Bill 156: Chemo Curing the Anime Industry, or Oppressive Japanese Businessmen Being….well, Oppressive?

As many of you may or may not be aware, an ordinance was passed at some point yesterday or today (or Wednesday in Japan) that bans any anime, manga, and video games that have “virtual crime” or things “likely to interfere with the development of youth”.  This bill does not apply to TV dramas or novels, and seems to be aimed almost exlusively at Japan’s large “otaku” subculture.

The ordinance is set to take place in July, and will consist of a committee of people who make a decision – presumably by consuming the entire work, on whether the anime, manga, or game is appropriate enough for children.  If the committee feels that it falls under the categories banned in the ordinance (there are many instances of etc. used within this ordinance, which means that anything seen as harmful to children in any way that the committee can think of can be deemed as inappropriate for children) then the work in question will be branded with an 18+ label.

However, Japan isn’t quite like America, and is (well, from what I can tell, it’s not like I’ve ever been there) more stringent upon their laws regarding 18+ material.  That is, unlike certain american bookstores, a sixteen-year-old will probably not be able to purchase something that has an 18+ rating in the first place, as I’ve seen happen all too often among the yaoi fandom.

Even on the event that there is 18+ manga and people do ID (which is rare, from experience) fangirls will just tear off the shrinkwrap and read it in the aisle anyways. (I'm not sure if the girl in the picture's reading yaoi or not, but it illustrates my point) Not that that isn't annoying, but...

Now, some of you are probably sitting and scratching your head, thinking “Well, what does this mean?”  Others of you are probably posting on a certain unmentionable anonymous picture image board that anime and manga are doomed, and that the only things left will be the (absolutely terrible) new season of Pokemon, Hidamari Sketch, and K-ON.  And that all other sorts of work, regardless of genre, will inevitably be deemed as ‘inappropriate’.

Dawn is still okay for TV. However, my love of her probably isn't...

I feel, honestly, like there are going to be so many loopholes in this law that it will have little negative effect other than the fact that a very small portion of manga may be inevitably cancelled.  However, my concern lies in the fact that an ordinance like this has to exist – while there have been laws in America that have made the sexual depiction of underage animated/drawn characters dubious, there are certainly no laws that make the depiction of violence and such illegal.  It worries me in the first place that there has to be a public ‘approval’ of these sorts of things.  While I certainly wouldn’t show a lot of my more normal friends KissXSis or Kodomo no Jikan, those are exactly the sort of things that would end up banned in Tokyo by this law.

Illegal Relationships? Check. High levels of fanservice intended to arouse? Check. I'll admit I actually like KissXsis, but I also think I might have to say bye-bye to it. =(

While I honestly feel that, under pressure from this law, a lot of developers of anime/manga/games may end up moving to Kyoto or somewhere similar, I hope I’m wrong.  I hope that this ends up being yet another relatively harmless law.  And I do have a little bit of hope.  Just a few weeks ago in Japan, a committee was held about Ore no Imouto.  This committee was held because Kirino, the main character in the show, was an underaged character who had managed to get a hold of lots of ero games aimed strictly at adults 18 years and older.  Someone evidently thought that was socially unacceptable, and the complaint was made.  However, the committee agreed unanimously that there was no threat to the children from Ore no Imouto, despite the fact that a complaint had been filed, and nothing changed.  So as long as you don’t have inanely high amounts of fanservice (like Ladies vs Butlers, Kanokon, To Love-Ru, and other sorts of near-ero manga that may as well be ero-manga) the manga you like will (hopefully) live on past the restrictions.  This is only my conjecture though.

This image is just from Google, so the quality sucks, but here's a picture of the ever-offensive pile of eroge that Kirino has accumulated.

