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Japan: Should Comics be Crimes?

Why are cartoons depicting children in explicit sexual situations still legal in Japan? James Fletcher finds out why cartoon images are not banned.

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.

Last 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?

(Photo: People walking past pictures of cartoon characters on a wall in Tokyo. Credit: Getty Images)

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