Archive for ‘Japanese animation’

July 13, 2012

Tokyo and anime Bill 156: After more than 1 year and no real impact

Tokyo and anime Bill 156: After more than 1 year and no real impact

James Jono, Hiroshi Saito and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times


The Governor of Tokyo, Shintaro Ishihara, was adamant that Bill 156 would stem the tide of extreme sexual depictions of children in Japanese anime and manga. Other individuals countered that Bill 156 would infringe on artists and other forms of freedom by enforcing censorship throughout Tokyo. Therefore, both sides were extremely divided by the new measure which was introduced last year on July 1, 2011.

More than one year later in 2012 and it is clear that Bill 156 is either currently ineffective or that individuals with enforcement powers don’t believe that Bill 156 is being violated. Either way, the bullish comments about clamping down on extreme images of minors which can be found in some areas of Japanese anime and manga, appears not to have been materialized.

The Daily Yomiuri, one of the most powerful newspapers in Japan, commented in their article titled “No manga banned by Tokyo as too racy” comments that One year since Tokyo’s youth protection ordinances were revised to prevent the sale of anime and manga containing extreme sexual content to minors, not one publication has been deemed unfit for consumption.”

“Ryokichi Yama, head of the editing ethics committee at the Japan Magazine Publishers Association, which has more than 90 domestic publishers among its members, said the Tokyo government has not applied the new standard to any publications because it is cautious.”

Shintaro Ishihara believes differently because according to him individuals who are in the trade related to sexual images, stories, graphics, and so on, are acting more responsible. Therefore, Shintaro Ishihara states that“Writers and publishers have started using common sense when it comes to publishing books.”

This statement appears rather mild given the comments made by Shintaro Ishihara prior to the enactment of Bill 156. More than likely, both sides have responded in a mutually beneficial way which will maintain the vibrancy of Japanese anime and manga. After all, racy anime and manga can easily be bought in Tokyo and given the mass complexities of regulating a vibrant industry then maybe the “economic impact” is also infringing on a clampdown? If so, this begs the question of enacting Bill 156 in the first place.

It must be stated that many artists, individuals who adore the sexual nature of Japanese anime and manga, organizations which support the freedom of speech and a host of other areas voiced their opposition to Bill 156. The reasons are varied but the main central theme is “civil liberties” because artistic freedom is essential in all societies which are modern. Also, it is argued that the extreme nature of parts of Japanese anime and manga are based on “fantasy,” “connecting to a-make-belief-world” and natural escapism. Therefore, the viewers clearly understand that the images they are watching are nothing more than manga, anime and harmless erotica. This implies that it isn’t depicting reality and given this fact it is complex to clampdown against unreality.

The ordinance passed by Shintaro Ishihara was aimed at sexual scenes related which depict rape, child marriage, sexual abuse of minors, incest, and other areas of concern. Supporters of Bill 156 believe that safety measures are needed in order to protect children and society from sexual predators. However, do individual who watch sexual anime and manga scenes go on and abuse children? This once more relates to Japanese anime and mange being based on fantasy characters and not real life images of children. The gap is enormous and clearly children are abused sexually all over the world but to point the finger at Japanese anime and manga would be extreme.

Also, the ordinance only applies to Tokyo and this in itself highlights that if Bill 156 was regulated tightly then local business in this area would just relocated to Saitama, Kanagawa and Chiba. It takes roughly 11 minutes by express train or semi-express train to reach Saitama prefecture from Ikebukuro in Tokyo. Likewise, you can reach Kanagawa very quickly from Shinjuku by using the Odakyu Line and so forth. Therefore, even if Bill 156 was effectual it would not be solving anything – if anything, it would be spreading the problem to other areas.

In a past article by Modern Tokyo Times it was stated that “Also, what if you buy animation which depicts rape, incest, and the abuse of minors, from an online company based in another part of Japan?  Will this also become illegal?  If so, then what measures can prevent packages from containing the newly banned material and if individuals download their new purchase online then are they breaking the law? “

International organizations point the finger at Japan but more than likely Japanese crime rates and abuse against children will compare favorably with any nation in the world. Also, in Saudi Arabia it is legal under Islamic Sharia law for old men of 60 years old and even older, to marry young girls of 8 years of age and 10 years of age. This also happens in other nations which abide by Islamic sharia law. Therefore, which is worse?

