Sexually explicit Japan manga evades new laws on child pornography

Jul 13, 2014
Crime
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(CNN) — They stare wide-eyed from the pages of magazines, childlike in stature but engaged in extremely explicit sexual activities.

They may be drawings, but critics say the images found on the pages of some of Japan’s erotic manga are so disturbing they should be banned.

“I believe that this kind of terrible material is not protected under freedom of expression,” says Masatada Tsuchiya, a member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

On Wednesday, Japanese lawmakers passed a law that will see people caught with child porn jailed for a year or fined up to $10,000.

However, it doesn’t include possession of anime or manga depicting child abuse, no matter how sexually explicit.

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How explicit are they?

To see what’s being openly sold on Japanese shelves, CNN took a hidden camera to one of the many manga stores in the Akihabara district of Tokyo.

The district is a known hub for “otakus,” obsessive members of anime and manga fandom, a worldwide group of avid followers of the genre.

Down a set of stairs, there are rows and rows of manga, many containing popular themes and images. But five feet away, in an area marked “adults only,” the content took a sharp turn into shocking sex scenes, apparently involving minors.

Some of the predominantly female characters wore school uniforms, hair clips and innocent expressions as they engaged in sometimes violent sex acts with dominant characters.

Should it be banned?

Mio Bryce, an expert on anime and manga from Macquarie University in Sydney, said Japan’s obsession with “kawaii” or cuteness made it difficult to distinguish whether the characters in the material were depicting children or not.

“Cuteness means a generally more infantile character. Maybe the character is 20 years old, but maybe from your point of view, the character’s 15 years old. It’s very difficult,” she said.

Ken Akamatsu, who lobbies lawmakers on behalf of the Japan Cartoonists Association, said a total ban on explicit content would damage the entire industry, making creators too scared to put pen to paper in case they risked breaking the rules.

He said the characters were imaginary, so unlike real child porn, no one was hurt.

“Actual children suffering and crying is not acceptable. But manga doesn’t involve actual children. So there are no actual victims,” he said.

Child welfare advocates disagree.

Shihoko Fujiwara runs Lighthouse, a nonprofit for exploited children. She told CNN she once worked on a case where a predator used a cartoon to convince a child that sex abuse was normal. “So the pedophiles might bring the animation and say ‘this is how you practice with adults,'” she said.

Child abuse in Japan

While no link has been made between anime, manga and child abuse, Japan is facing a “serious” child abuse problem, according to a White Paper issued by e National Police Agency in March.

The paper said the number of child abuse victims jumped 20% between 2011 and 2012, and the number of victims, arrests and cases are at their highest levels since they started compiling statistics in 1999.

At the same time, the number of cleared child pornography crime cases rose to 1,596, the highest ever recorded, the paper said. Most — 85% — were Internet-related. The figures inspired the U.S. State Department to label Japan as an “international hub” for producing and trafficking child pornography.

The U.S. report noted that no national law addresses the “unfettered availability of sexual explicit cartoons, comics and video games, some of which depicted scenes of violent sexual abuse and the rape of children.”

It added: ‘While the NPA continued to maintain that no link was established between these animated images and child victimization, other experts suggested children are harmed by a culture that appears to accept child sexual abuse.”

What is manga?

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Ernest Greene
Ernest Greene
6 years ago

As the moral panic spreads across the world like a tsunami, no place is spared. The last time there was mass hysteria over comics here was during the Kefauver Hearings in 1952, which gave us the dreary comics code and sent many of the best comic artists out of the field. We’re talking drawings here, not actual people of any age. In Taboo Illustrated, the adult comic mag I edit for Larry Flynt, we put a tongue-in-cheek disclaimer on the masthead page declaring that “No actual ‘toons were harmed in the making of these comics.” Anybody here ever see an… Read more »

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