Tag Archives: Banned books

Banned Books Week: The Manga Edition

This week was Banned Books Week, a yearly reminder of the importance of protecting our right to read what we want. This year focused on comics, graphic novels and yes, manga. You might think with manga not being so well know it would fly under people’s radars, but as manga has grown in popularity over the last decade or so, it has come increasingly under fire. Some of the titles challenged are also among the most popular.

Dragon Ball 1 bigDragon Ball, the first series, wasn’t just challenged, it was straight out removed from Wicomico County Public School libraries in Maryland in October of 2009. Based on a complaint by the mother of a 9-year-old, the series was removed from elementary, middle-school and high school libraries for depicting “nudity, sexual contact between children, and sexual innuendo between adults and children.” If you just looked at some of the panels in Dragon Ball with no context, you might agree. But in context, most of the claims made against the series are for comedic purposes and are closer to what you would see on “America’s Funniest Videos” than you would the Playboy Channel.

Death Note 1In May of 2010, Death Note was challenged by the mother a student in a high school in Albuquerque, NM. She tried to get the series removed by saying “killing is just not something we should put out for our kids to read this way.” The city’s public schools committee met to discuss it, but rightfully denied the request. Death Note has it’s faults, but none of them warrant a ban. If anything, the moral questions it brings up are probably explored more deeply that anything kids will get at school or at home.

Color of EarthIn 2011 the manhwa, The Color of Earth, was not only challenged, it got the dubious honor of reaching #2 on the ALA’s Top Ten most challenged books for the year, the only manga/manhwa to make it to the list to date. The reasons for the challenges stated were: nudity, sex education, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group. The volume is the first of three about a young girl coming to age in mid-twentieth century Korea. Publisher First Second also included discussion questions for educations and book clubs to discuss the topics in the book. Yeah, it’s sooo bad for a book to have some sex education when so many kids don’t get it. And it’s veeerrry unsuitable for an age group that is starting to explore the same things as the protagonist in the book.

Vampire Knight 1And just this year, our newest addition to the manga challenge list is Vampire Knight. It was included with several other YA novels that featured vampires that was challenged by a Reverend in Cleveland TX. Reverend Phillip Missick of the King of the Saints Tabernacle Church has petitioned the Austin Memorial Library to remove the series’ for perpetuating the “theme of vampires in relationships with young teens,” as well as being demonic. Once again reason prevailed as the city council sided with the Library Director, Mary Merrell Cohn, who addressed the Reverend’s concerns in a 123 page rebuttal. I never cared for Vampire Knight, but I would never say one of its faults was that it was demonic.

Library Wars 1There is never a good reason to ban a book. If you don’t like something, then don’t read it, but you do not have the right to tell others what they can read, or by extension, think. Most of the challenges listed here are from people who don’t understand or even try to understand the media. They are from people who want to force their own beliefs on others and control what others can read under the pretense of “protecting the children.” If any of these people took a step back they would see that not only are their arguments ridiculous, but that their kids are a lot smarter than they think, and don’t need that kind of “protection.” What really needs protecting are books and our freedom of speech from these kinds of people. And if you think there isn’t any harm in letting one or two books get taken down, then just read Library Wars: Love and War, and see a worse case scenario if the censors ever did win.

Please Stop Trying to Save My Children

This week is Banned Books Week. On this blog I have spoken against any attempts at censorship of manga. I strongly believe in the freedom of making any book available to be read, and that it should be responsibility of the individual, and in the case of children, the parents, to decide if the book is appropriate. What that means basically is that if you don’t like a book in the library, then don’t read it. If you don’t want your child to read a book at the library, don’t let them check it out. What you DON’T get to do is decide that a book can not be made available for me or my child read because YOU have objections to its subject matter.

Over the past year, two manga titles were challenged in public school libraries, because some parent thought the material in it was “inappropriate” for children. What they really meant was that they didn’t like it and didn’t want their children reading it. Therefore,if their children couldn’t read it, then no other child could read it either. They made the challenges “for the children.” You know, that wonderful phrase politicians and other leaders like to pull out when there’s something they don’t like and want to get control of or get rid of, so they hid behind the shield of “the children” so no one can object without sounding like they are against children. The truth is THEY don’t want to be branded as censors, since censorship is considered bad as well.

