I Don’t Know. You Don’t Know. And That Sucks.

Hitori is tired of this shit

I agree, character from an anime that we may never see more of.

Original Article from Sankaku Complex

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

13 Responses to “I Don’t Know. You Don’t Know. And That Sucks.”

  1. If there is one entity I am generally confident in, it is America’s Supreme Court; I’m fairly sure a law with language as vague as that would be struck down eventually. Don’t know if you kept up with the news about the battle over violent video games in the Supreme Court, but they really tore a new asshole out of the lawyer arguing for banning certain violent video games.

    Anyway, I definitely agree with the sentiment to hang back and see what happens in regard to this law. Especially since I am no expert on Japanese law, so anything I say would be a load of garbage, haha. :p

  2. I think this bill was in a good direction, but poor execution. If they want to ban something like a rape fetish, I would support it since it’s wrong. The problem is that government shouldn’t be the nanny and tell people what they can’t watch or read… it’s tyrannical…

    Like everything in life, it seems that the media likes to overblown the situation and shame on Sankaku Complex for doing it. Its like causing unnecessary fear saying that this bill will be an apocalypse for the industry, but in reality it only affects a small number. Plus, it only applies to Tokyo, so I don’t see what is the big deal… While I don’t support this bill because its censorship, it’s gotten too much flak…

    We also have to realize that the age of consent is 13, so it’s basically legal to depict someone in those scenes legally if they are the age or over… The problem lies with the moral people who complain about every single thing! If they don’t like it, just self censor it… except for rape, they can censor that since it’s dehumanizing.

  3. I have to disagree with chikorita157. I can’t say I support the intent of the bill at all. The signs are fairly apparent that the bill was blatantly anti-otaku, and the language of the bill leaves it open to ambiguity and arbitrary implementation. The easiest possibility to see is that the bill will have a small effect in the short to medium term as publishers cower and think twice about publishing content that may be questionable, but as bureaucrats become less vigilant and publishers start pushing in order to find out exactly where the boundaries are, we may be back to business-as-normal after a few years. We’ll probably never see a Yosuga no Sora again on TV, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a To Love Ru. Hopefully something like Koi Kaze can hide behind the “artistic merit” clause.

    The other possibility is that this is enforced to the letter, in which case it’s not going to be stuff with extreme sexual depictions that will suffer, since that stuff can just hide behind an 18+ rating and still be profitable. It’s going to be stuff targeted at teens and young adults with more edgy themes that need to be made available openly at street vendors to be profitable. If you force that type of stuff, which potentially encompasses anything from Ore no Imouto to Berserk, R18+, that’s a death knell for its chances of selling and publishers won’t put it out there. That’s the most concerning possibility to imagine.

  4. @Sorrow-kun
    Maybe I have phase it wrong, but it’s in no doubt a horrible bill. If you have read my stance against censorship, it’s certain that I would be against it. The problem is that the bill is not clear on what stuff is not allowed, so the government would ban anything that has to deal with anything sexual even though it’s not necessarily illegal. What is the possibility of the industry going along with this bill? Since most are opposed to it, yes… they will probably not comply with it and move to another city that allows that type of content or go underground. In the end of the day, Tokyo will lose out and there is no doubt that it will impact the economy.

    Basically, the government should take their hand off the Anime/Manga/whatever and stop this censorship madness.

  5. I’m particularly frustrated over the sheer ambiguity of the bill itself. Because of how vague the clauses of the bill are, I can’t even determine how it will affect the anime industry as a whole. My only option is to speculate, which is what just about everyone is doing right now.

    Sure, looking at some of the stuff out there, I think that they’re so terrible that if they’re banned by the new bill, it won’t adversely affect my viewing pleasure. But that’s just my opinion. What’s the objective stance of this sexual content on anime/manga media? More importantly, how are people suppose to support a bill that is so vague in the first place?

    And it’s quite laughable that Sankaku Complex is getting quoted way too often over such an issue. It’s funny: a site that’s fully otaku-centric, covering a report on a bill alleged to be anti-otaku. Yeah, sounds like a disastrous combination to me.

  6. To be honest, a void of fanservice in anime wouldn’t affect me directly, but I’m worried about what will happen to the industry if the money generated by the “genre” dries up. How will the studios (and the animators) feed themselves during the massive downtime until their next classic?

