Here We Are One Year Later, Anime Dead?

Madoka and Friends

Yes, it's been about a year now. But, no, I don't mean this.

Have you forgotten completely?  Let me refresh your memory:

History Time!

February 2010, a proposal by the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly to revise the Tokyo Metropolitan Ordinance Regarding the Healthy Development of Youths, a city ordinance that has been in effect since 1964, to restrict manga that depicted fictional characters who appear to be under the age of 18, failed to pass.  This so-called “nonexistent youth bill” carried language that was too broad for some of the assemblymen, and members of the manga industry vociferously opposed it.  Attempts to revise the proposal were met with similar oppositions, and the proposal was rejected in June.

Undaunted, Tokyo governor Ishihara Shintaro tried again in November.  This time, in addition to other ideas that are irrelevant to this discussion, the proposal eliminated the “nonexistent youth” component but went a bit more broad.  The first major change was “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, or 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.”  Offending manga publishers who produced content fitting the criteria could face such stiff penalties as having to answer to a committee with serious repeat offenders possibly being called out by Ishihara himself in PUBLIC.  Gasp!  Still, this proposal was met with stiff resistance from members of the industry and defenders of liberty, though it was praised by Japanese Parent Teacher Association.

After a bit more deliberation, the bill was approved by the Metropolitan Assembly’s general affairs committee on Dec 13.  However, the committee modified the proposal slightly to include a non-binding (meaning they don’t have to do it, but they probably should) condition that regulators take into account “merits based on artistic, social, educational, and satirical criticism criteria”.  In other words, a manga that breaks the rules, but still has a purpose other than just to be smut, should be ignored.


Yosuga no Sora: DOOMED!

My Turn To Be A Jackass.

Starting to remember?  Well, here is the first and LAST time I’m linking anything by Sankaku Complex, and I only do it here because they’re basically the hoodlum fuckfaces that set all you schizophrenics off in a frenzy of paranoia.  Most of you wouldn’t have even known about this ordinance change if it weren’t for them.  And while I have to give them credit for getting the word out, I also have to deride those misfits for making sure that they did it in the most Chicken Little way possible.  The lot of you got suckered in by a tabloid.  It’s a good thing they didn’t tell you that aliens are here and they’re raping away your waifu’s purity, or the suicide rate would have quadrupled overnight.  Starting to remember all this now?  Good.  I’m here to tell you that you all overreacted, and I’m going to do it in the most smarmy way possible to rub your noses in it.

Or I’d like to, but since I’m an elitist bastard, I already knew I was better than you all, so whatever.  Pay no attention to the waffling I do above, the money quote is at the end:

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. – Me

  • Most of you forgot three weeks later.
  • Nothing big happened.

Some folks are going to disagree with the “nothing big” comment, and that’s fine.  Wait for it, I’m not done with the article yet.  But, really, all the hang wringing and frenzy of activity was gone by mid January.  Maybe folks like me, pleading for patience, helped stem that tide of insanity, but I’m not THAT confident in my persuasive abilities.  Basically, like with any other story involving Brittney Spears shaving her head or Rick Santorum sleeping with a dead baby, the interest level waned and the short term memory of our information age won out.

But I’d be remiss in my duties as an objective observer if I didn’t include all information (that I can find anyway) regarding the manga industry in the post Bill 156 world.  So here goes:

So What DID Happen?

Naturally, people involved in the industry rebelled immediately and in somewhat strange ways.  Dan Kanemitsu and others published a doujishi called An Idiot’s Guide to Tokyo’s Harmful Books Regulation which sold out of it’s first thousand copies easily at Comiket 79 and went into a second printing.  I shit you not, it’s right hereA promised English release has yet to materialize. Disregard that!  I suck cocks!

In a more direct assault on Tokyo in general, Comic 10 Society, along with Shueisha, Shogakukan, Kodansha, and other companies planned to boycott participation in the Tokyo International Anime Fair in March (2011).  Though the boycott is aimed at harming the city of Tokyo directly (with an estimated 10 million yen loss in revenue), the TAF is organized by the Association of Japanese Animators, who are also opposing the bill.  Thus, while harming Tokyo, the boycott would also harm other members of the industry.  Perhaps as a result of that, the boycotting firms planned their own convention, the Anime Contents Expo, in Chiba, just to the east of Tokyo, that would run at the same time as the TAF.  Both conventions were cancelled, however, in the wake of the disastrous tsunami that hit the Sendai region of Japan earlier that month.  Ishihara was pleased.