The first challenge was to Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball. The parent of a 9-year-old claimed it “depicts nudity, sexual contact between children, and sexual innuendo among adults and children.” The fact that this is what the parent said proves they didn’t bother to actually read the volume and only looked at the most damning of pictures. What Dragon Ball really depicts is a boy living in the wild, and not worried about covering himself for some fish, an older girl acting like a sister and bathing said boy, boy, having never met a girl wondering what makes them different, and a perverted hermit getting more than either he or the girl thought. In an adult mindset, the last one could be construed badly, but this title wasn’t written for an adult, and it wasn’t meant in the context that some people will put it in. There are always going to be people who are offended by things, and if we let them rule the world, there would be no humor at all. I think Dragon Ball is perfectly appropriate for a tween boy or girl. Really, what am I supposed to be saving my child from if I keep them from reading it? What is in this book that isn’t already talked about, and laughed at, by kids in schools all over the country?

The other book challenged was Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata’s Death Note. The parent in this case stated “killing is just not something we should put out there for our kids to read in this way.” Yeah, because giving kids a title that makes them think about morality and the consequences of their decisions is a bad thing. While the actual merits of Death Note as a series may be up for debate (and possibly a good choice for a Movable Manga Feast), the kinds of dialog that the subject inspires isn’t. It asks some serious questions about who gets to decide who lives and who dies, and the morality that goes with such decisions. It can lead to debates over the death penalty, which continues to be a controversial topic. There is nothing wrong with asking teens to start thinking about these things, as in only a few years, they will be asked to start voting and sitting on juries where they may have to make such a decision.

While manga hasn’t been targeted much lately, looking at the list of books that have been challenged and many removed from libraries over the last year is depressing, and doesn’t speak well for our supposed tolerate society. while the list contains numerous challenges due to the standard sexual innuendo/content and language, it also contains books challenged due to Occult themes and homosexuality. so, someone explain to me why these two topic are so harmful to children? Not every was or is a christian, so why is it so offensive for children to know that there were and are other religions in the world? Are our children so impressionable that after reading “The Egypt Game” we should fear that they will start worshipping Osiris? How is And Tango Makes Three, a story about two male penguins who adopt an orphaned baby, which is based on true event, going to destroy family life in America? Honestly?? You really think kids need to be protected from penguins?

It’s not these kinds of books that are leading to the “ruin of the moral fiber of the youth of this country”, it’s the people that object to having rival ideas heard. Children are not delicate little tea cups that need to be protected from the horrors of the world. They are a lot stronger and a lot smarter than many people and parents want to give them credit for. Books that bring up sex, drugs, “alternate family units” aren’t going lead children down the path of ruin. Denying that these things exist or are problems that our kids can and sometimes do face in the lives will. So, the next time you think you need to challenge a book “to save the children”, do me and the world a favor, and DON’T!

Let The System Work

dragon-ball-1I have mixed feelings about this. Dragon Ball is being reviewed for it’s content in a Maryland school district because a 9-year-old checked it out of a elementary and middle school library. I think people are oversensitive in general and especially towards manga.  I’ll agree that Dragon Ball doesn’t really belong in the hands of a fourth grader, but I think it’s fine for a middle school student.

The first Dragon Ball series is a comedy that does contain some sexual innuendo.  The first volume does have a few questionable scenes, but I wouldn’t go so far and the Councilman from Wicomico did to describe them.  I might be able to see the “sexual innuendo between an adult and child”, with Master Roshi wanting to seen Bulma’s panties, but there is in no way anything sexual between Goku and Bulma.  Bulma is more like a big sister to Goku.  And Goku is too dense to get any kind of innuendo.

So I can see a parent getting upset at their 9-year-old bringing it home to read. So that doesn’t bother me so much.  What does is the way it was presented.  The mother of the offending 9-year-old didn’t go to the school library to complain or challenge the book, and let the school’s review committee take over the matter as it is designed to.  Nooooo, she asked to be anonymous and went to her Councilman and let him publicly decry the book with the moral indignation that only a politician can.  And the Principal, who just happened to be at the meeting for another matter, jumped in to say the book would be removed ASAP.

Why was this necessary?  Books are challenged all the time.  Why did this particular book have to get the attention of a Councilman and be publicized at a County meeting?  Does the mother and Councilman not trust the system put in place by the school to review offending books? Review committees were created to handle these issues.  They are there to make sure the whole community is served, and not just a small, vocal minority.  Let the system do it’s job.