MOTHER EXPRESSES CONCERN ABOUT MANGA; ANIME FANS WHINE ABOUT MOTHER.From Local 6 (WKMG), a CBS affiliate in Orlando, Florida, comes this story of a mother in Florida's Orange County was shocked by the content of the manga Peach Girl that her daughter brought home from the library.
"Parents of a girl in Orange County, Fla., were shocked to discover that a comic book featuring adult-themed topics, like swinging and drugged and raped girls, was checked out by the 11-year-old at a library, according to a Local 6 News report.
The controversial Japanese comic book is part of a series that can be found in the young adult collection at the Orange County Library's Southeast Branch.
Local 6 News reported that the comic titled "Peach Girl" is about a young girl drugged by her friends and then set up to be raped."
I haven't personally read Peach Girl myself, but, according to this synopsis, that appears to be only a small portion of the story. But, yeah, reading the plot outline beyond the fake rapes, that's something I would be uncomfortable having an 11-year old reading. Or even a 13-year old, even though Tokyopop, Peach Girl's domestic distributor, rates it as being suitable for ages "13 and up", the same age rating they give to manga like Digimon. Peach Girl should at least be the next age rating up (I think "15 and up").
Anyway, back to the article.
""As I was going through it, I said, 'Oh my God, do parents know what their kids are reading?'" mother Raynelle White said.
One of the comics found by Problem Solver Nancy Alvarez featured parents who swap spouses.
"That's swinging and this is a girl no older than my daughter," parent Travis White said.
"Sex, drugs and violence are the themes in this series published by TokyoPop," Alvarez said.
White believes no one looked past the cover of the comic and it is time that things changed at the library.
"I don't want to see it; I don't want her seeing it," Travis White said. "The whole time, I'm like, 'I can't believe we're seeing these things.'"
A spokeswoman for Orange County Libraries would not speak on camera but admitted there is not a screening process in place for books bound for the children's or young adult sections, Alvarez said.
The same comics are also available at the main branch in downtown Orlando.
A spokeswoman said it would be impossible to review all of the books the library receives at its locations. However, if it receives complaints, it will do its own review."
Anime News Network posted a link to this article, and, as expected, it's causing a lot of discussion (8 pages and counting).
Here's the opinion, which happens to be the only correct one, of a reasonable, level-headed, non-inflammatory, mature, and intelligent anime fan who has "perspective". That's right, I wrote it.
Seems like very responsible parenting to me: the parents aren't holding the daughter's hand and do give her some degree of freedom of choice as to what she reads but they are still taking an active interest in what she chooses to read, and, if they discover some content that they find objectionable, they're perfectly correct to let other parents know about it.
I know some people will ask, "Well, if they're so responsible, why is the daughter in the young adults section?", but, at many libraries, the "Young Adults" section is pretty much everything aimed at younger readers that isn't a 32-page picture storybook (i.e. any kind of prose novels). I was reading some stuff out of the young adults section when I was 4 or 5 years younger than that.
If they were negligent parents, the daughter probably wouldn't be at the library in the first place.
I could probably have added that I was already borrowing some books out of the adult section of the library by the time that I was that age, though it was mostly non-fiction books about trains and stuff. Nothing my parents would object to. If I had borrowed something truly "adult" from the adult section, I'm sure my parents would have talked to me about it, but they wouldn't have had any reason to complain to the media. But the "Young Adults" section of the library is different, since "Young Adults" is somewhat of a misnomer, being really for, not just teenagers, but also "tweens" (pre-pubescent children of about 9 to 12), and any kid younger than that who is at a reading level where they can handle Roald Dahl and J.K. Rowling (and stuff written at a younger level than even that). In fact, by the time you're an actual young adult (meaning, I suppose, 18 to 25), you're actually above the target age of the books in the "Young Adult" section. I don't think it's outrageous that some serious attention should be paid to the content and age-appropriateness of books in the "Young Adult" section, and that merely printing "13 and up" on the back of a manga does not mean that it doesn't deserve some degree of scrutiny.
In any event, Raynelle and Travis White are not advocating censorship (or so-called "censorship" in the perjorative sense, which is when the government isn't directly involved). They're merely letting other parents know about the content of some books in the "Young Adult" section which many parents would not consider appropriate material for young readers, especially those in the younger age range within the "Young Adult" section.
I'm personally not blaming anyone in this situation, either the parents, the library, or Tokyopop. Perhaps the library should be a little more wary about the content of the manga they acquire for those manga that they don't put in the regular adult section, and that not all manga should be placed in the section for younger readers, even if they're rated "13 and up". Not every manga out there is simple adventure stories like Inu Yasha (Kagome, Inu Yasha, and the other characters wander to village, fight one of Sesshomaru's minions, Inu Yasha goes into demon mode and kills the minion but fails to kill Sesshomaru, acquires shard, rinse, repeat) or Dragonball Z (musclebound alien wrestlers stand around in mid-air doing tough-guy poses and staring each other down for 80 pages, bad guy attacks with unprecedented new technique, good guy loses, good guy learns ultimate new technique, mid-air rematch, another 80 pages of staring and posing, good guy unleashes huge mental fireball and defeats bad guy, rinse, repeat). As a manga reader for over 10 years (well, nearly 18 years, if you count a couple of issues of Marvel's original colourized release of Akira), I know there's plenty of stuff in even the "13 and up"-rated manga that parents would find salacious and controversial that so far hasn't created much controversy in North America (mostly because anime and manga is simply considered too niche to cause much alarm with the cultural watchdog types). For example, the article mentions that the parents in an unnamed manga that is probably Marmalade Boy were "swingers", yet it fails to mention a far more disturbing plot element in the series. And I'm not talking about the central plot element of the series, Miki Kobayakawa's pseudo-incestuous romance with her step-brother Yuu Matsura (which isn't really that disturbing because they didn't even meet until they were teenagers), I'm talking about Miki's friend Meiko Akizuki's romance with her teacher, Shinichi Namura, where they eventually run off together and elope, a sex offender registry-worthy offense in America.
But, oh dear, as with the Julie McBride-Wyatt incident a couple of years back (see also here and here), where a mother wrote a guest column (!) in a medium-circulation, uninfluentual regional newspaper in Tacoma complaining about the age rating for FLCL (which she got wrong, but someone on rec.arts.anime.misc pointed out that the same erroneous age rating was printed in TV Guide, so it was probably an honest mistake, and, in any event, the newspaper printed a correction), some anime fans are getting hysterical over very, very little, making all sorts of ad hominum attacks on the woman and her motives.
The simple truth of this item is that it was a throwaway "Channel _ cares about you!" viewers' concerns segment on a *local* newscast, probably something that aired between the 10 and 15 minute mark, 5 minutes after the real news is over most nights, and it was probably long forgotten by 99% of the viewers, of those who didn't change the channel after the real news was over, by the time the sports scores rolled around 10 minutes later. Absolutely nothing worth pressing the "censorship" alarm button about. It's not like it's a national talk radio host with millions of listeners, like Dr. Laura Schlessinger, giving marching orders to boycott all stores that are selling anime.
I could write a "get a grip, fanboys" essay on some of the things said in that thread, but it's not worth the time or the effort. Instead, I'll just cut-and-paste five choice quotes and write a short-but-pithy response to each, so you can see who the real knee-jerk reactionaries are.
"After the mother got over her initial shock she consoled herself by doing some crack and sleeping with the husband of her next door neighbor" (What a charming sentiment that is. So, Raynelle White, on the odd chance that you're Googling your own name to see what people are saying about you, let me summarize: this poster thinks that you're a crack addict and an adulterer just because you have sincere concerns about what your daughter is reading.)
"To me, this seems like a very clear case of bad parenting. The woman is obviously a reactionary imbecile who took no time to try to understand what it was her child was reading and judging it after thorough review. People shouldn't be having children if they expect everyone else to do the work for them." (To me, this seems like a very clear case of bad message board posting. The poster is obviously a reactionary imbecile who doesn't quite understand that it's impossible to have an informed opinion about Raynelle White's parenting ability in general based solely on a single 14-sentence article in which Raynelle White seems sincerely concerned about what her daughter is reading. People shouldn't be having children if they're not going to teach them to think logically before posting and not draw broad conclusions based on stereotypical portrayals of "soccer moms" as being Bible-thumping women with some sort of censorious agenda who are only superficially concerned about their own children but don't really care.)
"Let them read manga, let them watch Anime, but if your not sure of the content, then as a parent take the time to watch or read it before you condemn it. That is what I did." (And... uhhh... that's exactly what she did too. How do you think she discovered the objectionable content, genius? By "remote viewing"? Or osmosis? Also "Y-O-U-R, Y-O-U-apostrophe-R-E, they're as different as night and day. Don't you think night and day are different? What's wrong with you?")
"Instead of biching about the book, why don't you talk with your damn daughter about it? What kind of parent are you? Always blaming everyone else for how your kid is raised? Try being a damned parent. I bet she's gonna find even worse things in high school in a few years. Maybe it's a dman godo thing she's reading about it now and a damn good thing it was brought up so you can talk to your daughter about it." (Yay! Another guy who evidently has some sort of magical ability to determine everything that Raynelle White didn't do based on a short 14-sentence article, and then offer her insulting "Internet advice" about her parenting ability based upon his psychic determinations regarding her deficiencies. I wish I had your powers; they must be "dman godo" powers to have.)
"And so.....it begins. After years of wondering whent he first wave would hit...here it is. A whisper at first. it will grow, over time. I have forseen it." (News flash: Anime fans have been predicting the big backlash in North America against anime and manga since the days when I first got into the fandom in the mid-1990s. Probably fans were predicting it since before I really got into it. Such a widespread backlash has never materialized and it never will, because anime and manga is just too niche to warrant all that much attention. There's the occasional not-entirely-positive article about anime from groups like Focus on the Family, but those are but small blips on the radar screen and there's no organized, ongoing opposition to it. The American Family Association, a clearing house for "Action Alerts" against easy pop culture targets, has zilch against anime on their site. If there was ever going to be a massive backlash against anime, it would have happened by now. I wrote more about the backlash myth here, and I don't think there's been a huge sea change in the overall popularity of anime since I wrote that almost two and a half years ago, so everything I said then still stands.)
"This is why we need to make a political interest group who will represent the fans when the time comes." (Oh, yippee! A "nobody should dare to say anything bad about anime ever" special interest group, presumably which will be housed in "your parents' basement" and which will be funded by "the Cheat's pencil shavings". Why will this group be taken any more seriously than the dime-a-dozen Geocities or Tripod-hosted "YEH! LET'S SMASH TEH EVIL 4KID$! RAAAWWWWRRRRGGGHHHH!" groups out there, and why would the media and the politicians listen to a couple of self-appointed representatives from an obscure niche fandom, especially when the backlash threat is ridiculously exaggerated anyway? And can't anyone come along and declare themselves to be a "special interest group"? I hereby declare the formation of the "Let's get everyone to send Steve Brandon money to buy a 1/16th scale Airbus A380 remote-controlled airplane" special interest group, because Steve Brandon's lack of funds with which to buy such an expensive, custom-built model is a pressing issue I would really like to see the media address.)
"A word comes to mind I've seen alot in the replies here, PROACTIVE!! She needs to get off her ass and do some parenting instead of waiting for something to scream about to the local station so the problem will be "solved" with out her doing anything." (A word comes to mind when I read your response, "DUMBASS"!! She is being very proactive, and, sometimes, being proactive involves going to the media to raise awareness about age-inappropriate material being available to children in portions of the library where the content of the books should be examined with some degree of scrutiny.)
"And their whole, 'Cartoons are for children' comment; in Japan, anime are like tv shows! It's their culture, and we should be ACCEPTING to all cultures, like they *used* to teach in school. Be respectful, and accept everyone for each others differences. Pff, looks like they've forgotten those leasons." (That's a touchy-feely politically correct myth. The civilized western world is not accepting of all aspects of all cultures, nor should it be completely "accepting" either. We don't accept genital mutilation (at least when it comes to females). We don't accept, at least for the past few decades, restricting women from driving, voting, or going to school beyond the first few grades. We don't accept cannibalism, which was practiced in certain tribes in New Guinea and the Amazon up until about a century ago. I could go on and on, but you get the point. And being critical about the content of one specific Japanese comic book is not the same as being intolerant to the Japanese in general, anymore than not liking one specific American movie makes you hate Americans in general. I don't recall the practice of drugging women and setting them up to believe they were raped being any part of traditional Japanese culture. And, though it has nothing to do with my main point, here's a myth that's a personal bugaboo. Most Japanese adults don't watch cartoons either. It's a niche that does watch them, just like in North America.)
"Great, I can just see it now. "Manga is corrupting our children!!" Ugh....so long as Jack Thompson stays away." (Eh, this is more of an aside, but I'm no fan of Jack Thompson either. I had pondered writing something about him, but, eventually, I decided that people like him are best ignored. Jack Thompson isn't even worth a pithy one-line dismissal, and, yes, I'm fully aware of the irony that saying he's not worth a pithy one-line dismissal is actually a pithy one-line dismissal in and of itself, so nobody needs to point it out. I think Penny Arcade is a funny strip and all, but Tycho and company are giving Jack Thompson way too much nore credit than he actually deserves with their on-going anti-Jack Thompson campaign. And, yes, I know the counter-arguments that you must keep an eye on people like him otherwise, soon, everything people like him might object to will be banned, but that's the "slippery slope" fallacy and I have too much faith in the free market to be fearful of Jack Thompson and his ilk. As long as there's a large market for adult-oriented games with graphic sex and violence, these games will continue to be made, whether Jack Thompson likes it or not. At worst, you won't be able to buy Grand Theft Auto games from Wal-Mart, but, if Wal-Mart doesn't sell it, twenty other national chains will, just as Blockbuster's porn ban hasn't killed the pornography industry. And this story shows up at least once every 5 ot 6 years, and games on the adult end of the scale have only gotten more graphic, not less so. It was far more hilarious twelve years ago, when the game that got the most scrutiny was fricking Night Trap, a nigh-unplayable full-motion video Sega CD game with corny comedy violence whose only real asset is the comedy irony of attempting to save Diff'rent Strokes's Dana Plato from an early grave. Anyway, as I said before, anime and manga is just too niche to attract a Jack Thompson-type "crusader", and the closest person there ever was to being an anime-hating equivalent of Jack Thompson, Berit Kjos, seems to have lost interest in anime a long time ago, not long after the peak of Pokémon's popularity.)
"I believe it's better for the 11 year old to learn about date rape from a book rather than first hand experience." & "Heck, I would gladly let my daughter read about dealing with date-rape and other issues. Its an important part of growing up in this day and age. (not to mention the fact that the average girl seems to lose her virginity somewhere around 13-14 if I recall correctly.)" (Those are the parents that are the problem, the ones who are so negligent that they don't know or don't care that their 14 year old is having sex, not the parents who are so involved with their childrens' lives that they will want to increase awareness about age-inappropriate content in manga marketed to young teens. As for it being better for an 11-year old to read about date rape than experience it, that's a false dichotomy. I still think that's a few years too young for them to really be exposed to that kind of thing, because, really, if you accept as a reasonable premise that an 11-year old should know about everything negative related to sex, why not start earlier? Have Ernie and Bert warn 4-year olds about the consequences of not paying attention at a party and letting a guy slip a "roofie" in your drink many years in the future. Obviously, an 11-year old is going to be a fair bit more savvy than a 4-year old, but I don't accept the premise that you need to expose absolutely everything to them at that age, and I don't think a comic book about romantic hijinks is really the appropriate place to learn about it.)
Okay, that was way more than five choice quotes. Well, it's like Clerks director Kevin Smith responding to pissy post Ain't It Cool News "Talkbackers" in that, once you start, it's so hard to stop. Or, like the Pringles commercial, "Try to eat just one." Hey, shooting fish in a barrel is fun every once in a while.
(Though, to be fair, there are a couple of other pragmatic anime fans in the ANN thread.)