A History of Shojo, Loli, and Harmful Books
Naisho no Tsubomi Volume 3 was released on the 29th. Yu Yabuuchi's Naisho no Tsubomi is a sex-ed manga aimed at elementary school students, with a fifth-grade girl as its protagonist. The manga became extremely popular and received many praises.
However, despite Naisho no Tsubomi's success, not all manga involving sex are met with welcoming arms by the Japanese society. In fact, obscene shojo manga (smut) and lolicon manga have always been the target of various child protection groups. Recent news reports of actions taken against harmful shojo and loli manga involving excessive sexual content seem to suggest that a potential new movement is on the horizon. Below is a brief overview of current events, past "wars" and some case studies involving a breed of manga seen by many as "harmful books."
The Harmful Books Act - Where It All Begin
In March 2006, "Harmful Books Act" was put into effect by Osaka prefecture for shojo manga. The Act stated that if a manga or magazine is specified as a "harmful book," it must not be accessible by children under 18.
Shogakukan's Shojo Comic was one of the magazine mentioned in the news. Incidentally, a few months later the former executive editor of Sho-Comi was disciplinarily dismissed for embezzlement, but was accused of being a "Class A Criminal" for issues "involving pornographic shojo manga." The publisher defended itself by mentioning the "Freedom of Press" and the "Freedom of Expression," but the incident proved that people publishing comic magazines occasionally lack adequate moral principles.
In late 2006, a proposal was submitted that pushed for the banning of lolicon. About a month later in December, the same group that pushed for the loli-banning proposal published a report showing that "30% of seijin manga (adult manga) contain depiction of sexual intercourse involving children, and juveniles are able to purchase such manga via the internet."
In November 2006, Yu Yu Journal published several articles in response to a column that appeared in Asahi Shimbun. The article tackles the issue of explicit sexual material appearing in shojo manga and magazines. According to the editor-in-chief of a major shojo manga magazine, "Love affair is a big theme in today's shojo manga. It's impossible to completely take out descriptions of sexual activity - that's just the result of love and affection."
Yama Ryokichi, the president of the Japanese Magazine Publishers Association (JMPA), was quoted saying:
Leading up to the Main Events
Fast forward to March 29th, 2007. Seiko Noda, a Japanese politician infamous among otaku and a popular target for attack on 2ch (the most popular Japanese bulletin board), said during a Japan-Sweden Child Pornography Prevention symposium that "Child pornography in manga and anime must be eradicated!" The event caused a great stir in the online community, and of course Noda was attacked again on 2ch.
On May 16th 2007, the Japanese National PTA Conference released its "2006 Inspection into Children and Consciousness of the Media" report. Since then things have been moving downhill for "harmful books" at an alarming speed.
In the report, the Japanese National PTA Conference named Shogakukan's Sho-Comi (Shojo Comic) the number one manga magazine that should not be read by children. The decision was based on the result of a questionnaire taken in November 2006 from parents of 5th and 8th grade students. Sho-comi was followed by Ciao, Nakayoshi and Betsufure (Bessatsu Friend). 60% of the response from the questionnaire put their reason as "excessive depiction of sexual content, which would stir up unnecessary interest."
A week after the news, the news magazine Weekly Bunshun ran an article titled "Beware of Incest, Bondage and Outdoor Sex in Manga Read by Elementary Schoolers! Terrible Descriptions of Sex in Shojo Comic." On June 8th, even Nihon TV's "Sukkiri! (Refreshing!)" explored the topic.
A List of 13 Loli Manga
On June 7th, an article titled "Kyoto Prefecture Designates 13 Manga as Harmful Books Due to Sexual Acts Directed at Young Girls" was published in Kyoto Shimbun. The article stated that the Kyoto Prefecture's local government investigated and labeled 13 loli manga as "harmful books." Up till then only around 4 manga were officially labeled as harmful books. A government official commented:
The article reports that the Osaka Prefecture Police Department (OPPD) conducted a comprehensive investigation of 70 bookstores and convenience stores in order to check the availability of shojo manga that were labeled as "harmful books," with special interest paid on shojo manga that contain excessive sexual contents that can't be seen on their covers.
Upon looking at the notice of the designated harmful books, which has been posted on Osaka Prefecture's website since May of 2006 (Heisei 18), it's easy to see that a majority of the items are teen love magazines, that the focus is on magazines from minor publishers, and that the situation is mostly one of sniping.
As one can tell from the titles, they're not teen love stories, but full-fledged lolicon manga (some have questioned that the series were chosen because of their suggestive titles).
