Tag Archives: censorship

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.

End in Sight for Library Wars

Library Wars 1This news item seems rather timely. I’ve been catching up on my backlog of Library Wars: Love and War over the last few days. Banned Books Week is next week and I wanted to try to review them for it. I have a love/hate relationship with this title. The story is well written and I love the characters, but I can’t handle the dystopian future it portrays. The censorship, hardball tactics by the Media Betterment Committee, the push to destroy books that some disagree with for the “betterment of society”  just leaves an empty pit in my stomach, and makes it a difficult series for me to enjoy all the time and re-read.

It seems it won’t be a struggle for me for much longer. The November issue of Hakusensha’s LaLa Magazine announced that Library Wars: Love and War would be ending in the next three chapters. This would put the series finale in the February issue due out in December. There are currently 13 volumes out in Japan, and Viz Media, the US licensor of the title, just released volume 12 in print and digital. The series is based on a light novel series that went 4 volumes, and resulted in other spin-off media such as an anime, and a live action movie.

I’m not sure how I feel about this. I love the story and characters, but I don’t think I would want a world like Library Wars to go on. The situation is posits is too realistic. It’s too easy a slope for any country to slip down and never find its way back up. This is what makes the series great sci-fi. It makes you think about the possibilities, and by making you care about the characters, it brings it closer to home, and a little harder to dismiss. I wasn’t sure if I was going to continue the series, but with a prospective 5 volumes left, I think I’ll see it to the end, no matter how bitter that path becomes, because the subject matter is important. It makes me uncomfortable, but maybe that’s all the more reason for me to keep reading.

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!

This Week In Manga 5/8-5/14/10


Have We Lost Our Soul?

Monday started out with a bang as new spread quickly on twitter and then the blogs that Go! Comi’s website had expired. Gia Manry of Anime Briefs caught the expiration first, and attempted to contact someone through voice, but couldn’t get ahold of anyone. No official word has come back from any reps of the company, which doesn’t bode well for its future. The speculation that the manga company for sale in Southern California was Go! Comi gets stronger by the minute. Even though this news wasn’t all that surprising, it is still a bit of a shock, and I hope there are some publishers out there willing to “troll” the Go! Comi licenses and give us some hope of seeing them through to the end. Jus don’t look to Yen Press for that.

Another Tremor in the Manga Market

And the news didn’t improve any on Tuesday, as Publishers Weekly broke the news that Viz Media had laid off 60 employees, or 40% of their total. The Doomsayers didn’t come out for this, but there was a lot of worry for the Signature/Ikki line, since it’s not a cash cow in regards to sales. Viz later posted on their blog that the layoffs were a part of a company restructuring, and that no titles were in danger of being cancelled. They must have gotten a lot of worried inquiries in order to post a message like that. It’s good to hear that none of our favorite titles will be going away anytime soon, but also sad that so many people had to lose their jobs. Here’s wishing them well and that they find new work soon.

The Path to Hell…

David Welsh of The Manga Curmudgeon writes about an email he received advocating a “new” way to get manga piracy sites shut down; tell the site advertisers that the site has child p_rn on it. While I’m sure the person/persons who came up with this approach had good intentions in wanting to stop the pirates and help manga publishers, I have to say it’s a terrible idea. I’m in complete agreement with David when he says this approach will demonize the content, which is the last thing we need. Manga and anime are still fighting the perception that is filled things bad for children to read (see next story), so we don’t need actual “fans” adding to that bad image. Publishers need to do the work to stop these sites from putting up their rightful content, and they don’t need this kind of “help” which would very likely backfire and make their product nearly impossible to shelf and sell since the perception will be that manga is for child p_orn.

Death Note:1 Book Banners:0

ANN reports on the results of an attempt to ban the manga Death Note from high schools in the Albuquerque Public School District. In short, a parent complained about the death in Death Note, going so far as to compare it to the Columbine shooting. This is a clear example of a parent either not reading or understanding what the title is about.  There is not comparison between the two. Death Note is about justice and morality. Just who should get to decide who lives and who dies. Columbine was revenge. Death Note can get a kid thinking about things they probably never thought about before with respect to justice, and the death penalty, which as an adult they will have to deal with as a voter and juror. These are things that can’t be taught. But if presented properly can get the wheels turning so one can come to their own decision. That is the value of a series like Death Note.