The ACE plans are still in effect, though, and the convention will run in March as planned, with many planned participants from last year coming this year.  The boycotts are also still in effect, and many corporations, including Kodokawa Shoten and Aniplex, are not attending TAF.

It should be mentioned that the Sendai tsunami, in attention to being terrible by itself, had an unintended effect on this issue.  Originally, Ishihara planned not to run for a 4th term as governor of Tokyo, but in the wake of the disaster, he decided to not only run again, but won re-election handedly, with praises for his handling of the disaster efforts during the crisis.  Thanks Mother Nature, you bitch.

Aki Sora

Totally okay for children.

In April, the first major event of the new ordinance met with much groaning and wrist slitting.  The Tokyo Metropolitan Government brought out it’s first list of objectionable material.  Before anybody even saw the titles included, comments of doom and gloom surfaced in the usual places.  But once everybody saw what was being targeted, the general consensus was that this wasn’t so bad.  Sure, fans of Aki Sora were devastated, but since that manga is basically porn without the porn label, I didn’t see what the big deal was.  I still don’t.  However, this might be the first and only indication of a publishing company actually panicking about the ordinance modifications.  In response, Itosugi Masahiro, the mangaka for Aki Sora, discontinued the work on April 5, and also mentioned that Volumes 1 and 3 of the manga would no longer be reprinted for release.  She did not say whose decision it was to discontinue the project, but by her other comments, we can infer it wasn’t she.

The other five manga listed were met with a whole lot of “huh?” and even more “whatever”.  Most western audiences had never heard of them, and the folks who did know were too few to make a loud voice.  Thus, the only real casualty of the “war” so far seems to be Aki Sora, to which I give a heartfelt “whatever” of my own.  Let’s face it, despite Ms. Itosugi’s comments to the contrary, there is nothing in Aki Sora that is poignant, thoughtful, provocative, or in any other way meaningful.  It does not explore the taboos so much as glorifies them with sexual scenes fit only for Showtime soft core porn.  And don’t think I haven’t read it.  There’s a reason I’ve read it.  It’s fap material.

So who cares if this publication got moved to the adult’s only section.  That’s probably where it belonged in the first place.  Akita Shoten may have overreacted to the listing when the decision was made to cut the project–and yes I’m flat out blaming them for this–but overall I don’t think the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly made a wrong decision here.  The other titles?  We can quibble on those details.  But not this one.

Besides, it looks like Akamatsu Ken (you know, the Negima and Love Hina dude) is fighting the power in his own way.  While Aki Sora isn’t slated to appear on the website yet, and may not due to ownership rights to the material, there’s always a possibility that you can still get your hands on your material that can’t be sold to children in Tokyo manga shops.

Another event that should be mentioned is the filing of a suit against the ordinance modifications back in April.  You’ll have to forgive me as details on this subject are heavily in Japanese and my ability to translate aren’t good.  But according to other folks, mostly in the forum thread related to Bill 156, the suit was defeated but has moved on to a higher court of appeals.  No news has been posted on this subject since.

R-15 Fanservice Shot

The irony here is that R-15 would now not be.

Summarizing And Me Being A Jackass Again.

And… that is it.  Since the new rules went into effect on July 1 of last year, we have not heard of another list of, nor individual, titles by the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly slated for status change to adult material.  Since they never had any impact on the anime industry to begin with, we’re still getting a whole bunch of anime featuring fanservice, sexual innuendo, incestuous themes, and all sorts of other nasty stuff that Ishihara would recoil in disgust at.  The industry has not, at all, backed down in the face of censorship by one city’s governor.  Try as he might, Ishihara has not really effected anything.  It is also completely irresponsible for anybody to say that the rule changes have PREVENTED manga from being created or published, because you have no evidence that this is the case.  You can try, though.  Like I can stop you from being stupid.

And stupid is what you have been.  Since the beginning, stirred up by one asshole’s attempt at stirring you up, you’ve been irrational, overreacting morons.  You can call Ishihara a fascist all you want, for all the good it will do, he’s still going to be in charge.  You can hate the idea of questionable material being labeled with a much more serious sticker, and I’ll be right there with you because of my libertarian ideals regarding self governance.  But what you can’t do is take back the time you lost fretting over whether or not your favorite hobby would be completely destroyed by one city’s attempt at “protecting” youth from objectionable material.

Next time, fucking listen to me and don’t panic until you have reason to do so.  THINK about shit before you react to it.  Unless that thought is where you have a desire to jump off a cliff.  You have my blessing to Darwin yourself at any time for any reason.  Will make my life easier.

