Anime, manga and video games from Japan threatened by local legislation

Written by Electra

Fans of anime, manga, and video games produced in Japan may soon notice changes in access to and the content of both professionally produced content and fanworks. The Tokyo metropolitan ordinance Bill 156, the “nonexistent crimes bill”, which goes into effect this year, aims to limit the distribution and content of these items in the metropolis.

The bill increases the powers of the Tokyo metropolitan government to regulate the sale and rental of “harmful” media to people under the age of 18. It also extends the current definition of “harmful” to cover material that “unjustifiably glorifies or exaggerates” certain sexual or pseudo-sexual acts; previous laws only limited distribution of material to under-18s that is “sexually stimulating, encourages cruelty, and/or may compel suicide or criminal behavior”.

The bill applies to “publications”, including books, DVDs and CDs, both professional and fan-made. However, it does not appear to apply to mobile sites or downloads, despite mandating that content filters be applied to the cell phones of all under-18s.

The bill may discourage content providers in Tokyo, a major center for the anime, manga and video games industries, from creating new content or continuing to market content that may violate the new bill, even if it would be aimed at over 18s. This chilling effect is especially likely given that the bill doesn’t specify exact enforcement mechanisms, so creators are uncertain of the consequences of falling foul of the law.

The bill was passed amid widespread condemnation on the part of professional creators and members of the national government as well as fans. Fans have expressed their opposition in the form of dôjin (fan-made) works, including comics and videos (link requires registration) that combine transformation of existing works with analysis and critique of the legislation.

Meanwhile, the Association of Japanese Animations (AJA) condemned the bill for attempting to regulate freedom of speech and of creative expression, while a group of leading manga publishers announced a boycott of the (now cancelled) 2011 Tokyo Anime Fair, a major content showcase sponsored by the Tokyo metropolitan government. Others, including Japanese Prime Minister Kan Naoto, have expressed concern over the bill’s impact on the content creation industry centered in Tokyo.

Voluntary regulation of content by industry creators and fans went into effect at the beginning of April. The crackdown on content will intensify in July, when regulation of the sale and rental of material to under-18s will be implemented.

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