There is another, more unfortunate part of fandom who I honestly feel will be more affected by this, due in part to Governor Ishihara’s homophobia – fujoshi and the BL fandom.  While I’m not too huge on BL (I don’t dislike it, it’s just I think a lot of it ranges from mediocre to bad, just like a lot of the shoujo manga that ends up in Hana to Yume and other ilk) I don’t think that it deserves to be placed in the 18+ corner with titles such as Comic LO or anything like that.  But what other outcome is there?  While a few might get by, most BL manga that I’ve read that hasn’t had outright porn in it has had lots of sex scenes that can be misconstrued as porn, almost to the point of manga such as Aki-Sora (which, believe it or not, is seinen and heavy ecchi, despite obvious depiction of sex scenes) and these manga will likely, unfortunately, end up in the 18+ sections of bookstores, which means that a certain portion of these manga may end up being cancelled.  Already, there are some BL mangakas who have been asked to change things that would seem relatively meaningless to most in their stories – such as men wearing school outfits.

Some people see this as a positive thing-cleaning out the ‘moeshit’ that has been ‘clogging’ the industry.  However, this law also can be imposed upon seinen series that contain law-breaking of any sort, and can therefore be applied to almost any anime or manga.  At its worst, Bill 158 may indeed do what some people on an anonymous image board are dreading – make every manga into a work no more harmful than Pokemon.  Not even Pokemon Special.  However, it’s unlikely, in my opinion, that anything will come from this.

This seems just like the kind of law that will have little effect, perhaps changing the distribution of anime and manga to be more internet-based (which is not necessarily a bad thing, though I don’t like Crunchyroll as a distributor because of its dubious means of generating startup funds) until two years in the future when this bill is repealed because of reduced revenue produced from the seinen manga that businessmen like to read on the train on their way to work.

See? look at that guy, reading manga and not being afraid of anything. I bet that manga would get banned.

Therefore, while I feel that this bill is something to keep in mind, I don’t think that it’s anything to panic about, because its effects will probably not be kept in place for very long anyways.  If it gets to be too oppressive, then I can only see protests rising as a result, and not just from the relatively underground ‘otaku’ subculture either – this law affects anyone who reads any sort of manga at all.

Random Ramblings – #2 – Mafuyu is mai waifu, do not steal!

Some of you may have heard of the (not-so-recent) phenomenon regarding something called ‘waifus’. In fact, if you haven’t, I’m relatively surprised you made it here, especially considering that half of the search terms here are just people looking for doujins. Unfortunately, for those of you with your head eagerly in the air and your (possibly figurative) penis eagerly pressing against your pants, there are none of those here.

Now, what I’m going to say is extremely subjective, and thus everyone will quite possibly think I’m terribly wrong and an idiot, but I’d just like to put down my two cents since I never really have anything else to blog about, given that I think that other people are perfectly capable of episode-by-episode anime summaries and their thoughts on it and that they can do it much faster than me. Nor do I really think that many people actually care about what my thoughts were on Kanamemo or Serial Experiments Lain. So, therefore, for my first post in months, I’m going to talk about something that most of you probably won’t find interesting: the waifu phenomenon.

Now, for those two of you who may potentially read this who don’t have any idea what a waifu is, here’s a brief rundown. You’re aware, of course, of people who think of celebrities as their husbands? They have pictures of them all over their walls and own every movie by them? This is much the same phenomenon, except instead of celebrities, the characters here consist of mostly female (though certain male characters can certainly qualify as well) characters from anime, manga, video games, light novels, and ero-games (or non-porn visual novels because umineko fans will instantly jump on me for saying such otherwise).

There are several ways in which people with waifus will express their adoration. You know that one person in lecture you see with Nadeko as their background? Probably not, but you get the point – often, when one obtains a new waifu, it becomes their goal to plaster the user screens of technological items such as computers and cellphones with pictures of them.

Then, there is the next step – buying posters. If the character in question is from a relatively mainstream, slightly-old anime, such as Kagami from Lucky Star or Yuki from The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, then you can probably find a metric ton of wallscrolls at whatever anime convention you live within 200 miles of. However, if your character of adoration is from a more recent, slightly more obscure anime (though the term of obscure is relatively hard to define in terms of certain fandoms, I don’t consider Saki or Kodomo no Jikan obscure, but I’m sure that a lot of people do) then your next step will be to find posters from Nyantype or Megami Magazine. If you are not familiar with either of these magazines, they contain several relatively small posters depicting female (with the recent exceptions of Mariya and Hideyoshi, and perhaps others that I don’t know about) characters from anime that were airing in Japan at the time of publication.

