Jun-Ichi Ohsako and Nonexistent Youth

While the following may be somewhat dated news, I still wanted take the time to park the passing of an important creator, author, and strong advocate for freedom of expression.

Jun-Ichi Ohsako passed away on May 25th, 2010. While perhaps not very well known outside of Japan, Ohsako left a lasting impression on those that crossed his path during his long and productive career. He first made a name for himself by authors many action/monster/sci-fi manga for Tokuma Shoten starting from 1984. I still have some of the books in which he is featured. He moved on to take up a wide array of mediums for self-expression. He wrote novels, game screenplays, created character designs, help build special effects miniatures, worked as a stuntman for live-action hero shows, and much much more. ANN covered his passing but there was actually a lot more. Here are a few listings of his work:
Ocelot making his passage
A Japanese fan site featuring his works.

While suffering from terminal cancer, Ohsako remained active to the very end. At his web site,  he made numerous entries regarding Tokyo’s nonexistent youth bill and other issues surrounding censorship and restrictions over manga and anime.

In fact, just one week after his passing, a book featuring his views on Tokyo’s nonexistent youth bill was released. I am also featured in this compilation published by Cyzo and I feel deeply honored for being included in a book that features many authors, especially someone like Ohsako.

I can only briefly touch on what Ohsako wrote in the book, but there are a number of important points that he makes.

Ohsako takes aim at why the Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) created the phrase “nonexistent youth.” It would have been much more simple if they had employed well established phrases, like “imaginary youth.” But there lies the problem. If the TMG used such an expression, they would effectively be admitting that they are attempting to regulate imagination. In other words, thought policing.

Ohsako is not shy to point out that the explanations and clarification issues by the TMG are doing nothing more than obscuring the issue and is turning into a sloppily conducted public relations campaign, shallowly attempting to mislead the public over the provisions of the ordinance.

I’d also like to point out an issue Ohsako addresses that is repeatedly misunderstood. Mass media coverage on the debate over the youth development bill revision usually portrays the conflict as one between freedom of expression and protection of youth. I’ve read many others in the public portray the debate in those terms as well.

While there can be no denying freedom of expression is an important element in this debate, few creators and industry types are advocating for hardcore pornography to be made available toward minors. Ohsako points out that the current definition of what constitutes “harmful material” is already far too broad and the revision would makes things far more worse by adding even more vague categories subject to bureaucratic review.

I’d like to add that the debate is more over “freedom of the bureaucracy to regulate anything they deem to be questionable” vs. “protecting authors and publishers from legal uncertainty over their creations.”

If the bill passes in its original form, the only way to deal with romantic relationships, sex and youth in fiction while not running afoul of the law is to avoid it all together. Even though the TMG repeatedly states that they will only go after “hardcore cases,” the self-restriction provision of the bill that I’ve pointed out here (“Any fiction that features someone identifiable as a minor + involved in sexual and/or sexual like act + that recklessly depicts youth as a object of sexualization in a positive light + which may impede the wholesome mental development of youth regarding his/her sexuality => shall be self-regulated as being harmful content.“) entails that the publishers will be compelled to restrict much more material than what the TMG says they are going after.

While the current zoning regime in Tokyo is far from perfect, changing it for the worse will not make things better.

PS: I’ll try to write more about recent events here in Japan in the near future.

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