(Warning, very incoherent and nonsensical ramblings follow.)
You know, honestly, this news
makes me very annoyed and very tired.
Essentially, a prefecture of Japan has denounced nine manga as "harmful", six of which are sexually explicit "josei" manga. (Manga written for adult women.)
I will be honest. I haven't read the manga on the list. For all I know, these six manga might be the most exploitative, harmful, and disgusting comics that ever came out of Japan.
But somehow I doubt it.
I can't help but think of how I used to ride the train home from Sannomiya to Maiko, dangling with boredom from those stupid rings, until just to alleviate the boredom, I'd end up peeking upside-down at the big manga phonebook that some salariman sitting three people away was reading.
I'm a busybody after all. It was interesting. Sometimes they looked interesting, other times... well, there's nothing quite like glancing over and seeing some cute anime girl screaming "No!" while in full bondage gear getting gang-raped.
I'm not judging that guy, mind you. I've read my share of porn and I recognize that porn is fantasy. I've read my share. And rape is a common pornographic fantasy (for men AND women if fanfics and bodice rippers are any indication) and doesn't mean that the person who enjoys the fantasy would ever take part in the actual act.
I just wonder if THAT manga made the list.
I spent ten years or so reading manga, and a good portion of my time in Japan traipsing around corner-store manga shops, bookstores, anime stores, doujinshi hideways and the like, but I recognize that ultimately my experience with the medium is fairly limited. I couldn't tell you for certain whether I saw more manga devoted to boys/men than I saw devoted to girls/women. I couldn't begin to guess the distribution for adult/pornographic manga. I know what I THINK I saw, but I'm well aware that my own biases and general unfamiliarity with the culture very likely skewed my perspective.
I'm certain there are harmful and offensive manga being produced for men AND women. But to be honest, I think this list sounds fishy.
Of nine offensive manga. Six were josei. I'd imagine that the remaining three were men's manga. But I don't know that for sure. That said, if we assume the best case scenario and that those three are men's comics...
That still is a ratio of 2:1. And to be honest, I sincerely doubt that there are twice as many "harmful" comics directed toward women as there are for men.
(And the original article indicates that other places have done similar
You know what it reminds me of? Slash fanfiction.
Not so much NOW. When everyone and their sister reads yaoi and slash, or seems to, and enjoys it. But when I started out on the Internet, I remember things differently.
I read my first fanfic at the age of eleven. My dad printed off a couple of fun Star Trek the Next Generation fanfics for me off of a bulletin board because I had run out of my collection of tie-in novels. I loved them immediately. Even the awful ones, because it was MORE of my favorite show.
I read my first slash fanfic in 1996. It was a Highlander fanfic that centered around my favorite characters and I decided to risk it even though I thought the idea was pretty mind-boggling. ("But...they have GIRLFRIENDS!" I thought.) I found that if I skipped over the sex scenes, it wasn't THAT much worse than the kind of really godawful hurt/comfort type general fanfic I adored reading. And there was the added advantage of never seeing "Duncan's new girlfriend who is EVEN OLDER THAN METHOS but can HIDE it, OMG!"
I understand the appeal of Mary Sue fics, and I don't begrudge anyone who likes them, and to be honest, I might have written my own once upon a time (As I recall it was a scary religious fundamentalist who hated Mr. Spock because she thought he was Satan but then learned the error of her ways when he saved her life and things went from there and you can't BELIEVE how bad it was! Thank god it never saw the light of day!) But it wasn't my thing. I liked reading about the characters *I* liked not some other person's fantasy insertion.
I'm not going to claim that the fics were all good (though there were some that were mind-blowing
:-)) but I really enjoyed reading them. And, well, had a bad tendency to lie about my age a lot to get access to more. I remember the day I turned 18, turning to my friends and cheering "Now I can LEGALLY read the stuff I've been reading for five years."
...I hope that's not something I have to confess to the bar committee. Egads.
Anyway, eventually I got worldly enough and started noticing tirades against slash. It was out of character! It was exploitative! It was a mockery of the original product!
Like ALL fanfic isn't, really! Yeesh. But somehow it was always SLASH that seemed to get the press. Whenever someone went on a general "Fanfiction is BAD! OMG!!!", slash would invariably be brought up. And when other fanfic writers would get in on the chorus...
I always wondered what the PROBLEM was. Okay, granted, copyright violation. But that sort of issue is hardly JUST limited to slash. And certainly, there were mainstream stuff that was as bad or exploitative. And there was certainly equally graphic pornographic fanfiction that wasn't slash.
Gradually I started to realize that the problem was less some sort of "preserve the purity of the work" idea and more that well, adult fanfiction in general tends to be written by both men and women, but slash fanfiction largely is written by and for women. This is not to say some men don't read and write slash themselves, but the genre is still, I think, very female dominated.
In the end, despite the genders of the subjects of the stories, slash was and is a genre geared toward the sexual gratification of women. And some people (both men and women), I suspect, find this a threatening prospect.
I wonder if that's at the root of this condemnation of josei manga as well. The articles haven't been explicit about the content of the manga. I've personally never read them, and for all I know they are the most appalling pieces of work ever to see print.
But personally, I suspect they're, at worst, on the same level as the aforementioned phonebook manga I saw the salariman reading. I suspect that the ratio of "offensive" and "harmful" comics, even applying the standards of Japanese culture rather than American, comes about at a much more balanced ratio than 2:1.
I don't know. Nowadays, slash fanfiction is such that you can't spit on the internet without stumbling across SOMETHING. Gone are the days when I'd have to hunt down fanzines or lie about my age on mailing lists to see what can be found. And sure, there are still some folks who grumble and gripe, but they're like rocks dropped into the ocean at this point. Probably it always was.
Obviously the situations are ultimately very different, but I suspect josei manga is not going to be particularly adversely affected by this in the end. There's always going to be more sexual material being written by and for women. And men (and women too) will either figure out how to embrace it or ignore it.
It still makes me tired though.