Censorship 2014: Manga and Anime Blamed for Crime

Misconceptions and deliberate hyperbole about manga and anime are nothing new, but a CNN segment that aired in June was so impressively wrong that our piece on it was one of the most visited on the site this year.

In the deceptively edited video, CNN Tokyo correspondent Will Ripley made every effort to suggest that erotic manga and anime lead directly to crimes such as sexual abuse of children. Ripley gives no consideration to free expression rights and seems unaware that his rhetoric could be ripped right from Fredric Wertham’s anti-comics campaign that led to the Comics Code Authority. If you’re a glutton for punishment, check out the video again:

The CNN piece was tangentially related to a new Japanese law criminalizing possession (as opposed to production and distribution, which were already illegal) of child pornography. The law does not cover manga and anime, but there is pressure to expand it from some Japanese citizens as well as from international media like CNN. A separate ordinance that only applies in Tokyo, the Youth Healthy Development Ordinance, does restrict the sale of manga deemed “unhealthy” for minors. When Imōto Paradise! 2 received that designation in May, Amazon also removed the digital manga from its Kindle store even though it wasn’t obligated to do so by law. In late June the ordinance also led to the cancellation of a new manga series by creator Arisa Yamamoto only two days before it was to debut on the website Comic Zenon.

Of course, the debate over criminalization of manga is not limited to Japan. In October, 39-year-old Robul Hoque of Middlesbrough, England pleaded guilty to 10 counts of possessing illegal manga and anime. Drawings were added to the UK’s child porn laws in 2010, and Hoque was the first individual prosecuted under the new provisions. In light of Hoque’s trial, we spoke to lawyers in the UK and the US about the legal implications and some precautionary pointers for manga and anime fans.

Manga was also made a scapegoat in September, when Pasco County, Florida Sheriff Chris Nocco blamed Soul Eater and online Slender Man fic for driving a 14-year-old Port Richey girl to set her house on fire while her mother and younger brother were inside. Nocco’s rambling statement accused the creators of Soul Eater and Slender Man of “manipulating [readers’] brain[s], causing them to do things” such as attempted murder. The girl was held in a juvenile detention center for 21 days but was released on request of her mother, who wants to ensure that she receives counseling. She is still being tried as a juvenile on two counts of attempted murder and one count of arson.

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Contributing Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.