Chapter 280 of Fire Force has seemingly taken a stand against censorship of fan-service content; at least according to fans.
Tamaki Kotatsu is somewhat of a fan-service character in the show. Her clumsiness often finds her in compromising or lewd positions, much to her embarrassment [1, 2, 3, 4, 5].
Aside from this “Lucky Lecher Lure;” Tamaki also has her clothes burned off or destroyed in Special Fire Force Company 8’s battle against Infernals. Her uniform notably has an open jacket, with pants that expose her hips and part of her buttocks. The two other women of Company 8 who venture directly into danger- Iris and Maki Oze- have their jackets closed.
The assassin Assault was sent to kill her and Iris. However, Tamaki’s lucky lecher “ability” often results in her being exposed to him; distracting and overwhelming him. His attempts at training by watching porn, talking to women at a hostess bar, and peaking at panties being exposed from high winds were all for naught- each time Tamaki would expose herself in a way Assault could not handle [1, 2].
Fans began discussing one particular scene in Chapter 280 [1, 2, 3, 4]. Assault has finally overcome his weakness, and Tamaki’s Third Generation abilities and Lucky Lecher Lure have no effect. Even as Tamaki intentionally takes off her jacket, Assault declares “You objectify yourself! There is no need for sex appeal in this world!”
Assault mocks Tamaki for failing to stop him, and that all she had achieved was shaming herself. Onlookers then begin to mock and deride Tamaki. One woman notes she should “just find an alley to die in! There are children watching!” Others begin to murmur similarly derogatory comments, as Assault says “Your sex appeal is pitiful. Allow me to censor you.”
Tamaki then strips down to her underwear, and lands a blow on Assault. Even as others continue to be appalled by her, she says “I’m sick of your whining! If you hate skin that much, I’ve got something to show you!”
The caption, possibly Tamaki’s thoughts, also notes “Who cares what society says?! This is who I am! I’ll save the world with the power of sex appeal!” As noted by some fans, this shows Tamaki has gotten over self-doubt and a weakness. She had always seen herself as lesser and useless, to the point her poor self-image reduced the effectiveness of her powers. The next chapter will be titled “The Guru of Lechery.”
Nonetheless, fans have also taken the moment to be a commentary by author Atsushi Okubo. They feel this is his staunch denial to back down against those criticizing the manga for its fan-service.
Japanese manga and light novel authors have expressed their concerns about Japan’s freedom of expression being eroded and censored by foreign influence, which would include fan-service and controversial themes. Record of Lodoss War author and creator Ryo Mizuno has expressed concerns that his works may be banned, after the “dark elf” episode of Community was removed from Netflix due to blackface.
Manga author Ken Akamatu (Love Hina) was invited to speak to the Japanese government; expressing his concerns of manga being “regulated by overseas standards,” while praising Japan’s “freedom of expression.” He expressed this concern once again during an online conference, adding his fears of political correctness.
Most recently, Kadokawa President Takeshi Natsuno appeared in an interview with video streaming website AbemaTV; discussing Japanese gravure idols. He stated that manga had content that was more “extreme” than what is seen with gravure idols, and “This and other factors prevent Japanese manga from being reviewed by Google and Apple.”
“So, I feel that we need to redefine the standards of the Internet age and determine what is acceptable for the public and what is not,” Natsuno continued. “The publishing industry I’m in is full of libertarians, but I really feel like we need to rethink things.” Many on social media grew concerned over freedom of expression in manga being harmed in order to cater to a western companies’ standards.
Soon after, Kadokawa issued an apology on behalf of their President. Insisting the statement was “not related to our business operation policy,” Natsuni offered to return 20% of his monthly pay.
The Fire Force anime is licensed by Funimation in the west, who were acquired by Sony in 2017. Anime-styled sexual content had been censored by Sony Interactive Entertainment on PlayStation consoles in order to “meet global standards” (and seemingly forced in Japan), while Funimation has been accused of censorship, and altering dialogue to mock and deride fan-service fans (or otherwise inaccurate).
How will this scene be handled by Funimation if it is animated? Will this chapter resonate with those who want to defend expression, or be dismissed as sex appeal? Sound off in the comments below!