Still don’t want to heed my advice?  Fine, here’s Danny Choo’s take on the situation:

I don’t see any change at all in the content. When I go to a shop and pick up a manga, the content hasn’t changed. Well, some of the content does surprise me, some of it is really graphic, people stabbing each other and eyes popping out. So I don’t see anything change in terms of people producing the content.

Where I do see a change is in terms of how the content is displayed. In Japan, legally, material aimed at folks over the age of 18 has to be separate. It’s very easily done; you’ve got a bookshelf and a card stuck up that says that anything on this other side of it is for people over 18. Apart from that, nothing has really changed.

I think one of the reasons why many people started to make a fuss about it was for Google juice, for blog comments basically. “Oh god this is the end of anime!” And they’d build comments and a buzz around their blogs. That’s why I didn’t write about it at all, because I knew it was bollocks really.


19 Responses to “Here We Are One Year Later, Anime Dead?”

  1. I think you should make it more clear the type of panic you are talking about in this article. I had to go back and read yours and Sorrow-kun’s post to even understand the level of violence inciting panic that was going through the otaku world at the time of the bill. The way this article makes it sound like you oppose the reaction of everyone as a whole (including Sorrow-kun) instead of just the extreme fringe inciting violence. Calls for violence are bad but silence is just as bad if not worse.

    I think it’s a mistake that Danny Choo didn’t speak up about this because he of all people could have talked about this bill in measured tones, I should hope. If you don’t make your voice heard from the start the politicians will likely just assume you aren’t there or worse, aren’t strong enough to make a difference.

  2. Yeah, I find it kind of in poor taste that you are comparing anonymous internet comments with actual acts of censorship. Maybe you have a point if someone actually got hurt or suffers some loss in results of the protest, but this hasn’t happened as far as I know.

    Put it in another way, I’d rather suffer the noise of a bunch of idiots on the internet talking like that than actually have a law like the said ordinance exist.

  3. One other thing others haven’t mentioned, is that if such censorship would go in effect, it would take longer than a year before we’d see any consequences, if rationale would prevail. I’m looking at the example of the Rapelay fiasco, where eroge companies that were in the middle of production cycles with disputed themes were actually allowed to proceed with the release of the material (before any self-censorship rules went in effect by rating companies). Taking into account how long it takes to produce anime series, I’d imagine the window before content actually gets prohibited would take longer to close.

    So please, copy-paste this shit again in a year, if you must. :) And truth be told, Shitkaku wasn’t the only blog spreading panic. ANN’s fairly balanced reporting on the issue produced as much concern, if not outright panic. I also wouldn’t take Danny Choo’s words as gospel because his business would likely profit if anime and manga cleaned up their act.

  4. As much as Artefact has been sensationalist troll ever since I worked for him right when SanCom started to get popular, the other side of the coin is this: What would have happened if we did nothing? The bill was a terrible idea and that alone is enough to get into an uproar about it.

  5. My God, I’ve failed haven’t I?

  6. Wait, AkiSora wasn’t considered porn in the first place? Seems I’m still ignorant of what is inappropriate.

  7. You haven’t failed; you’ve just pretended that this is the end of the discussion, as if events don’t have this annoying tendency to continue happening, and even to occasionally be influenced by other events that occurred in the past, perhaps deliberately. If the push to censor manga and anime ends with putting explicit material in an 18+ section then I’ll be pleased as peaches, but Ishihara has made it more than clear that what he really wants is a US-style censorship of this material, with lengthen prison sentences for possession of it and all the rest. Admittedly, I’ve only read his statements in translation, but iirc they specifically praise the US approach to censorship. More than that, they lay most of Japan’s social problems squarely at the feet of some amorphous “social decay” caused by this material, as if a few decades of living under the mismanaging thumb of unaccountable LDP bureaucrats like Ishihara himself had nothing at all to do with the straits Japan has been in for over a decade now. I’d imagine that annoyed people as much as the ordinance itself.

    Most folks are either worried about where this might lead, or just using the internet for its tertiary purpose; expressing absurdly over the top outrage at anything that mildly offends their sensibilities. Sure it’s annoying, but flaming, trolling, and general ass-hattery is the nature of the beast, as your smarmy post choked-full of condescending insults aptly proves. Having said all that, keeping a cool head about things is always good advice, so bully on you for telling people to do so. I’m sure the community will completely ignore the obnoxious way you chose to put that message forward, and regard its content dispassionately, because logical behavior like that is what otakus and the Interwebs are known most for.