A few days later, with timing suitable for conspiracy theorist's view on history, the Supreme Court's decision to dismiss the "Matsubunkan Trial," and to hand down a 1.50 million yen fine, was finalized.
Regarding the "Matsubunkan Trial," In April 2002, Motonori Kishi and the adult mangaka Beauty Hair were arrested for distributing 20,000 copies of the overly obscene manga Misshitsu to 16 stores. In January 2004, Motonori Kishi was found guilty and sentenced to one year in prison. However, the sentence was reduced to a 1.5 million yen fine in June 2005.
Nowadays shojo magazines are full of smut, below are some examples (mostly from Sho-comi):
According to this 2ch Archive Blog, this image (NSFW) appeared in Shogakukan's Ciao in September 2006. Since the source is 2ch, the info may not be completely accurate, but considering some of the other manga serialized in shojo magazines like Ciao and Margaret, it just maybe true. While the origin of the image has not been confirmed, it did become a popular point of debate on Japanese bulletin boards when it first appeared on the internet.
According to the blog Notakura, Shojo Comic didn't contain as much questionable material 10 years ago. The blog went on to research the current state of Sho-Comi.
So Sho-Comi is very close to being a porno mag, but do elementary school girls actually read such magazines? According to the Japan Magazine Publishers Association, in 2005, the circulation of Sho-Comi was 300,000 and 26% of its readers were under 13 years old. This would mean around 80,000 elementary school students read Sho-Comi. Junior high school girls (13-15) make up 40.2%, or 120,000. In reality there are probably more readers.
Sho-Comi's publisher, Shogakukan, is one of the leaders in Japan's publishing business, and publishes many educational magazines. Sho-Comi is not a X-rated magazine, and Shogakukan knows that elementary and junior high school girls read Sho-comi. However, Shogakukan put priority into making profits and escalated sexual contents in Sho-comi.
Looking Back - The Harmful Comics Movement
The current regional movement in Japan is reminiscent of the "Harmful (or Hazardous) Comics" problem of the 90s. Both movements takes advantage of beginning in a region unnoticed by the mass media and opposing factions, then widely publicizing the issue.
The "Harmful Comics movement" (有害コミック騒動), a conflict between manga and parents, is a series of incidents that became one of the largest post-war movement along with the hazardous books expulsion campaign.
In 1989, the Tsutomu Miyazaki case shocked Japan. The incident involves Tsutomu Miyazaki, also known as the Otaku Murderer, who mutilated and killed 4 girls between the ages of four to seven. The sentiment that manga and anime are harmful materials has since built up because Tsutomu Miyazaki was a fan of them. This was the beginning of the movement.
Note that 16 years after the incident, a certain reporter revealed that some facts during the incident was intentional faked for the press coverage. For example the reporter intentionally placed a obscene magazine on the top of a stack of magazines and took a photographs of Miyazaki's room.
In 1990, Asahi Shimbun said in an editorial that manga exerts a harmful influence. As a result the "Protect Children from Comic Books Association" was organized in Wakayama, and a signature campaign was underway. Many PTAs agreed with this campaign, and denounced Weekly Shonen Jump, a magazine whose intended audience was elementary school students. In particular, Fist of the North Star and Dragon Ball were deemed too violent. As a result of the criticism against obscene manga, publishers began self-regulate obscene manga.
In 1991, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government adopted the "Harmful Books Restricting Resolution," and started to enforce juvenile protection regulation. In the Japanese Diet, with Taro Aso from LDP as chairman, the "Council to Take Measures Agasint Harmful Comics" was formed. The council summoned industry participants and asked them to describe their self-regulation. In the private sector, the "Harmful Comics Awareness Society" was formed. The society consisted of not only of publishers, but also a wide range of other people. Later the name of the society was changed to "Manga Defense Association." Also, the "Society of Free Expression in Manga" was formed with Shotaro Ishinomori as chairman.
After this movement, publishers started to put "Zoning Mark" over sexual contents as self-regulation. As a result, some manga and magazines began doing less adjustment to their work due to zoning.
The Good, the Bad and the Loli
Naisho no Tsubomi (Secret Bud) Volume 3 was released on the 29th. In April of 2005, when the first volume of the collected manga went on sale, the manga sold explosively well through online retailers such as Amazon and 7andy, to the otaku demographic in particular, and became a topic of discussion even in normal weekly magazines." Hatena Diary's Naitsubo Refugees, writes:
The blog LilyDays-san comments:
What's the future for shojo manga? And what about lolicon? One thing is certain, as time passes, more manga will join the ranks of "harmful books."
Translations by Michiko, Sarah Neufeld, T. Ohara and readilbert