Radio 4’s “Crossing Continents” to cover underage sex manga

BBC Radio 4’s foreign affairs documentary series Crossing Continents is to broadcast an episode about manga featuring underage sex.

The episode, entitled “Should Comics Be Crimes?” features correspondent James Fletcher investigating the controversy around manga that depict paedophilia such as lolicon, interviewing people attacking and defending the publication of such works.

In June 2014, Japan became the last country in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) to ban the possession of images featuring real-life child abuse, but the law does not cover depictions in manga and other such fictional works. The argument is mainly between those people who want to outlaw such images entirely because they believe they promote child abuse, and are concerned about Japan’s image with the upcoming 2020 Olympics; and those who are opposed to censorship and defend lolicon on the grounds the characters depicted are fictional and thus are not actually harmed.

A feature article on the BBC News website by Fletcher presents a look at what can be expected in the programme, including interviewers with people who regularly consume lolicon and child protection campaigners. 

Crossing Continents: Should Comics Be Crimes? goes out on BBC Radio 4 at 11am tomorrow (8th January 2015), will be available on the BBC iPlayer for 30 days afterwards, and will be downloadable as a podcast from the BBC website.


In Japan, manga and anime are huge cultural industries. These comics and cartoons are read and watched by young and old, men and women, geeks and office workers. Their fans stretch around the world and their cultural appeal has been used by the government to market ‘Cool Japan’.

Manga and anime can be about almost anything, and some can be confronting – especially those featuring young children in sexually explicit scenarios. The UK, Canada and Australia have all banned these sorts of virtual images, placing them in the same legal category as real images of child abuse.

Earlier this year, Japan became the last OECD country to outlaw the possession of real child abuse images, but they decided not to ban manga and anime. To many outsiders and some Japanese, this seems baffling – another example of ‘weird Japan’, and a sign the country still has a long way to go to taking child protection seriously.

James Fletcher travels to Tokyo to find out why the Japanese decided not to ban. Is this manga just fodder for paedophiles, and is Japan dragging its feet on protecting children? Or is Japan resisting moral panic and standing up for freedom of thought and expression?

Episode homepage

Ian Wolf

Ian works as an anime and manga critic for Anime UK News, and was also the manga critic for MyM Magazine. His debut book, CLAMPdown, about the manga collective CLAMP, is available now. Outside of anime, he is data specialist for the British Comedy Guide, is QI's most pedantic viewer, has written questions for both The Wall and Richard Osman's House of Games, and has been a contestant on Mastermind.

More posts from Ian Wolf...