Manga, Anime and Trans-cultural Censorship

Posted by on March 23rd, 2010 at 12:01 AM

Is American prudery affecting Japanese law?

The sentencing of 39-year-old American Christopher Handley on obscenity charges in Iowa last month and an upcoming vote on a “virtual porn” bill in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly’s General Affairs Committee have sent shivers of anxiety through fans of Japanese popular culture worldwide.

Forget the recent U.S.-Japan dustups over the relocation of a U.S. Marine Corps base and the Toyota recall debacle. Suddenly, both postwar allies are converging on the same page in their desire to delimit the expressive sexuality in manga and anime.

In U.S. courts, Handley pleaded guilty in May of last year to possessing manga featuring “drawings of children being sexually abused,” and was sentenced on Feb. 11 to six months in prison—though his lawyer has recently noted right here in The Comics Journal that Handley’s submissive plea will likely win him a few months in a halfway house, with no actual prison time.

In Japan late last month, a proposal was submitted to amend metropolitan Tokyo’s youth welfare ordinance on child pornography to include sexually provocative “visual depictions” of characters who sound or appear to be 18 years old or younger.

A preliminary vote on the bill, originally set for Friday, March 19, would have set the bill for confirmation on March 30, and authorized enforcement as early as Oct. 1.

Opposition from manga creators quickly materialized. Ashita no Joe/Tomorrow’s Joe manga artist Tetsuya Chiba was among artists and writers who held a press conference on March 15 to protest this move toward censorship, releasing a statement whose many signatories reportedly included such manga-world notables as Fujiko Fujio A (Doraemon), Moto Hagio (the 61-year-old founding mother of shojo manga/manga for girls) and Rumiko Takahashi (InuYasha).

In my book, Japanamerica, I argue that Japanese popular culture—manga and anime in particular—is attractive in part because it feels freer, less fettered by focus groups and financial reports. Taboos about violence, sexuality or racial imagery can be directly confronted in forms that have for decades flown under the proverbial radar. Japanese pop culture is cheap to make and distribute, and is marginal in character and by nature—more like anarchic punk music than corporate products such as Disney films.

Hence the inevitable paradox: What happens when Japanese popular culture becomes truly popular beyond the borders of a tiny archipelago in the North Pacific? Can the rest of the world embrace a creative product defined in part by its provincial nature, and usually intended for local audiences only?

Years ago, as a boy brought to Japan by my Japanese mother, I found a throwaway manga on a train seat. I flipped through it as my mother chatted with her friend. The erotic images were stirring, so much so that I put the phonebook-sized comic back where I found it, lest my mother and her friend catch me reading it.

Today, I find my youthful shame shameful. I wish I had been able to share the images with my mother to explore their meanings intelligently. I recall an office lady with her skirt hitched up and an adorably pillowish face.

At the same time, I recognize that images of childlike sexuality are potentially damaging. Even as I believe Handley, an American otaku who mail-ordered thousands of manga from Japan, only 12 of which were cited in U.S. courts as obscene, deserves more lenience, I do understand that not every child has discriminating adult guardians.

“Pedophiles frequently use realistic cartoon depictions to indoctrinate their child victims to persuade them that such [sexual] acts are okay,” says Jake Adelstein, author of Tokyo Vice and a board member of Polaris Project Japan, an organization that combats human trafficking in Japan and the sexual exploitation of women and children. “When this stuff is legal, you’re giving pedophiles a weapon.”

But is it the fault of manga and anime artists that their work is being appropriated by criminals? Hollywood films regularly glamorize war—but are wars Hollywood’s fault? And if manga and anime depictions of youthful sexuality are outlawed in Japan and the United States, will that really deter pedophiles?

I discussed this question with writers and artists in Japan and the United States, most of whom argued persuasively that works of the imagination, however they may fly in the face of social norms, need to be protected. “[The bill] is a poorly thought-out response to foreign criticism,” says Dreamland Japan author and manga authority Frederik L. Schodt.  “There have been disturbing trends in Japanese manga and anime for many years now, and many people have been willing to overlook them, but as pop-culture globalization progresses, these trends are harder to ignore.”  Manga artist Yoshitoshi Abe writes: “Humankind has been entrusted with power, but if we abuse that power to do away with things that we do not like, then we will give birth to a sterilized society.”

It’s hard for me to argue otherwise, as sympathetic as I am to concerns about child-abuse cases. If we can’t commit our imaginations to paper—and now, to digital readers, which is where manga will be found soon–where else can we go?

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18 Responses to “Manga, Anime and Trans-cultural Censorship”

  1. Mike Hunter says:

    ————————
    “Pedophiles frequently use realistic cartoon depictions to indoctrinate their child victims to persuade them that such [sexual] acts are okay,” says Jake Adelstein, author of Tokyo Vice and a board member of Polaris Project Japan, an organization that combats human trafficking in Japan and the sexual exploitation of women and children. “When this stuff is legal, you’re giving pedophiles a weapon.”
    ————————-

    I like the oxymoronity of “realistic cartoon depictions”!

    And, don’t pedophiles often use offers of sweets to lure children off? “When candy is legal, you’re giving pedophiles a weapon!”

