Sunday, December 5, 2010

"Regulations on manga

"The Tokyo metropolitan government submitted a bill to revise an ordinance to strengthen regulations on depictions of sex specifically in manga and anime.

"It modified a bill rejected by the assembly in June and redefined subjects of regulation as those that "unjustly praise and exaggerate unlawful sexual acts and sex between close family members."

"Once again, manga artists, lawyers and organizations such as the Japan P.E.N. Club strongly oppose the proposal, saying it gives the administration too much leeway to arbitrarily exercise control at its discretion and will shrink back creative activities.

"An existing ordinance already stipulates that "books and magazines that stimulate sexual feelings and could hamper sound growth must not be sold or shown to 'seishonen' (young adults and children)."

"The governor is authorized to admonish publishers and others to take necessary measures and designate "harmful publications." Those that fall under the category of "obscene materials" are subject to control under criminal law. Manga is by no means uncontrolled.

"But the Tokyo government says the existing ordinance is inadequate. It is true that some manga makes us cringe, and many people think such publications must be kept out of the reach of children.

"However, the propriety of making the rules for that and leaving their implementation to the administration are problems that must be considered separately.

"The bill has to do with "freedom of expression," which is considered one of the most important basic human rights. First, the reasonable thing is to respect voluntary measures by concerned parties.

"Publishers and bookstores are establishing committees with the participation of outside experts and imposing voluntary regulations, such as marking materials considered inappropriate for young people, keeping them on special shelves in bookstores and putting them in bags or sealing them with tape.

"We urge them to listen to diversified opinions and continue to make efforts at exercising self-restraint. Currently, the Japanese term seishonen applies to 7-year-olds as well as 17-year-olds. This is unreasonable.

"Also in order to resolve this problem, we want publishers and bookstores to consider the introduction of labeling that takes into account the readers' age.

"While there may be creative expressions that split opinions, there are manga that we want young people to read.

"In "Kaze to Ki no Uta" (The song of wind and trees), Keiko Takemiya depicted sexual love between boys and sexual relations between father and son. While publishers feared complaints, Takemiya wrote it to get across to girls the problem of sex. The late psychologist Hayao Kawai, who served as commissioner for cultural affairs, lauded the manga, saying, "It fully expressed the internal world of adolescent girls."

"The manga is still being read widely. However, if the proposed revision is taken at face value, "Kaze to Ki no Uta" would be subject to regulation without question and would not reach teenage readers.

"In the past, a manga that Osamu Tezuka (1928-1989), who was also a medical doctor, wrote for sex education was treated as "harmful material."

"The Tokyo metropolitan government says it would not regulate such works. But we fear such decisions may be made arbitrarily by the administration. Tokyo also says the proposed regulation does not apply to creating manga. However, manga is also an industry, and pressure on distribution could easily have an impact on expression.

"In order not to restrict the freedom of expression of future Tezukas and Takemiyas and keep opportunities open for children to be moved by excellent, thought-provoking manga, we must be cautious about allowing public power to interfere."

By Asahi Shimbun (Editorial, 12/3/2010), Link to article (last visited 12/5/2010)

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