BBC: “Why hasn’t Europe banned caricatures of prophets?”

On the very same day as the terrorist attack against Charlie Hebdo, BBC published an article titled “Why hasn’t Europe banned caricatures of prophets?”. It begins like this:

Europe’s satire magazines are famous around the world. But some are shocking, featuring prophets in sexually explicit scenarios. Why has Europe decided against banning this material?

Shocking, eh? BBC suggesting, in the form of an upset question, that Europe restrict its freedom of expression. Read the whole piece here! And you’ll get my point.

CNN continues its lobbying against Japanese manga

CNN lobbies to ban drawings in Japan

Japan has now passed the law banning possession of child porn, which I wrote about recently. Sankaku Complex reports.

Apparently, this was not enough for the West, since sexually explicit drawings featuring young-looking characters are still legal in Japan. You know, the same way that drawings of Mohammed are legal in the USA, despite the Muslim world repeatedly has told the US how sinister they are.

CNN had apparently planned an undercover reportage for this special day. Read and shiver:

To see what’s being openly sold on Japanese shelves, CNN took a hidden camera to one of the many manga stores in the Akihabara district of Tokyo.

Down a set of stairs, there are rows and rows of manga, many containing popular themes and images. But five feet away, in an area marked “adults only,” the content took a sharp turn into shocking sex scenes, apparently involving minors.

Some of the predominantly female characters wore school uniforms, hair clips and innocent expressions as they engaged in sometimes violent sex acts with dominant characters.

To me, this sounds like a reporter from Uganda who comes to the West for the first time and reports back to his home country about the shocking GAY magazines sold openly and which s/he could photograph with a “hidden camera”. (By the way, look what I shot without using a “hidden camera”. But of course, using the word “hidden camera” makes it all sound a little bit more scary, almost like investigative journalism.)

A Japanese manga industry representative tries to explain the difference between reality and fantasy to the Ugandan American reporter:

He said the characters were imaginary, so unlike real child porn, no one was hurt.

“Actual children suffering and crying is not acceptable. But manga doesn’t involve actual children. So there are no actual victims,” he said.

He adds that if scientific research would show that there is a relation between drawings (fantasy) and sex abuse (reality), they would change their view and cooperate. But no scientific research has shown this.

As if that would matter.

The activist from the previous article is quoted again, saying she knows of one case where a “predator” used manga to convince a child that sex with adults was normal.

The reporter comments in the video reportage:

Despite those concerns, cartoons featuring sexual violence against kids will still be for sale on the streets of Japan, even if some fear those cartoons may be fueling the darkest desires of criminals.

An Australian manga expert says that some manga, especially lolicon, risks giving “the wrong impression of women”:

“If you’re looking at it all the time, how are you actually seeing people? Is it just a fantasy, or maybe some people with a bit of a wrong mind think that is actually there, and that is the way to treat women. So there is a risk,” she said.

With such strong arguments pro banning drawings, who needs research.

Update 1

This tweet sums up CNN’s view pretty well:


From Milkboys: CNN vs. Shota

Update 2

And here is the cover that CNN blurred:

Dolls Fall 2

David Cabrera comments:

The cover image is even suggestively blurred out below the neck to imply that a sex act is taking place. You can see the actual, rather normal, cover on Amazon.jp. Frankly, CNN didn’t even need to misrepresent a comic to find something damning in Melonbooks… but they did so anyway, which speaks to their standards.

Read more: CNN Vilifies Manga as Child Porn

Why am I even upset that an American news channel lies and vilifies? Why even bother? And the irony of it all is that if CNN would have their way with Japanese law, the result would probably be that real child sex abuse would increase, at least until it reached American levels. Studies show that availability of porn lowers the prevalence of sex crimes in a society, and the same should go for child porn. So what CNN and other advocates of stricter CP laws argue for, is more child sex abuse. Way to go. (Applause.) And while I’m at it, Japan’s homicide rate is less than one tenth of the American one.

Japan to criminalize possession of child pornography

Lolicon manga magazine covers as pictured in IDEA magazine, Japan.

The Japanese Sangiin (参議院 = House of Councillors = the senate) are expected to vote this month in favor of a law punishing possession of child pornography with up to one (1) year in prison.

As of now, it is legal to possess child porn in Japan.

CNN writes:

Although production and distribution have been banned for 15 years, Japan lags behind other major developed nations in forbidding people from simply holding the sinister material.

People who possess child porn will be given one year to dispose of their “sinister material” if the law passes. Yes, the CNN news report calls it “sinister”, but I won’t stop there. I will call it “devilish”! That will show that I am more upset than CNN, thus a better person. How you gonna counter this? Revolting, maybe?

CNN also mentions what they call a “loophole” in the law:

And it won’t cover the country’s popular manga (comic book) and anime (animation) industries, which include depictions of violent sexual abuse of children in their publications.

This might change though. CNN quotes an activist in favor of the law:

Fujiwara said a discussion about some of the imagery in manga and anime – content that would be illegal in many Western countries – would be a natural “next step.”

One industry representatives argues against this by referring to scientific research – as if that would matter – and adding:

“The goal of the law itself is to protect children from crime,” he said. “Banning such expression in animation under this law would not satisfy the goal of the law.”

Another representative said that he personally may be “disgusted” by some of the content in manga. However:

“But rich, deep culture is born from something that might not be accepted by all,” Chiba said. “We need to allow the gray zone to exist as a necessary evil.”

The article ends:

Some experts suggest the situation is born out of Japan’s long-established patriarchal society.

