Navigating ever-changing moral landscapes is tricky for most of us. Ironically going too far in either direction tends to lead to eerily similar places. My personal rule of thumb is: don’t be a d*uche. I like it cause it’s simple to remember and applies in most situations.

But do the same rules apply to the media we consume? Should you they? The wide ranging question of the moral responsibility of art has been pondered for ages with no real consensus. However, anime is not exclusively art. No I’m not saying some anime isn’t art (leave Diabolik Lovers alone!) I’m saying anime is as much art as it is business, advertising and propaganda machine.

when did this show become my personal punching bag? (how appropriate!)

I’m making it sound much more ominous than it is I think. Let me try to explain myself better. anime that’s going to be distributed will conceivably reach an audience. As such it is a viable platform some can use to convey a message to that audience beyond the actual story. For instance, It’s difficult to look at Myazaki’s body of work without picking up on the environmentalist values he espouses. There is nothing wrong with sharing your beliefs and opinions, we just have some bad associations with the word propaganda… Let me look up a synonym

Apparently, a synonym for propaganda is “information”. Good to know!

But seeing as anime is a platform that can potentially sway public opinion, does it have a responsibility to be careful and measured with the messages it puts out. Is it a reasonable expectation. Would it be artistically limiting to set strict guideline or will it set a potentially harmful precedent?

weird anime girl
I asked Google about harmful anime and this is what I got – who am I to argue with Google

Some of you probably already know this, but during the communist era, entertainment meant for general consumption had to follow a whole bunch of rules. Aside from the obvious shows of respect for the governing party (which in fact were fairly lax compared to even some democratic countries…) on of the biggest and most insidious rules was that art had to be “happy”. Movies, books even songs would have to end on a positive/ optimistic tone. Even paintings had to convey a sense of hope and calm. The idea was to subconsciously instill in everyone that the world was prosperous and joyful and any discontent you may feel was clearly temporary and individual to you. The fault was somewhere with you – everyone else is perfectly satisfied.

I love happy stories, but I can’t deny that a lot of tremendously talented authors were reduced to rubbish during this period. Even some that were fervent supporters of the communist party and glad to adhere by the rules. There was just something too stifling about having a set formula.

Also, I know we have to be careful about imposing our own morality on the world at large. It was recently pointed out to me (by a dear reader) that shows portraying abusive relationships may in fact be catering to audiences with masochistic tendencies as harmless fantasy fulfillment rather than glorifying the abuse and justifying it in the eyes of potential abusers. This is an excellent point.

Diabolik lovers anime abuse
this one is for you guys!


Oh oh – and this is another conversation, but there is tons of research that has been done proving that violent media isn’t causative, so why would anything else be? Anywho, back to what I was saying.

In this particular example, I personally agree with the point and really my base attitude is to leave anime completely unrestricted and have faith in the better nature of the audiences.

However I have a specific pet peeve that drives me nuts. This constant equating on what is clearly stupid (helpless) behavior with *innocence* and *cuteness* which is incredibly frequent in female characters. Although the adorable moron does exist as a male archetype as well, the trait is usually considered funny rather than sexy. It’s in girls that acting almost painfully clueless is shorthand for being the romantic lead, most of the time. This unspoken understanding that being dumb is somehow desirable can’t be a good thing, can it?

diabolik lovers mc
I hate to say it but he has a point…

And again, I know that just because it’s on TV constantly doesn’t mean it will affect reality in any way but I have seen more than a few girls dumb themselves down around people they find attractive.

The problem with pretending to be stupid is that much like pretending to be lazy, if you do it long enough, you won’t be pretending anymore… Lest you think I’m getting on my feminist tall pony again, I will have you know that I respect the men around me and firmly believe they are capable of holding intelligent debates and not that interested in wasting their time trying to have conversations with morons. Point is I find idiots boring and I would like to not encourage the creation of more.

Man I slipped into a rant there didn’t I… I’m done. Kids smart is sexy, be that.

don’t be this

So here’s the question: does anime have to hold to a certain standard?

In my own very personal opinion, the answer is no. Anime should entertain, maybe ask a few questions but it is in no way obligated to provide any answers or guidance. I personally think that the entire responsibility of moral and social consciousness rests with the viewer.

However I can see the argument for the other side. The idea of demanding a minimum level of quality or scruples. Of coming together to all work at distributing a unified message in hope of enacting actual change. There’s definitely something of value to be said for that. I’m just not sure controlling media is the way to go.

Due to current events, we’ve seen a lot of blogs tackle the question of separating art from artist but what of the ethics of the work itself. Can you parcel it out? Can you sing along to a wonderfully catchy tune with a brilliant composition and unabashedly racist lyrics? Can you enjoy a hilarious and breathtakingly beautiful anime packed with grossly underaged fan service? Are there elements so unsavory they will invalidate the whole?

And should we demand that those elements be off limits. I’ve told you my views. Aside from risking diminishing the art, I think that setting those limits is risky and ultimately unnecessary if we simply refuse to watch works we consider repulsive. But I also think the conversation around the issue is valuable and should be discussed from all perspectives.

What about you?

diabolik lovers darts
this concludes my first Diabolik Lovers post!

86 thoughts

  1. In the West, animation has largely been a kids’ thing, courtesy of Walt Disney, and we had all sorts of censorship in our comics. In Japan, anime and manga are just two forms of media, like any other, and they’ve rather conspicuously lacked in censorship. Still, the market wasn’t always so saturated with questionable content. Rather, it came creeping in slowly, and we forgave anime which had such in tiny amounts. The same thing happened in Western media, with movies, television shows, etc.

