In 2010, the Tokyo government signed the Tokyo Metropolitan Ordinance Regarding the Healthy Development of Youths, a vaguely-worded bill that restricts the sale and rental of manga, anime, games, and other media that can be “considered harmful to a minor’s mental health regarding sexuality.”
The intent of the bill was to keep drawn erotic material involving children out of the hands of minors, but it raises concerns among advocates for free expression. In a 2010 article, The Escapist Magazine discussed the implications of the bill:
Anti-censorship devotees may already be shaking their heads, but a lot of people might be going, “Okay, so what? What’s wrong with that?” If the Tokyo government wants to keep material including sexual depictions of rape, incest or pedophilia out of the hands of children, isn’t that a good thing? A lot of that stuff is pretty messed up, right? The problem, again, lies in the language used – for instance, under this law, the provisions regarding “marriage” would not just include incest, but homosexual relationships as well.
Furthermore, the bill would end up restricting any content which is “considered harmful to a minor’s mental health regarding sexuality,” which is an awfully vague condition. Essentially, it would give a Tokyo government committee the power to classify any potentially-sexual material as adult, relegating it to the proverbial back room of stores.
As suggested by The Escapist, a recording of a recent meeting of the 2nd Miyazaki Prefectural Commission for the Promotion of Healthy Youth Development indicates that Japanese censors are moving to widen the scope of material that is banned by the law.
The Escapist ran an excerpt of the minutes from the meeting, during which the commission discussed yaoi manga, which depicts homosexuality, and josei manga, or comics for women. Neither type of manga is pornographic, but the commission objected to the depiction of women as sexually agressive, suggesting it caused homosexuality in men.
The minutes and an excerpt of the response from The Escapist:
Committee Member A:
In these books there is some violence and cruelty, and most have sexually provocative material.
In particular, many include scenes of women taking the lead ahead of men, and I think they’ll promote the prejudiced view that women want this.
And if you keep getting these depictions of women taking the lead, matters soon develop in a homosexual direction and it must become difficult to develop sexually in a normal fashion, mustn’t it?
This may not always be the case, but I think for the male consciousness they may end up thinking they cannot take the lead themselves, and so they tend to turn homosexual more often as a result.
I can’t help but think it is very dangerous to our young people, should they see this sort of material mixed in amongst normal books.
It’s hard to choose the most laughable concept; that the idea of women taking the lead in some romantic encounters is “predjudiced,” that exposure to such unnatural acts will turn unwary male readers gay, or that homosexuality is “dangerous.” Regardless, the concept of this person being in charge of censoring anything is terrifying.
The idea that comics may be banned for “making kids gay,” is preposterous, but it seems to be an all-too-real obstacle that creators in Japan may soon face.