Tokyo and anime Bill 156: After more than 1 year and no real impact
James Jono, Hiroshi Saito and Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
The Governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, was adamant that Bill 156 would stem the tide of extreme sexual depictions of children in Japanese anime and manga. Other individuals countered that Bill 156 would infringe on artists and other forms of freedom by enforcing censorship throughout Tokyo. Therefore, both sides were extremely divided by the new measure which was introduced last year on July 1, 2011.
More than one year later in 2012 and it is clear that Bill 156 is either currently ineffective or that individuals with enforcement powers don’t believe that Bill 156 is being violated. Either way, the bullish comments about clamping down on extreme images of minors which can be found in some areas of Japanese anime and manga, appears not to have been materialized.
The Daily Yomiuri, one of the most powerful newspapers in Japan, commented in their article titled “No manga banned by Tokyo as too racy” comments that “One year since Tokyo’s youth protection ordinances were revised to prevent the sale of anime and manga containing extreme sexual content to minors, not one publication has been deemed unfit for consumption.”
“Ryokichi Yama, head of the editing ethics committee at the Japan Magazine Publishers Association, which has more than 90 domestic publishers among its members, said the Tokyo government has not applied the new standard to any publications because it is cautious.”
Shintaro Ishihara believes differently because according to him individuals who are in the trade related to sexual images, stories, graphics, and so on, are acting more responsible. Therefore, Shintaro Ishihara states that“Writers and publishers have started using common sense when it comes to publishing books.”
This statement appears rather mild given the comments made by Shintaro Ishihara prior to the enactment of Bill 156. More than likely, both sides have responded in a mutually beneficial way which will maintain the vibrancy of Japanese anime and manga. After all, racy anime and manga can easily be bought in Tokyo and given the mass complexities of regulating a vibrant industry then maybe the “economic impact” is also infringing on a clampdown? If so, this begs the question of enacting Bill 156 in the first place.
It must be stated that many artists, individuals who adore the sexual nature of Japanese anime and manga, organizations which support the freedom of speech and a host of other areas voiced their opposition to Bill 156. The reasons are varied but the main central theme is “civil liberties” because artistic freedom is essential in all societies which are modern. Also, it is argued that the extreme nature of parts of Japanese anime and manga are based on “fantasy,” “connecting to a-make-belief-world” and natural escapism. Therefore, the viewers clearly understand that the images they are watching are nothing more than manga, anime and harmless erotica. This implies that it isn’t depicting reality and given this fact it is complex to clampdown against unreality.
The ordinance passed by Shintaro Ishihara was aimed at sexual scenes related which depict rape, child marriage, sexual abuse of minors, incest, and other areas of concern. Supporters of Bill 156 believe that safety measures are needed in order to protect children and society from sexual predators. However, do individual who watch sexual anime and manga scenes go on and abuse children? This once more relates to Japanese anime and mange being based on fantasy characters and not real life images of children. The gap is enormous and clearly children are abused sexually all over the world but to point the finger at Japanese anime and manga would be extreme.
Also, the ordinance only applies to Tokyo and this in itself highlights that if Bill 156 was regulated tightly then local business in this area would just relocated to Saitama, Kanagawa and Chiba. It takes roughly 11 minutes by express train or semi-express train to reach Saitama prefecture from Ikebukuro in Tokyo. Likewise, you can reach Kanagawa very quickly from Shinjuku by using the Odakyu Line and so forth. Therefore, even if Bill 156 was effectual it would not be solving anything – if anything, it would be spreading the problem to other areas.
In a past article by Modern Tokyo Times it was stated that “Also, what if you buy animation which depicts rape, incest, and the abuse of minors, from an online company based in another part of Japan? Will this also become illegal? If so, then what measures can prevent packages from containing the newly banned material and if individuals download their new purchase online then are they breaking the law? “
International organizations point the finger at Japan but more than likely Japanese crime rates and abuse against children will compare favorably with any nation in the world. Also, in Saudi Arabia it is legal under Islamic Sharia law for old men of 60 years old and even older, to marry young girls of 8 years of age and 10 years of age. This also happens in other nations which abide by Islamic sharia law. Therefore, which is worse?
In Japan it is clear that young children are protected by Japanese law from being forced into marriages which they don’t understand. This is in stark contrast to nations like Saudi Arabia and Yemen where state sanctioned Islam allows children to get married to old men. Therefore, are nations claiming that child marriage in Saudi Arabia is leading to an epidemic of child abuse in this country?
Japanese anime and manga is based on fantasy, escapism, and other aspects, and clearly you have a very creative angle to the characters involved, even if people don’t agree to the context. If you had a firm link between child abuse and rape in the real world then artists would come under great pressure in Japan. Yet, unlike the reality of Saudi Arabia and child marriage, it is clear that Japanese anime and manga is based on “unreality.”
Therefore, the best solution is for a compromise between both parties and not to force this situation underground because this would be more dangerous. Also, if Tokyo began to take legal action against artists involved in making anime and manga, then this could open up “a can of worms” related to other subjects.