    Why, that old “Big Rock Candy Mountain” song was sometimes used by horny hobos to lure kids off for unsavory ends:

    ————————
    The song was first recorded in 1928 by Harry McClintock….Before recording the song, McClintock cleaned it up considerably from the version he sang as a street busker in 1897. Originally the song described a child being recruited into hobo life by tales of the “big rock candy mountain”. Such recruitment actually occurred, with hobos enchanting children with tales of adventure…In proof of his authorship of the song, McClintock published the original words, the last stanza of which was:

    The punk rolled up his big blue eyes
    And said to the jocker, “Sandy,
    I’ve hiked and hiked and wandered too,
    But I ain’t seen any candy.
    I’ve hiked and hiked till my feet are sore
    And I’ll be damned if I hike any more
    To be buggered sore like a hobo’s whore
    In the Big Rock Candy Mountains.”

    In the released version this verse did not appear. Sanitized versions have been popular…
    ————————
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_Rock_Candy_Mountain

    Let’s go after those seductive songs next…!

    (More comments on this madness at the “man gets 6 months in prison for manga collection” thread: http://archives.tcj.com/messboard/viewtopic.php?t=7422 .)

  2. tetsudc says:

    There’s something about the relativist take on the assessment of the warning quoted, referring exactly to the bit about said manga being utilitarian to pedophiles in their purported task. The depiction through a medium that is exposed publicly as nearing the world of the infantile, medium being the keyword here, is strong as means of communicating the supposed correctness of the act the pedophile wishes to commit against the child. That is to say, while candy may lure kids, seeing that a child-like cartoon is having sex, where sex is not appreciated as a dreadful act (all in all, sex is not an issue in this theoretical child I’m assuming to be the object of desire, and I say that not lightheartedly, for sex can be seen, through this optic again, as an unknown, shadowy motion and just that) may soften their consciousness over being naked with an older stranger. Imagine a pedophile using modified Barney tapes where Barney gets to act as a sexual channeler, so to speak and you get a similar focus (though dirtier, I think).
    All I’m saying is, there is no point in hiding behind logical fallacies when facing an issue of this magnitude.

    But I’m drifting right now (about the subject of the article, that is).

    Opposition towards a law that regulates this is not to be taken lightly: stopping narrative of whatever kind for moral purposes seems an abhorrent act of times long gone. However, taking a stand for freedom of speech certainly doesn’t seem too far from taking a stand for the reign of capitalism as the monster of consumerism (as seen in some sort of soft Marxist light, of course), where market shares are imperatives instead of narrative creativity itself. There is relativity here too, anyway. Moral tastes aside, Super Taboo, for instance, doesn’t seem to be an act of grandiloquent storytelling or craft or whatever. It may be reduced to manga for plot and pornography over the boundaries of social norms (or even Ethics). But I don’t really feel like being reductive. It does depict an idea of a market share for publishers and editors and creators themselves, but there’s no real way to judge it beyond critical analysis that is reduced to certain contexts, which typically don’t fit with that of law or pragmatics.

    So, I question this myself: is defending freedom of creating the same as defending freedom of spreading? Is the law able to set boundaries of age for reading? (and if so, would kids be ever able to read any Bukowski, who comes as a nice and handy example right now, though incomplete (lacking a graphical referent)?)

    The idea of the Comics Code Authority comes in flooding too now. Moral boundaries of times past are not always good companions to the current age, and surely a consensus can’t be reached. But really, I’m confused now. Using the word cartoon implies that indeed all comic (or, in this case, and just to look cool right here, manga) is directed towards an open public. Logistics indicate otherwise, but the issue of pragmatical use of said manga (that depicts kids doing things etc.) stands for a while. I’m not taking a position here, except when it comes to legal control of individuality, the wrongness of tying authorities to the individual and, just to say it, mind/soul control (and that must be made clear in order to avoid the opening and plausible attack it could generate).

    I’m not sure the issue of trans-cultural censorship is tackled at all really, and my guess is no, but there’s tons to talk about here.

    • Simon_Jones says:

      Isolating this argument to the possible uses of such material as a tool for grooming, is itself a reductive act. For pragmatism to rule the day, we must consider the actual results, the net benefit or harm in totality, not just thought games and logical assumptions, which are as often false as they are correct. (Otherwise, what need is there for science and research?)

      Those few scientists, those pragmatic fellows who dared to tread into this minefield, find that there is a net benefit to porn, even of the most dreadful variety:

      http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/57169/

      • Claudio Rodríguez says:

        Well, let’s just observe the crime rates in the Netherlands to pragmatically accept the fact that direct sexual stimulus for commerce is seemingly positive in the rate of sexual crimes (so far from the ideally sexy crimes).
        It is not that I want to reduce my argument to (the practical use of porn material for pedophiles). I had hoped for it in my ramblings to be rather clear that the rhetoric I was using was headed that way.
        (I believed though I made no straw man arguments, just tumultuous considerations!)
        I have to consider, when reading the link you posted, the immediate dismissal of offenders using porn as nothing indicative of value (because men, you know, they use porn all the time). Interesting take, I guess, but a bit conformist (on the article, that is).
        I have not devised this as a matter of Scientific Research vs the Conundrum of Mixed Ethics: profusely it adds objectivity to a possible solution. Which is funny anyway because it implies an specific approach of problem-solving where many approaches can be taken. So porn is good. Logical games aside, porn is good. Scientifically good. Is that good enough on a sociological basis? (I have no clue. My money is on mixed perceptions.)
        As could be the case with spree killers and religion, there can be a connection. But I don’t want that connection to rule the dicta of law.
        I’m not sure that the ethical construction of society (or, let’s just say, context) would allow for Science to rule morality. Looks like a dead-end to me, but a good point towards the argumentation of allowing the controlled spreading of pornography, which in the end, takes us back to the controlling state and the forces that establish such moral basis. Based on science, of course!
        (Just for the sake of obtuseness, let me say more dumb things: the lack of correlation between sex crimes and pornography may only be the scientists’ fault, which only leads me to think about metal in pipes and a reference to Pictures for Sad Children. But I guess too correlation is a contextual thing. Like, maybe.)