  8. My natural inclination on such things is to be anti-censorship, so I just can’t come down on the side of those who argue this bill is harmless. If the bill hasn’t done anything, then why should it have been passed in the first place?

    I don’t like to deal in hypotheticals, but when it comes to politics, it’s very hard not to, because you have to consider all possibilities. Even from the first day, no one thought the bill wasn’t flawed… pretty much everywhere, including here, it was criticized for its ambiguity. The next question is, what is the lesser of evils and here I’m pretty much in agreement with omo. A bill that censors freedom of expression amongst creative people is much worse than some whiners bitching on the internet. I totally agree with you that Sankaku took advantage of the situation and sensationalized the story, and I wish they, and others, were more even-handed in their approach, but on the other side of the coin they did an important job by bringing attention to the issue.

  9. It amazes me how, a year later, there’s still so many Sankaku Complex inspired misconceptions going on about this. The entire point of my going at length to provide the information was so that folks would realize that, in the first place, there was never any reason to be concerned. Let me just flat out state it, since some of you still aren’t getting it:

    First and foremost on that list of misconceptions: this isn’t censorship. Ishihara’s first attempt was censorship, but what he ended up getting was something that was so vague that the assembly doesn’t know what to do with it. All this ordinance modification allows the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly to do is reclassify what was not adult material into adult material. There’s nothing stopping the material from still being made, sold, or distributed on the internet. The only thing this ordinance modification can do is prevent people under 18 from walking into a manga shop and buying it. That’s it. Censorship requires that a governmental body actively suppresses a particular form of speech. Now, I’m not going to sit around here and discuss the merits of an argument about censoring pornography. It’s really irrelevant anyway since those laws were already in effect before this ordinance modification went live. Not only that, but there is already precedent set by societies wherein people defined as “youths” or “not adults” have not the same rights and freedoms as adults. Right or wrong, societies world over have created barriers for “children” to enjoy full civil liberties.

    Bear in mind, I’m not saying Ishihara is justified here. Like I said, he wanted to censor the crap out of manga under the guise of “protecting children”. He just failed miserably to accomplish it. Ishihara is definitely a person to be wary of, and I would not at all be surprised if his motivations stem from a personal disgust instead of an altruism. But, and this is something reflective in our (America’s) own government body: one person does not a government make. Ishihara is not some dictator who can boss the entire Assembly around. He proposed something, it was rejected. What eventually passed is a much less intimidating plan. And, as a result, not only has the Assembly shown a much better sense of judgment than we gave them credit for, but the industry has, aside from one very obvious panic stricken case, ignored the threat of being relegated to adult material. The Assembly, under the guidance of this bill, COULD have been reclassifying manga left and right since July, but it hasn’t. It just HASN’T. I submitted those articles regarding ACE and the industry backlash because it is very possible that the influence of the people IS having an effect. However, there’s also the possibility that if this was really such an important issue to the Assembly, why have they not done more? Why have we also not heard of other manga publishers going the Akita Shoten route and pulling the plug on other fanservice, borderline pornographic, materials? Last I checked, To-Love-RU Darkness is still running around as an R-15 title, and from what I’ve seen that manga would fit this bill’s qualifications rather easily. It isn’t the only one either. KissXSis anybody?

    In the end, this was just one man’s ambition that went NO WHERE. Hell, at this point I’m convinced the Assembly passed that first list just to get Ishihara off their case. The subjects chosen on that list were all fairly easy to reclassify based on their rather heavy sexual content. In the words of the US Supreme Court, a “reasonable person” would be able to recognize Aki Sora for what it is: PORN. Like I said in my post, there’s a reason we were reading it and it wasn’t for deep plots or provocative societal commentary.

    Look, I admit that this may not be over yet. Until the modifications to the ordinance are repealed, there’s always the possibility that another list could come out. But at this point, we’re just not seeing any activity with it. It would be extremely curious to see a new wave of activity when they’ve already had so much time to effect change. And, yes, as Julian points out above, keeping tabs on Ishihara is a must. But he’s already been beaten once, and what he did accomplish required much teeth pulling. I think that, like so many times before, rationality will win out.

  10. “A promised English release has yet to materialize.”

    But you just linked to it. Your reading comprehension, so bad.