Hideyoshi, even according to Megami and Nyantype, is a gender classification of his own self-while biologically male.

Keep in mind, these steps are not in order, don’t necessarily need to happen at all, and aren’t really indicative of anything. It’s just typical behavior that I’ve generally noticed. That being said, the next ‘stage’ that I’ve noticed is purchasing of figures. They’re generally quite expensive, and this is a stage that few people except for anime fans understand. Often, when people see my figures, they ask “aren’t those toys for kids?” even though Stringed owns like a million more figures than I do. Most of mine are actually just small trading figures, because I generally lack the funding for figures, though I have managed to amass like three of them myself. While I’d like to own many more, particularly that Koromo figure that I posted earlier on in this and a figure of Sanya from Strike Witches that I do believe is made by Kotobukiya, they’re just…very expensive. Often a sign of someone who is devoted to their waifu is someone who has several figures of them, just because of the financial cost associated with these figures. Though I’d honestly buy a lot of Alter figures, as well as Nendoroids, generally because those are my favorites.

Even so, figures generally have a vast price range. While for most people this ranges from too expensive to far too expensive, it is not always as horrible as it looks. Sites such as Hobby Search and Toys Logic generally have sales as well, though there often are not great figures there, and it is often possible to find figures at conventions relatively cheap, and they can be even cheaper on Sundays if they feel they can sell them. Figures that are to-scale generally cost from $60-100 a pop with shipping, whereas some non-scale figures tend to be a bit cheaper, in the $35-60 range. Nendoroids are generally about $35 each, and trading figures, which are generally smaller, can cost as little as $5-10, though they generally tend to be around $10-15 when searching for a particular one.

However, for many people, that isn’t quite enough. Some people want to spend time with their waifu in a closer way than figures and pictures on their walls and PCs can allow. Therefore, where is the best place to place a picture of them, because they sadly cannot materialize in the real world? The answer to that is simple – a pillow case. These pillowcases with female anime characters on them, often with one ‘clean’ side and one ‘scandalous’ side, are generally referred to as dakimakura. This is one of the things about anime fandom that many people consider weird; however, I honestly think that dakimakura should be kept relatively private. Therefore, if you go around with your dakimakura in public, such as the one infamous man who traversed around Japan with his pillow depicting Nemu from Da Capo, you should expect some strange looks from many people.

I don’t really think dakimakura are weird myself, however. I’d honestly buy one of Yuno from Hidamari Sketch, the official one is just adorable. And the Sanya one because Sanya is sexy and awesome. (Terrible confession here: I have not made the time to watch season two of Strike Witches, nor Season Two of K-ON!!, someone please scream in my face to make me watch both of them) I just think it’s one of those things you should keep private, because of the sexual connotations of white stains being all over them within several hours. Even if you don’t want to defile your dakimakura with your sexual organs, there are some people who do, and there is a high enough number that it’s the equivalent of going around with a large, colorful vibrating dildo and showing it to everyone.

Now, what implications do all of these things have? I honestly don’t think anything of it. It’s just a fantasy, and so long as it doesn’t get in the way of your everyday life, I see it as no big deal if you have no waifus and find the practice weird and disturbing and for virgin nerds who have no life or various other negative things people could say. While it’s true that a lot of people with dakimakura haven’t done the deed, it’s not even always the case, especially if you go to certain websites on the internet. There are many people who are even both in relationships in their real life and still have a place in this subculture, though they don’t often speak up about it. (For example, myself. I’m in a relationship and I have several waifus. It’s not really weird unless the other person in the relationship is uncomfortable about it).

Really, the only thing that prevents me from having ten dakimakura and a million figures is a general lack of funds. And that doesn’t stop anything else. So, uh…yeah, that’s pretty much my two cents. Feel free to comment, rage that I’m in a relationship and that I therefore have no right to be saying anything about waifus, that I’m a female and also have no right to say anything about this or any other such comments you might have.

