An Australian senator has recommended “the immediate review of all Japanese anime movies” and manga, and ban any deemed to be showing scenes of child exploitation.
Senator Stirling Griff spoke to the Australian parliament on February 25th. You can find a transcript of that speech here, and the accompanying video of the whole session here.
Griff argues that in anime and manga “a significant proportion of the two media featuring child abuse material. They contain depictions of wide-eyed children, usually in school uniforms, engaged in explicit sexual activities and poses, and often being sexually abused.” He then cites that experts ascertain it is “a gateway to the abuse of actual children,” and that it could be used to groom children.
The senator also took issue with Japan’s laws on such materials.
“Incredibly, in Japan the definition of child abuse material specifically excludes child porn anime and manga, as these media don’t include real children. Chaku ero, which means erotically clothed, is a type of child exploitation material that features sexualised images of actual children and it remains legal in Japan as long as it doesn’t involve full nudity. So sexualised images are legal, provided they don’t involve full nudity. How does that work? Every expert combating child exploitation will tell you that this is very wrong.
At the time of the 2014 changes to child pornography laws in Japan, lobbyists on behalf of the Japan Cartoonists Association argued that a total ban on explicit content would damage the entire industry. Their argument was that imaginary images, unlike real child abuse, mean that no-one is actually hurt. I don’t buy that argument. Child pornography, even in animated form, is child abuse material. There is absolutely no question about it.”
Griff then described series that his “staff recently alerted” him to, which they and Griff felt contained scenes of child exploitation.
The first of these is an episode of Sword Art Online Extra Edition, and Griff taking issue with the episode only receiving an M rating (“which allows children under 15 to legally access the material”). It should be noted when he refers to “Sugu,” he is referring to Sugou Nobuyuki.
“The movie undoubtedly features the abuse of children. In one explicit scene that takes place in the virtual world the character Asuna is raped by her captor Sugu, who threatens to also rape her in the real world, where she is lying in a hospital room in a catatonic state. He also states that he’ll make a recording of the virtual rape to shame her as well. The rape, incredibly, is referred to as a ‘fun party’. Asuna is chained and her clothes are ripped from her while Kirito is forced to witness the rape. Asuna is described as a 17-year-old girl.
In another scene high school girls are at a swimming pool and one of the girls indecently assaults another character by repeatedly squeezing her breasts and bullies her because of her physicality. The Classification Board’s decision report for this movie justifies the M rating by saying that the nudity through the film is ‘moderate in impact’ and ‘justified by context’. How can the sexual assault of a child, even in animation, be justified by context?”
The senator also describes No Game No Life as “hypersexualised and features incest themes between the two main characters.”
Despite the Australian Classification Board reporting “throughout the material the female characters are frequently depicted in sequences that feature panning visuals of or close focus on their crotches, breasts, legs and/or buttocks”- Griff states “They are describing images of children. These images are in contravention of the law, plain and simple.”
Next, Griff describes Eromanga Sensei in no uncertain terms as “repellent.”
“The worst anime my office discovered is Eromanga Sensei. The plot is beyond what any person would consider normal or appropriate. The series features 12-year-old Sagiri, who draws pornographic manga while her 15-year-old stepbrother writes the books. Revealing clothing and sexually provocative poses are frequently depicted throughout the series, with the characters seen copying these poses and referring to genitalia. The series also heavily features incest themes, and many scenes are so disturbing I just won’t—I just can’t—describe them.
Whilst the series has a restricted MA15+ classification, I say again that this falls within the definition of ‘child abuse material’ contained in the Commonwealth Criminal Code and should be banned. It beggars belief how it passed through the classification board who, in their decision report, provide justification for scenes including ‘upskirting’ as comedic. There is nothing funny about it. It is repellent. The series should have been denied classification and should be banned.”
Griff states his belief that the Australian classification board “appears to be making decisions in isolation to criminal law,” and that it must stop. He even claims that manga is “not vetted at all by the Classification Board,” with scenes “more harrowing” than in anime, and that “the rape of children is abundant in manga.”