        • Simon_Jones says:

          >sexy crimes

          Ah, something we can all agree on!

          >Is that good enough on a sociological basis?

          I wouldn’t know either, except it’s hard for me to imagine something more important a social good than the reduction of actual crimes in the physical world, outside of things that no legal system with an interest in fairness has business meddling in.

          >As could be the case with spree killers and religion, there can be a connection. But I don’t want that connection to rule the dicta of law.

          Nor should conjured fears and hypothetical phantoms, which I feel serve as the base behind most censorship movements.

          >I’m not sure that the ethical construction of society (or, let’s just say, context) would allow for Science to rule morality.

          I’m not suggesting such. As mostly a value system imparted from parent to child, science holds no more sway over morality than logic. However, science should inform *legal* ethics, because law ought to be concerned with tangible results.

        • Claudio Rodríguez says:

          Oh Simon you read my mind. No, but I felt like saying so. Hypothetical phantoms are truly one thing to fear. And once again I am in no way kidding. For first, phantoms are always hypothetical, in a reality-taken-as-context-without-perceived-Relativism, and as such, they are devised as inventions of articulate sectors with certain power (let’s say power, it fits here) over communication (or through it) that serve agendas. And second because they reflect the worst of beliefs when applied to reality-taken-as-context-without-perceived-Relativism. Wow, I said to myself I wouldn’t type that again but I did anyway. Man. So yeah, the thesis that depictions of children having sex and whatnot with adults, in an uncritical approach, as I stated previously, are plausible tools of destruction in hands of certain people is not valid. And yeah, it is only rational to think that way, beyond mass tormenting by personnel of the communication conglomerates that would say otherwise. It was never valid as such.
          I believe I should come outright and say that my argument is based on the business of publishing and spreading, not the actual creation of these works.
          Facing the issue previous to the post itself: the Police State that pushed for jail time over this fellow who had his manga removed from him, which led him to be accused of being a corrupted/corrupter is dumb. Dumb because no actual crime happened. I bet many forums already discussed the “but what if he were a pedophile?”. Tricky. So even if these particular manga didn’t make his head numb with passion, the law could make it seem so. Examples to overcome this argument are abundant, though mainly dealing with violence and the effect of relief. Sex is not violence though (oh, that’s another tricky issue; all I’m sayin’ here is, there’s a sense of definition between the both of them and we could treat them separately because, you know, context), and the precedent is sorely ineffective when it comes to the issue of child abuse.
          Child abuse. Man.
          This guy, this child-porn-manga fellow, didn’t do that. He had pictures of drawings of something that resembled that. I don’t think the right question here is why did he have such things. Instead, another model of thought is necessary. First, an evaluation (where Science could do some good). Is there any good in the existence of said work? Second, an apology: Is there a reason why it was created?
          But that won’t cut it, and it can’t. It’s wrong. That’s no model of thought!
          Tangible results: I like that.
          Privatization too, but only because I need to use that word. Once again I think of publishers and business that work directly for the publishing of said stories. I’m fairly certain there’s a degree of incomparable comparison between, to use my previous references, Bukowski and Super Taboo. Craft? Motivation? Artistry? Maybe all of them. I don’t think Super Taboo should be banned (just for the record). All I think is why. And man this is weird. But I can sense the stimulus of the forbidden. After all, Super Taboo can be redeemed as a series that try to destroy sexual patterns by proclaiming free desire. Yet, that’s my discourse, not the book’s.
          There’s something unpleasing about that. Maybe correctness. Protecting speech is peremptory as it is. I don’t think that should be taken lightly. Responsibilities and all, you know.

  3. Mike Hunter says:

    ——————–
    tetsudc says:
    …while candy may lure kids, seeing that a child-like cartoon is having sex, where sex is not appreciated as a dreadful act…may soften their consciousness over being naked with an older stranger. Imagine a pedophile using modified Barney tapes where Barney gets to act as a sexual channeler, so to speak and you get a similar focus…All I’m saying is, there is no point in hiding behind logical fallacies when facing an issue of this magnitude…
    ——————–

    Certainly, comics with underage kids in perverse scenarios may be employed to make those acts seem less (from a kid’s point of view) …icky.

    So, are we then going to ban anything which might be used for harmful effects? Let’s ban alcoholic beverages, which – as “Jesus Juice” – Michael Jackson offered the boys who shared his bed; which have been employed since time immemorial to make women too tipsy to resist sexual advances; let’s ban guns, with which law-abiding folks accidentally shoot their teenage kids sneaking home from a late date; which their children find in unlocked drawers, tragedy resulting.

    There is no “logical fallacy” here; merely awareness that a “cure may be worse than the disease”; that, in order to protect from a possible, relatively rare scenario, significant freedoms are curtailed.

    What about all the books, films and comics showing the underage committing violent acts: murder, mutilation? “Lord of the Flies”? Those “Bad Seed” movies? Wouldn’t they “soften their consciousness” about performing such acts?