And for those of you who are now curious, here are some links! I wouldn’t be surprised if Stringed has already mentioned these sites, but you can never be tantalized by things you want to buy enough.

http://www.auctiva.com/stores/viewstore2.aspx?id=874911&page=home – Dakimakura. Most of them are probably counterfeit, but whatever.

http://www.1999.co.jp/eng/ – mostly sells figures. However, you can get -official- dakimakura here as well if you click the “Anime Toy” button! These are pretty expensive though, and unless you really want to support companies or can’t find it anywhere else there generally isn’t a huge quality difference, from what i’ve noticed.

http://toylet.net/index.html – Has a lot of stuff, surprisingly. It’s all pretty expensive, but it’s nice for a look. It’s also very, very nice if you’re a fan of Touhou Project.

You can also find a lot of figures at conventions! I’ve actually gotten almost all of mine from conventions, because I just hate paying for things online and don’t trust figures getting shipped back to my dorm anyways. As for dakimakura, I’d feel a little odd buying one at a convention, but they generally only have a few anyways, and honestly I think all of the designs on them kinda suck. And…there you go. My random rambling is officially finished.

At least, for now.

Anti-Scanlation Coalition vs. Common Sense?

I’m still working my way through Le Chevalier D’Eon. Hopefully I’ll have that review done before next Christmas. I’m so sorry to everyone that I keep letting down in regards to that. That said, this post is about the recent news.

Once again I am late to the party. I’m sure by now all the cool blogs have posted their thoughts and opinions on this current news, and I doubt my opinion is much different, but hey, I have a blog and I have opinions, so I may as well use this blog to express those opinions, right?

Alright, so according to Anime News Network, several Japanese and American manga companies have formed a coalition designed to combat manga scanlations. Naturally, this has the anime fan community in an uproar. Scanlations and fansubs are always a controversial issue, since some people deplore their very existence, others refuse to consume anime or manga any other way, and still others are in the middle and use them here and there, but still obtain some of their series of choice by legal means as well.

As you might guess, I’m in that middle ground. I buy a lot of manga, but I also read a fair amount of scans. I mostly read scans for unlicensed stuff, but I’ll also do it for long running shonen or stuff where something about the licensed translation or editing/censoring bugged me. In that last case, I still buy the licensed version for the sake of supporting the title. I’ll buy a volume here and there for my favorite chapters when it comes to long running shonen, too. Overall I’m very supportive of the industry and I want it to succeed.

However, this anti-scanlation coalition has to be one of the worst ideas I’ve heard of in a while. Fundamentally it’s a good thing. Going after illegal copies of their licensed material is something that should be done. That said, the way this is being handled sounds like it will ultimately create more harm than good. How?

-No alternatives provided. Even if you knock out all of the scanlation hosts, if you don’t provide legal alternatives, more will pop up in the old ones’ places. This will turn into fighting a Hydra if the coalition doesn’t figure that out fast. People go to sites like OneManga instead of buying their manga at a bookstore for a reason. If there isn’t something similar but legal in the place of these sites, then the audience for said sites won’t be served and new ones will step in to serve that audience.

-As a direct result of not providing alternatives, this feels somewhat like an attempt to stifle the fans. It’s silly, since this is copyrighted material that they’re trying to keep from spreading illegally, which is perfectly fair. The problem is that, whenever a company doesn’t listen to the fans of its product, that looks bad. Obviously manga fans want more convenient (and less expensive) ways to access manga, or else sites like this wouldn’t exist. Of course some of the people that use them really are leeches that would never buy a single volume of manga, but that isn’t the only issue here. If it was, it would be a waste of time to shut down these sites anyway because the userbases would just stop reading manga. By not giving fans more methods to get manga legally, this anti-scanlation coalition will be seen by some as a move against the fans, not a move against piracy.

-Some manga ends up censored and/or given a subpar translation. This sort of thing really just has to be done away with before doing away with scanlations will ever be a good idea. No one wants to read a manga with a bad translation or unnecessary censorship. Some people will cry “bad translation!” just as an excuse to not pay, but there really are cases of bad translations out there.