Did You Remember to Call?

Sunday was Mother’s Day. Did you remember to call your mother and wish her a happy day? She could be lying on the floor of the kitchen right now, unable to get help and you would never know… Jason Yadao remembered Mother’s Day by giving a list of mothers in manga. While I didn’t do it this year, the previous two years I did posts about moms in manga as well. Jason hits a lot of moms I didn’t so check out all the lists for some great moms in manga. And for goodness sake, call your Mother. She’s worried about you.

NYT Best Seller List

Despite of, or maybe because of, Viz holds the 8 of the 10 slots again this week, and the biggest shock of it, Naruto is nowhere to be found on it! Let’s start off with checking in on Twilight in the Hardcover list. Is it back at #1? You betcha! Over in manga, Black Bird vol 4 holds the #1 slot, a book I wouldn’t have thought would make or deserve it, but it does, on both counts. Otomen vol 6 takes the #2 slot with D. Gray-man vol 17 coming in at #3. One Piece vol 44 takes the #4 position, with the only Yen Press title, Yotsuba&! vol 8 taking #5. One Piece cuts its way through again with vols 46 and 45 at #6 and #7 respectively while last week’s #1, Tsubasa vol 26, falls back to #8.  One Piece then finishes out the list with vols 47 and 48 taking #9 and #10 spots. It’s another list of debuts, with Yotsuba&! and Tsubasa being the only titles to hold over from last week. All of the Viz titles are debuts. We’ll see how long this will last though. One Piece never seems to last past the first release week, though it is good to see all five making the cut again. But with Yen Press’ Black Butler coming out this week, I’m sure the #1 title next week will have Black in the title, it just won’t be a bird.

This Week at Manga Village

What I’m Reading

  • Black Jack vol 7

It's Censorship

I don’t get upset about many things.  I tend to go with a “live and let live” policy.  If what you’re doing isn’t against the law, and isn’t hurting anyone, then as a rule, I don’t have a problem with it.  I may not agree with it, but I’m not going to tell you you can’t do it because I don’t like it.  But one of the things I have little tolerance for is censorship.

And that’s exactly what these two library workers colluded to do.  Cook can dislike League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Black Dossier all she wants, but that DOES NOT give her the right to keep a book from circulation because she believes a child might find it.  It’s not her job to police the library and decide what’s proper for other people’s children to read.  It’s for the parents, and the parents ALONE.  The library makes this responsibility clear to parents when they sign for library cards for their children.  Cook challenged the book, as was her right, but acted like a sore loser when her challenge was denied and chose to keep the book to herself.  To protect the children. Who cares about any of the adult patrons who might be interested in the book.  They don’t have the right to the book either.  But:

Cook says that she never wanted the book taken off the shelves so adults couldn’t see it.

“I’m an adult. I do not want you telling me what I can read,” she says adamantly when you ask.

Can anyone else see the hypocrisy here?  She doesn’t get her way, so she takes the book herself.  Yeah, that’s a mature way to deal with the situation.  I’m glad Cook and her cohort got fired.  They violated everything that a public library stands for.  They imposed their own moral standards on the whole community, invaded a patrons privacy and conspired to keep a book out of circulation.  These are the WRONG people to have in an institution that is all about making books available to THE PUBLIC.  It is not their responsibility and especially NOT their right to decide what other people, or their children, can or can not read.

As for getting “their reputations back”, it’s too late.  They’ve already proved they can’t be trusted.  Cook has essentially stolen the book from the library as she is keeping it with no intention of returning it.  They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions.  Well, these women have paved one long road.

Tokyopop.com Goes to the Darkside

Avatar to Support Sixxx

A situation has arisen at Tokyopop.com that I don’t think should be kept only there. As many of you may know from Brigid’s posts on the Mangablog, people have been frustrated about the condition of the Tokyopop.com website. Namely, since the “upgrade” to 2.0, it has been buggy and not well managed. One of the users of the site, an artist known as Sixxx, has been very vocal about the bad code and poor management on her blog. Last weekend, she was banned from the site and her profile was wiped from the system.