He cites one such example with Goblin Slayer. “In my office, we showed to a number of people today and they were absolutely horrified.”
“In Goblin Slayer children are often portrayed as frightening or resisting but they’re also shown as enjoying sexual abuse—enjoying it,” Griff states. “As I’ve said, experts say that paedophiles are using this material to groom children: ‘Have a look at this; this is normal.’ It’s certainly not normal.”
While Griff has already submitted an appeal to review the Australian classification regulations, he states the Australian government cannot wait for the findings of the review.
“We must act now,” Griff urges. “The Australian Federal Police have said that they do not condone any form of child exploitation or activity of any kind that reinforces the sexualisation of children. I agree, and I think they must look at this material urgently.”
The senator also stated he wrote to the Minister for Home Affairs (Peter Dutton), as well as the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts (Paul Fletcher)- demanding an immediate review of all anime (and presumably manga) sold in Australia. A ban would then be implemented against the offending materials, such as those he already mentioned.
“I’m calling for the immediate review of all Japanese anime movies currently accessible in Australia. I am also seeking the banning of particular titles I have referred to and, indeed, any other anime and manga featuring the abuse and exploitation of children, very much as a matter of urgency. I’ve also written to the Japanese justice minister in relation to these issues. I expressed my hope that the Japanese government will open its eyes to the insidious effect of these materials and take action to put the best interests and safety of children above all. South Korea has managed to ban anime and manga of images of child sexual abuse. The safety and wellbeing of children in Australia must be a paramount consideration for all of us in Australia and across our borders.”
On February 27th, the Australian Classification Board’s Director Margaret Anderson responded to the senator’s comments. Anderson explains that films do not have specific or separate guidelines for animated works, and that past films had been “classified across a range of categories, including M, MA 15+, R 18+ and RC” (Refused Classification).
Anderson explains how the existing guidelines are to assess the impact of various content (violence, sex, coarse language, etc.), but not whether the film contains real or animated characters.
“The Film Guidelines require an assessment of impact of six classifiable elements (themes, violence, sex, coarse language, drug use and nudity); not an assessment of the genre type or whether the film depicts ‘real’ people or animated characters. The Guidelines state “Context is crucial in determining whether a classifiable element is justified by the story‑line or themes. This means that material that falls into a particular classification category in one context may fall outside it in another.”
In addition to determining the classification, the Board must determine consumer advice for a film. The purpose of consumer advice is to draw attention to only the most impactful and frequent content relating to the six classifiable elements. Therefore, not all the content in a film will warrant consumer advice.”
Anderson then re-iterates the classifications of Sword Art Online: Extra Edition, No Game No Life, and Eromanga Sensei. She then explains that comic books only require publications when they are required to be submitted.
“It is the responsibility of distributors of comic books to decide if the comic book should be classified,” Anderson explains. “States and territories are responsible for classification enforcement legislation which includes offences for selling an unclassified submittable publication.”
While Anderson’s comments may sound dismissive of Griff’s concerns, the final comment of the statement welcomes the proposed review.
“The Board is aware that a campaign has been launched about the sale of Japanese manga and anime in Australia and that in the context of the Government’s Review of Classification Regulation this issue has been raised. The Board welcomes this review.”
While Australia has been known to be strict on imported media (particularly video games), this matter is not as black and white to some. Back in June 2019, Japan and the United States rejected a proposed ban by the United Nations (UN) on content of this nature.
Representatives of the United States argued the law should apply “when such material represents realistic representations of non-existing children.” Japan’s representatives made comments of a similar nature.
Other groups also argued the law’s phrasing could cause issues. The Japan Society For Studies in Cartoons and Comics (JSSCC) especially the segment even the UN’s proposal admitted “may be complicated to establish with certainty if a representation is intended or used for ‘primarily sexual purposes.’ “
For example, Berserk features a character who was sexually abused as a child. While not intended to be for primarily sexual purposes, the JSSCC argues the proposed law as it stands would be banned under the new law- despite it not being intended to do so.
Some of the series above may be of a similar nature, featuring scenes intended to evoke revulsion.
We will keep you informed as we learn more.