The one good thing about this news is that it sounds like they’ll more be going after scanlation aggregator sites like OneManga and MangaFox rather than scanlators themselves. That said, manga companies really need to step up their game and fast if this is going to cause any good. Viz’s Sig IKKI site is a prime example of what we need more of. Assuming it works out, OpenManga is another good thing. These really need to keep on coming, though, or else the Hydra that is scanlations and scanlation aggregators will just grow three more new heads for each one the anti-scanlation coalition cuts off.

When Good Fandoms Go Bad

To start this off, I owe everyone an apology. I promise my Le Chevalier D’Eon review is coming. I haven’t forgotten! I just…haven’t…actually finished Le Chevalier D’Eon yet. I have no excuse, and I’m sorry. I’ll do my best to make it a really good review when I do get it done, though. This is also why I haven’t updated in a few months. I’ve felt bad about not having that review around and thus kind of hid out for a while. But some recent news has pulled me out of hiding.

I’m sure by now most of the anime community has heard about the Anime Boston 2010 scandal. In case you haven’t, basically what happened was that some people who were cosplaying Germany and Prussia from Axis Powers Hetalia decided it would be a good idea to sieg heil while posing for a photo. The brouhaha this caused both within and outside of the fandom was far more than anyone involved had imagined, judging by their response to this. At this point, a lot of the fandom would prefer to just stop talking about this and pretend it didn’t happen, but by now most people have heard, and I for one don’t think trying to sweep it under the rug will do any good at this point. In fact, that will probably do even more damage.

The first question is where do I stand on this issue? I think I’ve made it pretty clear that I’m a Hetalia fan by now. I was completely horrified when I saw the post on the Hetalia Livejournal community about this. Most of you probably aren’t aware that I love Germany (the actual, real country) to the point of wanting to live there at least temporarily. Having people doing something like this is in bad taste regardless of the other details, and them being associated with my fandom while doing it made it even worse.

That said, I believe in forgiveness. At least one of the people involved has, in fact, apologized. These people were not Neo Nazis. They were not intending to disrespect. They just got caught up in the atmosphere of the con and did something stupid, which they now regret. At this point, we should accept their apology.

Unfortunately, people who hate Hetalia are now using this incident as ammo against the entire fandom. I know I have or at least have had readers that don’t like Hetalia. Please take this message to heart; we’re not all like this. We don’t all lose our heads at cons and do things like this. The people involved weren’t ignorant racist history revisionist Nazis in the first place, so please stop hurling these insults at the entire fanbase. Don’t start, either. Hetalia fans aren’t immoral people solely for liking a webcomic/anime.

On a more general note, all fandoms get to the point where they have total idiots in them. Hetalia fandom started off refreshing. When I first started reading it, there really weren’t any ship wars or internal fighting. The drama was mostly conflict between fans and non-fans. This isn’t the case anymore. Now we have ship wars, arguments about silly details, fans that are only into the series for slash fodder, etc. Sadly, all fandoms do this to some extent. I’ve seen Haibane Renmei fans with similar behavior, believe it or not. Don’t let the fanbase scare you away from any series. It’s hard, I know. I’ve been avoiding Durarara!! for a while now because of the fujoshi, but I’ve realized that’s silly and now I’m just waiting for a batch torrent.

If you’ve stayed with me this long, you deserve some sort of reward. That was some inane rambling there. This is a pathetic excuse for a reward, but here you go. I’ve gotten myself a formspring account. If you’ve got a question, ask it here.

In Defense of Axis Powers Hetalia

Stringed here again, this time with a rant for an update. Anyone that knows me very well at all knows that I am a huge fan of Axis Powers Hetalia. This series, which is basically a retelling of history with the countries involved depicted as anthropomorphized human characters, has sparked a lot of controversy since it first started getting popular.

