While Japan's mainstream manga industry continues to enthrall adult and children alike with innocent tales of spy adventures, sportsmen and even ambitious salarymen, authors and publishers are concerned at Tokyo authorities' latest attempt to curb explicit
content in adult manga –- heavily restricting the sale of comics that show what are described in the plan as nonexistent juveniles in sexual acts.
Though deadly serious, the plans took on a farcical edge last month. The move to tighten rules on books with depictions of sexual acts was, at least temporarily, rejected in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly in June.
What scuppered instead was the frank admission by controversial Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, known for not mincing his words on sensitive matters, that he hadn't thoroughly read his own proposal. That led to the matter being deferred pending further
consultation. According to a DPJ representative, further discussions are expected to continue in the next session of the assembly starting September.
Outside the assembly, however, reaction to the proposal is anything but fuzzy, polarized between segments of the manga industry and children's rights groups.
The main concern that opponents to the plan raise is the vague definition of the term nonexistent juvenile . In Governor Ishihara's proposal, books that show characters apparently under-age –- as defined by the characters' clothing, belongings
etc. — involved in sexual acts can be designated as an unwholesome book and as such subject to heavy sales restrictions.
Once a manga is labeled as an unwholesome book , it can no longer be carried in Japan's ubiquitous convenience stores. And non-bookstore purchases account about 60% of total sales of comic magazines, says Tamio Kawamata, an official at the JBPA.
A joint statement released by 1,421 manga authors and 10 major publishing companies -– including heavyweights Kodansha Ltd. and Shogakukan Inc. — argues that the vague nonexistent juvenile makes it possible for authorities to restrict the publication
of books at their discretion, and has a damping effect on the industry. They argue that it will restrict the freedom of speech, protected under Japan's constitution, which allowed manga to develop greatly in Japan and led it to be highly valued
around the world today .