In Japan it is clear that young children are protected by Japanese law from being forced into marriages which they don’t understand. This is in stark contrast to nations like Saudi Arabia and Yemen where state sanctioned Islam allows children to get married to old men. Therefore, are nations claiming that child marriage in Saudi Arabia is leading to an epidemic of child abuse in this country?

Japanese anime and manga is based on fantasy, escapism, and other aspects, and clearly you have a very creative angle to the characters involved, even if people don’t agree to the context. If you had a firm link between child abuse and rape in the real world then artists would come under great pressure in Japan. Yet, unlike the reality of Saudi Arabia and child marriage, it is clear that Japanese anime and manga is based on “unreality.”

Therefore, the best solution is for a compromise between both parties and not to force this situation underground because this would be more dangerous. Also, if Tokyo began to take legal action against artists involved in making anime and manga, then this could open up “a can of worms” related to other subjects.

June 18, 2011

Hatsune Miku is the perfect girlfriend! Reality or unreality?

Hatsune Miku is the perfect girlfriend!  Reality or unreality?

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times


In Japan it is sometimes difficult to understand the concept of life and death in a nation where more than 30,000 people kill themselves a year.  Yes, despite the brutality of the March 11 earthquake which unleashed the tsunami and which swept away so many people; the sad reality is that more people will kill themselves this year in Japan than the devastating tsunami. 

Alongside this brutal reality is hikikomori which is a real social problem because many people want to hide away from the outside world.  Hikikomori and suicide may be small when we think about the population of Japan and both problems can be overly dramatized but something is going wrong?

After all, 300,000 plus people killing themselves every ten years is serious and the same applies to people who desire to withdraw from society.  Therefore, if you understand aspects of Japanese culture and this also applies to sexless couples, otaku, huge social pressure because of long working hours then Hatsune Miku does make sense.

Of course many females also commit suicide and get hikikomori but males outnumber females and around 70% of all suicides are done by men.  It is even suggested that the number of suicides is higher because definitions vary but the government acknowledges that over 30,000 people kill themselves every year.

One interesting fact is that while people with hikikomori withdraw themselves from society they still interact but through the internet.  Indeed, for many people with hikikomori it is clear that they enjoy anime, comics, video games and the internet.

Often in Tokyo you will see young men and ladies with small teddies attached and sometimes people who are much older.  Therefore, immaturity, the power of anime, high technology, hikikomori, high percentage of sexless couples, the stresses of conformity, strong social pressures, otaku, cosplay, maid cafes, Hello Kitty, hentai anime, and other areas of society, is clearly catering for Hatsune Miku to become the perfect girlfriend.

This does not imply that anime is negative because it certainly isn’t and I really like Japanese anime and this applies to Ghost In The Shell and many other high quality anime which is made in Japan.

However, for a minority of people the world of reality and unreality is difficult to define and this is why Hatsune Miku is so popular.  Therefore, when you think about all the inner-social problems in Japan and how society and younger men appear to becoming more feminine then a perfect girlfriend which isn’t human is appealing and understandable.

It must be stated that in Japan it is factual that young ladies are desired and the pop culture caters for teenage girls dressing sexily and so forth. Therefore, aspects of anime and manga do have sexual overtures and hentai manga is big business in Japan.

Hatsune Miku unlike any other figure in the history of anime crosses the world of reality and unreality.  Also, Hatsune Miku is extremely cute and her persona changes for the individual who adores her. 

Therefore, the digital avatar is creating a sensation and the popularity of Hatsune Miku is growing.  The lovely eyes and pony tails appeal and unlike a real girlfriend you have no arguments or wasted time and given the social pressures in Japan then this in itself is a winner.

The fan base of Hatsune Miku runs into the millions and major companies like Toyota want to join the bandwagon because of the marketability of “adorable Miku.”

Given my reality I might join the club!

