Radio Review: Crossing Continents – Should Comics Be Crimes?

“People say that rap music causes violence, but if music about violence causes violence then what impact must Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture have had then? 19th century Europe must have been awash with drive-by cannonings.” – Mark Steel

When the news about this programme was announced there was already a fair amount of scepticism from people on Anime UK News about how the BBC and reporter James Fletcher would deal with the subject of lolicon. It looks as if many of our readers’ viewers were justified, but perhaps it was not as bad as it could have been.

Part of me was already annoyed when Fletcher interviewed manga translator Dan Kanemitsu and different types of non-pornographic controversial manga were mentioned, talking about manga for ultra-nationalists and Neo-Nazis in the same sentences as manga for feminists and people who don’t like manga. I did like Kanemitsu’s later argument that if lolicon has an impact on child abuse then: “war movies should have normalised mass murder much more earlier.” 

Admittedly there were some things that it did highlight in the programme which I’m glad it brought up: the actual laws regulating pornography; how kawaii culture might make a character that is aged 18 look younger; and how there is no definitive evidence to support either argument about whether manga might promote sexual abuse or just be a safe outlet for these desires.

However, there was much to be infuriated about. While they did mentioned that lolicon was in the minority of manga, the programme was too heavily focused on lolicon in relation to other forms of pornographic manga. Shotacon was mentioned, as was Boys’ Love, which did feature an interesting interview with yaoi artist est em whose work has been banned in Canada – not that I can remember this happening. I know that Bond of Dreams, Bond of Love was banned in Canada, but that was by Yaya Sakuragi. But I was angry with Fletcher saying that yaoi sometimes features characters that are under 18. While this is true, again this is still the minority – most yaoi features adults.

I also disliked the novelist LiLy that Fletcher interviewed because of some of the terms and arguments she used. First, I disliked the way she used the word “kinky” as an insult. Secondly and more importantly, was her use of the “as a mother” argument to attack lolicon. Just because you are a mother doesn’t make your argument more valid. 

The one bit that really made me feel uncomfortable in the show was the Junior Idol DVDs. I did think that these were unpleasant and should be banned, mainly because these featured real children and not fictional ones. But am I thinking that because it is the right opinion or because I got caught up in Fletcher was saying? Many people on the Anime UK News forums expressed the view that Fletcher was on a one-track argument and was not going to let what anyone else was saying influence him.

At the end of the show there was concern mentioned about lolicon and how it might affect Japan’s image in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but how many people will be concerned about lolicon when the Olympics actually start? I can’t help but think that if manga and the Olympics are going to be mentioned, then it will be either something to do with the Opening and Closing ceremonies, or mentioning of famous sports related manga like The Prince of Tennis.

While it is arguable that Crossing Continents did highlight some important issues and was not too generalising, the general consensus was that Fletcher’s presentation was poor and probably biased. 

Score: 3 / 10

Crossing Continents: Should Comics Be Crimes? is on the BBC iPlayer and can be downloaded as a podcast.

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.

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