    So, really, the question, to me, isn’t “does anime have a moral responsibility?” It’s, “Does entertainment/the media in general have a moral responsibility?” And in that case, the only way to convince them to behave better is with our dollars. These people are trying to make money, so there is a major confusion that our tolerance of questionable material means we like it and want more of it, because we keep paying for it.

    Thus, if we want better, than we need to absolutely support the better material whenever it’s produced, and we need to withdraw from that which we don’t like.

  2. Interesting topic.

    Personally, I believe the only real moral duty any artist has is to be able to contextualise and justify the theme of their work if they are trying to say something. Whilst we find ourselves putting up with a lot of gratuitous sex and violence in films, TV and anime, often there is a moral story or commentary behind it.

    In other words, if your story IS about rape, or sex trafficking, child abuse or something political or social, be sure is is ABOUT and not pro or anti WITHOUT sufficient explanation and evidence to back up your opinions. It is when you try to glorify something or flat out oppose it without having researched your subject first that a piece of work fails to meet its objectives and becomes flaccid, gratuitous and ultimately offensive.

    Allegory is fine as long as the context is understood and there is also balance to frame the message you are sending, otherwise you simply end up propagating the very thing you are commenting on. Ultimate responsibility lies with viewer discretion, for themselves and any juniors in their care. Showing a 3 year-old “Pulp Fiction” or “Elfen Lied” is the same thing in my book.

    In the case of anime, I am surprised that the fact this is born out of cultural differences hasn’t been more prominently discussed in this debate. Now, I know it sounds like the easy get out but I not seeking to vindicate or justify dodgy content in anime with this – it is an irrefutable fact that any anime/manga/Japanese film will be aimed at the home market first and foremost.

    Any thoughts of the creators that their work might reach the UK or the US or wherever, is way off their radar, Conversely, we are looking at their ideas of certain subjects and social mores through western eyes thus a conflict will always be present because of these differences. In Japan 45 year-old otaku going “yay lolis” is the norm; here in the UK it would be frowned upon from a great height..

    The Japanese, and Asia in general, have very demonstrably askew ideas towards sex and violence with the boundaries of what is taboo being VERY liberal compared to here in the west. A documentary on the BBC here in the UK recently told of a Japanese woman who claims she was raped by a well known TV broadcaster yet the law and society turned a blind eye. The programme explored how his story of “it was consensual” was more readily accepted that her claims of rape, and in turn she was outcast as a liar, save form a small group of support.

    It also exposed the Japanese law’s ludicrous definitions of rape and the statutes of the procedure when reporting it, barely any of which favour the victim. When the #MeToo movement was discussed, few had heard of it in Japan, with many women bemused that groping and sexual harassment was considered worth shouting about when it was part of their daily lives!!

    This doesn’t represent all of Japan of course, and changes are slowly coming into play to make women and younger people more aware of sexual harassment, rape and the laws surrounding it. One day, this might permeate through to the arts, who knows but it’s a start.

    So, I guess I am saying that, like it or not, what we see in contentious and shocking anime is an exaggeration of these remarkably distorted and pernicious views, which are not going to change because a few people the product isn’t aimed it doesn’t like it. So, we either suck it up or stop watching. Thankfully, there is enough quality anime and films out there where this doesn’t infringe on the story and our enjoyment of it, so the end is not nigh by a long shot.

    Sorry the long post. :-/

    1. Great comment. Most people seem to be concentrating on the usual sex and violence aspects which are very regulated already. Maybe I should make a different post about how we present mental illness as something to overcome with very little proper context and how that can be very hatmful.
      I would love to get awesome comments like this one on the more subtle issues we don’t hear about as much.

  3. I err on the side of allowing as much expression as possible in an artistic medium, be it anime, manga, video games, writing, whatever. It is ultimately the viewer/reader/player’s responsibility to determine what sort of content is appropriate and enjoyable to them — and it’s a good idea for them to occasionally step outside their comfort zone and engage with something that might challenge their preconceptions about the world.

    One thing that critics (primarily from commercial/mainstream sites) seem to struggle with these days is the concept that depicting something is not the same as endorsing it. I’ve seen a whole bunch of things get lambasted for having a morally reprehensible main character… when in fact that aspect is one of the things that made it most interesting. A great example that I frequently come back to is the game The Witch and the Hundred Knight, which I covered on my site a long time ago — I won’t spam you with links now, but feel free to look it up in the index. That game is a classical tragedy in the truest sense — the protagonist is deeply, deeply flawed, but over the course of the narrative undergoes a considerable reversal of fortune and, in the case of one specific ending, a spectacular redemption arc. Reviewers at the time, however, criticised it just because she wasn’t a very nice person.

    I saw someone earlier in the comments mention feminist criticism, and to be honest, what I’ve just described is kind of what bugs me about how feminist criticism is handled in the majority of cases these days — it tends to be an “all or nothing” approach, often based on the most superficial of impressions. Sure, you can judge something like Senran Kagura as titty fanservice if all you look at is the artwork, but if you actually engage with it you’ll discover an enormous cast of unique female characters, each of whom has their own story to tell, their own relatable struggles to deal with and their own developing relationships. I don’t feel it’s at all fair to brand something as “problematic” (ugh, I’ve come to hate that word) if you don’t have all the facts… particularly in a case like SK which, as it turns out, is actually very popular with women (particularly gay women) for the reasons I just described!

