Is anime fandom ready for Mainstream Attention? No, but I’m also not convinced that it’s something to worry about. There have been numerous attempts to take anime mainstream. It happened in the nineties with Akira and I don’t remember there being too much of a fuss.
Which is odd given that I grew up in England, where Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles had to be rebranded as Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles because using the word ninja is too violent for children, but not mutant turtles with swords and other ninjutsu weapons. Remember the second live-action movie where they didn’t actually use any of their weapons in the entire movie?
There’s always a chance that anime catches the gaze of mainstream eyes and if that happens, we could be looking at calls for censorship and, for me, that’s the real threat. Growing up in England we suffered from insanely stringent censorship rules. It would take months for movies to pass certification and even then it would likely have been edited.
One of my earliest anime purchases was a horror mini-series called Guy: Double Target. I hadn’t heard of it before, but it had demons, a badass guy called Guy and sexy girls. It was dark, violent and contained frequent nudity, but it had an 18 certificate so that was no surprise.
It wasn’t until earlier this year when I tried to rediscover the show that I found out it was a horror hentai anime that had been so heavily cut and censored to pass UK certification. That was a bit of a shock when I started watching it again all those years later. What if I had recommended it to someone living in a different country?
Now, I’m a parent and I agree that there needs to be restrictions in place to limit what children see such as not allowing certain types of advertising or show before a certain time or in places that they can freely see them, but I absolutely do not believe that anyone else should decide what I can and cannot watch.
Currently, we live in a society where everyone seems to be offended by everything. Take Goblin Hunter for example. It only takes a few complaints before all the professional moaners jump on top. They’re that group that look for stuff to complain about regardless of whether they would be the consumer or not. They have such a strong belief that their views are correct that they have no problem dictating how everyone else live their lives.
Ironically, there is an anime that has already tackled this subject – Shimoneta. In that series, we see a world where lewdness has been outlawed, but it didn’t stop there. Soon, speech and actions were being monitored, even rude jokes were against the law. Now, Shimoneta is a comedy, but I think it does have some interesting insights. After a generation of censorship, the teenagers are so unprepared for adult life that they don’t know how to respond to the urges and hormones flooding their bodies. As with anything, education is always preferable to censorship which is just avoiding the issue rather than resolving the causes.
But like I said at the beginning of this post, I’m not too worried. Sure Netflix is trying to push anime into the mainstream with shows like Castlevania but just like indie films or foreign cinema, only a few ever really breakout in the Western market.
Frankly, I’m glad. I like that were part of something different. Maybe we’re weird because we enjoy animated shows that cover all sorts of topics. Hooray for giant mecha, for fan-service, for murderous cute girls, for strange stories about high school students, another hooray for harems, reverse harems, and parents that always seem to be on business trips.
There is a lot about anime that mainstream viewers just won’t get without years of context from watching series after series. No one becomes an Otaku overnight. It starts with one series that resonates and before you know it, you’re halfway through One Piece!
If mainstream attention leads to more calls for censorship, then I have just one thing to say to them.
Hands off my fandom!