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Friday, September 26, 2014

Here's Your Reminder That Banned Books Week Means Manga, Too

Filed under "very likely to be banned from a small Southern
public library because WITCHCRAFT".
Bibliophiles, authors, booksellers and librarians everywhere are big cheerleaders for Banned Books Week, a yearly celebration for the books that have been the target of narrow-minded censorship and bigotry, all because they dare to be big and daring with their message - or because some people can't understand why kids want to read about Captain Underpants and fictional young folks who look like them.

Look at some of the titles that were challenged the most in 2013 - that means, an individual or group took it upon themselves to say that these books were inappropriate and needed to be removed from a public collection. Toni Morrison's Bluest Eye, the Fifty Shades of Grey series, the Hunger Games, Jeff Smith's Bone graphic novels. Honestly, the only thing surprising about the list is that Harry Potter isn't on it for 2013.

You might be tempted to think that manga isn't a challenged medium. Oh, you sweet summer child. If anything, manga readers should be a permanent part of the movement against banning books - because if there's one thing these so-called "upstanding citizens" can't handle, it's Japanese comic books with weird images and violence.

Just recently, a library in Cleveland, Texas denied a local minister's request that several "demonic" books be removed from the collection. The entire request is ridiculous - apparently, dried flowers are evil? One of the titles this minister requested to be removed was the vampire shojo manga Vampire Knight.

This isn't an isolated event. Look upon this brief history of less than stellar moments in acts against literary freedom and despair, fellow otaku.

  • April 2006: The book Manga: Sixty Years of Japanese Comics was removed from San Bernardino's public library system, based on objections of allegedly sexual imagery. In retaliation, a local community college library had the book displayed but did not allow the book to be checked out by patrons.
  • January 2011: Paul Gravett's book joins a long list of similar manga offenders as the University of Malta declared them "naughty" and put behind glass, requiring special permissions to request them. Yes, it's like the restricted section in Hogwarts except none of the books bite.
  • I can't even begin to link to the number of Japanese libraries and schools who have had the Barefoot Gen manga pulled from their shelves, all because of its depiction of Japan after the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima along with its anti-war messages.
  • Even more moments can be found through the Comic Book Legal Defense, which fights the good fight against those who wish to censor manga and demonize those who buy and enjoy it.
Otaku know full well that society as a whole thinks manga is weird, is filled with violence and pornography, and those who read it are either children or perverts - what an odd division of thoughts in one group! "Either it's Pokemon or porn" is the standard response by those who don't realize how diverse a medium manga is. 

Manga readers know what it's like to have our choices in entertainment marginalized and belittled. And sometimes - quite a lot, actually - we are told our favorite titles are unsuitable for public consumption and have them forced out of our hands because apparently people are too dumb to make their own educated choices about what they do and don't want to read. 

Tomorrow is the last day of Banned Books Week. Before the year is over, another public library will most likely have to defend their choice of circulation material against a harmful 'do-gooder' who sees personal responsibility as a fairy tale, not reality. We can all do something - whether it's donate to the CBLD fund, volunteer for a local BBW event, or just read manga from your own public library - that shows that when it comes to the larger book community fighting censorship, manga fans are fighting too.