CJS Noon Lecture Series: Thought Policing or Protection of Youth? Debates around Fictional Child Characters in Japanese Popular Culture
Despite a tradition of inflammatory remarks in the Anglophone press concerning the unregulated nature of sexual and violent content in Japanese animation, comics and gaming, these products are in fact under intense scrutiny in Japan. Until recently most public debate has been over the sexual and violent content of boys’ manga and anime but in recent years girls’ manga, too, have come under increasing scrutiny. This paper looks at two recent developments in Japan: the 2008 furore over the large number of “Boys Love” titles available for loan in a library district in Osaka, and the 2010 debate in Tokyo over the “Non-Existent Youth” Bill. It is argued that until recently debate about manga content in Japan was largely about protecting children and young people from supposedly harmful adult themes. However, due to growing international pressures, the debate has now shifted to the supposedly harmful depictions of children and young people in manga and anime themselves. Given that BL is a genre that specialises in the sexualization of its youthful characters, this paper argues that it is likely to come under increasing attack from conservative lobbyists in Japan and overseas as this material is liable to be classified as a “child abuse publication.” What does this classification mean for fans of the genre in Japan and overseas and how might fans and scholars engage the authorities in debate over the meaning of these cultural products?
Mark McLelland is Professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies and an Australian Research Council Future Fellow at the University of Wollongong. He was also the 2007-08 Toyota Visiting Professor at the University of Michigan Center for Japanese Studies.
Mark is author or editor of eight books focussing on issues to do with the history of sexuality, popular culture and new media in Japan, most recently, Love, Sex and Democracy in Japan during the American Occupation (2012). His Future Fellowship looks at debates around the influence Japanese popular culture is having on youth cultures globally.