    I think the thing to remember is that anime is a fantastic, highly exaggerated medium and not intended to reflect reality directly, even in the most down-to-earth stories. As such, it is often a good idea to consider it as a safe way for people to explore all manner of fantasies and “forbidden” desires — even “distasteful” ones. I saw someone above mention shows depicting abusive relationships as catering to those with masochistic tendencies, and that’s a really interesting viewpoint I’d never considered before — but it ties in with my belief that even the most extreme hentai does not exist because someone actually wants to do the things that are depicted; they just want to fantasise about them. I frigging love incest stories in anime (and hentai), for example, despite finding the idea of real-life incest highly distasteful — and, because I am a reasonable human being, enjoying this sort of content also doesn’t mean if I had a sister I’d want to fuck her.

    The issue, of course, is if some people blur that line between fantasy and reality and start acting in an inappropriate manner in the real world based on things they might have seen. I don’t believe there’s a direct connection between the media people consume and the way they behave — and there are plenty of studies to suggest that there isn’t — but there are people out there whose already fragile mental wellbeing can be given a bit of a nudge in one direction or another by the things they engage with. Should they do something “bad”, I don’t think this is the fault of the media, mind; if anything it’s a failing of society’s handling of mental health issues. Or, in some cases, of people responsible for that individual (parents, for example, in the case of minors) not taking an active enough role in determining what sort of content that individual might be able to deal with.

    Errm… so yeah. Let anime/manga/games do its/their thing(s). Take responsibility for what you consume… and, if you have people dependent on you, make sure they’re suitably equipped to deal with the content they consume appropriately.

    1. We are alsi slipping into what constitutes immoral material which is another super complicated question.

    2. “One thing that critics (primarily from commercial/mainstream sites) seem to struggle with these days is the concept that depicting something is not the same as endorsing it.”

      You know, I wanted to write a comment of my own, but you just made my point. 😀

      I hate the oversensitivity towards everything these days, like seriously, do you have to project everything that appears in your currently-to-review product onto your personal life and compare? If you think about it, it might even be a sign of a narcissist to assume that everyone caters towards you (only you) and currently, a larger portion of people support this behavior, which makes me worried.

      Many people then claim, to defend themselves, that this is just their subjective opinion.
      This would usually a dead-beat argument except for, ironically, when it comes to reviews etc., in which case, wrong facts are in fact, wrong facts.
      Reviewers that project their own fantasies and wishes into a product and complain about that product not catering towards those “desires” have failed to realize what their job is supposed to be. It’s a different story if there’s a legitimate reason behind it (pre-release information caused wrong expectations etc.) but if those assumptions are based on rumors and personal desires? Then, in my opinion, they failed to understand that they are supposed to be journalists.

  4. I’ve talked about this before and I’ve said that I don’t really care how people view anime. As long as they know the boundaries of fiction and reality, as long as they don’t think some things that only happen in fiction are also acceptable in reality, then it should be fine to enjoy it? The viewers should be held responsible for what happens in real life and not the medium itself.

    I’ve gotten called problematic on one of the more controversial topics surrounding anime (underaged girls being involved in really sexual situations) but really, all I said was that I don’t consider it an issue as long as it stays in fiction

    1. I had to save this. My spam filter is aggressive with links in comments. I admit sexualization didn’t really come to mind when I was writting this but it’s a very common example.
      It’s so prevalent that I put it in a seperate cathegory in my head but that’s cause I’m nuts. Great post

      1. It’s the most common in anime and in manga, it gets even worse especially since Seinen deals with more mature topics like suicide, rape, gore, etc.

        Is it supposed to influence the audience? Well, it depends on the audience. But just because one person does get swayed by it doesn’t mean it’s that series fault. It was more of that person’s responsibility

  5. Dang, this is a complicated question. Great post, Irina.

    I do think that the people producing anime should have the creativity to make what they want for the most part. Limiting what a creative person can do would just lead to anime Mass producing the same product all the time. We get enough of that already.

    At the same time, a minimal amount of regulation would be nice. I know we have rating system for that and everything, but not everyone follows those guide lines. Maybe we just need to have personal regulation.

    1. You are one of the rare people that hasn’t immediately recoiled from the idea of regulation. Of course I could count on you for a balanced viewpoint

  6. A lot of it is in the way it’s presented. If a story is going to have a problematic relationship or squeamish premise, then don’t present it in a way to make it seem like that’s how people should really react. Like, True Love means that you accept your beloved doing whatever to you as long as you love him. Fantasy series have more leeway by nature since they’re already unrealistic, but there are ways to show that uncomfortable portions aren’t meant to be the ideal.
    But no, fiction is fiction, so there shouldn’t be limits. But like you alluded to earlier, it would be nice to see a wider range of leads like smart girls.

    1. Agreed. I would say all of it is really. Portraying unsavory situations is really not an issue at all. It’s endorsing them that gets tricky

  7. The rabbit hole goes deep. I tend to err on side of permission, too, but you do need to be cautious, and you never should stop listening to people when they say certain depictions hurt them in one way or another:

    Maybe certain depictions are dehumanising? Maybe some are downright frightening, especially when seen in connection with real-life attitudes that aren’t as rare as public ethical discourse would like to pretend they are. From panty voyeurism to rape games. From the feelgood ideologies of idol anime to the realities of the employment and fandom system. Even if you watch stuff, you need to poke honets from time to time. It’s disheartening to read about schoolgirl groping being a common experience in public transport and that many women report the incidents stop as they grow older. Watching cute-girls-doing-cute-things anime with that in mind, and knowing that the target aoudience is often designated as seinen is… unpleasant. Yet, I don’t think that sort of behaviour describes most of the audience. On the other hand, if it’s unpleasant for me to read about, how unpleasant is it to be on the receiving end and see those tropes paraded in anime? This is not only personal; it’s systematic.