    Dickens has a lot to answer for, then: his “Oliver Twist” shows camaraderie amongst thieving young kids; their success in surviving in those Victorian “mean streets” through crime…

  4. Claudio Rodríguez says:

    On the personal side, the banning of guns doesn’t bother me. Again, personally.
    Carrying the argument to the extreme is the depiction of a fallacy (logical or not aside). I am not concerned, merely though for discussion-wise reasons, with guns nor alcohol, but with the use of pornographic representations to manifest the act of sex as acceptable for a child, making it thus coercion.
    The discussion, on first thought, doesn’t move towards the possibility of such depictions (under this reasoning, they are permitted as natural and necessary), but to the apprehension towards the consumer and the need to regulate market shares and demographics. Say, impose models of age-restricted policies all over publishers (CCA coming to my mind again). That could work, on a political basis.
    However, the problem still lies there. Let’s take the extreme argumentative measures seen before and have fun with them. Alcohol is regulated and so are guns. And even music is. But muggings, rapes and music-induced group aggression still happens. The problem maybe doesn’t stand in the objects but in the ineffective regulation of the items set to regulate. Or maybe not, maybe the problem is the consumer of the product, uninformed as is. Oh, let’s blame it on education then. Lack of knowledge on how alcohol acts, when it comes to behavioral patterns that is, surely makes kids drink more and have accidents or rape other drunk girls. Isn’t that inflammatory? The lack of education? So taking it back to representative narrative, so to speak, the lack of distinction on consumers about, say, Semiotics and Aesthetics, for instance could be a great instance to avoid seeing the accident, or see the rapist (who uses these representations as tools, of course) in a better light (or not, I mean, just to blame him for his act and not his ‘foreplay’, his pragmatic approach to the problematic presented to him). Or something.
    But that’s all on the Theoretically-Fun side, I guess.
    Now I face, mentally, another problematic: the idea of exposing the private perversion (once again, so to speak) in public. Like, reading Joyce’s letters to Nora, man, those sure are nasty pornographic pieces. And yet, they are private and non-harmful as they are. Are they?

    I don’t agree with complete restriction. That’s why I used Bukowski in my previous post. But we can move to mundane stuff too. Black Sabbath had to stand in front of the law because of an alleged music-induced suicide. Surely Black Sabbath isn’t to blame. They were making music (good or bad, that doesn’t really matter I guess). The problem was that parents didn’t really get to help their kid to be happier. I don’t really see how to apply this to a pedophile who uses any sort of medium to act as a modulator of his desires towards a child.
    I’m less concerned with authorities than I am with publishers though. Political power means nothing when it comes to facing an issue as this one. Economical power, though, is a whole different slice of a pie of harmed Ethics.
    I suppose the publisher is to blame when he gets his hand into marketing works that depict in an uncritical view acts that are ethically reprehensible. Yet: context. (Now I feel like tackling, incidentally, the main topic of the post, but we can get to that later.)
    Let’s use a theoretical pedophile for this thought now anyway. One with good taste in film and literature. So he gets the kid to enter his place and tries to lure him, to act this secret out (a secret they will keep as partners). But he despises manga with uncritical views of sexual matters. So he wants to have sex with the children, but at the same time is flamboyant enough to show him a work he considers of higher artistic aims and merits. So he goes to his collection and picks, say, Hard Candy, which partly fits his situation, and which is, for him, a great film (jokes aside about the quality of this film; I guess my lack of creativity has brought us to this point now, though I must confess I love the Blonde Redhead song in this movie). And the child is now totally scared about it. So there’s consciousness in the pedophile’s room, and now there’s no chance in hell the kid won’t tell. I’m not sure if that will stop the cravings of the pedophile though. (Come to think about it, said consciousness could even be dangerous to the kid, what with fighting back and all.)
    (Mind you, I’m not making jokes about this thing. I’m exposing points and trying to sound nice and fun. It’s a complex business that of writing about touchy subjects.)
    Going back to the publishers though, it’s hard to see an uncritical approach to this subject being published by a money-grubbing corporation as Shogakukan, I guess. And it’s not rare for them to publish good stuff. I mean, Red Colored Elegy is great. Going back to Super Taboo, as I recheck it, I see it was published by Megarotica. Megarotica? Really?
    Is this then a business based problem? In a way.
    Is the decision of making a law to stop people from publishing such work good or bad? I guess it’s mostly bad, because of the possible restrains it will create under extremely subjective ideals that deal directly with politics and not with art/narrative/deontological ethics. I’m not gonna carry this to the point of saying ‘heck, the problem lies within civilization’ anyway. That would be nonsensical.
    Ethics is a scary business when it comes to, well, business practices. And questioning artistry is scary too!
    So I guess anyway, one of the issues here, that shouldn’t be forgotten, could deal not with the creation of objects that depict this or that, but with the publishing and spreading, right? But then, any rather talented (or crafty) pedophile could do his own manga which could work as, well, the thing he would’ve bought instead.
    Truthfully, the problem here (in this topic) seems complex when the cure can indeed be harsher than the disease. But I don’t see this as a matter of extreme and explicit duality. And I don’t want to seem absolut(ish) with my sort-of-reply. I just think that there’s too much to talk about this subject here!

    • Simon_Jones says:

      Super Taboo is published in the US under the label “Mangerotica.” The actual publisher is – dun dun dun! – Fantagraphics.

