About the « harmful works classification » in Nagasaki Prefecture -  part 2 :

Following the meeting with representatives, I'm reporting what happened in the past few months.

On April 10th, in order to understand which part of my manga Manhole Volume 1 was considered harmful, I had the opportunity to discuss the matter directly with representatives of the children's future agency of the social welfare department of Nagasaki Prefecture [i].

·      Problems in Manhole Vol.1

According to Nagasaki Prefecture, I understood that what makes a manga harmful is not the opinion of the characters, nor the topic on which the story is based, only the  graphical depiction is used to assess its harmfulness.

Employees of the agency will roam bookshops to get their hands on possible candidates for the classification, then based on their criteria, will decide to include or not said work in the harmful classification.

The books that are put under examination will have markers on the pages that are considered harmful. Then they proceed to make a « harmfulness ratio » by dividing the number of incriminating pages by the total number of pages, in order to simplify the decision process, once the books will be reviewed by the administration committee.

For Manhole Vol.1, 27 pages were considered harmful, on a total of 210 pages. Concretely, these are pages number 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 12, 13, 25, 27, 29, 31, 33, 34, 77, 78, 79, 80, 83, 96, 108, 125, 145, 183, 184, 203 and 208. I invite my reader to check their books. As the author, many points seemed to me quite abnormal, let me show you some examples.

·       First example

In pages 4, 5 and 203, you can see a man covered in mud walking ; pages 3 and 208 only show an arm extending out of a manhole.

I am totally appalled by the decision of classifying pages 4 and 5 as harmful, as you can only see arms and legs covered in mud ! Let's admit for a second that this could be mistaken for blood, anyone reading the previous of following pages would instantly understand where this character is coming from, and where he was walking before that scene !

Are young readers from Nagasaki Prefecture so fragile that the view of a mud covered man, walking around town, could arouse their most violent and cruel inhibitions, and lead them to commit crimes ?

·      Second example


In pages 83, 125 and 145, you can see a parasite being inserted through the eye, causing welt-like swelling to appear on the character's face. I agree that though the imagery might be shockingly disgusting, it is only serving the story. In any case, I am more than doubtful that this peculiar scene could evoke violence and cruelty on an underaged mind, and lead him/her to commit crimes.

The different depiction of the parasite throughout the story are made to make the reader feel an oppressive atmosphere of fear and disgust. How can anyone link that with invitation to commit crimes without any proof or scientific basis ?

Let's take a look to these pages. They all show the same swelling you can see on page 145. Why were they not also classified as harmful ?

    Not harmful         

You can see the concrete resemblance between these and the previous page. Why then were pages 72, 177 and 193 not considered harmful ? If you look for any difference, the only one that comes to mind is that page 145 shows an obese man with a dripping nose. Is Nagasaki Prefecture trying to say that nose dripping obese men are a menace to our youth welfare ?

·      My impressions

I hope that my examples have proven to you how these people on charge of deciding what is harmful have but a very poor understanding of the medium of expression that is the manga, and that they make arbitrary judgements, with not fundamental reason or logic. The committee in charge of the final decision is basing everything on notes made by these people, thanks to their ratio system. Let's imagine for a second that a mud covered man walking around town could be harmful to our youth mind, then shouldn't Nagasaki Prefecture put some parental advisory label on any work depicting farm work ?

I think that you understand as well as I do the sloppiness of the whole system leading to the creation of the classification. In the next article, I will give you my report on the decisional committee (the committee for youth education and protection of Nagasaki Prefecture) making the classification, as I was allowed to attend a session myself.



[i]                 Children's future agency, department of social welfare, Nagasaki Prefecture https://www.pref.nagasaki.jp/section/kodomo-mi/