Tokyo restricts 'extreme sex' anime
Tokyo - Japan's capital city on Wednesday restricted the sale of manga comics and anime films with extreme depictions of rape, incest and other sex crimes, despite industry charges of censorship.
An amended ordinance passed by the Tokyo metropolitan assembly says that under-18-year-olds must not be able to buy or rent materials that depict such sexual acts in "unjustifiably glorified or exaggerated ways".
The bill, proposed by conservative Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara, demands that the industry self-regulate to enforce the restriction.
Publishers and retailers who breach the rules and ignore warnings from authorities could be fined up to ¥300 000.
A spokesperson for the 127-member assembly said a majority vote had approved the "revision to the ordinance for the sound upbringing of youth".
Ishihara has long campaigned against "unhealthy" manga and anime in the city of over 13 million people, but failed earlier this year with a plan to restrict material that depicts apparent underage sex.
He said it was "natural" for the ordinance to pass. "It's the conscience of the Japanese," he told reporters after the vote. "You cannot possibly show such things to your own children."
Freedom of expression
A group of 10 leading comic publishers has protested and vowed to boycott collectively the biggest industry show, the Tokyo International Anime Fair, to be hosted in March by Ishihara.
A wider industry group, which also included retailers, expressed its "strong anger that the revised bill was adopted".
"Artists of manga and anime have widely raised objections, while the entire publishing industry has pointed out problems," the group said after the vote, condemning what it sees as a limit on freedom of expression.
Japan's centre-left Prime Minister Naoto Kan weighed in this week, saying on his blog that he wanted all parties in the row "to make efforts to avoid a situation in which the International Anime Fair will be cancelled".
Despite the uproar, several major political parties - including Kan's Democratic Party and the conservative Liberal Democrats - agreed on the restrictions ahead of the assembly vote.
Manga comics are highly popular in Japan with both children and adults.
The graphic novels deal with themes from high school romance to literary classics - but also with pornography, much of it hardcore and violent.
Although producing and distributing child pornography is illegal in Japan, its possession is not criminalised, and images of "non-existent" underage characters in manga, anime and video games are legal.