  5. MangaBlog says:

    […] Kelts sees global convergence in the Christopher Handley case and the proposed Tokyo law that would outlaw drawings of children […]

  6. […] Kelts sees global convergence in the Christopher Handley case and the proposed Tokyo law that would outlaw drawings of children […]

  7. Mike Hunter says:

    —————–
    Claudio Rodríguez says:
    This guy, this child-porn-manga fellow, didn’t do that. He had pictures of drawings of something that resembled that.
    —————–

    Moreover, it’s not as if he had a collection focused on that subject; but one in which, incidentally, questionable work occasionally appeared.

    Amid the hundreds of books I have at home (many more in storage), are a couple of tomes surveying the field of nude photography. No, this is not “Playboy”-type fare; we’re dealing with surveys of the field from serious photographers like Edward Weston, Stieglitz, and Lartigue, on to Mapplethorpe.

    One of these books, “The Naked and the Nude – A History of the Nude in Photographs 1839 to the Present,” has a chapter, “The Furtive Nude,” which features early photographic porn (mild examples chosen), along with several photos of underage girls. Some by Lewis Carroll; a sullen-eyed “French child prostitute”; some postcards of young girls, also in the buff. (The prose part of the chapter describes the appalling Victorian-era traffic in “virgin trading,” because of that society’s emphasis on innocence and purity. “Hence the frequent marriages of men with girls of fourteen and less.”)

    The thing is, would happening to have a book which showed this stuff, lead to one’s arrest, prosecution, being known as a “child-porn-photography fellow”? I’d guess to be safe, one would need to slash out and burn the pages in question…

    ——————
    Lack of knowledge on how alcohol acts, when it comes to behavioral patterns that is, surely makes kids drink more and have accidents or rape other drunk girls.
    ——————

    An online extract from the Feb. 15th “New Yorker” article of “Annals of Anthropology” article mentions how such the blame for destructive behavior can be laid at the feet of cultural patterns rather than the chemical. “Drinking Games”…

    ——————
    …considers the ways that alcohol abuse had traditionally been addressed in our culture: as a moral failing, as a disease, or as a public-policy tool. In the nineteen-fifties, however, the researchers at the Yale Center of Alcohol Studies found something lacking in this approach. They had noticed that members of New Haven’s Italian-American community were admitted to the Yale alcohol-treatment clinic in much smaller number than members of the town’s Irish-American community, despite the Italian-Americans’ consumption of comparable quantities of alcohol….

    [The article] Describes the ritualized drinking parties [Dwight Heath, a graduate student in anthropology] and his wife had attended almost every weekend in Bolivia. The Camba did not drink alone. They did not drink on work nights. And they only drank within the structure of their elaborate ritual. An analysis of the rum the Camba drank revealed it to be a hundred and eighty proof. And yet there was no social pathology among the Camba-no arguments, no disputes, no sexual aggression, no verbal aggression. There was no alcoholism. Anthropologists Craig MacAndrew and Robert B. Edgerton observed, “Persons learn about drunkenness what their societies import to them, and comporting themselves in consonance with these understandings, they become living confirmations of their society’s teachings.”
    —————–
    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/02/15/100215fa_fact_gladwell

    ——————
    Claudio Rodríguez says:
    Black Sabbath had to stand in front of the law because of an alleged music-induced suicide. Surely Black Sabbath isn’t to blame. They were making music (good or bad, that doesn’t really matter I guess). The problem was that parents didn’t really get to help their kid to be happier.
    ——————

    Goethe’s “The Sorrows of Young Werther” “…reputedly also led to some of the first known examples of copycat suicide. The ‘Werther Fever’ was watched with concern by the authorities and fellow authors…” ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sorrows_of_Young_Werther )

    “…In that work the hero shoots himself after an ill-fated love, and shortly after its publication there were many reports of young men using the same method to commit suicide. This resulted in a ban of the book in several places. Hence the term ‘Werther effect’, used in the technical literature to designate copycat suicides…”
    ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copycat_suicide )

    That “parents didn’t really get to help their kid to be happier” comment ties in with the fact that pedophiles routinely prey upon children who are neglected, feeling unloved; offering them (as bait on the hook) a substitute for the caring affection these kids desperately crave.

    God forbid parents should be forced to be loving and attentive to their children, teach them to beware dubious attention, even if it comes from a family member or friend; far better to demonize and attack external factors.

    ——————–
    I’m less concerned with authorities than I am with publishers though. Political power means nothing when it comes to facing an issue as this one. Economical power, though, is a whole different slice of a pie of harmed Ethics.
    ———————

    As with Marvel quickly falling all over itself to apologize for allegedly offending Teabaggers in that “Captain America” issue; as with the comic book industry rushing to regulate itself with the Comics Code; the fear of possible financial loss can lead publishers to be far more Draconian in imposing restrictions than government or laws would be.

