Random Thoughts on the Child Protection Law Passed in Japan

First of all, I’m trying to get some clear information on the ban.  So far what I’ve gathered is that law is trying to establish what’s okay to sell to minors and what should be sold to adults only.  So in this sense, I don’t think it’s a ban on manga so much as a clarification as to what’s appropriate to sell to minors.

I think we all know from the selection of manga I chose for this group that I don’t choose series with even modest amounts of violence or sexuality or series that depict inappropriate acts towards minors.  In my private life I do read manga that I would consider outside the scope of this group, but I don’t read or watch any manga or anime that I would consider gratuitously violent or sexual.  In general, I believe that adults should have the right to choose their entertainment as long as it doesn’t harm anyone.  As for minors, I believe parents should help their children choose appropriate material and that parents should know what their children are reading.

The question for me comes down to what can harm other people.  I am against the depiction of harmful acts to children either real or drawn unless it is in the service of the story and that story has something to teach.  There are a great many stories where a character’s childhood trauma shapes the personality of the character.  These are important stories to tell (for instance “I Know why the Caged Bird Sings”.)  However, I don’t approve of stories that depict such things for shock value or titillation. This doesn’t mean it should be ban, it just means that I will not consume it.  I don’t believe that violent or sexual material drive deviant behavior, rather I believe people interested in deviant behavior seek such materials out.  It’s easy to blame an outside influence for crimes rather than to blame the person themselves.  I will say, though, that rape and murder existed long before people drew it, so purging such materials will not make one ounce of difference.

As for homosexuality, homosexuals exist.  Get over it.  Again, adults should be able to choose their entertainment and parents should help their children choose appropriate materials.  However, for parents, I think if they know their child is struggling with questions of their sexuality, that it may be a comfort to the child to read material that affirms that struggle.

In general, I have a great appreciation for artists who are able to convey trauma, tragedy, violence, and sexuality without actually showing the graphic details of it.  I feel it’s best to leave some of these things to the imagination.  In this sense, I think the Japanese law is an invitation for artists to try harder with their story telling. Seriously, how many more stories do we need about students in relationships with their teachers?

I’m trying my best to find some concrete facts about the law and when I have located some reliable sources, I will share them with you all.  As of now, though, I think it’s too early for any of us to get riled up or believe anything out on unvetted manga blogs and websites.  Everything I’ve seen so far has been hyperbole.

If you have a concrete vetted source of info, please leave a comment.  If you have some thoughts to share on the matter, also leave a comment.

11 thoughts on “Random Thoughts on the Child Protection Law Passed in Japan

  1. Read about this from various sites, like Reddit.

    Since this doesn't affect me in the slightest, i just want to know how does this really affect my hobbies.

    In the Gaming part, some people commented on how will this affect the visual novel and dating simulation genre, some said these will be banned and will ruin lonely people's lives (kinda hard to tell if they were just sarcastic..) and some said that these will just be for adults, and the games for minors will be adjusted to remove questionable content (like you said).

    It is hard for me to comment on the homosexuality part, because of my background, but if these were out too, then it really doesn't matter at all to me.

    Anyway Adults, like you said, are free to choose their entertainment, kids should be advised but with the internet, you cant limit what they can and cant see, they will get it in the end.

  2. If that the things meet very complicated.
    It depresses me enough that this spending this, but, I hope that it does not affect us though … I believe that it is impossible to think this way.
    Only I hope that we continue enjoying the manga and anime.
    Regards chile

  3. @SL — I think the idea is to stop the material at the source — the artists themselves.

    What I don't understand is whether it's gonna be like what they do in the US where adult materials can't be bought in stores by children and are put off in a special lurid looking section of the store. In this case, people will buy what they want from Internet retailers. Credit cards are a good way to deter children.

  4. @daniela — I'm waiting for more proven information before worrying about it. I think, though, that this ordinance will not effect any of the series from our group. I really think this is about “rape” manga and manga with meaningless harm to minors. I'm gonna have faith that this is about having have commonsense and common decency and not destroying an entire industry and restricting free expression.

  5. To be honest, i think the tokyo youth ordinance is a failure and should not be. Firstly, it does not even really address the promotion of a youth's health- so you'll just ban what they read, but you'll bypass what they really need? social services, ACTUAL health services and such. It is lopsided and is more about the anime/manga industry than it is truly about youths. Furthermore, i cannot believe they amended putting in possession of child pornography out of the law. Also, the law excludes real-life photographic illicit material. And it is not prohibition of sale to minors, but the prohibition also extends to even the publication of such materials. Considering Ishihara is the one who is putting his weight behind the law, i'd be kind of worried for the boy-love industry.
    Also, the law is so loose/vague! It can be manipulated so easily, enforced without equality, and it's no news that Japan does have a corrupt government and justice system, too.
    The negativities of the law just outweighs entirely the positive.

  6. @DULAC — well, Japan is a democracy, so hopefully their democracy works such that one person doesn't restrict the freedoms of many.

    I'm still waiting for more information. The supposed snippets that I've read are indeed vague which could either mean it's unenforceable or arbitrarily enforceable. I will say this though, that like everywhere, the media companies are huge and RICH, which means they have political tremendous influence. I'm sure a nice dinner, some “service”, and “gentle” warning of further economic deterioration could nip this in the bud unless there's a popular outcry in favor of the ordinance. There's a process to it all, such that in the end nobody loses face. Personally, I have confidence that sanity will win.