    It’s not that uncommon for me to appreciate a scene as clever, funny, appealing, etc. while depreciating as insensitive, misguided, or worse. And some of the elements are so prevelent that the auto-filter goes up, and those elements don’t register anymore, which can, in some cases, lead to… unfortunate recommendations.

    So, you can watch what you like, you can like what you like, but you can’t do to people what you like, and you’re not entitled to their blessings for your hobby. If people criticise your favourite show, there’s probably a reason for that. You can disagree, but no feelgood-excuses at the expanse of other people’s right to be heard. So I read feminist critiques, for example, that I find go a little far, and then I read posts that respond by flinging around terms like “social justice warrior” and – disagree or not – I know which side I’m ultimately on.

    I don’t think anime fans should self-flagellate themselves for five minutes after watching anime with “problematic” contents. And I know from experience how frustrating it can be when people dismiss shows on a superficial viewing of a few scenes. But, well, that’s their right. They have their own experiences, and their own perceptions. And in the end, plenty of stuff that bothers them bothers me, too. So what then? Why isn’t it a dealbreaker for me, but it is for them? Morals aren’t easy, see. And that’s why we have ethics, standards. They help us to get along. But ethics and standards aren’t the be-all and end-all of morality. People are. That includes yourself, as well as people who may a tad… unpleasant at times. But that’s the life you have to navigate. (In the end, with all that said, don’t forget to look after yourself, too.)

    1. In the end, I’m not sure where the lines are (if there are any) but I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t be the ones to set them.
      I agree that you or I or anyone, shouldn’t be shamed for the media they consume and I also agree that to use terms or imagery that some consider painful or unpleasant on purpose is just a prick move.
      Then again I also think that avoiding making people occasionally uncomfortable risks never discussing or thinking about important issues.
      Even this silly little post (far from important issues) seems to have put people a little on edge and that’s not a bad thing.
      I’m trying very hard to come up with an interesting answer here but I just plainly agree with this. The actual underlying question here of disseminating ideologies through entertainment in very complexe and has an incredible number of variables that I am in no way equipped to analyze.
      I do however appreciate that a lot of people took a minute to think about it and leave me a note today. No one got mad even!

      1. Yeah, it’s not about avoiding making others uncomfortable. I won’t be able to watch this season’s Grand Blue, which celebrates drinking cultur in a way that – to me – is like drawing rusty razors across poorly healed wounds. And what’s more, I feel that there is in many societies a defaulting to social alcohol consumption that’s not all that healthy. But that doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t find that show funny. One way or another, I have to live with this. There’s the good, the bad, and the indifferent all mixed up in it. I’m not going to shut up about it, but I’m also not going to demand everyone dance to my tune.

        And yes, reading the comments was really interesting. The topic is so broad that it’s really hard to write about: where to start and where to go? I have to say, you managed pretty well yourself.

  8. I don’t think anime needs to be held to some mythical standard. If it were, then everything would need to. Then the questions is, what are the rules? I mean, to some extant we have that with ratings and such but I don’t think that just because a bad thing happens in media means it is advocating it in real life.

    If somebody finds something offensive, then don’t watch it or support it. People should be, in general at least, capable of making some basic decisions like that for themselves. At the same time, just because something contains something offensive, doesn’t automatically make it bad either. Magical Girl Site made me physically uncomfortable at one point and showed me something I considered slightly offensive but I still enjoyed it. That said, it is a two-way street. Ben-To was something I would have really enjoyed but the, “fanservice” ruined most of the show for me because I was supposed to think sexual assault and rape were somehow sexy.

    TL;DR No, but that doesn’t mean media should just do whatever it wants. Some boundaries are ok.

    1. so maybe? You know we might wake up some day and everyone will want to watch interesting challenging shows with super well written plots!

  9. Anime is a creative medium, so like all mediums, I don’t think there should be a hard limit on what you can and can’t portray through it.
    It’s a story, and saying what kind of story people can tell is kinda wrong…
    Of course independent vendors have the right to choose not to sell or support the production of an anime they deem immoral, and consumers also have the right to just not buy anime they don’t like. If you were to bring up indirect immorality, I would put responsibility like this-
    Say you’re a blacksmith that makes a sword for decoration. If someone uses that sword to murder someone, is it your fault? No, cus swords are just objects. The act of murder realistically could be accomplished with a rock or a gun just as easily. The fault is with the psycho who murdered, not the innocent who unknowingly enabled them. However, there is moral obligation if there is reasonable suspicion. (Don’t give a baby a gun, cus that’s idiotic)
    I definitely err on the side of individual accountability for one’s owns actions, and media influence is so indirect that it’s negligible- excluding a few important exceptions. The most harmful media can only confirm and support biases we already have. (Even if we don’t acknowledge it)
    I could also argue specifically for immorality in media, as it allows for sane consumers to safely test their own morality and values… but this comment is already too long! 😔

    1. I see your point ad technically agree with it however I have to play devil’s advocate again.
      I take a sight exception with your particular example – I know I can buy a pretty goede and bring it as a gift to my friend in Paris but if I try to get on a plane with a loaded gun – it’s going to be a different story. There’s probably a reason for that. And although individual responsibility i and should be primordial I don’t think we can completely discharge vendors and distributors. If you follow the example a bit further you could say that the people who run and operate sex slave rings are completely discharged of responsibility since they are simply catering to their clients’ demands in a free market but I think they share some of the blame…

      1. What…
        The airplane example seems a little out of place to me. It would be negligence on the part of the individual and the airport to allow any civilian firearm on a commercial flight. Guns are just too dangerous at altitude, that any preventative measures are justified. (Reasonable suspicion)
        I don’t see how the gunmaker or the seller of the gun has any fault with the negligent individual in that circumstance.
        Sex rings though… you act as if the sex part is the only element of immorality. To have a slave, to forcibly control another person is super immoral though! What morality doesn’t see coercion as evil? If you commit evil to produce your ends, then you have done evil and have to come to terms with that.
        If there was snuff anime, that would CERTAINLY be immoral. But as long as no ‘evil’ is committed during production, I see no reason that anime’s content should be restricted, and support that it is the individuals responsibility to be accountable for their own actions.