    • Claudio Rodríguez says:

      It’s good, I guess, that we agree in some points, as it implies better communication. Or I guess we’re agreeing here, maybe I’m rather dazed in my brains.
      About the alcohol part: clearly! And indeed! Societal issues that stem from sources potentially harmful are always in the edge of becoming the demons that scare away self-control as the long-term issue. But that’s all part of the rational beings and their educative acts on time. However, for argument here, I don’t see the scientific paradigm as indicative of correctness either (I think I might have said that in another comment). Turning tables around and all now: authorities mostly play by the immediate-ban rule (a thing to be loathed by some, yes), what with their time as powerful entities being limited and image-conscious. So power is about immediateness, not long-term decisions. (Which is garbage, for sure.)
      I wouldn’t blame Goethe for those copycat suicides, and I’m surely not blaming Black Sabbath for that kid’s suicide (which, in the end, surely was painful for his parents, and I mean that: the results of a transitional generation facing the elderly as quasi-abstractions of loosely bequeathed knowledge that doesn’t seem useful in the light of new economic policies, the frustration of impossible communication, all that, it just is terrible). But I can’t say I blame context either. That’d be like blaming Goethe for killing indirectly those suffering young lads. So really, is there someone to blame in all this? Maybe the suicidal people (which wouldn’t make sense at all). I’m rambling though. Potentially, society is dealing directly with thousands of dangerous objects which are also cultural. Kinda like that awful song by Poison, you know, Every Rose Has Its Thorns (and obviously the original expression, which isn’t as awful nor as funny).
      But then, and without going back again to the holder of the secret pornography as a subject (not just yet, that is), the exercise of control is perennial, a contextual thing too. Blatant restrictions add a harmful layer of desirability to the objects that are restricted, that’s something agreeable (and to be believed), so it’s no use in the short run.
      (Also, and just personally, despite me sounding ignorant, I’m not all that lacking education myself! No need for Wikipedia linking to the copycat suicide article, I’ve read that, like, some three times in the past! And man, linking to Goethe? It feels just so condescending!)
      It is, on principle now, a matter of responsibility. The wide awakening to freedom of sorts in a neoliberal state is imposed over the proposed bans. It’s not something to dwell on constantly.
      The creation of the CCA was an act of cowardice, because massive publications are regulated by economical means. It’s the not-so-massive that begin to be questioned. So Mangerotica/Megarotica/whatever is an imprint of Fantagraphics, which isn’t nearly as big as Marvel, but is big enough. So they probably don’t use the Fantagraphics name on them to cover their corporate bottoms, so to speak, from being accused of perverting this medium, still struggling for acceptance as a serious holder of the Canon-to-be-Preserved.
      Is this extremely kinky pornography the same as, say, fake snuff films? Probably not, as the direct resemblance impacts even more. Artistic merit, I guess, is what comes into mind (at least for me). Which, again, can’t be decided really in court.
      So the privately held institutionalization of censorship is bad too. Financial loss, that terrible Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, moves the market on a massive level anyway. Marvel won’t be publishing a lot of nasty stuff, because they fear the public (which is ridiculous, sure, but at least it leaves the door open to business, and that’s not really about being evil), but they still get to publish some good things from time to time.
      But the small publisher, or the independent creator, still gets to create whatever he wishes to do. And that’s perfect (not joking here). However, there’s no standard for being a creator of sorts. No need for education or craft, just the will to act upon an idea. That’s democratic, makes sense. Having it otherwise would be ridiculous and dystopian.
      So the uncritical creation fits and sits here. The lighthearted take on child erotica, even the moe thing that’s so cool with kids right now, is concurrently threatened by laws, when it should have been threatened by Aesthetics at some point. But this is post-colonialist talking, right here.
      (As a parallel, the issue of morality in Japanese depictions of whatever is touchy too. That resembles the subject at hand, trans-cultural censorship in the way it presents an issue of possible political dignity and protection-of-itself-and-the-public.)
      In proximity to the core of the issue rests the attempt to undertake censorship as a good deed. State/Economy controlled media that has a saying in morality is not a pretension, is more of a fact than theoretical approaches to a law under fairness.
      Now anyway I’m wondering how are these manga the alleged-pervert Chris Handley had. Were they any good? Is their presence factual because of the substance or the shape?
      These questions probably have no place in the debate, though I think they should. But not because the alleged-pervert should be blamed over it. It’s not really a matter of taste. And I don’t think those questions should be asked to see if condemning him is right or wrong, I’m away from that already. I guess the agreement is done, intellectually, on the condemn being shameful to any legal system that tries to be fair. I’m thinking these questions as part of my whole idea of the elemental necessity of said creations. Spiritual necessity on the creator’s side, maybe. That would work. A way to distract the creator’s unnatural feelings towards children, maybe. It’s not a compelling discussion except as a psychological observation.
      I can’t imagine a possible solution, but I’m gonna play, once again, with a theoretical background. No censorship, no self regulations. And wow, the scenery barely changes in my mind. Market does regulate distribution. So it’s in the end a matter of education, in my theoretical vision. Parents and schools educating children on aesthetics and ethics. Then normal people wouldn’t buy manga with pedophilia. Just the way it happens now. The argument of tools and pragmatical problem-solving for pedophiles is easy, but not really easier than it is now.
      So, more education on those two topics, then?
      Effective social distillation?
      It’s rather confusing, but still strongly interesting.

  8. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Roland Kelts, THE COMICS JOURNAL. THE COMICS JOURNAL said: Roland Kelts on Trans-cultural censorship @ tcj.com http://www.tcj.com/manga/manga-anime-and-trans-cultural-censorship […]

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  10. Mike Hunter says:

    ———————-
    Claudio Rodríguez says:
    It’s good, I guess, that we agree in some points, as it implies better communication…
    ——————–

    (???) Not necessarily; but, moving on…

    ——————–
    I wouldn’t blame Goethe for those copycat suicides, and I’m surely not blaming Black Sabbath for that kid’s suicide (which, in the end, surely was painful for his parents, and I mean that: the results of a transitional generation facing the elderly as quasi-abstractions of loosely bequeathed knowledge that doesn’t seem useful in the light of new economic policies, the frustration of impossible communication, all that, it just is terrible). But I can’t say I blame context either. That’d be like blaming Goethe for killing indirectly those suffering young lads. So really, is there someone to blame in all this? Maybe the suicidal people (which wouldn’t make sense at all)…
    ——————–

    I have no problem with slightly apportioning blame all around. If a creator glamorizes some destructive act, wouldn’t they be slightly – not that I necessarily think they should be held legally accountable in all cases – responsible if the young or stupid (but, I repeat myself) carry through on those acts, shown in fiction as jolly fun or So Beautifully Tragic, unpleasant consequences ignored or skimmed over?

