I should probably criticize Sankaku Complex for fear mongering, but while they do go overboard with some of their conclusions, the general theme is sound. That theme is uncertainty. The unfortunate problem with vague laws is that we really don’t know what they can and will do. I’m going to go into why uncertainty exists and why it may or may not be something to lose sleep over.
First thing to understand is that the law wont take effect for a while yet. The manga and anime industry has a voluntary period starting in April to do whatever they feel is necessary to comply with the new law. July is when the law goes into full effect, with Tokyo’s government making the determinations instead.
Second thing to understand is that this is limited to just Tokyo. While that actually is significant, and a huge influence on the anime / manga industry as a whole, it still doesn’t mean the rest of the country has to go along with it. I don’t know Japan’s laws very well, and I know their constitution even less, but I do know that jurisdictional issues tend to start effecting the whole more than just one part. That’s just general observation based on politics in the world at large. So this may spread or it may get killed by a higher authority. Again, I’m not qualified to answer that question either way. If this were the United States, I would lean in the direction of “killed by a higher authority”. But this isn’t the United States.
Third thing to understand is what this really effects. It is, unfortunately, incredibly vague. When I said this would get killed by a higher authority in the US, the truth is I’m not even sure I believe that. We have our own laws that mirror some of the specifics within this one. The Protect Act, which I’ve harped about before, is similar insofar as there is a required judgment call. In other words, a personal interpretation of what is being presented. This kind of thing always bugs me. I do not allow another person to dictate to me, based on their morality, their ethics, and their personal biases and prejudices, what is or isn’t “appropriate”. In the terms of this law, the real problem is to figure out what is “likely to interfere with the healthy development of youth”. I’m a very rational guy. If you can empirically prove to me that something can “interfere with the healthy development of youth”, in other words, to cause harm to a kid growing into an adult, then I’m willing to listen. But while it may be easy to prove that Pepsi and cocaine is harmful for a child’s development, proving that a piece of media does the same thing is a lot harder to do. In this light, what constitutes “harmful” becomes an opinion, not a fact.
Worse, the law has a second inclusion. It bans depictions of “rape and other sexual acts which violate societal norms”. I mentioned in my 10 Things article that the rape fetish, and those who enjoy it, bother me. It says way too much about you if you enjoy women being victimized with violent crime. Not good things either. However, I have never been of the opinion that such things should be banned by a governmental body. It’s your own personal ethics that allow you to want or not want to watch said material. I don’t like it, so I don’t watch it. But I’m not going to stop you from doing so. I’ll just think you’re a sick fucker. End of story. People have the right to determine what is or isn’t best for them. Another body telling you to do so erodes your personal freedom. Even if you’re a “youth”.
The rest of that sentence is way too vague to understand. I do not agree with Sankaku Complex’s paranoia that this would include, and specifically target homosexuality. Throughout history it has been “inappropriate” to do or say a lot of things, and a lot of those “inappropriate” things have become less “inappropriate” and more “acceptable”. Maybe not to all, but to the majority of society. Homosexuality is no different. As time has gone by, homosexuality has become more acceptable in societies the world over. For Tokyo to do this now would be to intentionally take a backwards step in societal evolution. If anything, it opens up the government to accusations of sexual prejudice, and, most importantly, law suits.
The real reason for being anxious about this law (in all ways that implies) is that without seeing the law in practice, I can’t say what will really be effected. Some are saying that dreck like To-Love-Ru would become an adult title and, therefore, relegated to the adult sections of stores where it cannot be purchased by those under 18. I’m not going to shed a tear if To-Love-Ru loses readership, but it shouldn’t be because some bureaucrats are offended. There is no way to watchdog this kind of censorship. A personal judgment call could simply be based on your own personal distaste for a manga or a mangaka, and you could reason it based on the provisions of this law and who could stop you? Then again, it could be a fairly moderate enforcement, simply gutting the more over the top material into adult land, and the overall impact on the industry and availability could be minor. The erosion of personal liberty would still be there, but it may be tolerable enough not to be noticed.
It could also turn into an Orwellian nightmare where anime and manga is forever dulled down to the point of mediocrity for risk of being effected by this law. I’m not going to sit here and blow sand up your ass and say that I would weep if Yosuga no Sora got effected. Then I think of Koi Kaze, which deals with at least one common theme with Yosuga no Sora, and I start to wonder. Under a broad and vague definition, would not both titles be unacceptable under this law and be for adult viewing only? It seems a trifle unfair to the people who produce these shows that their work is being pigeon-holed into a particular market, which could effect sales and audience.
In the end, there is a reality to all of this that needs to be stressed, and that reality is that we just don’t know what this is going to do. Because of that, I have one simple plea to my fellow idiot fans. If you would please, repeat after me: “I will not panic until I have reason to do so.” Wait and see what happens. Most of you probably wont even remember this law exists in about three weeks. For the rest of you, keep your eyes open later this year to see if anything really has changed. My gut says that nothing big will come of this, but you never know.
Comment below or e-mail me at: t…@nihonreview.com