Monday, January 19, 2015

Editorial: Enough Lolis Already!

Japan, we need to talk.

I've been an enthusiast and consumer of your contemporary visual media, by which I mean anime and manga, for a considerable chunk of my lifespan by now. And as with any other artistic medium, over the years I have become cognisant of the more sultry corners of those industries. That, taken alone, is not a bad thing. But within those adult-oriented ghettos, I'm witnessing a disturbing trend. More and more with each passing year, we get various kinds of products, both from the professional and amateur circles, which employ the fictional depictions of underage characters in sexual situations. And I'm not alone in noticing this: after several false starts in writing an article on the subject, I caught a documentary on BBC radio which spurred my internal dialogue once again.

An example of "loli" content from Kodomo no Jikan,
which even had to be censored for its TV broadcast (above).
Said documentary investigates and discusses the topic of "lolicon". The term is short for "Lolita complex", and was named after The Lolita Complex, a psychological hoax of a book written by Russell Trainer, which was in turn named after the novel Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. In modern practise, "lolicon" is the use of noticeably underage female characters in some degree of sexual situations and an illustrated context, and the sexual attraction of such held by its fans. There's also a gender-swapped counterpart named "shotacon", (named after Shotaro Kaneda, the main character of the sixties giant-robot anime Gigantor). Now, I'm not into any of that stuff, what with western ideals of beauty being geared towards a certain... older age. But apparently plenty of Japanese anime and manga consumers are, even those who have healthy interpersonal relationships in the real world. So how bad could it be...?

Please bear in mind the following points as I go on. 1) I am against sexual exploitation of real-world minors in the real world, especially if they are used against their will and consent. That kind of depravity is bad. It is wrong. "Badong", even. But here's the thing: real-life juniors are not employed, much less harmed, in the creation of these lolicon/shotacon products. At least I hope not...

2) I am a stalward supporter of freedom of speech and creation, so long as it does not infringe directly upon the personal rights of others. Come to think of it, this debate reminds me of one we've been having here in America for some time now, about whether or not violent content in video games inspires its consumers to engage in similar acts. I am strongly against that being the case, and if someone does indeed take such inspiration to perpetrate that kind of crime, that's his problem personally. Back on point, I suppose I could apply that same line of thinking to the lolicon issue, however my personal disdain for the thing softens my edge somewhat.

Yoko from Gurren Lagann.
Surely she's an adult, right?  ...Right?
And 3) I say this as a huge fan of contemporary Japanese visual media. I'm not saying any of this to condemn the scene and make it go away; I'm bringing up these issues in an effort that these specific problems may be corrected and make life better for the rest of us. But seriously, folks, Japan's relationship with age is jacked. Case in point: This lovely vixen you see to the side of this paragraph is Yoko, one of the main characters from the show Gurren Lagann. As you can see, she's got a face that makes my heart melt, and a body that makes my... "Sex Pistol" hard. It helps that Yoko-chan is typically portrayed wearing little more than a bikini and hotpants. Heck, the swimsuit she wears in the show's "beach episode" covers more of her torso than her default costume does! Also, she's fourteen.


Yeah, the second half of that show takes place a few years in the future, but this was our first impression of Yoko-chan. I don't know about you, but when I need to envision a fourteen-year-old, I don't think Yoko-chan. I think Ellie from The Last of Us. And this isn't limited to the pornographic sphere; teenage heroes are everywhere in manga and anime. I remember stuff from the '90s like Sailor Moon, Neon Genesis Evangelion, even Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water, where the main characters were fourteen, fifteen years old but whose body types were a bit more on the grown-up side than today's loli fare. Of course, if these girls were to suddenly take on a corporeal form I'd know better than to do them; I've built a pretty strong mental barrier in that regard. Again, rape is "badong". And yet, Nadia-chan in particular is still my "waifu" after all these years, but I am fast approaching the age where it would be creepy to admit that. Ay, me. Still, I have my limits; if the girl looks any younger than the examples I listed in this paragraph, you can count me out.

Perhaps this fascination with taking on fantastic adventures in one's youth is just a cultural thing, as parodied by this Scandinavia and the World comic. Or perhaps it's universal: we will always need main characters whom we can relate to, and the sad truth is that a lot of our stories are geared towards those of us in the midst of growing up. And the Internet being what it is, there's always someone out there ready to re-interpret these stories to fulfill the sexual fantasies of themselves and others. You know, "Rule 34" and all that.

Going back to the topic of bringing up social problems for the sake of having them fixed, this Lolita Complex... complex brings with it... complex implications for the future of Japan itself. According to the resources cited on the Wikipedia page about the demographics of Japan, the country has suffered a shrinking population for a few years running, despite an increasing life expectancy. You may not notice it by visiting the place these days, but Japan's economy suffered a really bad recession in the early 90s, and depending on whom you talk to, has yet to recover fully. Thus, we have dating-age women who a generation ago would have been content to live out as housewives for the many well-off suitors available, but these days must be more proactive in picking out a suitable husband. But the stress of this romantic competition instead drives men away from the real dating scene, and towards the more docile girls of the virtual realms.

This is probably not the only factor in Japan's depopulation, and I do not claim to be an expert on the subject, but that doesn't mean I still don't hold within me wishes to improve the future of one of my favourite nations. And yet I admit that solving the matter myself is an improbability, not to mention the implications of imposing the culture I happen to follow upon another culture entirely. Remember, you're reading the words of someone from "World Police" America. So allow me to just put this suggestion out there that maybe, the Japanese should take the effort themselves to embrace older characters, and maybe the medium would be a more respectable place.

Then again, if I really wanted to instill any real change in Japan, I should have done it in their own language. D'oh.

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