Whatever the cause, changing a culture may prove a lot harder than changing a law.

Indeed, but I think we Westerners are doing quite well at the moment in trying to change Japan to become more like us.


Akihabara crackdown

In the series of how Tokyo might change until the 2020 Olympics, here’s from Tokyo Reporter:

shukan_jitsuwa_apr10“Throughout Tokyo, reports Shukan Jitsuwa (Apr. 10), a purification drive of the city’s red-light areas is expanding, with the latest blow arriving in Chiyoda Ward’s Akihabara area, where law enforcement is attempting to thwart child prostitution.

Starting on April 1, businesses throughout Chiyoda Ward will be prohibited from promoting the service utilized by men known as ‘joshi kosei osanpo,’ or a walking date with a high school girl.”

… “‘During the walk, the customer can then negotiate enjo kosai’ — meaning compensated dating, which is a euphemism for a trip to love hotel.”

I’ll collect little snippets like this one and see what pattern emerges if any. From now on they’re filed under the tag Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Nice magazine design by the way.

Will the TPP kill Japan’s doujinshi scene?

Comic Market 83 at Tokyo Big Sight, December 2012
Comic Market 83 at Tokyo Big Sight, December 2012

1. Summary

TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) is a trade agreement currently being negotiated between USA, Japan and some other countries.

There are worries that the US will impose harder copyright laws on Japan, which might threaten subcultural expressions in the copyright grayzone, such as doujinshi and cosplay.

Today in Japan, copyright holders acknowledge these expressions as legitimate. It’s up to the copyright holder to press charges.

This might change.

Depending on how the final version of TPP will look, it might not be possible for copyright holders to accept these expressions – they would be illegal even if the copyright holder doesn’t mind. Even if the copyright holder appreciates and encourages that people make derivative works of his or her characters, it would still be illegal to do so.

If this law change would occur, it would probably kill the doujinshi scene, or force it underground.

Today doujinshi and cosplay is a huge subculture phenomenon; the biggest event, Comic Market, attracted 520 000 visitors last year to Tokyo Big Sight, the city’s major fair venue.

The negotiations continue.

2. My comment

This comes as no surprise. The doujinshi scene is under fire both for violating Western copyright laws and for violating Western bans on comics that are categorised as child porn. With Japan needing to present a good image for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, there is a risk that they will cave in to Western demands.

3. Further reading

Will Akihabara be cleaned up until Tokyo Olympics 2020?

Lolicon and regular manga porn for sale at Haruya Books in the Nakano Broadway shopping center, Tokyo, Japan. Photo taken 4 October 2013 by Karl Andersson.

Stacks of manga albums on a shelf at Haruya Books in Tokyo 4 October 2013. What will this shelf look like in 2020?

One of my coworkers is an expert on Japanese subculture, especially manga and porn – and combinations thereof. This colleague told me that as soon as Tokyo got the Olympics 2020, discussions started about how to deal with the more controversial stuff for sale in Akihabara and with the regular porn available at convenience stores. We can probably expect bills to be proposed in parliament. Not to mention a heated debate about it over the next years.

My prediction has long been that the more controversial manga expressions – or to be more exact: those that would be called child porn by the West – will disappear from the manga shelves as Japan caves in to US, UN and EU demands. Until now, Japan hasn’t had any reason to comment on the silly accusations of child porn; there wasn’t anything in it for Japan to do so, except for general reasons connected to globalisation and diplomacy. The outside world had no real leverage, and since manga is one of the foundations of Japanese culture, no one really considered any vast changes of law for real. But it was quite clear in which direction it was going, and Tokyo had already passed a law regulating where sexual manga was allowed to be sold. Mangaka’s spoke of harder controls at the doujinshi printers. So things were moving, but they were moving slowly.

But now things have changed. When Tokyo got the Olympics 2020, the outside world got leverage. All of a sudden, Tokyo must start caring a lot about its image. The Olympics 2020 speeded up the process that was already under way.

Tokyo Reporter wrote about this:

The editor of a manga title from a big-name publisher says that the area’s stores selling manga, anime, character goods and games whose themes are suggestive of child pornography are a distinct problem.

“There will be a massive sweep through Akihabara,” predicts the editor. “This is Japan’s biggest shopping area for electronics. Tourists and athletes will shop there.”

In stores selling adult comics, the walls are covered in posters and signs depicting naked children. “In video stores, there are love dolls of little girls visible through the shop windows from the street,” says the editor. “If tourists and athletes, especially those from Europe and the United States, see this kind of thing it won’t go over well at all.”

The funny thing is that I don’t think the Japanese really get what the West is upset about. Japanese politicians who propose manga bans are against sexual manga in general, which is a quite traditional right-conservative stance; it’s embarrassing and immoral, so it should be banned! But in the West, the opposition originated from the left, and they don’t mind sex manga at all. It’s only “child porn” that is the target of their lobbying. (I use quotes since we’re talking about comics, no real children are involved.) Child porn is like Satan in the West, and since the Japanese are very secularised, this religious way of relating to images is hard for them to comprehend.

So I guess we can expect a mischmasch of confusing law proposals trying to meet these national (sex is embarrassing) and international (child porn is Satan) demands.

The sad thing is that it’s probably possible to cut away the “child porn” from the market while still maintaining a strong manga culture. After all, lolicon and shotacon only make up for a tiny part of all manga, it’s like a subculture of a subculture. Japan can probably cut it away without admitting to having damaged the manga culture at large. But a cut is a cut. And once the first cut has been made, the second and third one will be easier.