  7. Well, i doubt sanity will win over, since its already been quite lost- the law has already been passed in the house.

    Democracy is not all about freedom as one thinks it is; although it is much better than other ideologies out there, by far it is not the best. For example, if 55% of the majority voted for this law (but alas, the people actually has no say/vote in this matter!), then according to democracy, that is what “the people” want- the wants of the largely remaining 45% are ignored- and their opinions are just shoved under for the other half of the population. That does not seem like equality and the freedom everyone thinks it is. Democracy claims the freedom and rights for everyone, but there will always be the majority and the minority. Democratic equality lies in one person having one vote…

    I wish! So far, large publishers have been quiet…Well, i seriously question if anything can be done against Ishihara, whom, despite his racist, homophobic and general commentary gems, has managed to become the governor of tokyo 3 times. The tokyo ordinance was also quite hush-hush in its push into law. Besides- its quite hard to be an opponent of this law, if one considers the preconceptions others may have upon you if you are against it, you know…

    ah well. We can just cross our hands that before it comes into full effect, something will be done.

  8. @DULAC — that is indeed the way a direct Democracy works. The majority reigns over the minority. You can't please everyone, but you can try to please most of the people. I think this is far better than the tyranny of one or anarchy.

    I don't know what to say to comfort you other than calm down and wait to see how the law is enforced. Personally, I'm not worried about it because I don't think anything I read or watch in anime will be affected. I am concerned about general free speech matters, but there's very little anyone outside of Tokyo can do.

    The other thing to consider is that if this is a city ordinance, then the law only effects Tokyo. In this sense, the publishers could just threaten to leave the city. I'm sure if a bunch of publishers, artists, and retailers left town, it would have an impact.

    I think the publishers are being quiet because resolving this kind of matter is something that is not done publicly. Like I said before, it has to be done in a polite way that preserves all sides' reputations. It's not time to worry yet :).

  9. I’m conflicted. On the one hand, artistic censorship is generally counterproductive. On the other hand, I’m the parent of teenage daughters, and I know that there is some manga that I wouldn’t want my daughters reading and wouldn’t want my daughters’ potential boyfriends reading. And there is some manga that I think we could lose entirely and not suffer as a society.

    I ran across Kodomo no Jikan a few years ago and found it quite disturbing. I didn’t—couldn’t—read it, because the way it depicts the 9-year-old heroine appalled me.

    For all I know, the title may deal intelligently with some of the issues surrounding the sexualization of children, but the fact that the fan service exists, and that the inappropriately sexual behavior of the 9-year-old girls is played for laughs, is troubling. And I think it’s irresponsible on the part of the mangaka. Fan service by its nature turns the character into a sexual object, and children should not be sexual objects. When child manga characters are portrayed engaging in sexual behaviors—not even actual sex, just behaving in a sexual manner—it is even worse. When children in real life display a precocious level of sexual knowledge, it’s regarded as an indicator of sexual abuse. Sexually explicit behavior, especially sexual invitations or gestures to adults, is a high-probability indicator of sexual abuse in younger children.

    The unfortunate prevalence of sexual abuse is why so many adults take this issue so seriously. And I assume that it is part of what is driving this particular Japanese legislation.

    So on the one hand, people should be free to read whatever they care to, and create whatever they feel led to. But on the other hand—would it be so bad if authors were discouraged from creating material like Kodomo no Jikan? I’m not sure. My opinion, offered humbly.

  10. @Vesperh — I have a BIG problem with “fan service” from characters that are drawn to look like children. (Haha! That's why a changed the ending of “The Scarecrow of Oz” from what the mangaka had written.) And yes, when children act precocious in that manner it is definitely a sign of abuse. Personally, I don't think it's a bad idea to asks authors to use some commonsense and keep it clean and for editors to exercise that same commonsense when it comes to stuff portraying children and delivering entertainment to minors.

    I think, though, a lot of people are more worried about truly adult entertainment and BL going away. From what I've read, I don't think that's the case. I think adult entertainment will be put with the adult entertainment and made less accessible to children. I'm honestly not all that worried and I, too, would be happy to see some of the egregious Loli and Shouta-Loli stuff go away (this why I can't bring myself to watch “Kuroshitsuji 2”) along with rape manga.

    I wonder, though, whether this ordinance is the reason Masamune is drawn to actually look like a high schooler in “Kimi ni XOXO”? You all should be able to see the difference once I release it.

  11. Haha… I didn't look into this issue much because I figured that the ones most affected by it are the yaoi lovers (though now I've realized that that's not the only part affected). And from quick glimpses on articles/posts related to it I already sense too much drama or lack of details.

    Ah well, I believe in freedom of expression (that doesn't cause physical harm). I wouldn't want this law to affect art… if a minor gets hold of material that is not meant for him, its his parent's responsibility, not the artist's. Though I think a publisher could be blamed for releasing stories with inappropriate content in magazines catered to young ones. The artist just draws, but the publisher has the power (though not absolute) to whom to show them to.

    Ugh, I don't know. Those are just initial thoughts on this matter. I could change my mind after reading more…. which I'm still lazy to do.

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