June 16, 2011

Tokyo: Anti-Anime and Manga Bill to be enforced on July 1st

Tokyo: Anti-Anime and Manga Bill to be enforced on July 1st

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Reality or unreality? Child or Adult?

Shintaro Ishihara, the Governor of Tokyo, remains adamant that Bill 156 is a step in the right direction in stemming the tide of extreme sexual depictions of minors in Tokyo.  Therefore, the anti-Anime and anti-Manga Bill will come into complete effect on July 1st but elements began prior to this date.

Many artists, individuals, organizations and people in Tokyo are against the new measures  because  they claim that it is a threat to civil liberties and that it will hinder a vibrant sector.  However, others support Shintaro Ishihara on the grounds of protecting minors and because of other important factors.

The ordinance which was passed by the local government in Tokyo claims that regulations are needed in order to safeguard minors.  This applies to animation scenes which depict rape, incest, child marriage and the sexual abuse of minors.

However, if the ordinance only includes Tokyo then it seems rather strange because Saitama Prefecture is only 11 minutes away by train from Ikebukuro and within around 18 to 19 minutes you are in Kanagawa from Shinjuku.  Similarly, Chiba is not so far away from Ueno therefore if the entire region is not included it appears rather limited and open to be manipulated.

Also, what if you buy animation which depicts rape, incest, and the abuse of minors, from an online company based in another part of Japan?  Will this also become illegal?  If so, then what measures can prevent packages from containing the newly banned material and if individuals download their new purchase online then are they breaking the law? .

Before people point the finger at Japan it should be stated that child marriage of minors aged from 8 or 9 years of age to very old men in Saudi Arabia is allowed (also applies to other nations). Therefore, will outside pressure be put on nations which implement Islamic Sharia law in countries like Saudi Arabia and Yemen which allow child marriage based on this legal system? 

Which is worse?  Child marriage of children to very old men in nations like Saudi Arabia or animation which is not based on reality? 

Shintaro Ishihara can’t please everyone because it is a very emotional topic in certain circles. However it is clear that explicit animation and manga generates a lot of capital and the creativity it unleashes also crosses over into other areas.

Already restrictions have been put on six titles and the new ordinance is preparing other titles which will face the same problems.  Aki Sora, Oku-sama wa Shōgakusei, Lovers & Sharing, Koibito 8-gō, Hana-Hiyori, and Midori no Kisetsu, are the first to feel the act of this bill.

The final consequences remain unknown but with the closeness of other prefectures it is clear that nothing is what it seems.

It is also clear that this problem will be brought up again in the new future and much depends on the determination of people against the bill because the policing of this new bill will not be easy given the reality of mass communications and the sheer size of Tokyo

Source of main photo from

June 7, 2011

Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai

Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times


Japanese animation is rich and varied and Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai (We Still Don’t Know the Name of the Flower We Saw That Day) is full of promise because the storyline is very emotional and the main characters are a mixed bag of individuals. 

This animation series is currently being shown and it began to be aired in the middle of April this year.  Tatsuyuki Nagai, the director, is clearly creative and the series shows you the development of each character and is based on a tragic event which took place during their childhood.

It is about the closeness of six children who have strong bonds until the tragic death of one of the children called Meiko “Menma” Honma.  After this event they drift apart and Jinta Yadomi desires to shut the world out.

Therefore, Jinta Yadomi begins to develop hikikomori symptons because he is very reclusive and the future looks grim because he is trapped by the past.  However, one day during the hot summer an individual called Menma appears and after this things begin to change because Menma resembles an adult Meiko if she had lived.

Jinta is the main male character because before the tragedy struck he was full of life and the leader of the Super Peace Busters.  However, the death of Meiko and his mother changes everything and his world becomes based on staying at home, sleeping, withdrawing himself from society and playing video games.

It is also apparent that Jinta had deep feelings for Meiko despite suppressing his feelings when they were children. 

Menma becomes a turning point because when she appears in his life he starts to come out of his shell.  However, rather than seeing Menma to be a ghost he believes that Menma is a reality of his stress. Therefore, Jinta starts to re-connect with people whom he once held so dearly in his life.

