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.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.