Sixxx was a popular person around the site. She was on the front page every day as a “Most Popped” user. Her art was used as avatars, and was often featured in other blog posts. She also spoke her mind about the problems on the site. Her posts weren’t mean or nasty. They were written by someone who obviously cared about the site and was frustrated at what it had become. Apparently, after another venting on her blog, which Sixxx had the comments set for moderation before posting, the webmaster of Tokyopop.com, Matt Paladino, aka MP (who was also on Sixxx’s ignore list) left a comment on the blog that appeared without Sixxx’s approval. The only way he could have done this is by using his power as a webmaster. This was a blatant abuse of power, and Sixxx called him on it. A few days later, while Sixxx was logged in, she was kicked from the site and banned. Her account was removed and not a word has come from Tokyopop.com to Sixxx or to anyone inquiring about it. For more information, check out this Live Journal.

I don’t normally get involved with these kind of situations, especially since I don’t even know Sixxx except by repuation. But what Matt Paladino did, and Tokyopop.com approved of my their inaction really gets me riled. It was completely wrong for MP to abuse his power like that and flaunt it so blatantly. His actions are more like a petty tyrant than a webmaster. But then, we all know what happens when the wrong people get power. If MP didn’t like what Sixxx was saying about the site, he should have just fixed it and not played little games. Users should not be afraid to speak their minds, especially when they have been violated. It’s one of the basic freedoms in the Bill of Rights, and part of what this country was founded on.

Some might contend that Tokyopop.com was in their right to ban Sixxx, as it is their site. And honestly, in their Terms of Service, it does say:

“TOKYOPOP reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to reject, refuse to post or remove any posting (including email) by you, or to restrict, suspend, or terminate your access to all or any part of the Website or Services at any time, or to terminate your Membership for any or no reason, with or without prior notice. “

Employers can terminate employees as well if they are “at will”. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have to have a good, justifiable reason for termination. Employers who don’t end up paying for it. I see no reason not to hold Tokyopop to the same standards. From the evidence I’ve seen so far, there is no good justifiable reason. A bruised ego is NOT a reason for banning. Not if you truly want to build a site for users to come together. But with the way the site “upgrade” has been handled, I am really beginning to wonder if that’s what they want.

Tokyopop can continue to ignore this, and try to pretend that Sixxx never existed. But to continue to do so will only hurt their reputation more and more. How can you trust a publisher that censors it’s fans? Businesses that treat they customers badly will find that they have no more customers. And with more and more competition out there, I don’t think Tokyopop can afford to be pushing away it’s customers. If they want to keep on good relations with their users, then Tokyopop should issue some sort of statement. Whether it’s to Sixxx directly or on their site, it doesn’t matter. My personal opinion is that they should lift the ban immediately and issue a public apology. But, I think there’s too much pride at Tokyopop.com to do such a thing. They should say something. The longer they stay silent, with their heads in the sand, the worse they are going to look. There is no “innocent until proven guilty” in the court of public opinion, and there is no greater proof of guilt than silence.

Never Judge A Book By It’s Cover

Whatever happened to this old adage? It tells us that looks can be deceiving, and by making a judgment based on what’s on the outside will make us miss what’s on the inside, which is what really counts.

ANN has just reported a story from South Carolina about a mother that complained to aAbsolute Boyfriend Vol 1 Books-a-million store about a manga being the children’s section based solely on the cover. What makes this a story is that the bookstore acquiesced to the parent’s complaint and is now moving the manga section away from it’s core audience. All because ONE parent complained. The book in question, Absolute Boyfriend vol 1 by Yuu Watase, feature a boy in a gift box. The only parts of the boy that can be seen are his chest and knees, with the nudity only implied.

What galls me about this story is that it was the mother that was offended. The mother of a boy, that came in to shop for her son. She wasn’t offended after her son picked up the book and she looked at what he picked. No boy would pick up a series called Absolute Boyfriend. And once again a rush to judgment is made that the book is pornographic without actually reading any of the book. The mother makes that judgment as does the writer of the article. Absolute Boyfriend is a title written for teenage girls, and it rightfully belongs in the section where teenage girls will find it. And as the mother of 2 girls I know what’s best for them better than the mother of a boy. But then, for the bookstore to move ALL of it’s manga based on one complaint without regard to audience or rating is really bad judgment and bad business.

This just shows how much is wrong in this country, where the minority can make decisions that affect the majority. It’s not up to this one mother of a boy to decide how all mothers of girls should regulate what their daughters are reading or make them search all over the store to find their books because she was offended by what she saw. It’s this kind of sheer ignorance that keeps our culture from maturing.