting some limits to sales of pedophilic works, including a loose ratings system for explicit manga books imposed by the publishers themselves, and also set the stage for the 1999 anti-child pornography law. Already the Tokyo government checks for “unwholesome” manga publications and can order publishers to label them as for adults only. But supporters of more regulation say those efforts have been sporadic.” [Ibid]

“We believe that when the rights of adults or businesses violate children’s rights, children must come first,” Tamae Shintani, head of Tokyo’s parent-teacher association for elementary schools, told the New York Times. “But we also respect free speech, so the least we can ask is people keep their fetishes under wraps.” [Ibid]

It is yet to be seen how well the laws will be enforced. In late December, after the ruling was made, at the Comic Market, a self-published comic book fair that is held twice a year in Tokyo and attended by more than 500,000 people, manga titles depicting adults having sex with minors were on open display, Tabuchi wrote. And they were readily available to fans like Koki Yoshida, age 17. “I don’t even think about how old these girls are,” Mr. Yoshida told the New York Times, “It’s a completely imaginary world, separate from real life.” [Ibid]

“Fictional portrayals of nonexistent young characters continue to proliferate as the financially strapped manga and anime industries cater to their largely middle-aged and male otaku core demographic, making more “moe,” or soft-core porn imagery, in order to survive,” Kelts wrote. The blogger Dan Kanemitsu told Kelts. "They want to go after shojo [girl's manga/anime], yaoi [manga/anime aimed at women and featuring beautiful men who love other men] and cheesecake [pornographic material aimed at men.] Under the existing regulations they could go after yaoi and cheesecake, but not porn. "Japan's current penal code just says that we'll bust you if it's obscene, but it doesn't define what's obscene." [Source: Roland Kelts, Daily Yomiuri, November 26, 2010]

Anger Over the New Laws Aimed at Sex with Minors in Manga

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Manga and anime publishers industries and artists were up in arms over new laws to regulate sexual imagery in manga and anime claiming it could breach freedom of expression and stifle creativity. The industry’s defenders say comparing manga to pedophilia involving real children is absurd. “Depicting a crime and committing one are two different things; it’s like convicting a mystery writer for murder,” Takashi Yamaguchi, a Tokyo lawyer and manga expert, told the New York Times. Yamaguchi and others also contend that the Tokyo government pushed through the new regulations without ample debate. Some also worry that stronger regulations will harm an industry whose fortunes have already fallen in recent years; sales of comic magazines, in particular, have dropped by a third over the last decade, to $24.3 million in 2008.

Among the manga and anime heavyweights that spoke out against them were mangaka Tetsuya Chiba, Fujiko Fujio, Moto Hagio and Rumiko Takahashi. The manga artist Yoshito Abe wrote: “Human kind has been trusted with power, but if we give away that power , do away with things that we do not like, then we will give birth to a sterilized society.” The manga artist Takeshi Nogami, whose best-known work features high school girls riding military tanks, says he senses a disdain among policy makers toward manga itself. “They think reading manga makes you dumb,” he said. There was also strong opposition by IT heavyweights like Google, Yahoo and Rakuten.

After the the ruling was made in December 2010, a group of 10 major publishers including Kodansha Ltd, Shueisha Inc and Kadokawa Group Publishing Co issued a statement saying they would not take part in the International Anime Fair, internationally popular event sponsored by the Beijing government. Worried that the new Tokyo ordinance would limit freedom of expression a group of publishers decided to stage an alternative anime festival in 2011 to coincide with the Tokyo International Anime Fair hosted by the Tokyo city government. The new event was called the Anime Contents Festival. Both festivals ended up being cancelled after the earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

No Manga Banned by Tokyo as Too Racy

In July 2012, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “One year since Tokyo's youth protection ordinances were revised to prevent the sale of anime and manga containing extreme sexual content to minors, not one publication has been deemed unfit for consumption. While some experts say the change was unnecessary, the Tokyo metropolitan government insists the revision has stopped publishers from releasing overtly sexual books and magazines. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, July 3, 2012]

Under the regulation, the metropolitan council for minors can deem a publication to be too sexual for readers aged under 18. Retailers are banned from selling or displaying these publications to minors.As part of the revision, books and magazines that praise or exaggerate improper sexual activities, such as incest, are being targeted. [Ibid]

Ryokichi Yama, head of the editing ethics committee at the Japan Magazine Publishers Association, which has more than 90 domestic publishers among its members, said the Tokyo government has not applied the new standard to any publications because it is cautious. In contrast, the Tokyo government's section for youth affairs said self-restraint by publishers is ensuring sexual anime and manga are being sold at locations that are unaccessible to people aged under 18. Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara believes the revised ordinance has achieved results. "Writers and publishers have started using common sense when it comes to publishing books," he said at a press conference. [Ibid]

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Yomiuri Shimbun, Daily Yomiuri, Japan Times, Mainichi Shimbun, The Guardian, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated January 2013

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