        1. The airplane example was simply to say that i disagree that you can kill someone just as easily with a rock as with a gun. Change airplane to convention hall, grade school, my living room…. I’m not debating gun control but just because you can kill people with just about anything, doesn’t make tools designed especially for killing people equivalent.
          As for slavery, it’s immoral to you (and me let’s be clear) but it isn’t immoral to everyone. There are places where people are still considered property and they defend their beliefs and traditions vehemently. There are people who consider murdering animals for entertainment perfectly fine others that do not. Of course I’m pushing the point to extremes but the idea that the entity that distributes something they themselves consider in some level harmful, bears no responsibility seems a bit uneven to me. I’m not sure how I made it seem like the sex part was the immoral bit – I could have chosen prostitution as a much more relatable example if that was the case. Personally I think sex work should be legal. I used that as an example because there are quite a few actually legal sex rings that operate around the world and there’s a huge culture clash when it comes to them. There are also of course a lot of good old slave labour rings. They haven’t been in the news as much lately so I guess the other thing came to mind first.
          As for content…we all know that It’s already heavily regulated and I would love to see that loosened a bit. Like you I err on the side of no restrictions. But I have never seen it and I’m not sure I completely know what it would look like. I might regret it…
          These are three separate points. It got a bit confusing

          1. The best restrictions oppress the least people. Laws against killing stop the oppression of life by other people. (Obviously the most important laws)
            I don’t especially believe in moral pluralism. Killing animals for pleasure isn’t something I can say much about morally. But slavery? Laws against slavery oppress the ability of people to oppress other people in that way. Morality that allows oppression for selfish reasons is just terrible. (Jews were oppressed in Nazi Germany b/c of disgust)
            Now to the guns… designed especially for killing people is a tough one. An individual owning a nuke or gatling gun is suspicious enough to me for restriction. But when we’re talking handguns? Don’t you know how many crimes they prevent? To say that the purpose of a handgun is to attack, rather than to convey intent to protect oneself is a bit of a mischaracterization. It really is just a terribly efficient rock…
            And by that, I mean that if we were living several thousands of years ago, the same people who kill with guns would be killing with rocks. If we didn’t have guns, then people would be attacking one another with knives, then sticks, then rocks. Intent to kill is much more important than the method or tool one uses. (Which is why the best way to lower crime is to work on the root causes, duh)
            This whole thing turned out longer than I thought it would… 😅

            1. We strayed from the point a bit didn’t we…
              Agan I’m not sure this is the place (or I am the person) to be debating gun control. This said because it seems I really don’t make my points clearly, I never said handguns were only to attack people I said they are tools designed with the purpose of killing (or wounding) people and have little other use. Unlike rocks you can use to build things. That is all I am saying.
              I also am not 100% certain that more guns = less crime… However I do agree that murdering all criminals does because I grew up in a system that did that and it worked super well! It also had very tight gun laws though. And propaganda… And shit movies…
              You’ve sold me – anime should never be censored!

            2. Gahaha!
              What a conclusion! It’s been fun!
              Now, I have to go finish my dad’s birthday gift, which I totally didn’t forget about! (Wish me luck 😅)

      2. Careful there. You know the devil is just a part-timer?

        I’ll be on the lookout for anime slavery rings.

        Oh look! I found one. It is called Pokemon…

  10. in general, id probably say im in agreement. to the question of whether anime has a moral responsibility, i think i would lean more towards saying that it shouldnt have that responsibility. but im not a huge fan of the idea that we should just sit back and let the consumer/producer relationship dictate the kind of media that gets produced. i dont have a really developed opinion on the topic, but sitting back and saying “we dont need a standard” seems every bit as extreme as the idea that would should be censoring everything. im not actually suggesting that you’d go that far, but i guess im just happily chilling in the middle ground as i always do…

    1. A second balanced opinion – I tend towards less impositions but I am optimistic to a fault and have been proven wrong more than a few times recently.

  11. I think people should be able to make what they like just as viewers should be able to choose what they like to watch. There’s enough out there that I don’t have to sit through things I personally hate (though for some reason I seem to so that’s probably more an issue on my end).
    I don’t think standards help. Mostly because who decides what the standard should be? More importantly, it limits what stories can explore and that is always a problem. Without a standard, stories might end up over-representing particular tropes (such as the stupid and helpless female) but with a standard there are some representations that won’t be allowed to exist at all and that is equally problematic.
    While I personally would love more variety of characters and representations in all mediums, I don’t think standards or quotas will fix this. I think it requires writers to want to tell these stories and audiences who are receptive to them in order for there to be a slow shift.

    1. Therein lies the catch 22. In any system where the thinking is done for you, the individuals intellect devalues and that’s always a net loss…

      1. Then again, popularity polls and commercialism aren’t exactly doing a fantastic job either when we see the lowest common denominator win out again and again.

        1. That’s where the having faith in people comes in I suppose. Historically, we haven’t had the best track record in not being jerks but we are improving! That’s something

  12. Exactly correct. Individuals have moral responsibilities. A genre of public expression does not.

    This is a radical position to take. It is a libertarian position, one of the things they got right (I think they got a few things wrong, too.)

