Tokyo already has the power to designate anything that is too sexually stimulating for minors OR too sadistic for minors OR too likely to cause criminal acts among minors OR cause suicide among minors as “harmful material”, and force such material to be treated as adult only material.
Bill 156, essentially stipulates all sexual acts that would be illegal in real life OR sexual depictions between close relatives who could not legally get married to be treated as adult material if they are presented in “unjustifiably glorified or exaggerated manner.”
To see complete details of the bill, go here.
Japanese politicians usually vote along parties lines, especially if the leadership has decided its policy regarding the legislative agenda, as it is in the case here. You can expect the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and the New Komeito Party (NKP) to vote affirmative on the revision. Seikatsusha Network Mirai and the Japanese Communist Party will vote against the measure. As you can see in the math that I provided here, the LDP & NKP + DPJ is almost 90% of the legislator, so it will most likely pass right through.
The proponents of the regulating more anime and manga and video games may have won, but I have no doubt this was an extremely costly victory that damaged them considerably.
As I have written previously, traditionally there is a close relationship between the governmental regulators and the business community in Japan. This is especially the case in industries where the rules and guidelines are rather Byzantine and there is a lot of room for interpretation. Regulators don’t want to look spineless in front of the electorate, but neither do they want to be so confrontational that they have to use court orders all the time to maintain a standard or an agenda. The business community also understands that that cooperative relationship can pay dividends in the form of avoiding nasty surprises and having the regulators being willing to be flexible in their enforcement. At times, this shady regulatory scheme is fertile ground for corruption and fraud, as in the case of numerous construction firms involved in public contracts.
But it worked pretty well for the publishing industry until now.
Now Tokyo has lost the trust of the publishing industry, and this will be a huge blow to them. Not only because their effectiveness in dealing with the publishing industry might go down, but because, in the eyes of the manga and anime community, many feel the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has lost its legitimacy as a fair regulator.
Public perception of the revision is harder to gauge, but this issue will not go away, as I will discuss later on in this post, so this expansion may come back to haunt Tokyo later on.
Before I end post, there are two important developments I would like to note.
First of all, the bill did have a supplemental resolution (a rider) attached to it that specifies that, with regard to the material that would be classified as harmful based on the new expanded definition, these works must be “carefully regulated, with the work’s artistic, social, educational, satirical criticism based merits be taken into account in the evaluation process.”
Furthermore, Tokyo Youth Healthy Development Evaluation Panel (the panel subordinate to the TMG that deliberates and chooses which books are to be designated as being harmful) is instructed to respect “the intent of the revision and take necessary steps, such as increasing the time involved in the evaluation process.”
It is clear that the protests and strong reaction to the bill did have an impact, enough that even the strong proponents of the bill, the LDP and NKP, were forced to accept the supplemental resolution suggested by the DPJ.
Secondly, it appears the publishing industry will continue to fight this revision and the mentality behind it for quite some time, so the heat will probably increase in the coming weeks and months.
This is Kadokawa’s president Mr. Inoue’s message following the news of the bill’s passage in committee:
“So [Bill 156] was approved. That’s unfortunate. But we should continue our opposition. We must continue to raise our voices. With [the help of] wisdom and courage, let’s stick it out.”
Furthermore, 47 News reports how Mr. Shimizu, CEO of Kodansha and current chair of the Big 10 Manga Publishers Association expresses how their members are furious over how a bill that was previously defeated could be resuscitated and brought up to a vote so rapidly.
Even more striking is the statement conveyed via newspiece on Jiji. At Shueisha’s rookie manga author awards ceremony, Shueisha senior managing director Mr. Torishima was quoted saying, “I want new manga authors to produce manga that would blow away [Tokyo Governor] Shintaro Ishihara.” A senior editor at Shueisha, Mr. Araki asks that manga authors “don’t let the chilling effect [of increased regulation] stop you from doing material you want to do. Jump will feature anything [we feel] is exciting [to read]“.
It’s clear the Big 10 have no intent to back down following their announcement to pull out of the Tokyo International Animation Fair, and event sponsored in part by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.
With the Big 10 being made up of Shueisha, Shogakukan, Kadokawa Shoten, Kodansha, Akita Shoten, Hakusensha, Shonen Gahousha, Shinchosha, Futabasha, and LEED Publishing Co., Ltd., all huge industry giants, their lack of presence in the Tokyo International Animation Fair is starting to worry the Prime Minister of Japan.
In his first personal blog entry since becoming prime minister, Naoto Kan states:
“There is another topic I would like to talk about concerning [the strength] of the Japanese brand. Currently there are concerns over the possibility that the Tokyo International Animation Fair could be cancelled due to controversies related to the healthy development of youth issues. Healthy development of youth is an important issue. At the same time, it is important that Japanese animation is broadcast to a global audience. I urge all parties involved to try to work toward preventing a situation where an international animation fair cannot be held within Tokyo.”
According to what is stated on Naoto Kan’s blog, this is the first time he is writing an entry himself on a subject that concerns him. Every other entry is written by his staff. The blog entry also talks about discussions he had with rice farmers in Yamaga Prefecture, but he ends his first personally written post on worrying about if next year’s Tokyo International Animation Fair takes place.
Now the Prime Minister is personally expressing his concerns over what’s happening.
This is not a the end. This is the beginning.
Of what, I don’t know.
PS: I’ve gotten a lot of emails and comments from people overseas regarding how they could get their voices heard. I was lucky enough to relay some of those voices last Sunday, but if you want to get the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to hear your opinions, you might want to visit their website and find their contact information. They should have it printed there in English.
But please be polite and considerate. Verbally assaulting them and/or being rude (via regular snail mail or email) won’t make us look any better in their eyes.
I recommend writing to them, because they may have a hard time reading English, but the simple fact they are getting a lot of international mail over something is something they can understand pretty easily.
Also, I don’t mind getting comments as well! I try to approve and reply to as many as I can. I’m sorry for being rather tardy these few days, but I’ve got a lot of writing and translating to do!
PPS: Takeshi Nogami was featured in a Mainichi news article with regards to opposition to Bill 156. You can read it here. I work with him in translating his Strike Witches doujinshis and Azure Century Chronicles doujinshi series.