The main female in the series is clearly Meiko Honma and she is of mixed blood but despite knowing clearly about her death her thinking is different.  For instead of feeling bleak and full of morose she is very outgoing when she re-connects with Jinta.

Meiko cherishes her memories and holds them dearly unlike Jinta who collapsed internally and withdrew from society.  This paradox also makes the series tick because it is full of emotion and focuses on real life issues and how they alter people differently.

Despite aging naturally it is clear that Meiko uses language which is caught up with the time of her death.  Meiko still retains the same dress that she had on the fatal day which took her life. 

Only Jinta can see Meiko but in the series her nickname is used and Menma (Meiko) does at times feel sad, despite trying to hide this from Jinta.  This applies to the fact that her friends and family can‘t visually see Meiko.

However, Meiko can interact in the world because she can play video games, cook, eat, and so forth.  Also, people can feel something even if they don’t understand what it is and later in the series this theme is developed. Therefore, others begin to understand when Meiko writes in her dairy and makes a noise after deliberately dropping it on the floor in order to get their attention. 

Naruko is also a very interesting character because she hides her true feelings and concerns for Jinta.  Also, her feelings for Meiko are complex because on the one hand she admired her but on the other hand she was jealous.

In truth, every character is different and fascinating and they have all reacted to their childhood in different ways. 

If you really like animation which is based on real emotions then Ano Hi Mita Hana no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai will appeal greatly to you.

Also, if you are on the border line where only famous animation like Spirited Away is part of your knowledge; then Ano Hi Mita no Namae o Bokutachi wa Mada Shiranai will appeal to you. 

It is very rewarding to watch and full of emotion.  (Good introduction)  (English music – nice)  (Song by Mads Langer )

March 5, 2011

Grave of the Fireflies and the brutality of war

Grave of the Fireflies and the brutality of war

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Grave of the Fireflies

Grave of the Fireflies

Grave of the Fireflies is a very moving animation film which focuses on the innocence of children and the brutality of war.  It is a film which blends into reality and it is easy to forget that it is an animation film because the two main characters are full of humanity and you feel their huge highs and tragic lows at all times.

In many ways I believe that Grave of the Fireflies (Hotaru no Haka) is in a class of its own because from start to finish you can see the reality of war.  More important, it is not overtly sentimental from any nationalistic point of view and it does not portray victor or vanquished in any harsh light.

Instead it based on the strong bond between brother and sister and how they both try to endure the reality of war but not losing their childhood glee from rare moments of joy and fresh hope.

The film was written and directed by Isao Takahata and it was produced by Shinchosha, while production work was done by Studio Ghibli. The animation film is based on the novel by Akiyuki Nosaka which shares the same name. Nosaka fuses the novel with the reality of what happened to him and his family during this tragic period but changes the theme and direction of the two main characters.

The Grave of the Fireflies was intended as a heartfelt and sincere apology to the author’s sister who tragically died from sickness. This fact is clear because the passion of the characters and how the events unfolded could only have been written and expressed by someone who experienced such wrenching times.

Full credit must be given to Isao Takahata because even grown adults will do well not to cry or to feel the tragic loss near the end when the plot unfolds. 

Also, Isao Takahata shows the simple beauty of nature and the animation reminds us of a time when the simple things in life offered so much and this is often lost in today’s world of commercialization.

More intriguing, is that the animation film does not have to turn to any ideology or to provide evidence of who is right or wrong.  Instead, it is about two young children who are fighting against terrible adversity and how moments of rare treasure lights up their world.

The film also highlights the innocence of civilians and when people focus on anti-German sentiments or anti-Japanese sentiments during this period of history; it is worth remembering the millions of innocent Japanese and German people, and all other nationalities in a multitude of conflicts, who have been brushed aside by historians or the media.

Yes, we know that innocents are always killed in war but this film focuses on the inhumanity of war and of human nature.  For the adversity that these two children face is not just the threat of allied bombings and the destruction that unfolds; but the film also shows the inhumanity of other family members who cared little about these two children. It also highlights the neglect of the Japanese people by their own government who could not understand the reality of what had befallen the people of Japan.