    The audience has the responsibility of not watching if something is offensive. It is the parent’s job to teach children right and wrong and stop blaming “society” for tempting them astray. To say otherwise gives a heckler’s veto to anything but the blandest material. Saturday morning cartoon wouldn’t even pass that test.

    The problem is that morality is far from universal. For example, I think that well-done yuri and yaoi are wonderful for kids to watch. Other people think it is Satan’s propaganda. Nothing in our constitution gives the government any role in this. We don’t put it up to a vote as to whether or not something should be allowed on air. That is what free speech and expression are all about. No prior restraints.

    If someone doesn’t like an anime for moral reasons, it is their obligation to tell others of the same philosophy to stay clear of the show. That is what reviews are for. If they are worried about their children, it’s their job to tell their kids why it is wrong and to put control software on their computers and program the V-chip on their TV accordingly.

    Do not think for a heartbeat I have any obligation to keep my children from watching something just because you don’t like it. There is no right of any kind that others should provide you with an inoffensive world.

    1. “This unspoken understanding that being dumb is somehow desirable can’t be a good thing, can it?”

      This is exactly why I gravitate toward characters like Makina Hoshimura (it’s not her fault she’s dead!), Ange (from Cross Ange, and it’s not her fault she was a norma), and Taiga Aisaka (well, when she graduates from high school…): They’re smart, they’re strong, and they have no patience for dumb.

      “I personally think that the entire responsibility of moral and social consciousness rests with the viewer.”

      I can get behind that statement.

      As someone who loves Harlan Ellison’s idea for Dangerous Visions, I’m going to say that art should not only be unshackled; I think it has an obligation to be unshackled. How else will we examine the human condition? Adhering to an uncertain intersect point of an age’s social morales, a given religious framework, and a tribe’s expectations guarantees stagnation. Now, if an artist wants that as a source of income, that’s their choice. But I think it should be a choice and not a mandate.

      Of course, I have a caveat. Art should be unfettered; performance should not. Writing the book Lolita was an investigation of an aspect of human nature that can’t easily be otherwise examined. Having an underaged performer perform in Lolita? No, I’d argue that’s not acceptable. My point is that young humans need protection, whereas animated or fictional representations do not.

        1. I’d word the question a little differently.

          I’d ask, Do we want to progress as a race? Do we want to improve the human condition? Then we should cultivate ideas.

          That’s why I suggest that art (the expression of ideas) should be unfettered. More than just protected, ideas should be encouraged and nurtured.

          While they’re in idea form, even potentially heinous ideas like eugenics (the kind of, for example, that demands the removal of disabled persons from society) can be explored harmlessly and shown to be a direction we don’t want to go.

          Without hurting humans.

          If we take a quick glance back at history, we see that the suppression of ideas has cost way more than the expression of ideas ever has. Using the power of state (a blunt object) to suppress ideas is always so painful…

          If we focused our attention on protecting people and letting ideas alone, we’d be a much happier race.

          1. Well now i have no comeback even when actively trying to debate the counterpoint. I entirely agree with you and can’t find any way to rebuke this

            1. I think that’s the nicest thing anyone ever said to me! 🙂

  13. I am an artist and writer – and among other things I write sex stories that include subject matter that some people consider sketchy. That said, have you read any of Laurel K. Hamiltons’ mainstream books? Housewife porn that makes Diabolik Lovers look tame. Anyway, that may influence my belief that artists and writers should be free to create whatever they want to create. Fans should be free to watch anything they want to watch. And these days work that the mainstream producers won’t touch, that will never make it on TV anywhere, is still made available on the Internet, so the door is really open to produce anything at all you want to make, if you are willing to put in the work or can find a dozen people who agree with you. I think viewers have a personal responsibility to decide what they are going to view. And if you don’t like something – okay, don’t watch it. Period.

    This may be unpopular, but I’d like to weigh in a bit on the stupid female romantic lead. I was an exotic dancer for 15 years. Now I’m not smart enough to play stupid, so I was my nerdy self and carried on intelligent conversation. Some men liked this and paid to talk to me. Some didn’t, and I moved along. There are men who WANT stupid women, who find helplessness attractive (and I’m sorry, but there are woman who are dumb and helpless – men who are dumb and helpless, too), and there are men who are really turned on by a strong, intelligent woman (thank the Goddess, because I finally married one of them). To me, it’s a personal preference thing. I feel like if you (as a woman) play dumb to get a certain man, sooner or later it’s going to make you miserable to have to keep up that pretense 24-7 – but that’s entirely up to you as a woman to do that, or not do that. Again, personal responsibility. You could have held out to meet a man (or woman) who appreciates your intelligence and strength. Trust me, if you are strong and intelligent – you are better off alone than pretending. Well, that’s what is true for ME so again – you gotta make your own choices and find out what is true for you. Believe me, there are days when I wish I was dumb and helpless and could lay down and cry while someone ELSE took up whatever challenges were laid in my path that day. There really are people who chose or who simply ARE too helpless to make it through life without a savior person, and people who live to protect them. Who am I to judge them? I digress. Let me put this soapbox away.

    As usual, a thoughtful post that invokes thoughtful replies.

    Does Anime have a moral responsibility?

    No. YOU (each one of us) has a moral responsibility to ourselves and to our society. It is a right as well as a responsibility – you chose, or you don’t (and that’s a choice, too).

    1. I agree with you totally but still beleive the entire world should cater to my preferences…..

      Like I said I also tend to favor no regulations but then again Ive never actually lived in a society without censorship. For instance, here child pornography is illegal as are snuff pieces. Even with victim concensus. Enciting violence and physical treaths to individuals are as well. We also have a ratings system that makes limits distribution based on content so movies and tv shows self censor in order to get or avoid certain ratings. So I’m not certain what the entertainment landscape would be like whitout it.

  14. I always thought that it was interesting that anime can go and explore a lot more than your average TV show or movie. I agree that the morals are something that the viewer needs to decide on their own. I know that people are always influence by things, but in the end they make the choice to kill someone or not.

    1. There’s a long standing tradition that animation can get away with much more contraversial material because it’s hidden behind the fun pictures. That’s a great subject as well. The nature of the media does to a point influence the message as well.

      1. In the US, IIRC even child pornography is allowed in animation as long a live person was not involved in anything illegal in producing it. This is probably a plus for the anime industry since there is a fair bit of ecchi and most hentia that would be illegal otherwise.

  15. I mean, there’s also the role of the consumer; as a viewer you’re in charge of what you consume. If it’s overly something I don’t care for (i.e. sexist, racist, gore, etc) then I have the choice to NOT consume that media. My problem is with people who don’t read reviews or a description that says ‘hey there, this portrays a really abusive relationship so heads up’ or that’s a tag on something, and then some special people ignore this watch and get “triggered” (a word I have conflicting feelings about) and complain. Instead of blindly consuming media based on popularity or shock factor, you could have taken a minute to really examine what you’re getting into (which is why I’ve actively chosen not to watch some ‘popular’ series) and chosen not too.

    I prefer if my media has some sort of morality or sensitivity towards subjects, but that’s a personal preference. There’s a fine line between knowing and actively consuming a certain type of media, and not recognizing something and ending up consuming a lot of similar media. Like, a lot of shoujo tropes as you mention are common to the point where we don’t even see that they could be considered problematic, so when a heroine is NOT ditzy or lazy, etc some of us see former series we liked had these flaws. Here’s a personal example: Despite knowing NTR was trashy and abusive, and I personally don’t support these things, I still watched it. I knew the main ‘couple’ wasn’t a healthy representation of lesbians, but I took the time to look at tags, skim a review and knew more or less where it was going.

    That’s just my take on it though. Different series for different folks, and different senses of how things should have worked out. I personally also abide by the ‘don’t be a douche’ rule. Great topic!

    1. Well you have the choice for now. If super racist storylines are what sells, they could become the only available option…At least the only easily available one.

      I actually agree with both you and the great majority of my commenters but I feel the need to play Devil’s advocate. I’m not entirely sure why. Probably because I have the freedom to do so!

      1. That’s true, for now we have options. (One day the MMO/RPG trend will calm down). Hopefully, it stays open lol.

        For sure! I love your Devil (or Diabolik?) Advocate pieces. It really makes all of us think and discuss more, rather then just agreeing with everyone blindly. If we all agreed on everything that breeds boredom and such lmao.

  16. If you want to hear my full thoughts on Diabolik Lovers, then I reviewed the first season back in 2014.

    Using it as an example for my feelings on the morality debate, however, I find the series mostly harmless. It’s full of terrible messages, to be sure, and it’s main character isn’t a great female portrayal, but I feel like it’s too far removed from reality, with it’s characters being too far removed from humanity, for it to really teach harmful life lessons to very many people. It is, at worst, some vampire lover’s escapist rape fantasy.

    Having said that, it is distinctly possible to convey harmful messages that could influence a person’s life, although to do so you’d have to treat the matter somewhat seriously, grossly misunderstand the subject matter you’re trying to tackle, and skew the story so that your message leads to some sort of positive ending. Look to Family Guy if you want more examples on that.

    1. I have played Diabolik lovers where the intent is much more obvious as you are given choices clearly labeled as Sadist or Masochist…I have not watched passed episode 2 of Diabolik Lovers and do not plan to

        1. It started as a game. Why there is an anime is baffling (well it’s not – it’s publicity…)

  17. Great post. It’s a tough question too. From a personal standpoint, I tend to look at intent as part of blue I’ll mushroom something with regards to certain issues. For example, a character is racist and believes their bus are just. If that’s our hero and we’re not looking at a story where they develop away from it, that’s s problem for me. If that’s the bad guy though, it’s less bothersome. In cases like that, my worry is less to do with causative effects but cases of association. By which I mean, if someone IRL holds racist views and is told they’re wrong but then sees their views expressed as positives in popular media, it doesn’t cause their views but it does show them that they aren’t alone in thinking it’s fine and potentially gives them a way to justify them as acceptable.

    1. I agree, tacit endorsement of certain values can be damaging (potentially). Then again there are societies in which racism is perfectly acceptable even preferable. It’s considered honorable to stick up for your own and protect them against intruders…..and anime does reach those markets as well. To these people an anti-racism message could be considered dangerous…

  18. I agree that anime shouldn’t be held to moral standards. Anime is already fairly standardized as it is, just by virtue of the market / industry – so many “perfect 7/10” anime that don’t try to use any creative differences at all and basically use the most standard tropes, plot, setting, character types.

    And if an anime DOES do something that some people may find reprehensible, then their solution should be to just not watch it. I’m guessing they already have a rating system in place in Japan that is like PG, PG13, R, etc. So really they can just make what they want, and let it fall into whatever rating. Leave it to studios / producers licensors to decide if they want to create it, TV broadcasters to decide if they want to air it, and the audience to decide if they want to watch it.

    1. I generally agree with you. I do however really love seeing creators get around censorship roadblocks with clever writing. Some truly brilliant works have come out of that.

