Tokyo’s ban on anime, manga and games featuring “virtual crimes” or which are “likely to interfere with the healthy development of youth” has passed after the DPJ agreed to support it.
The DPJ’s only addition to the critical portion of the law was a short rider which requests “prudent application of the law in light of any artistic, social, scientific or satirical merits the work might express” – it does not however add any legal obligation to consider these, or establish any clear or indepdently enforced criteria for judging whether a work can be declared “harmful” or not.
Even more bizarrely, the final draft actually removed a passage that imposed “a duty not to possess [photographic] child pornography” on Tokyo residents, whilst leaving the section banning erotic manga and anime (and explicitly excluding photographic materials) all but unchanged – that the bill is intended exclusively as an “anti-otaku” law seems to be beyond doubt.
It is very difficult to objectively assess the scope of the law – along with vague and subjective terms like “interfere with the healthy development of youth,” the law also includes “etc.” on the end of most of its examples, leaving it quite unclear, for example, whether the “improper glorification of illegal sexual activity, etc.” applies to only virtual sex crimes, or all crimes in general – presumably the interpretation adopted will be whichever is convenient to censors.
Similarly, the ban’s mention of “rape and other sexual acts which violate societal norms” seems inevitably to point to a ban on depictions of homosexuality, considering who was behind the law.
The generally expected form the law will take is that of a “amakudari” (a pervasive system of sinecures for retired bureaucrats) body which will inspect all anime, manga and games, with only those titles receiving approval as “healthy” able to be sold regularly in Tokyo shops – the rest will be relegated to the “adult corner.”
The most immediate and direct effect of the law will almost certainly be to see ecchi manga such as To Love-Ru, bishoujo titles such as Champion Red and most BL manga, as well as any seinen manga with especially mature themes, banned from general sales – presumably most will then be cancelled due to a lack of suitable magazine or tankobon distribution channels, with a few perhaps being resurrected as 18+ ero-manga.
As has already been seen, publishers will also likely be purging future anime, manga and games of any content liable to fall foul of the law, and removing older titles from distribution.
The law probably also spells the end of most late night anime in Tokyo (and by extension, everywhere else), which it would appear to ban under its distribution clause; given the vague wording of the current season alone it seems Ore no Imouto, Panty & Stocking, Yosuga, Sora no Otoshimono, Milky Holmes and others would all fall foul of its various stipulations.
There is also some doubt as to whether Comiket will be able to be held under the new regulations – if not, its cancellation or removal to another prefecture seems likely, although a lack of sufficiently large spaces may severely complicate this.
The law is expected to be signed into law on the 15th after an additional vote and then come into effect in July of 2011, so with magazine, tankobon, anime and game release schedules being what they are, it seems likely its effects will be felt much sooner; in a genuinely democratic state there might be scope to overturn it before then, but from what has been seen so far it seems unlikely publishers have the guts or savvy to do anything about it.