A rant (sort of)

April 24, 2006 at 11:58 pm 2 comments

There is an angry letter in the most recent edition of Science Fiction Weekly (third one down for April 25th) about the decision to pull Manga: 60 Years of Japanese Comics off the shelves of the libraries in San Bernadino County.  I haven't commented on this at all, but I had been following the story.  There's a very comprehensive round up of links on MangaBlog, and there was some discussion happening over at the Newsarama forums as well.

I think I may have had more sympathy for the objectors (though never enough to approve pulling it from the collection) if the person who was "exposed" to the book wasn't a sixteen year old boy.  How overprotected do you have to be to be that traumatized by seeing some sexually explicit drawings?  Heck, I wasn't the most worldly teen around when I was that age and I don't think I would have run screaming to the media had I seen it.  I haven't seen the book myself (the Toronto Public Library doesn't have it) but from the descriptions I've read the panels in question don't seem that bad.  (And as long as the sex between the fairy and the squirrel was consensual, is it really any of my business?)  Hmm.  I have a credit from Amazon from when they screwed up my order at Christmas.  Perhaps I'll use it on this.  It's a pretty cheap book.

I suppose there will be a couple of positive points to the whole situation.  Another group of people have been slapped upside the head with the fact that not all manga is for children (did we not learn this lesson years ago with cartoons and the Simpsons?  Is it necessary to do it all again?), and hopefully there are some people in that community who will realize that censorship in the name of "saving the children" is still censorship.  There were no children here to save, anyway.  The book had circulated over a hundred times before with no objections, but unfortunately that wasn't taken into consideration.  They should have been allowed to move it to the art section or somewhere else and been done with it.  (Been allowed to.  Nice.)

I can't recall if there were any of the usual calls for the poor librarian's head (or job) who ordered it for the library (though usually it's because of books with homosexuality in them, which you also cannot expose young people to because apparently it makes them gay**) but perhaps in the future these poor people can use this as an opportunity to educate their users on how books are selected for the library.  Usually by depending on book reviews and recommendations, I would suppose.  It's how we do it, but we're a medical library so we don't run into these kinds of situations, fortunately.  I don't think many libraries have the staff necessary to send somone to bookstores to personally read or flip through each book page by page before buying it.  I doubt the cataloguers have the time to do it either.  The point I'm trying to make?  (Is there one?)  The book is 176 pages long and the offensive content was limited to a very few of them.  It was easy to miss, not the end of the world that they did, and who knows if they would have treated the book any differently if they had seen it?  Hmm.  I seem to be assuming they didn't know about the panels in question.  Does it matter to the story at all?

(**Do we tell the save the children people about the abundance of homosexuals and cross-dressers in manga now, or let them find out for themselves so that others have a shot at borrowing some of this material before it gets pulled?)  

Arg.  Yes, I am being sarcastic and vaguely bitter here.  I can see their point – I wasn't packing Cardcaptor Sakura off to my nephew when he was younger and a fan because I didn't think some of the content was appropriate for him.  But… I didn't say no one else got to read it either.  I didn't run to the library to make sure they removed it from their collection just in case some other child read it.  (I also don't hassle them about the fact that I think they sometimes do a bad job of picking which collection their manga and anime goes into.  It bugs me, but I don't want to be that person.)  I check out the manga, anime and books I send to my nephew and if there is anything I feel unsure about I either ask his parents what they think or put it aside until he's older.  That's why kids have parents – to teach them what they need to know when they're ready for it.  It's different for every kid and every family and I don't see why some people don't get that they don't get to choose for everyone.  And by everyone, I mean everyone.  Children, teens, adults, senior citizens, whatever.  Which is what getting a book removed from a public library means – the public doesn't get to read it.

Uh.  I'm getting preachy here, aren't I?  Articles like this are the reason I spend so much time thinking about the age ratings on manga, though.  I even geeked out and asked about it on the Tokyopop message boards, since the editors answer questions over there.  In short, they seem to rate by language, sexuality and nudity rather than violence (unless it's gory).  I think they tend to rate things down more than the other publishers do, but I may be too touchy about it.  And I'm going to do you all a huge favour and not get into me and the early days of manga at the bookstore.  My friends have heard it many many times before and yes, I'm still boycotting a certain stupid store over the whole thing.  (And they still get flicks when I walk by)  I will only say that I've seen bookstores who try to separate manga by age group and they don't do it well. 

This is a little less clear and went a little more off topic than I would have liked, but 1) I try not to see these things as completely black and white, even if I will always be on the manga side of things, 2) there are a bunch of issues concerning collection development vs censorship and classification of library materials I'm not going to try to get into, 3) I'm trying to be polite and not say what I'd like to about a certain type of people.  I'd say it in person but it's just too hard to write with all the qualifiers I'd need to exclude the innocent.  It's also harder to convey sarcastic air quotes in writing.  And 4) I never claimed to be a good writer.  heh  BTW, does this classify as a rant?  Does it measure up in comparison to one of my TTC rants?  There's no swearing, so it can't be that bad, I guess.  :)

I'm going to go read my new Kamichama Karin manga now.  A cute little story about a girl who discovers that her mother's ring can make her into a goddess.  Then I might read The Art of Loving, which is about a teenager who becomes obsessed with sex and doing nasty things to his best friend.  But does the best friend really mind?  He doesn't seem to, but do the friends in yaoi books ever mind? 

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Entry filed under: library stuff, manga.

Saturday night rambling On a lighter note, more about the anime that I might as well go back to naming

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