Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Trouble at Tokyo Anime Fair 2011; No silver lining on the publisher boycott.

Kadokawa throws a hissy fit over foreign entanglements.

The upcoming 2011 Tokyo Anime Fair is now home to some controversy as 8 companies (with Kadokawa being the largest it seems) have withdrawn from the TAF in protest over the Tokyo Met. Government’s new regulations regarding manga “content” and regulating (sort of) who can buy what… in Tokyo at least.

Although this is a “city limits law” and it may sound as trivial and rediculatarded as Pennsylvania liquor laws and just as easy to get around as simply driving across the state border to buy beer the proper way, in Japan this is actually a real problem for the following reasons;

1) Political landscape: Japan literally is Tokyo at this point. It’s a major problem that had had a great effect in pushing Japanese society past the event-horizon of absolute collapse. Everything is in Tokyo, government, major company headquarters, industry, and above all it’s the source of all culture from TV fashion and technology, to traditionalist activities like publishing and Sumo. 2008 says that Japan’s population is 127.7 Million, and the Greater Tokyo Area is 39.19 Million. That’s over 30% of the population and the GDP of the area alone is $1,759,000,000,000. Yeah it’s got that many zeros and it’s bigger than Canada, the country. So, much like the disastrous Texas textbook situation, something that effects business in Tokyo is going to have a national impact. Japan really needs to spread out and separate some government operations from the private sector geographically, but that’s a whole other post in and of itself.

2) Stupid Gaijin: Like the unending trouble caused by the artards who drive the Sea Shepard, this new regulation is a result of foreign intervention in what the Japanese consider a domestic matter. Most of the uproar over the objectionable content in these manga is coming from very non-Japanese, Valerie Solanas-brained, porn-banning, artist-assassinating, breast-beating, kvetching screaming, moan mamas, ...and Unicef (yes that Unicef that was caught with real child porn), and also the U.N. That’s right, the same organization that thinks it’s a good idea to put Saudi Arabia in its Women’s Rights Agency (read that again, let it sink in) is leading the charge against naughty picture books in Japan. Granted, these are some of the nastiest pictures which I have no desire to see, and the people who get off on this crap are living breathing arguments to the favorability of implementing a style of law enforcement that is half and half “Minority Report” and “Law & Order SVU,” but they are drawings not photos, and that is not even half enough reason to really care in the grand scheme of things. I hate to have to defend the kind of freaks who like this kind of thing over at sankaku complex, but there are much more worse things happening in the world. Real genital mutilation continues in Africa and other countries, Iran is executing 16 year old rape victims for violating the dress code, and child labor picks 1 or 2 out of every 5 coffee beans in your hipster morning drink of choice (hey tea or hot choccolate drinkers, don't think you're off the hook either). Yet for some reason, people think that ignoring those problems in favor of forcing their will in assigning moral propriety upon the comic books of Japan is totally worth their time. But in reality, the complaints by white Europeans and Americans against this material being made and sold in Japan smacks of colonialism, and is as stupid as the English telling the Spanish to stop bull fighting, or PETA demanding sushi be called “sea kitten meat” because it bruises their fragile sensibilities. The more the rest of the world tells Japan what to do… the more Japan is not going to do that… and before you go dismissing that kind of thing as immature, think about what would happen in the U.S. if the rest of the world signed some resolution condemning the 2nd amendment and demanding it be abolished, after all it does far more real damage to human life than these manga could ever do. All of a sudden the “Don’t Tread on Me” banners seem totally reasonable.

3) Making it worse: Those directly involved are only exasorbating things. This is really being made worse by Kadokawa and the rest of the companies themselves, not by simply withdrawing from the TAF, but in holding a competing event (seriously guys?). This legal resolution was for “self-enforcement” more or less of the manga industry in terms of who can buy what kind content. Yes, in the Japanese way of doing things, that’s still a big deal, but it still means that if the issue stayed quiet for a bit, it would more or less just go away. But no, they’ve got to make a big deal out of this and put the government in an impossible situation; either further crack down and actually enforce what could have been ignored without notice, or risk the loss of business from other completely unrelated industries (pharma, auto, textile, IT/software, tourism) in some sort of international protest because now this mess is in the f-ing spotlight. There are really better cases to “up the anti” on in terms of publishers vs. the government. Think about this situation and look at the best case scenario for either side… yeah both suck, so why are we doing this?

If you are an American and you’ve ever read a manga, it’s impossible not to feel some sympathy for these publishing companies stepping out of the TAF, as this legal restriction would be a clear constitutional violation if done in the US. Here we have the TAF which is put on by the Tokyo Met Government, the same government agency that has just told you what you can and can’t publish based on the reactions of a bunch of foreigners who have never bought a single product your company makes, have never been affected by such products (beyond self inflicted moral outrage when informed of their existance), and couldn’t even read the damn books even if they did get their hands on them. So these publishers are wholly justified in giving the finger to this show if the money they have to pay to exhibit there goes straight into the pockets of the government organization that is telling who they can and can’t sell comic books to. Remember, this is Japan. In the USA, things are permitted unless they’re prohibited. In Germany, things are prohibited unless they’re permitted. In Japan, everything is prohibited, but anything is possible. The “self-regulation” aspect of this mess could have meant anything from “forgettable” to “do it or else.” Kadokawa has taken the repercussions of this mess from intangible to very tangible (the tangibility being the lost revenue from exhibitor fees for the TAF), which is a very dangerous thing to do in Japanese politics. Philosophically, I must support this decision and this group (honestly, I wouldn't give my money to an organization that just made it harder for me to do business as part of a sad political capitulation), but realistically, there is no way this will end well.

When your building is this big and then some, your "guidelines" are more actual rules.


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