If you are unfamiliar with Axis Powers Hetalia, these links give some more information:
Axis Powers Hetalia anime – ANN
Axis Powers Hetalia manga – ANN
Hetalia LiveJournal community <– the main hub of Hetalia fandom. This is where all of the scanlations are located, etc.
Hetalia Wikipedia article
Hetalia scanlation index

Now, what is the big deal with Axis Powers Hetalia? Why is there such a huge controversy? A big issue that a lot of the people who are anti-Hetalia have with the series is that its main subject matter is WWII, and it’s told with the main characters being the Axis Powers, as if that isn’t a bit obvious from the title. They feel that this series is making light of one of the most horrible events in world history, and is thus disrespectful, etc. They argue that the atrocities committed during WWII should not be made into a joke.

I have several arguments against this viewpoint. The primary argument I have is that a lot of the people claiming Hetalia is offensive, insulting, and whatever else they state is wrong with it have never actually sat down and read a single chapter of the manga or watched a single episode of the anime. They simply read a summary or hear someone else complaining and instantly jump up and raise a call to arms against a cartoon, without ever bothering to see if it’s really as bad as they think it is.

Also, the argument about war crimes and atrocities really is not reasonable. Hetalia does not go into things such as the Holocaust or the Rape of Nanking. This is not because Hidekaz Himaruya (Hetalia’s creator) is trying to “gloss over” these things. It’s because Hetalia is a comedy, and Himaruya agrees with the people that are so offended by his work in the fact that there is nothing funny about those events.

Those against Hetalia also like to complain about the fact that the Axis Powers are not portrayed as wicked and evil people. “How can Nazi Germany be a nice guy and a bishounen?!” they say. The problem with this argument? Ludwig, the character for Germany in Hetalia, is NOT Nazi Germany. Ludwig is Germany from the birth of the country all the way up to modern day. Also, he is not the German government; he is Germany overall. Before and after WWII, Germany was not evil. Even during WWII, Germany was not evil. Hitler and the Nazis, perhaps, but not Germany itself. Thus, Ludwig is meant to portray Germany as a whole, not just Nazis.

People that have a problem with it ‘focusing’ on the Axis Powers, or it being written by a Japanese person need to step back and realize that the focus on the Axis Powers does not mean that they are being portrayed as the “good guys”. Hetalia portrays every single country as a decent person deep down, though they all also have negative things about them. There are no “villains” in Hetalia. They’re all neither completely good nor completely bad, which is really how it is, isn’t it? As for Himaruya being Japanese, it’s hardly fair to say that he can’t poke fun at history just because his country was on the “bad” side. Himaruya wasn’t even alive during WWII. Why should a mistake that his country’s government made in the past dictate whether he should be allowed to write a satire or not? In my opinion, it’s a bit racist to say that he shouldn’t be allowed to write WWII satire because he’s Japanese. Being Japanese does not mean that he wishes the Axis had won or anything like that. Honestly, people.

Finally, if Hetalia is so offensive to people, why aren’t other things of a similar nature considered the same? Hellsing, for example, is a Japanese series that has Nazis in it. Actual Nazis. But you don’t hear anyone complaining. The Great Dictator is an incredible Charlie Chaplain movie that makes fun of Hitler. No one complains about it, even though a Jewish main character gets sent to a concentration camp and escapes in a ridiculous way, which brings it much closer to making light of the atrocities that happened. Mecha Musume and Afghanis-tan are very similar to Hetalia, except for the fact that most of the characters are female. They don’t get hated on so hard. So really, what makes Hetalia so awful?

So if you’re reading this and haven’t actually seen or read any of Hetalia, I’d like to ask you to read some of the manga and/or watch some of the anime before making a decision on whether or not it’s offensive, and whether or not you enjoy it. If you actually give it a shot and it still bothers you, fine, but don’t try to say fans of it are immoral just because they’re not offended by something that offends you. That’s just obnoxious, honestly. Also, this post only covers one sort of argument against Hetalia. The stuff about fans only liking it for BL and bishonen because they didn’t see the comedy is too ridiculous for me to even comment on.

In closing, here’s a MAD for Hetalia that always makes me smile: