CNN ran an article pretty recently about the recent ban on the possession of child pornography in Japan, and how the anime and manga industries have managed to escape such a ban, despite the existence of lolicon manga.
You can read the article and watch the video they produced here. All in all, however, the entire thing is less of a news article, more of a moral outrage piece.
The CNN story raises a number of issues regarding the representation of anime and manga to the mainstream. While some fans might argue that it’s unreasonable to expect the mainstream to understand the nuances of the Japanese animation and comics industry, that’s really far from the actual issue. The fact is, CNN misrepresented anime and manga in their piece, whether on-purpose to make a moral outrage story and get pageviews, or on accident by nature of simply being misinformed. Hanlon’s Razor says that we should “never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity,” so it’s perfectly reasonable to suggest that the authors of that story were simply misinformed.
That, however, brings up a new point. If we accept that the journalists at CNN were simply misinformed, how and why did they decide that investigating further simply wasn’t worth the trouble? Whether by malice or simple incompetence, CNN lied to its readers.
All that said, precisely what value does reporting on an issue like the continued legality of lolicon in Japan provide to anyone, besides giving CNN more pageviews from people who don’t know any better? What effect will this have on the industry? What is accomplished by running another “look how weird and creepy Japan is, guys!” story? This is just another clickbait, and worse, the readers are actively being lied to.
This is another dumb outrage story just like RapeLay, except instead of the story being “disgusting videogames about rape from Japan” it’s “disgusting comics about kids being raped from Japan!” Its entire angle was to push a narrative about political lobbying preventing a kind of harmful child pornography from being banned in Japan, when the real narrative is about artists fighting so their art isn’t censored.
But that’s the thing about art: It’s a word subjectively applied to things, depending chiefly on whether the person applying the word likes them or not. To the people writing the CNN article, lolicon evidently doesn’t count as a legitimate form of artistic expression. This sentiment unfortunately rings true throughout various circles in the anime fandom, leading people to compare lolicon to actual child pornography and perpetuating a perception of people who enjoy that media as actual pedophiles.
This should be an issue the fandom can stand together on, to fight against efforts to perceive the medium we all enjoy as nothing but porn but, unsurprisingly, some people still insist on polarizing and deflecting, simply because they don’t like lolicon.
Here’s the bottom line: Misrepresentation hurts us all. There will be people who want the whole story, who will endeavour to get all sides of the story they can, and bless those people, because it’s not hard to get the whole story about anime. Many, however, will get the wrong idea about anime and it will stay with them. In some ways, we’re still reeling from the “animated snuff film misogynist crap” that was Legend of the Overfiend, and the perception of anime as tentacle rape porn that grew out of that OVA’s release in the US.
We can’t control what the anime industry puts out. Though some of us might be mad that so much ecchi and pornographic material comes out of the anime and manga industry, not even CNN will be able to change that aspect of anime and manga. The best we can do is give people the opportunity to understand that this stuff that we love isn’t child porn, and to do that, we cannot let the perception that this anything produced in this medium is child porn go unopposed.