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Tokyo Governor: 'Nonexistent Youth' Bill Needs Changes

posted on 2010-05-08 17:53 EDT
Says bill to regulate manga/anime/games is misunderstood; Chiba plans bill also

Tokyo Governor Shintarō Ishihara acknowledged during a Friday press conference that even though he backs a bill to regulate sexualized depictions of "nonexistent youths," the bill's vague language needs to be rewritten to resolve misunderstanding. Ishihara and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government's Office for Youth Affairs and Public Safety had pushed for the bill's passage in March, but it met resistance from manga creators and authors who say that it infringes on the freedom of expression. As the debate continues in Tokyo, the neighboring prefecture of Chiba revealed on Thursday that it also plans to regulate the sexualized depictions of minors.

During the Friday press conference, Ishihara said that the convoluted legal language of the bill is making it harder for people to understand it. He cited the phrase "nonexistent youths" as a key example, and said that the newly invented term makes people wonder, "Are they talking about ghosts or something?"

The current draft of the Tokyo bill would prohibit sexualized depictions of "nonexistent youths" — such as in manga, anime, and other materials — from being sold to minors. The bill coins the term "nonexistent youths" and defines it to mean characters that appear or sound to be younger than 18 years old. It would also designate material that deal with "anti-social acts" of sexual nature, such as rape and incest, in the same category of "harmful publications." Under the proposed law, minors are prohibited from buying or reading publications from this category.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Governement is streaming a video of the press conference, and the Sankei Shimbun paper posted a partial transcript of the press conference. Dan Kanemitsu, a translator and production coordinator living in Tokyo, translated the sections of the conference that dealt with the "nonexistent youths" bill.

Release of Public Comments on Bill Delayed for 4 Months

The government had requested comments on the proposed ordinance changes from the general public from November 26 to December 10 of last year, even though, as of May 8, it still has not officially posted text of the bill itself online. The 28th Tokyo Youth Affairs Conference tabulated the 1,581 public comments and responded to some of them. However, the government delayed the public release of the comments, despite repeated requests from critics such as Tsukuru Publishing and Assembly member Keita Nishizawa.

The government finally released the comments into the public record last week, but blacked out several of the comments' text. The Mangaronsoh blog posted some examples of comments with blacked-out text.

Chiba Considers Regulating Manga, Characters

In a separate development, Chiba Prefectural Government laid out its "Chiba Prefectural Youth Healthy Development Plan" on Thursday. Among other elements, the sixth basic objective of the plan would amend the current ordinances to "regulate manga, characters, and other materials that depict minors sexually." Osaka and Shiga are two prefectures that already designate some manga as "harmful publications" which cannot be legally sold or browsed by minors.

Thanks to Dan Kanemitsu for the news tips and research.

Update: The governments of Tokyo and Chiba both have existing Youth Healthy Development Ordinances to restrict the sale of explicitly sexual materials and other "harmful publications" to minors — as do almost all prefectures in Japan. However, Tokyo and Chiba's proposed revisions would expand the ordinance to include material that are not necessarily explicit as "harmful."

The Mangaronsoh website asserts that, of the 1,581 comments that the government's 28th Tokyo Youth Affairs Conference received on the proposed changes, only 57 expressed partial support and only 16 expressed full support. The government delayed the public release of the comments until after the bill's originally scheduled March vote, but the opponents were able to delay the vote and press for the comments' release. Thanks, Dan Kanemitsu.


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