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ICAS Academic Conference

Japanese Popular Culture in the News: Exploring Debates about Sexual Norms and Politics

Monday, October 27, 2014   19:00 - 21:00

  • Yamaguchi Takashi (Partner at the Link Law Office, Kito and Partners)
  • Renato Rivera Rusca (Lecturer at the School of Global Japanese Studies at Meiji University)
  • Patrick W. Galbraith (Adjunct faculty at TUJ and Ph.D. student in Cultural Anthropology at Duke University)

Japanese media such as manga and anime have become inescapable parts of the global cultural landscape. For a generation of young people around the world, manga and anime appeal as more mature alternatives to comics and cartoons, which has fueled various government and industry initiatives under the banner of “Cool Japan.” However, at the same time, the mature content that makes manga and anime appealing for some is for others shocking and unsettling. Indeed, the difference of manga and anime is such that it can be at odds with local norms and global standards. News reports questioning the propriety of manga and anime specifically and Japanese sexuality more generally have become commonplace. If its youthful characters are involved in violent and/or sexual activity, should manga and anime be categorized as child pornography? Why the gap between regulation of such material in Japan and elsewhere? Or between actual and virtual sexual expression? Examining the passing of new child pornography legislation and the arrest of a female artist on obscenity charges in Japan, two stories that made international headlines in the summer of 2014, this mini-conference explores the contested terrain of sexual norms surrounding Japanese popular culture. Presentations will touch on issues such as friction between local and global standards, media feedback and the logic of regulating sexual expression.


Manga, Anime and Global Standards: The Debate about Child Pornography

Patrick W. Galbraith, Duke University

Recently, the violent and sexualized content of manga and anime, particularly in regard to representations of characters who may appear to be minors, has caused considerable concern among governments and NGOs worldwide. In countries such as Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom, the legal definition of child pornography now includes purely fictional forms. The ever-expanding scope of this legislation has led to serious charges against manga and anime collectors around the world. However, when Japan passed legislation on child pornography in June 2014, it notably did not include manga and anime, which sparked a flurry of outraged news reports around the world. After surveying the dicey legal terrain, this presentation will explore the central issue of contested recognition – both legal and popular – of drawings as people. Further, if we do recognize them as people, without understanding the manga/anime style and the cultural context of its production and consumption, can we adequately determine if a fictional character is a child or if a depiction is pornographic?

Enculturation and Acculturation Dynamics within the Discourse Surrounding the Exclusion of Manga/Anime from the 2014 Japanese Child Pornography Law Reform

Renato Rivera Rusca, Meiji University

In this presentation, I will examine the various strains of reasoning and key phrases in debates surrounding calls for further restriction of manga and anime in Japan and abroad in light of law changes banning the possession of child pornography. Law changes, ratified in June 2014, sparked criticism in the English-language media, namely with regards to the exclusion of depictions in manga and anime of characters who appear to be minors engaging in sexual activity. We can attribute this to the enculturated attitude towards the subject matter in the respective societies. For example, it is intriguing to find such typically left-leaning media outlets as The Daily Beast and The Young Turks advocating censorship. This presentation attempts to analyze the language used in these reports, as well as their usage of analogies and methods of framing the issue, and then contextualizes this analysis within the idiosyncrasies of the origin society. I conclude by examining reactionary attitudes within the Japanese media, including an editorial in the Mainichi Shimbun calling for stricter regulation because otherwise “the world will lose its confidence in Japan.”

Current Trends of Regulation against Sexual Expression: The Logic and Politics behind the Application of Obscenity, or Article 175 of the Criminal Code

Yamaguchi Takashi, Link Law Office, Kito and Partners

In July 2014, Rokudenashiko, an artist and columnist, was arrested for “the crime of distributing obscene digital data,” which is regulated by Article 175 of the Criminal Code of Japan. The digital data in question was a three-dimensional scan of her own vagina, which was part of her activities as an artist. This was not an isolated incident. One month later, at a photography exhibition at the Aichi Prefectural Museum of Art, police forced changes to be made in the presentation of work by Takano Ryudai, specifically photographs showing exposed male genitalia. These two cases are examples of governmental authority being asserted in expressive activities when said activities take on the subject of sex, which raises questions about the regulation of culture. What is the relation between the freedom and regulation of expression? In this presentation, I will discuss the legal framework for the regulation of sexual expression in Japan, specifically the logic behind the obscenity charges brought against Rokudenashiko.

Date & Time:
Monday, October 27, 2014   19:00 - 21:00 (Doors open at 18:30)
5F, Mita Hall
Temple University, Japan Campus
4-1-27 Mita, Minato-ku, Tokyo
Kyle Cleveland (ICAS Associate Director)
If possible, we ask you to register by E-mail (icas@tuj.temple.edu) , but we always welcome participants even you do not register. / 参加登録はなしでも参加できますので、直接会場へお越しください。


Yamaguchi Takashi

Partner at the Link Law Office, Kito and Partners

Yamaguchi Takashi holds a law degree and LLM from Keio University and practices law in Japan. He is currently a partner at the Link Law Office, Kito and Partners, located in Kojimachi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo. Admitted to the Tokyo Bar Association in 2001, Yamaguchi is a known advocate against regulation of sexual expression. He acted as lead counsel in the landmark Shobunkan Trial, an obscenity case against manga that went all the way to the Supreme Court in 2007, and was also active in protesting the so-called “Nonexistent Youth Bill” submitted to the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly in 2010. Most recently, he acted as legal counsel for Rokudenashiko, a Japanese artist charged with obscenity for distributing three-dimensional-scan data of her own vagina.

Renato Rivera Rusca

Lecturer at the School of Global Japanese Studies at Meiji University

Renato Rivera Rusca conducted Master and Doctorate research in Sociology at Kyoto University. He teaches in the School of Global Japanese Studies at Meiji University and coordinates the Meiji University Cool Japan Summer Program. Recently, his writing has been featured in Mechademia (2012) and Uchū erebētā no hon (2014). He also has a column in the animation magazine Febri and has appeared on NOTTV. In July 2014, Rusca was a discussant on the topic of manga and regulation on Nico-nama’s Hyōgen no fujiyū.

Patrick W. Galbraith

Adjunct faculty at TUJ and Ph.D. student in Cultural Anthropology at Duke University

Patrick W. Galbraith received a Ph.D. in Information Studies from the University of Tokyo, and is currently pursuing a second Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology at Duke University. He is the author of The Otaku Encyclopedia: An Insider’s Guide to the Subculture of Cool Japan (Kodansha International, 2009), Tokyo Realtime: Akihabara (White Rabbit Press, 2010), Otaku Spaces (Chin Music Press, 2012) and The Moe Manifesto: An Insider’s Look at the Worlds of Manga, Anime and Games (Tuttle, 2014), and the co-editor of Idols and Celebrity in Japanese Media Culture (Palgrave, 2012) and Debating Otaku in Contemporary Japan: Historical Perspectives and New Horizons (Bloomsbury, 2015).