    I certainly blame TV sitcoms for youngsters thinking having and raising a baby is no problem at all, and thus idiotically deciding to go ahead and have the things. What TV parents ever have to deal with 1/100th the brain-destroying drudgery of enslavement to a squalling, diaper-pooping grublet?

    And get a load of those ads for the National Guard, making serving look like some heroic fantasy warfare computer game, or music video. The reality being G.W. Bush’s endless redeployment in Iraq, and all the non-glamorous side to it.

    Surely many parents bear a degree of blame for their kids’ suicides, whether it’s from sheer incompetence or messed-up destructiveness in their child-rearing. (One thing conservatives and liberals can agree on, is that anyone – no matter how imbecilic or screwed up – should be entitled to have as many kids as they feel like.)

    Plus, it’s been found that parents can pass on the “genes for depression”; while (naturally) those endowed by nature with an inherently sunny disposition can’t pass that on to their offspring.

    And, why “wouldn’t [it] make sense at all” to blame the suicidal people? I went through 25 years of suicidal depression, and, as cognitive therapy teaches (the ONLY therapy which has been proven to be effective in treating depression), it’s one’s patterns of subconscious, unchallenged negative thinking which create the emotional result of depression.

    ——————–
    (Also, and just personally, despite me sounding ignorant, I’m not all that lacking education myself! No need for Wikipedia linking to the copycat suicide article, I’ve read that, like, some three times in the past! And man, linking to Goethe? It feels just so condescending!)
    ——————–

    But, you are hardly the only person reading my comments. As with the TCJ message board, surely – hopefully – a wide range of ages and degrees of education are following this discussion. Hence, keeping in mind folks who may not know Goethe from Gertie, my links.

    Plus, some well-educated folks might have holes in their learning or faded memories about details. For instance, I either didn’t know or had forgotten that there had been “a ban of the book in several places.” But researching the case online informed me of that fact.

    ——————–
    Mangerotica/Megarotica/whatever is an imprint of Fantagraphics, which isn’t nearly as big as Marvel, but is big enough. So they probably don’t use the Fantagraphics name on them to cover their corporate bottoms, so to speak, from being accused of perverting this medium, still struggling for acceptance as a serious holder of the Canon-to-be-Preserved.
    ——————–

    Surely it wouldn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to fill zealous morality-crusading prosecutors or investigative journalists in that Mangarotica and Eros are but offshoots of Fantagraphics. Hell, even Kim and Gary, as memory serves, have lightly described themselves as “pornographers.”

    As with Fanta’s ill-fated (but quite fine) Monster Comics line ( http://www.milehighcomics.com/comicindex/Publisher-Monster-Comics–Fantagraphics–MON.html ), or DC’s Vertigo, it’s more a matter of distinctly labeling a publisher’s division which focuses on a particular product or approach for commercial purposes.

    ——————–
    Now anyway I’m wondering how are these manga the alleged-pervert Chris Handley had. Were they any good? Is their presence factual because of the substance or the shape?
    These questions probably have no place in the debate, though I think they should. But not because the alleged-pervert should be blamed over it. It’s not really a matter of taste. And I don’t think those questions should be asked to see if condemning him is right or wrong, I’m away from that already. I guess the agreement is done, intellectually, on the condemn being shameful to any legal system that tries to be fair. I’m thinking these questions as part of my whole idea of the elemental necessity of said creations. Spiritual necessity on the creator’s side, maybe. That would work. A way to distract the creator’s unnatural feelings towards children, maybe. It’s not a compelling discussion except as a psychological observation.
    ——————–

    I think the amount of works of art created out of “spiritual necessity” would fit in a flea’s navel. (OK, I’m exaggerating, but, proportionately…) Not knowing CH’s collection or the titles in question, one could guess that the works – as with most comics – were a mixture of creativity with “crank out product to pay the bills”-type attitudes.

    There certainly are plenty of respectable reasons for creators to feature such stuff: Nabokov’s study of a hopelessly screwed-up, doomed, and self-destructive passion would hardly retain its transgressive qualities were Humbert Humbert to be simply a gay guy enamored of “consenting adult”-age chaps…

    Or, to express moral condemnation of how innocence can be brutalized, selfishly used with no regards for the damage that would be wrought upon it, the abuse of a child would be an appropriate subject.

    ———————
    I can’t imagine a possible solution, but I’m gonna play, once again, with a theoretical background. No censorship, no self regulations. And wow, the scenery barely changes in my mind. Market does regulate distribution. So it’s in the end a matter of education, in my theoretical vision. Parents and schools educating children on aesthetics and ethics. Then normal people wouldn’t buy manga with pedophilia. Just the way it happens now…
    ———————

    “…Then normal people wouldn’t buy manga with pedophilia”? Do you have to be a perv to appreciate “Lolita”? Is manga with pedophilia automatically devoid of any other qualities which would make a non-pedo able to appreciate it?

