After listening to the podcast about the Tokyo Youth Ordinance, we realized there was even more to be discussed and there will continue to be more to be talked about for many moons to come. In some ways I feel like a crazy fear-monger but at the same time I worry lots of fans don’t think this bill will impact them. But despite any of that, I personally am very worried about it and it’s not going away so I just have more questions. Always more.
Heck, right after the podcast was recorded we already had a slew of new points of conversation. We were sill debating various points of the bill and what we think they mean. Now that Bill 156 has been passed everyone is waiting to see what exactly the ramification will be. How much is the bill is just a dog and pony show to make international critics happy? How much is this going to used as tool to beat certain unpopular groups and artists in submission? How many of those are groups that the bill was supposedly designed to regulate? How much of an immediate economic and creative impact with the bill have on anime, manga, and video game industries? How much will of an impact will it have down the line? Everyone watching the bill has an opinion on what will happen but until the first round of enforcement takes place it is all speculation. Lets dig a little deeper until we have some answers.
The biggest question for me, when I really started mulling it over, was exactly how could a committee execute this plan to moderate titles being produced in a timely manner? Let’s look at manga, hundreds of magazines come out over the course of a year, some as much as once a week. That is literally 100,000s of pages of manga over a 12-month period. If we use all-mighty Weekly Shonen Jump as an example, the problems become evident. As the name suggests, it is released weekly, and averages close to 500-pages an issue. The schedule is very tight, some pages not being sent off to the print house until the night before a printing is scheduled so what time would be allowed for a committee to review these pages? There are many more weekly magazines that would present a similar problem. Heck, the manga industry in general runs on a very fast schedule (compared to books that are put to bed practically a full year in advance). I can only imagine that it would require a small city’s worth of people to review this volume of manga in the time needed to have it published at its normal rate and that’s not even including all the anime that comes out in a week and video games to a smaller extent. And I don’t imagine the speed of manga releases will change, it is a huge revenue stream, so this is just another unknown when it comes to the bill.
The fact that they cannot read it all makes me think that they will just use this to go after a few key titles. They don’t need to monitor everyone. They just need to make a public example of a few people. If you make a big enough of a spectacle the threat of prosecution looms over everyone like the Sword of Damocles. In my opinion the worst case scenario is that everyone starts out defiant but is quickly worn down by the legislation into compliance. We start with people going out of their way to purchase items effected by the law outside of Tokyo while businesses in Tokyo do their best fight the law when they can. But laziness, apathy, and costs will force people into playing along. It is an easier law to enforce than to fight. Consumers will tire of having to spend time and money to travel out of Tokyo to get their titles and will move onto other media options. Publishers will bank on safer titles that can get in a wider area of distribution. Also from what I understand Japan has not embraced online sales like the US has with many consumers till preferring cash. Also credit and debit cards are nowhere near as prevalent in Japan and most people only by rare or out of print items on-line if at all. So unless this changes the way Japan approaches shopping it will most like just kill sales of anything restricted by Bill 156. Now this is the worst possible outcome but I think it is an also to realistic possibility. I have heard that certain titles are already being passed over for reprints because of the bill and the first shot has not even been fired.
Another piece of the bill has confused me, this may be caused by not being able to read the legislation in its entirety, but much of the regulations are about unlawful unions. If this was the case, two under-age characters, say 16-years-old, could theoretically have consensual intercourse together without it violating the regulations, I think? But I don’t actually imagine that will be happening much, especially not very graphically. And also one assumes they couldn’t stop creators from inferring strongly that certain things are happening. Part of me wonders what kind of story telling tricks we’ll begin to see.
If anything the Japanese entertainment industry has always been inventive with their ability to find loopholes and boundary pushers with whatever restriction you put on them. But will as many people try to push the boundaries with the press against them? As Ed Sizemore and The Digital Bug mentioned to me on Twitter the fact that the foreign press are only covering the surface story does not help at all. The recent New York Times article by Hiroko Tabuchi clearly makes the bill out to be the anti-loli bill it is reported to be. Hiroko Tabuchi won a Pulitzer Prize for the New York Times so it is not like she is some no name blogger running off Internet rumor on their personal site. The press is all too willing to run with the surface story that Ishihara is selling which is utterly detrimental to fight against the bill. I know that the press love to do articles on lolicon manga and rape games because they intriguingly salacious topics but one would hope that journalistic integrity would demand that the look a bit deeper to see what is going on beneath the surface. As long as the press outside otaku circles perpetuates the party line about the bill it will continue to be hard to fight.
Of course there is no way to know how it will all play out until it does, but it is worth discussing. Our site is rarely, if ever, political so this bill is about as far as it will ever get to being so, I promise. My dearest hope is to be able to look back at this post (and podcast) and laugh about how ridiculous it was; how we were worry over nothing!
My biggest complaint I did not bring up was some of the American’s fans eagerness to throw out the baby with the bath water with Bill 156. I was greatly upset that so many anime and manga pundits were in favor of the bill as some sort of tool to get rid of what they hated by any means necessary. As long as the bill targeted what they did not care for what else got caught in the crossfire was unimportant. That seems like a short-sighted approach to the problem of overly racy manga about taboo and uncomfortable topics. While even I am tired of the prevalence of lolicon, incest, and glorified rape in popular otaku titles I am not willing to carpet bomb the freedom of expression in the off-handed hope of catching the titles that disgust me in the process. And as it turns out you don’t even have to actually target those titles. As long as you invoke their names you will get people to blindly follow your cause which is even more disturbing. There is also a strong contingent of people who seem to be only reluctantly against the bill. I know the ANNCast disapproved of the bill but they seemed to do it through gritted teeth. They seem to treat the bill like a vigilante. They like what it does but that can’t approve of its method. But with any luck this is all unimportant bickering within the community. Hopefully this is just a toothless act that was made to quiet some international criticisms and convince the anime and manga industry to show a little restraint. I would hate to see this bill do permanent damage to entertainment industries I love. We will just have to cross our fingers and hope for the best in the time to come.