The Sex-Obsessed Cyberpunk Dystopia of Shimonetaby Joe Dempsey,
What anime from the past few years is SHIMONETA's story and world most similar to? From the outside we can see that it's based off a light novel with the classic light novel naming scheme of a plot description title ( the idea being that readers of this genre of fiction are so impatient they won't even pick up a book to read the blurb on the back). The front cover proudly displays a scantily clad lady, the story involves teenagers who are too innocent to talk about sex... And it's being adapted by J.C. Staff, arguably the leader in rubbish light novel adaptations, with almighty gems such as Aria the Scarlet Ammo.
So what anime does this remind you of? For those of you who said the dystopic cyberpunk future of Psycho Pass, you would be correct!
Let me explain. In December 2010 the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly approved an amendment to the Tokyo Metropolitan Ordinance Regarding the Healthy Development of Youths (also called the Tokyo Youth Ordinance) that restricts the depiction of sexual acts in anime and manga. This revision places restrictions on anime and manga that "unjustifiably glorify or exaggerate" certain sexual or pseudo-sexual acts. The bill was the brainchild of ex-politician Shintaro Ishihara, a man who has slightly backward views (one of his more infamous statements was that post-menopausal women are useless). This bill arose from a similar thought process of the more radically sexually conservative societies that believe if their children ever learn anything about sex they will turn into rabid beasts who will lose all self-control if they happen to see a picture of a dick.
It is under this new law that the light novel version of SHIMONETA was first published in 2012. In its story, a bill called the "Law for Public Order and Morals in Healthy Child-Raising" was passed 15 years previously banning all depictions of sexual acts, and specifically targeted at children so they would be raised ignorant of any knowledge about sex. From there the government introduced chokers and wristbands for everyone for access to the internet, and then quickly clamped down and destroyed any other access to the internet that wasn't through these wristbands. The government tracks what you say, alerting police should you say anything that they deem "rude". They can even track hand movements in order to prevent anyone from drawing their own "obscene" material - if caught doing so, they're able to safely confiscate said material and throw the offender in prison for being a danger to society.
This is pure dystopic cyberpunk material. OK - sure, it doesn't have the futuristic smoggy mega city with neon lights and set almost permanently during nighttime, which is arguably a pre-requisite for cyberpunk, but that's not what made the genre fascinating anyway. It was how the rapid technological advancement impinged on society. The more grim, dystopic cyberpunk works often focused on the all-seeing eye of the government as they monitored your every move to enforce its vision of the model citizen. Psycho Pass borrowed heavily from the works of authors like George Orwell and Phillip K. Dick (and by god did it want you to know it, given how characters would literally take a break from the plot to discuss their feelings on these authors), and it also featured a world where the government watches your every move, decides what is best for you, and locks up those who are deemed a menace to society.
What makes SHIMONETA's world even scarier is that it has more grounding in advancements from our modern world. SHIMONETA's wording of the law that drives its story is quite deliberately similar to the Tokyo Youth Ordinance. The idea of porn being stripped from the internet has been pushed by governments across the world, perhaps most notably by British Prime Minister David Cameron, who pushed to restrict access to pornography in households by default (again specifically to protect children). From there the process by which you severely restrict publication and access to anything deemed immoral is remarkably easy. Sure, SHIMONETA is using a "slippery slope" argument, but that's a pretty classic cyberpunk tactic - use current technological advancements and take them to their logical conclusion.
When viewed in this light, the events of SHIMONETA make much more sense. For those of us living in our liberal progressive walled communities, a scene in which a school is driven mad by video footage of flies having sex is ridiculous. But if you step outside and talk to people who grew up in far more conservative society, you'll quickly realize it isn't that far-fetched. Ask someone who went to school in the Middle East. Even for myself growing up in Ireland, I only had to go one generation back to find stories of science books where the pages regarding reproduction were glued shut, and any new textbook was considered contraband as the school hadn't had the chance to grab them to glue the offending pages shut. Of course a lack of knowledge didn't result in a lack of interest amongst young people, it just meant misinformation spread rapidly, such as with stories of how too much masturbation makes you blind. In the first episode of SHIMONETA, two teenage boys are spreading stories about what they heard happens if they touch their cucumber too much, and come to the conclusion that it could fall off.
You could potentially criticize some of the conclusions SHIMONETA draws from its story. There is plenty of evidence and studies showing what sex education does for teens. I doubt they turn into raving psychos attempting to attach the business end of a vacuum to our main character's dick, like the character Anna did when she couldn't understand why she felt so hot around him, but things like teen pregnancy and sexual assault drop in direct correlation to how prevalent sex education is in a society. I'm not sure, however, that the solution to this would be reading anime porn, since that itself is a pretty surefire way to get the wrong idea about sex and how it works. Additionally, the show also has two absolutely awful filler episodes with episodes 6 and 9, neither of which have much to do with the story story; I highly recommend skipping them altogether.
But a proper dystopic cyberpunk story it definitely is. It has the government restricting our freedom of speech and expression. It has a police force burning material considered unsafe for our mental stability. It has our fighters for freedom engaging in acts of pornographic terrorism with the aim to teach people what the government would prefer we do not know. It even fires back at those who would believe anyone fighting the new laws are merely deviants who only want to fulfill their twisted fantasies in its second arc, when our heroes take on a rival terrorist group who only want to take on the government so they can steal underwear and let it rain down on their bodies in a shower of frilly white fabric.
Yes, SHIMONETA has a man who covers himself in knickers and attaches a stun gun to the end of his cock. Yes, it does have a girl serve cookies to the main character with her own lady spunk baked in them. Yes, its story is wrapped in your typical light novel tropes complete with boring high school male lead who attends elite school and falls in love with the beautiful yet innocent student council president. But in using this setting and these bizarre events, it tells a laser-focused dystopic cyberpunk story in the same vein as an anime like Psycho Pass. If you miss the deluge of cyberpunk OVAs from the 80's and early-90's, SHIMONETA is one of the best examples of the genre in anime in recent times.
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