    Can’t remember the creator’s name nor recall the exact titles of his books (his most famed work is about a girl abused by the other members of a sinister circus, owned by a dapper, bearded midget who becomes her lover), but the two works by this manga-ka strongly suggest he has less-than-wholesome attitudes towards very young girls. Yet, he’s talented, creepily imaginative; his art is stylish. His comics have more than sufficient qualities to appeal to those with mainstream sexual interests.

    An article on “A belated attempt to curb a pernicious form of child pornography” ends with:
    ——————–
    The push for tighter rules is led by Shintaro Ishihara, the conservative governor of Tokyo, who made his name in the 1950s as the author of salacious novels, involving sex among minors, that his own legislation might outlaw.
    ——————-
    Hah! (Just Google the quote to find the link)

    And, those interested in more details on what led to this push for censorship of Manga in Japan can Google “Censorship and Manga – Striking the Balance.” The article mentions how…
    ——————
    In Japan, some people say that manga has affected people negatively. One example of this is the Miyazaki Tsutomu incident in 1989. Tsutomu Miyazaki, a 26-year-old male, mutilated and murdered four girls between the ages of four to seven over the course of a year…After he was caught, the media searched his background and found that he stored nearly 6,000 videos in his room.

    To explain why there were so many videos in Miyazaki’s room, the media labeled him an ‘otaku’, and implied a relationship between his maniac collection of videos and his murders. Though the implication was between movies and murder, Miyazaki was labeled an ‘otaku’, and elements associated with otaku culture, such as manga, also were claimed to be detrimental to the mental health of children..
    —————–

    So, instead of focusing on his video collection, comics were blamed…

    • Claudio Rodríguez says:

      I have the voluptuous feeling, almost exploding, that I must first comment on your specific point about the so-called normal folks. Surely there was a tiny bit or irony implanted in my words, so don’t take them all that seriously (about normality and averages, that is). Now anyway, the point I wanted to make was not about normal people (I know you are not focusing in that either, I guess), but about the child porn erotica books. I have made a theoretical approach that is binomial, as I have talked throughly about the “uncritical” take, which we seem to share in some borders, at least as some sort of concept, given your remark about those nasty TV shows and all that. So in any case I’m attacking, partly, the uncritical. Lolita is one fine piece of literature, and I guess there are instances where a manga that takes a revisionist approach towards sexuality and children can be seen as a fine work too. But with that said, I feel I’m going back to points previously made, and I hate being all this cyclical about my ramblings.

      This is leading me now to think about pornography, the evident retaliation against shame and hidden desire. And I’m not talking about its legality, nor about the morality that shifts its core definition in a given context. Child pornography- using the word pornography in a crass manner now -carries yet another form of meaning, an ambivalent contortion of the stances of “universal morality” (which move with political trends, I guess). The rationale for a proposal avoiding erectile transgressions over children is truncated by the relative creativity and motivation for works that present them. But that hardly makes sense because censors don’t tend to distinguish toes from fingers (at least when it comes to their view on a historical basis, even considering the satiric position that can be seen over them in time). Righteousness is a call for anger on the creative side, I sure know, but there is in the end an issue, and I’m not even sure it lies in aesthetics now. It probably never did.

      I remember that case, the Otaku Murderer as he was called. I’m not certain his case affected in any order the production of violent graphic material in Japan (it probably didn’t, but that’s a bold claim on my side), so the argument coming from the Real Otaku (so to speak) was that they were put under the box of plausible-serial-killers-and-crazy-pervs (who lack social skills, of course). Which was rather unfair, and it probably still plays a good part on the Japanese industry.

      (I remember this show a friend showed to me about a hikikomori guy who decided to leave his apartment to get a new job, triggered by the eyes of a cute and young girl. The problem I hadwith this anime, Welcome to the NHK I believe was its name, was that, at least from what I saw, there was still an enormous idea of contempt towards the male, young consumer of such material, despite trying to break the mold in the plot. But it was an OK show, I think.)

      A society that can regulate itself doesn’t need regulation agencies. There are still black voids in that thought, exceptions of mentally ill nature. But that’s, again, a discussion of the psychological order.

      So the educational system in general tackles the issue conservatively. Meaning, they take a morally easy fort and hold to it, passing it along instead of openly accepting and recontextualizing morals to current trends of thought. Eep, I say. It’s not easy facing education as politics now. But that’s what it seems: when moral dicta from times marginally different take over reality, it can cause a mess on the creative order.

      A question to ask is about the effectiveness of such regulations and their value. Would then a law to prevent the creation and spreading of uncritical works of pornography and violence (just to name what bothers the public, and again with my little iron of irony) actually work in what its ideal has defined as correct? That is, would passing such laws would stop current pedophiles from messing with little boys and girls? Probably not. Would it stop theoretical perverts from becoming real perverts? Depends on their chronology. Nature vs nurture could be the debate here.

      And part of that debate now centers on Godzilla vs King Kong and their standards of correctness about penile disturbances over children. Chess sets of righteousness develop in a communicative State now, hence the political nature of lawful claims to prevent creation of works that do this or that. The trans-cultural censorship thing. Mixed reactions of nature vs nurture dance in my mind, given the cultural syncretism of Japan. Avoiding post-colonialist exclamations of anger is essential at times, but also doubtful when it is a society regulating itself now. Not because one can think “it’s all lost now”, but because there’s a sense of solipsism in thinking that Japan shouldn’t regulate itself because the States is doing it. Copycat regulators. Heh.