  7. Again, we really don’t know what’s going to happen here. I’m not on Sorrow-kun’s side here that this bill is specifically targeted at “otaku”. The immediate impact would basically be on people not old enough to acquire adult material. I mean, it’s not like shit like To-Love-Ru is going to go away. It’s just going to be in the back of the store. So, yeah, a 14 year old wont have a chance to read it (unless someone buys it for him, or he lives somewhere else). There are other manga and anime that will get relegated back there and not get the under-18 crowd exposure and audience. The rest of the otaku wont be directly effected. Adult otaku, hikikomori or no, will have no issues getting their goods as they’re already adults.

    The real piece of uncertainty is how the anime / manga industry will respond. They can’t avoid the provisions because Tokyo IS a huge market. Most of the broadcasting companies are based there. A lot of the manga producers are based there. Several animation companies are based there. It’s not like they can just ignore it and suffer with the loss of the Tokyo market. So, how are they going to react? Will they do, as Shadowmage thinks, and simply void the concept of moe and fanservice and just start making more… pardon the term… “family friendly” works? Will they fight this on the basis of the “out” clause; that their works provide a societal, educational, scientific, or artistic benefit? I really really don’t know. That “out” clause provision may make this whole thing inevitably toothless and moot. Which is probably why so many were against the idea of this bill until that provision was put in.

  8. @TIF

    I’m actually making a far more drastic statement than just a shift of interest. I am talking about the outright death of certain parts of the industry. Manga will be relatively fine since the cost to start up a series is small, but full budget television anime projects will become scarcer and scaecer as there are no throwaway fanservice series to indirectly “pays the bills” of the good shows.

    Furthermore, I contend that you can’t really make the argument that these people would do something else in the anime industry either. The family friendly market is saturated as it is and so are the other markets. Fanservice has the unusual ability to separate money from the otaku masses and I can think of no replacement.

  9. @SM

    I understand what you’re saying. There just isn’t a reason to assume that is going to happen, though. Like I said, the majority of the otaku who indulge in the kind of anime and manga you mention are already adults. Aside from having to go into the back of the store or ordering it on the internet, what really changes for them? Kids under 18 rarely have the cash necessary to sustain the industry as is.

    The only real change might be the availability of it on network television. Advertising would become a problem, sure. But advertisers are still going to spend their money on commercials that are geared towards an anime crowd. If anime does stop producing overly useless fanservice shows for television, the advertisers might actually pick up interest since they don’t have to worry about their products being associated with “those kind of shows”.

    Look, like I’ve been saying all along, we really don’t know what’s going to happen. We can speculate all we want, but we can’t possibly know. The real indication of the law’s effect will be when anime and manga production companies change what they’re wanting to show / do. Otherwise, I doubt it’s going to be a big deal.

  10. I agree that there’s no reason for panic already, even though the law being vague poses definite risks to see the administration abuse its terms to enforce it and limit or harm the industry and its releases.

    But that whole manga/anime industry is significant enough for the Japanese government to not want to slash it so badly that it would go under. The loss of jobs and especially revenue would do them too much harm.

    A most likely effect we could see is a shift in mainstream titles becoming more safe/less explicit again and some titles moving into the adult range.

    One thing that does come to mind and no one really seems to have observed thus far is that this law could mean going back to the state of mainstream manga/anime as it was several years ago.
    All the ecchi material and the sheer levels of it (how it is explicit and present) have gradually increased to the point it now seems some shows are trying to outdo each other in how much explicit nudity they plaster onscreen.

    Just pick up an issue of Megami or Nyantype… how revealing and daring haven’t the illustrations gotten these past years? There’s a lot more bare skin and suggestive poses compared to before. We might just see those go back to the situation before. And would it be so bad to see a cute illustration of say Nanoha in them from then on instead of a near naked Nanoha losing her bikini top? Don’t think that would be such a disaster.

  11. [...] Anime bloggers in the Anime blogosphere, most notably Valence, Sorrow-kun, TypicalIdiotFan and Gio, have voiced opinions about the Non-Existent Youth Bill. I have also voiced my opinions [...]

  12. [...] articles on the blog.  Be sure to have a look at his recent article on the controversial Bill 156: I Don’t Know. You Don’t Know. And That Sucks.  Also, we’ve said farewell to Buttercup, and we’d like to thank her for her [...]

  13. As much as I hate fanservice and wish that animators focused more on content….yeah this bill scares me. I just hope this isn’t the start of some massive conservative backlash that cripples anime culture.
    :/

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