  19. First off: I like your personal rule of thumb 😂😂
    Seriously though: it’s a good question and I think it can be applied to so many media. Whenever anything is able to reach so many people: there will always be people that are influenced in maybe the completely wrong way. But is that really something that is to be blamed on in this case anime, or is there something to be said about that person itself?
    It’s a fine line to balance on. I think in general that anyone should be allowed to watch whatever they want and is such that a creator should be allowed to create what they want. It’s when things cross a certain line (like racism, sexism or things like that) that there should at least be some kind of responsibility. And one has to wonder at the same time what someone wants to achieve when they cross a certain line. Is it pure shockability? Or is there an actual kind of message behind it.
    So..back to the original question: I think there is at least some kind of responsibility for anime. Especially when it is beloved and watched by so many people. But then again I think that if you don’t like something or have a problem with certain content, than don’t watch it.
    Leave it to you to come up with another wonderful post: well done 😊

    1. Wonderfully balanced comment.
      I think that in the west we tend to be heavily biased against any type of regulations (freedom of speech and all that) and get blinded to the positives of propaganda. The question is not as black and white as it first appears. I still tend to err of the side of less regulation – I mean US media is just way too strictly regimented at the moment for instance – but I think there’s definitely another side of the argument.

      1. Thank you 😊
        It really is an issue that is really difficult to give a definitive answer to, to be sure. And it might also be an issue that will never really gets a definitive answer either. We here in Holland though might just be a little too tolerant and open to things if you ask me.

          1. Really 😊 Holland is very tolerable in things and it sometimes seems that nothing shocks us. (which of course isn’t true for everyone, but still 😊).

      1. Good question, and not an easy one to answer either. It all depends on what it is that you present to an audience. When you are able to reach such a wide audience as Anime does (which is probably why it is growing even as we speak, and enjoyed by so many people), one can easily forget that amongst your audience there might also be people that can be very easily influenced. But then again…is that something to always take into account? But admittedly there are some things out there in general (not only anime) that just are crossing certain lines (extreme violence, sex etc), that one has to wonder what the point is in bringing that so explicitly. Don’t get me wrong I don’t get shocked very easily..and I am a very open minded guy who can pretty much watch everything, but then again it can at times be necassary to give warnings when something might go to far.
        Which is why it’s so hard to answer where the line of responsibility ends or begins 😊

        1. That really is where rating systems come into play. But they are a poor substitute for actually reading reviews about an unknown product. If parents don’t bother, then nothing matters.

          Mainstream anime is pretty bland that way. Plot lines are written around what will reach a mass market. Then the pre-opening hype generally tells us which niche they are aiming for. Not much excuse to be surprised by an anime’s content.

          The fight happens when I want to watch something that someone else considers immoral and they try to legislate their preferences into fact. They can hate on the show, have boycotts all they want, even do protest marches. There is a difference between that and official censorship.

          1. Well said…and certainly something that pretty much points out what the problem with this can be. Which is why I think this well always be a very fine line to walk on, with no clear answer to it, and with pretty much a grey area.
            As for ratings systems and parents, I read a review over on a movie blog earlier this year where parents took a very young child to a R rated film. The reviewer said that he was more appalled by that fact than by the actual movie itself. Which also shows that parents certainly bear a big part of responsibility as well 😊

            1. You have to know why a film is rated R. Or even NC-17. Naked people? So what? OTOH, I doubt if I’d want a young child watching the Walking Dead.

  20. As a man whose favorite manga of all time is Oyasumi Punpun, I can confidently say no, anime should be free to do whatever the hell it wants even if I take issue with it. Hell, ESPECIALLY when I take issue with it.

    Fiction is fiction, and wether or not it’s your cup of tea, I believe you should be free to enjoy it.

    A quote I like is relevant here: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”

    As a personal anecdote, I dislike edgy and misery porn shows like Magical Girl Site and Elfen Lied because of how it’s often lacking in a clear lesson or moral, and just there to make you feel like shit (Oyasumi Punpun is the exception, not the rule).

    1. While entertainment is well and good, I still do believe every good work should leave you with something positive, one way or another. Punpun, despite it’s darkness, managed to give me a lot of thoughts about what I had been doing wrong in my life.

    2. Am I the only person in the world who though PunPun was funny. Like dark comedy but still comedy….

  21. Generally speaking, there should be no censorship in an artistic medium, artists should be free to create whatever they want and likewise the viewer of the art (or in anime’s case, the consumer) has every right to bitch and moan about it ’til they are blue in the face. I know I like a lot of “problematic” as heck anime and manga and the creator of it should be allowed to continue to create it with impunity, just as I should be able to enjoy it and just as however many other people should be allowed to critique and deride it. And the reverse is the same, there’s a lot of anime that really rubs me the wrong way but no way in hell I’m going to stop the person from writing it or the consumer from enjoying it.

    And obviously there’s the point where people make ‘art’ just to evoke a negative reaction or to enforce negative world views (i.e. propaganda), it’s when that kind of ‘art’ is actually used to incite hatred which in turn causes innocent people to suffer, that’s when there’s a problem. Or at least that’s what I think, I’m not exactly an expert on this kind of thing after all…

    Anyway great post, it gave me a lot to think about!

    1. To be honest I’m not too worried about conserving the moral fabric of society –
      The mopst convincing pro censorship (and there is already a lot of censorship in anime) argument I could find is that without any sort of guideline – there’s a tendency to fall into lowest common denominator or road of least resistance, which is also boring. I have found that authors trying to creatively get around limitations and tell stories tongue and cheek often come up with works of genius they may not have if they weren’t forced to….

      1. That’s a good point! If anybody ever told me I couldn’t review/write about a certain topic I’d do everything in my power to indirectly roundabout talk about that topic without ACTUALLY talking about it. Still, censorship is bad ‘on the whole’.

        1. I’ve never actually lived anywhere with no censorship but I agree that it can get out of hand

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