Legislation was voted on today in Tokyo that some contend not only robs creators of their freedom of speech, but is unfair.
Earlier this year, legislation to control the depiction of "virtual youth" was shot down. Famed manga artists vocally protested the bill, drawing attention to its vague definition of "virtual youth" and causing it to die on the vine.
But today in Tokyo, the second version of the bill went up for a vote and passed by the assembly with a final vote on Wednesday. As blogger Dan Kanemitsu points out, the ordinance is not national legislation, and is not a ban per se, but penalizes companies that produce material that is harmful to those under 18 years-old. Unlike in the U.S., companies that produce the material — and not retailers — come under fire.
The bill also does not target material that is 18-years-old and up as that material is already inaccessible to minors.
What's also worth nothing is that the Tokyo government already has the power to dictate what, as Kanemitsu writes, is "too sexually stimulating for minors OR too sadistic for minors OR too likely to cause criminal acts among minors OR cause suicide among minors as 'harmful material', and force such material to be treated as adult only material."
Regarding the new bill, the Tokyo government explains (via The Mainichi Daily News), "only manga and animation that glorifies or exaggerates illegal sexual acts will be subject to the regulations, and freedom of expression will not be violated." This new bill attempts to define what is obscene — vaguely. Kanemitsu believes this is one way Tokyo is attempting to control what people read and view.
More importantly, the bill is directed at video games, anime and manga, but does not encompass novels, films, TV and photographs. Mediums that use real-life images are exempt.
That's exactly why the manga, anime and game industry are up in arms. They claim that the new bill is unclear and, thus, will actually increase the government's control and regulations, since the "virtual youth" wording is not in the new bill. What's more, under the current penal code, it's possible to prohibit obscene materials, leading some to worry that this is a power grab by the Tokyo government and Governor Shintaro Ishihara.
Large manga publishers and anime companies are already boycotting the Tokyo Anime Fair, because Ishihara is a chairperson for the event. But now that the bill has passed, many in Japan are wondering how this will impact events like Comiket and how the bill's vague language will be interpreted legally.
If there is going to be truly free speech, one must take the good with the bad, the savory with the not so savory. And any legislation that is directed at video games, manga or anime, should likewise be aimed at novels, TV, film and photography. That would make sense. This, however, does not.
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