Tuesday, July 3, 2012

No comic book is too pornographic for the people of Japan

It's been a year to the day since Japan implemented legislation aimed at censoring manga to protect children from pornographic and harmful content. The law - Bill 156 -prohibited anime or manga artists from depicting sexual acts that would be illegal in real life, but still gave the good 'ol fashioned tentacle rape rags a pass since, hey, they're recognized as being fantasy.

What made this bill particularly worrisome to the people of Japan is the fact that it seemed to target the LGBT community with its language. Specifically, the Bill partially defined 'harmful material' in manga to be:

"...any manga, animation, or pictures (but not including real life pictures or footage) that features either sexual or pseudo sexual acts that would be illegal in real life ... sexual or pseudo sexual acts between close relatives whose marriage would be illegal, where such depictions and / or presentations unjustifiably glorify or exaggerate the activity"

Seeing as how gay marriage is still not legal in Japan, and yaoi / yuri manga are still wildly popular amongst Japanese otaku, it's rather easy to see the agenda behind this bill. Supporters of the bill claim that it was introduced to reduce the glorification of incest (or twincest), but many critics still harbored their doubts over what the Bill was trying to ban.

Today, however, Japanese otaku scored a public - if symbolic - victory against manga censorship, as it has recently been noticed that not a single publication has been declared harmful or unfit for consumption under Bill 156's censorship. Unfortunately, there are two ways to look at this information.

The first - which many manga authors and illustrators would prefer - is that the toothless legislation is too broad in scope and is difficult for authorities to enforce. While not a complete 'win' for the manga community, it would indicate that the censorship and penalties introduced by Bill 156 can be mostly ignored since they would only be enforced rarely, if ever.

The second - and perhaps more realistic - way of looking at the recent findings suggests that manga distributors are kowtowing to the Bill and are self-censoring so as not to release manga that would be viewed as a potential violation in terms of content, or that they are now only selling such manga at stores which minors are forbidden to enter and are thus circumventing the exposure of minors to such publications.

It's difficult to know for sure which reason of the two is responsible for the lack of harmful or illegal manga being reported, and in the end both critics and supporters of Bill 156 will claim this news as a victory.

Of course the real winners in this legal battle are the fans of demonic tentacle harem comedies since Japan has yet to pass any legislation that specifically prohibits witches and warlocks from using magical spells to transform college freshmen into oversexed lesbian love slaves.

Time to brush up on my dark arts!