Astro Boy manga for iPhones/Dragon Ball banned from Maryland library

There’s been a plethora of manga news lately so today’s blog consists of a double dose!

Astro Boy manga coming to iPhones

An Astro Boy stamp from Japan

An Astro Boy stamp from Japan.

aicnanime Astro Boy manga to hit US iPhones

Seeing this headline on Twitter shocked me a little bit, but it was quite a happy shock! Although I don’t have an iPhone, I would LOVE to read manga on one if I did!

The best thing about Astro Boy being released for iPhones is that the “volumes” will be only 99 cents for 100 pages of  classic Tezuka goodness, although the first volume will be free. The developers will release the iPhone manga one week at a time and also plans to release other works by Osamu Tezuka, including Black Jack and Phoenix.

This will be an important experiment in manga publishing in the U.S. as manga for mobile phones are already extremely popular in Japan. Will it succeed here? I don’t know since Japanese teenagers live on their cell phones much like American teens live on Facebook.

If it does it could blow stuff like Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s brand new Nook out of the water in terms of graphic novel sales. Plus, iPhones are a lot cheaper and a lot more accessible than either book-alternative device so far.

AFP article on Astro Boy manga on U.S. iPhones

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Dragon Ball pulled from Maryland school library for nudity and sexual situations

dragonball

Dragon Ball was recently pulled from a Maryland school district's library for explicit content.

Censorship has been an important issue in the U.S. manga community. There is a very very large difference in Japan’s culture and ability to accept certain things, like nudity and quasi-sexual humor, that is not as acceptable in American culture. This isn’t the first story about parents outraged so-called explicit material in comic books, cartoons and video games. Dragon Ball is just one example and unfortunately its was originally aimed at kids.

A copy of Dragon Ball was checked out of a Wicomico, Maryland library by a nine year-old boy. The explicit content was discovered by his mother, who complained to the school district. Now the school district is removing the entire series.

This is what one school district council member said at the meeting in this article:

“In cartoon format, it depicts nudity, sexual contact between children and sexual innuendo among adults and children,” Holloway told fellow council members during the comment period of Tuesday’s meeting.

“The drawings and story lines are disgusting,” Holloway said of the book.

As a manga fan who has taken the time to understand the subtle differences in culture, I can understand where certain manga get too close for comfort and should not be read by kids. I can also understand how these parents and school district officials feel when they find material they don’t understand being read by their young ones. What I can’t understand is how this nine year-old child was allowed to check out a book that was CLEARLY rated for ages 13 and up.

Manga is a unique media because it is made for anyone and everyone. IN JAPAN. This all-for-one-and-one-for-all marketing strategy doesn’t always work in the U.S., but that is why we have safeguards like the ratings system. U.S. publishers try their best to mark their manga appropriately so that parents can avoid situations like this. (I know because I recently interned for one such publisher.)

These ratings are not a mystery. Parents fought very hard many years ago to establish this system, so is it a manga’s fault that no one knows to turn the book over and look at the rating on the back? I think so. This should be something taught to parents when their kids grow old enough to read. I’ve personally given mini-lessons to parents in the manga aisle of a bookstore on how to find appropriate choices for their little manga fan. They were relieved that it was that easy.

The ratings bring me to another, more opinionated point. Childhood nudity is not always pornographic. It certainly is not in Dragon Ball. The nudity is natural, i.e. taking a bath, and the sexual jokes and innuendo is nothing a curious 13 year-old boy would not likely do on his own. The problem here is that someone let a nine year-old check out a manga meant for an older and more mature child and now the book is being removed from the library because of it.

An opinion piece on this incident and censorship in manga.

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