The film is based on the pre-teen Seita and Setsuko, his younger sister, and how he strives to protect her once they become orphaned.  From the start you see Seita in Sannomiya Station and he is dying of starvation and in a terrible condition.  Then a janitor just prods Seita and throws out a candy tin containing what he holds dear because inside the tin was ashes and bones. 

After this the spirit of Setsuko and Seita are released and a cloud of fireflies can be seen.  From this starts the story and Seita’s spirit then narrates the tragic events which unfolded during this brutal period and you have a flashback to the Kobe fire-bombings and the ending of World War Two.

Straight away the symbol of America’s power can be seen and this applies to B-29s and while the children escape, their mother who is already sick is injured severely during the bombing raid and shortly afterwards she dies from terrible burns.

Now their world is turned upside down but Seita focuses his energy on protecting Setsuko.  Their options are now severely limited because they have been abandoned and they are in the midst of a brutal war.  Therefore, Seita hopes to find solace with their aunt but in time she turns out to be a cold hearted lady and instead of feeding and caring for the children, she forces Seita to sell many things and in time the only thing left is a small tin of fruit drops.

The tin of fruit drops often props up in the film and the coldness of their aunt turns into major resentment and clearly she believes that Seita and Setsuko are a burden.  Therefore, they leave and move into an abandoned bomb shelter and for light they find fireflies and fill their dark world with the beautiful light of nature.

However, the beautiful life of nature dies quickly and Setsuko is mortified when she finds out that all the fireflies have died.  Their brief moment of joy ends all too quickly and Setsuko painfully asks Seita why the fireflies had to die and why her mother had to die.

Now their life is full of despair and anguish but Seita remains strong despite the light of Setsuko fading all too quickly.  Seita is now forced to steal crops and loot abandoned homes during fresh bombing attacks but once he is caught then the desperation he faces grips him and in one last throw of the dice he takes Setsuko to see a doctor.

However, just like the American bombers which did not care about life and death or just like the Japanese military who did not care about the innocents they killed; then the same inhumanity and hopelessness is found in the doctor because he offers no solution or compassion.  The doctor just ushers in a blunt statement that Setsuko is suffering from malnutrition and he provides no comfort or remedy.

Seita then hears about Japan’s unconditional surrender but for Setsuko the darkness of death is getting closer.  When Seita returns to the shelter he finds Setsuko hallucinating because she thinks that she is sucking on fruit drops and despite Seita’s deep care and love it is all too late because Setsuko dies of starvation.

After this Seita cremates Setsuko, the sister he cherishes and cares deeply about, and he puts her ashes into the fruit tin which he carries and this, along with a photo of his father, and the memories of his mother; is all that remains of a life which is soon to fade because his candle is now very weak. 

Then turning back to the train station where the story began you can see the emaciated body of Seita.

At the end you see the two orphaned children but the spirits of Seita and Setsuko are no longer skin and bones and filled with pain. Instead they are reunited and dressed in nice clothes and they are looking down on the city of Kobe.

This animation film is viewed by many to be an anti-war film but like any film you will have different interpretations.  I myself believe it is about the tormented soul of a writer who witnessed so much pain and anguish and that the Grave of the Fireflies is about the struggle that he faced.

When turning to the bigger picture it is clear that you had countless numbers of Seita’s and Setsuko’s who witnessed the brutality of this period.  Therefore, the war theme is obvious but the animation film focuses heavily on the darkside and coldness of human nature and not just the war.

It is not for me to say what the real meaning is or is not; instead if you have never seen this animation film then I recommend that you put this on your list. 

Yes, this animation film is not new; however, it is a classic and timeless and not only this, it reaches the heart unlike other films. The brief highs are fantastically high but the lows are full of heartache and the film reminds us of the brutality of World War Two and the continuing struggle which rages in many modern day nations.

More than this, it highlights two innocents who are caught up in a tragic adult world and how inhumanity is not only at the drop of a bomb, but also within families and communities.

Grave of the Fireflies will always stay with me because of the passion that it unleashes and because it focuses on the reality of life in dark times.    Grave of the Fireflies