  11. Hmm… yep, you got me on that one. Edit forthcoming.

  12. Yeah… I’d basically forgotten about this until your post reminded me of it. Not that I was clamouring to condemn the legislation as a rights-grabbing, liberty-restricting piece of censorship which is inhibiting the ability of artists to express themselves as they wish to do so, mind you. There is a difference between restriction (not censorship) and deprivation (censorship) of accessibility to potential consumers, and a restriction based on countervailing public interest is not inherently wrong.

    Also, as an aside, I just don’t understand the constant criticism of the ‘vagueness’ of the piece of legislation. I think you’d be hard-pressed to show me [i]any[/i] piece of legislation which [i]could not[/i] be criticised as vague, especially one in the realms of obscenity/indecency law. Reasonable person? Public interest? Give over – that’s a tool of the legislators/judiciary to allow discretion to the relevant decision-making body.

    P.S. Is there a …hint… of irony in you posting this article, TIF?

  13. Also, as an aside, I just don’t understand the constant criticism of the ‘vagueness’ of the piece of legislation. I think you’d be hard-pressed to show me [i]any[/i] piece of legislation which [i]could not[/i] be criticised as vague, especially one in the realms of obscenity/indecency law. Reasonable person? Public interest? Give over – that’s a tool of the legislators/judiciary to allow discretion to the relevant decision-making body.

    Well, the struggle to define what is art vs. what is porn has been a nagging issue for centuries. Nobody has ever been able to define the difference in such a way that there is no ambiguity or wiggle room for interpretation. There isn’t a “catch all” definition that applies universally and infallibly. And while you could say that about a lot of legislation, as you point out, there’s still a responsibility on the part of those in charge to make sure they get it right more than get it wrong. In the end, we’re stuck with Justice Potter Stewart’s famous line: “I know it when I see it.”

    And it is because of this ambiguity that the broad terminologies the ordinance modification has that got folks paranoid. I think, though, that if we really looked harder at it back then there wouldn’t have been as much hand wringing. The more I look at the terms used in the bill, the less I think it’s as vague as people believe. What is actually more vague is that “out” clause added in by the committee (regarding works with artistic merits, etc). With that, you’re basically forcing anybody who wants to reclassify a manga as adult to fight that same art v. porn argument on every single title. From how I understand the chain of events (and I did NOT include this in the article and maybe I should have), there were some who weren’t going to pass the bill until that line about artistic merit, etc was added in. So, like I said, maybe we just didn’t give the policymakers enough credit to do the right thing.

    P.S. Is there a …hint… of irony in you posting this article, TIF?

    Not sure what you mean.

  14. @cyth that logic doesn’t really hold up under scrutiny. The fact is they have HAD the power to designate works as harmful under the new clause since the bill became law, and they HAVEN’T. If they really wanted to, they wouldn’t have to wait 2 or 3 years, they could do so right now but lo and behold, they don’t! Somewhere along the lines you’re going to have to accept that not everybody is as stupid and gullible as you think.

  15. Furthermore, I would argue that the sinking of the global economy and the freefall of the anime industry itself is doing much more harm than bill 156 is.

  16. @ar15gunman42

    The net effect is that publishers will be less likely to go into such creative ventures. In this case, it was the publishers who decided not to offer books of disputed material anymore because of the impending law hanging over them. Self-censorship is worse than government censorship, and this is what this law promotes. This was the main argument of the anti-movement (which this article completely neglects). Same was with the eroge industry.

    The problem with vague laws, as it’s the case with ACTA, for example, is that there’s no telling when someone with sufficient judicial power will overreach and decide to interpret that abstractly written law to suit their needs. So the fact that they haven’t used the law, doesn’t mean that they won’t. Scouts honours don’t mean much when judicials are worshippers of their scriptures, and the net effect stays the same either way. Given all the problems of Japan’s judicial systems, no author in the right mind would want to write something for profit that would even vaguely come across with these vague laws. This is what you guys aren’t taking into account.

  17. @Cyth Again, I just feel that the bill itself is the least of our worries as of right now. With the anime industry in a freefall and a contraction of the foreign and domestic market for anime and manga, I feel we should focus more on getting the industry back on its feet.

  18. I also appreciate your kind reply. I apologize if I came off as rude 3 comments prior.

  19. Also, do I believe that the bill could be used in the future? Of course. My argument wasn’t that the bill hasn’t caused any major setbacks for the industry yet therefore it will never be used again, my argument was that it is probably just not as big an issue as everyone claimed it to be prior to and after its passage. This is especially the case when you take into account the much bigger problem facing the anime industry, and that is that the industry itself, is in financial ruin, courtesy of your friendly neighbourhood internet pirate, outsourcing, and success eluding.

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