Despite Shōnen Jump Controversy, the Magazine's Erotic Art History is Decades Old
posted on by Jennifer Sherman
This year's 31st issue of Shueisha's Weekly Shonen Jump magazine became the center of a controversy and discussion online after shipping on July 3. Some people believe that the issue's illustrations of Tadahiro Miura's Yuragi-sō no Yūna-san (Yūna of Yuragi Manor) manga characters for a popularity poll are inappropriately sexual for a magazine with readers that include children. Certain commenters said the depictions should be adult content and "Jump wasn't like this in the old days." However, not everyone agrees with this view.
After Career Connection News published previous reports on the controversy, the website's writer Tarō Kawashima decided to explore the history of Shonen Jump to evaluate whether the Yuragi-sō no Yūna-san illustrations are out of line with the magazine's roots. A large part of the controversy is based on the idea that such sexual depictions are in conflict with the magazine's theme of "Friendship, Effort, Victory." However, that theme is open to interpretation, and Shonen Jump does have a history of publishing erotic illustrations.
A special exhibit for the magazine debuted in the Roppongi Hills complex's Tokyo Mori Arts Center Gallery on Tuesday, and it will run until October 15. The exhibition is part of a celebration for the magazine's 50th anniversary in 2018.
The exhibit's display focusing on 1968 to 1972 features Go Nagai's Harenchi Gakuen manga. The display shows scenes from the series, which include a woman with her skirt pulled up to her head and a woman jumping out of the water naked. Unlike the controversial Yuragi-sō no Yūna-san images, the nipples and naked bodies of women in Nagai's manga are completely exposed. In this case, it can be said the the Shonen Jump of 50 years ago was more extreme and explicit than the magazine today. Until the 1990s, women's breasts also appeared on primetime television in Japan.
Nagai's Harenchi Gakuen debuted in the first issue of the Shonen Jump in 1968. The gag comedy series is known as the first modern erotic manga, and the story centers around scandalous situations involving people at a school.
In his article, Kawashima also noted the gradual change in erotic depictions in Japan. "Skirt mekuri" (skirt flipping) is an active deed and was a trend among school children in Japan from the 1960s to 1980s. The act involves suddenly lifting up someone's skirt or dress to expose their underwear. More recent sexual depictions in Japanese media involve passive incidents of "lucky sukebe" (lucky pervert). For example, these fan-service scenarios involve characters accidentally touching a female character's breast or seeing underwear by chance. Sexual depictions in manga and anime have shifted from a trend of showing protagonists actively deciding to participate in acts towards females (which may be witnessed in real life in the case of skirt flipping) to characters passively finding themselves in potentially erotic situations involving female characters (which may be less likely to happen in real life).
In Saki Hasemi and Kentaro Yabuki's To Love-Ru manga, which ran in Shonen Jump from 2006 to 2009, the protagonist falls down, and his head ends up inside the heroine's skirt. Similarly, the protagonist of Yuragi-sō no Yūna-san does not actively decide to assault female characters, but he finds himself in "lucky sukebe" situations. Therefore, some fans believe that more recent sexual depictions in Shonen Jump are less potentially offensive than those originally published decades ago.
The controversy over sexual depictions in Shonen Jump and other manga publications targeted at children is likely to continue. Laws such as the Tokyo Metropolitan Ordinance Regarding the Healthy Development of Youths, which was originally passed in 1964 and updated in 2010, are designed to protect children in Japan. The ordinance was updated to regulate "manga, anime, and other images" that "unjustifiably glorify or exaggerate" certain sexual or pseudo sexual acts from being sold or rented to people under the age of 18. In light of the recent controversy, it is possible creators and publishers will face more legal trouble in the future.
Shueisha reportedly previously responded to the controversy by stating that various opinions appear in Shonen Jump every week. The publisher said it will continue to listen and work to create a magazine that more readers can enjoy.
The Yuragi-sō no Yūna-san manga launched in the magazine in February 2016, and Shueisha published the sixth compiled volume on July 4.
The manga's story centers on male high school student Fuyuzora Kogarashi who has spiritual abilities and is easily possessed by spirits. He moves into a boarding house with very low rent and meets the ghost girl Yūna. Fuyuzora agrees to help her sort out unfinished business so she can move to the afterlife. The other residents of the boarding house then begin to reveal their supernatural secrets to Fuyuzora.