The Reason Anime Fans Should Care About Banned Shows

Censorship Anime

“Censorship is telling a man he can’t have a steak because a baby can’t chew it.” – Mark Twain

I really should have learned during 2020 that spending any length of time on news feeds was just going to have me stumble across something that would just really make me feel annoyed in general. There’s no actual target for my annoyance. It is more an irritation at the fact that despite things forever being in a state of change, a lot of that change isn’t necessarily for the better. Today, let’s discuss banned shows.

At the start of 2021 I read a whole bunch of articles where people were calling to ban ‘Grease’ (the movie with John Travolta and Olivia Newton John) over its sexism and homophobia. While I’m not going to deny either of those issues exist with the movie, if we start banning all media from former eras that doesn’t necessarily align with our current values, we’re right back to the catholic church plastering fig leaves over naked statues just because they didn’t necessarily agree with depicting the naked human body.

Now, if people choose not to watch Grease because of its outdated mentality (or just the fact that it is a boppy musical in which a clear bunch of adults pretend to be teenagers and the overall resolution seems to come about after both main characters discard their whole identity to appease the other) I have no issue with that. People certainly do have the right to not engage with a movie with high pitched wailing and 50’s fashion should it offend them.

They also have the right not to have their kids watch it. What they shouldn’t be able to do is remove something from history or retcon it so that it no longer has any resemblance to its former self, thus making it impossible to actually discuss how movies and their messages have changed over time (or not depending on which modern movie you look at). Or even just to stop other people getting some enjoyment out of it, should they choose to.

Should we care about banned shows?

Amazingly enough, in high school I was in a school production of Grease and somehow still manage to not actually believe in the roles and attitudes that are inherent within it and also don’t feel that non-consensual sex is okay. Who would have thought that exposure to an idea doesn’t necessarily indelibly imprint it upon a person when they are surrounded by other media and family, friends, educators and a whole bunch of other things that provide alternative view points.



Which brings me to the recent news headline about Russia banning Death Note and other ‘violent’ anime (link below).

Now, on reading the article it seems more that the court has ruled to block steaming of the shows on particular sites rather than actively seeking out and destroying copies of the works and there’s potentially a whole bunch of other things going on that I know nothing about. Let’s be real: I’m not an expert in the Russian legal system nor on the nuances of censorship in that country, nor do I really want to jump into an extended conversation on Russian politics.

However one quote provided in the article as a reason for the ban stuck with me as worrying with Death Note being apparently described as, “potentially dangerous for a modern child”.

And here is where I just have to shake my head.

The anime named in the article, Death Note, Inuyashiki, Tokyo Ghoul, Elfen Lied and Interspecies Reviewers, could ‘potentially’ be ‘dangerous’ to a child but are children actually the target market for any of these anime? And if we flow to the next step does that mean all modern media needs to have zero chance of ‘potentially’ causing harm in all potential viewers? What would that do to modern movies and TV shows in general even outside of anime.

While this article is about one decision from Russia and expanding it to a global ban on adult media is kind of a ridiculous over-exaggeration, anime fans do need to at least perk up and pay attention. What anime are restricted in their countries and what laws have been discussed and proposed that might effect anime distribution?

Just last year Australia (prior to the whole global pandemic thing that more or less stole all the attention) had a senator wanting a child abuse anime review citing Eromanga Sensei as a key example of anime that essentially should be illegal. The implications of that for which anime could be released in Australia would have been huge had the discussion gone any further and it isn’t as if these attitudes have disappeared in Australia, there’s just been other things going on that have dominated headlines in the last year.

And the really important question to ask: Does banning an anime actually protect children?

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I’ve discussed censorship on the blog before and Irina and I posted a discussion around Censorship in Fireforce a while back. My view hasn’t changed on this issue. 100% there should be warning labels on media so that people can make informed choices. That’s why classification boards exist.

Children do need some protection so that they aren’t exposed to ideas they aren’t ready to process and that protection needs to come from families making those informed choices and basic age-restrictions on the purchasing of certain things, though admittedly with digital media it is getting harder to age restrict things when you ultimately rely on the consumer ticking a box that claims they are old enough to access it.

Banning something in its entirety doesn’t actually make it go away but it does take away opportunities for actual regulation. And if simply banning a few TV shows and movies could stop people being violent, sexist, homophobic or anything else the world would be a much simpler place.

I would genuinely like to believe that the world will eventually move on from the current prevailing idea that silencing ideas and removing certain themes somehow enriches us. I personally wouldn’t show a child Death Note nor would I recommend it to a parent who asked me if their child should watch it. However that doesn’t mean that there isn’t any value in Death Note. It genuinely asks the viewer to evaluate their own concept of ‘justice’. It demands that we consider the implications of receiving a god-like power. It also makes some harsh commentary on the bystanders in society who don’t stand up and take action.

Anime fans, fans of free artistic expression, should care when any work is banned. And they should know why it was banned and what else has been brushed neatly under the rug because the current people in power don’t believe it gels with their moral compass.

Now, after I drafted this article, I had a quick chat with Irina and discovered that she was also working on a post around censorship within anime. That’s now available on her blog and you can find it here: Is Censored Anime Better Than None At All?


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Karandi James