Manga Critic Kaoru Nagayama Speaks Out Against Artistic Restrictions After Web Manga Removes Star of David Depiction
posted on by Kim Morrissy
In December 2018, the web manga site Jump Rookie temporarily removed Aono Haru's Yuribara: TS Yuri wa Bara na no ka?! (Yuribara: Is gender-bending yuri bara?!) manga in order to alter a depiction of a magic circle, which had previously shown the six-pointed Star of David. The star is comprised of two equilateral triangles and is a symbol of modern Jewish identity.
After the changes were implemented, Aono Haru posted comparison pictures on their Twitter account on December 6. This tweet accrued over 1,000 retweets.
Although Jump Rookie gave no comment about the reason why the change was made, an anonymous editor from a large shonen manga magazine told Yahoo! News: "We generally try to avoid using the six-pointed star. Of course, we don't necessarily forbid it, and we handle it differently from case to case, but we have to be prepared for some pushback. You see, the six-pointed star has associations with the persecution of Jews during the Second World War. It may not be appropriate to use it for a flimsy reason like 'it looks cool.'"
"These days, manga is read around the world. Things that didn't used to be controversial, or things that are controversial outside of Japan but not inside it, are potential issues. For example, depicting a cartoon Allah might not be a big deal for Japanese people, but we have to take extra care that it doesn't cause an uproar overseas when we distribute it internationally."
The Star of David has appeared in many Japanese anime and video game properties, including Dragon Quest and Lupin III. Manga critic Kaoru Nagayama told Yahoo! News that the symbol has appeared so often in Japanese pop culture that he cannot understand restricting its depiction.
"If we put a blanket ban on the six-pointed star, then you wouldn't be able to show the Israel flag or depict stories about the Nazis' genocide of the Jews or the clothes Jewish people wore during the war. It will severely restrict artistic expression. Writers will self-censor and avoid writing stories with that theme, and the six-pointed star will gradually become an untouchable issue."
This could result in even more disquieting effects, Nagayama warned.
"Publishing companies have regulations against religious symbols in order to avoid political controversy, but they can't give a satisfying explanation when asked about it. In fact, if they do explain it, that will become a political controversy. So having rules that they don't disclose to the public is easier for them."
"By banning the six-pointed star, it's possible that it could exacerbate discrimination. Readers may get the impression that followers of Judaism will object to even minor things. I understand that it's a sensitive issue, but going about it this way is not healthy. It would be a different matter if we were talking about a work that denied the atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis and depicted Jewish people in a demeaning way. It's not the six-pointed star that's the issue but the underlying message."
According to Nagayama, Japan has relatively lax government restrictions on media compared to other countries. Most censorship is implemented not by the authorities but by the companies acting under their own discretion. This could result in a slippery slope where even innocuous depictions are discouraged because the company errs too much on the side of caution.
"Audiences have the right to object to whatever they want to, but publishers shouldn't be cowed by them. If the claims turn out to be spurious, the publishers are under no obligation to respond to them, and if the concerns turn out to be legitimate after an investigation, then the publisher should make the necessary improvements. Freedom of expression when taken too far could have dangerous consequences, but expressing yourself inherently comes with an element of risk."
Jewish anime fan and convention panel presenter Reuben Baron told ANN that he found Nagayama's argument compelling and added: "I don't personally feel it was necessary [to change the Star of David depiction in the manga]. The Star of David was used as a symbol in Kabbalah mysticism (and the similar but slightly different Seal of Solomon in more mystical traditions) before it became the big symbol of Judaism in the 1800s, so it is understandable why it's used so often to symbolize magic in anime. When I see it used in for magic in anime I mostly just find it funny rather than offensive."
Source: Yahoo! News (Mitsuo Okada)