The History of Manga Regulation in Japan


I was supposed to write a brief history of manga regulation, but it turned out to be so long that I had to split the page. Rabbit-san and Fox-san are also surprised. Now, it is said that it was in 1970 that the criticism of a manga, which had almost died down with the help of the popularity of Astro Boy, came back with a vengeance. This was triggered by the work of Go Nagai (永井豪), who later became a master of the manga.

Revived anti-manga and resistance

The title of the manga is Harenchi Gakuen (ハレンチ学園). It was serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump (週刊少年ジャンプ) from 1968. I am not familiar with Harenchi Gakuen, so I can not explain it in detail, but it seems the manga with frequent female nudity, sometimes completely naked with only the crotch area dexterously hidden. One of the most famous negative effects(?) of the manga was the popularization of skirt-flipping among children, known as "Mōretsu gokko (モーレツごっこ)".

"Mōretsu (モーレツ)" is a Japanese word meaning "furious", and is officially written in kanji as "猛烈". "モーレツ" is katakana. When kanji is expressed in katakana, the impression may change even though the meaning is the same. For example, katakana is often used to describe foreign words to Japanese people, so it can give a sense of exoticism and newness. Also, it is more concise than kanji, so it can give a lighter impression. At other times, it has the effect of emphasizing a word. Anyway, just by changing the notation from kanji, you can get a variety of effects.

The original source of this katakana notation for "Mōretsu" is a TV ad for an oil company that was broadcast in 1969. In this TV ad, there is a scene where the skirt of the dress worn by actress Rosa Ogawa (小川ローザ) is flipped up by the wind, revealing her underwear. At that moment, a voice comes from somewhere saying, "Oh, Mōretsu!" can be heard from somewhere.

Mōretsu! ad

In the beginning, the words "Mōretsu Dash! (猛烈ダッシュ! Furious Dash!)" so in essence, this ad is appealing to the audience, "With our oil, your car can accelerate furiously. Ogawa's skirt is fluttering because of the wind created by this oil-powered accelerated car, and the "Oh! Mōretsu!" is also a reference to that wind. As some of you may have already noticed, this ad is a parody of Marilyn Monroe in Billy Wilder's The Seven Year Itch.

Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch

Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch

Marilyn was also popular in Japan, so the ad was probably created to capitalize on her popularity. And just as the company had hoped, the ad was very well received. Even today, whenever there is a discussion about the great Japanese ads of the past, it is always mentioned, and even the generation that does not know anything about the ad can somehow associate the katakana word "モーレツ (Mōretsu)" with "Something like Marilyn Monroe".

Now let's get back to Harenchi Gakuen. That is, Nagai was inspired by this ad and drew a skirt-flipping scene called "Mōretsu gokko" in the manga. Then, the boys in the readership copied this and started skirt-flipping on the girls in their class. In fact, it is said that there were boys who did this even before the manga was serialized, but the anti-manga faction, like fish out of water, started making a fuss about Harenchi Gakuen as the cause. They found a good story to affirm their previous theory that "manga is bad for education".

This led to Nagai being fiercely bashed. It is said that a large number of teachers were also involved in this. Apparently, Harenchi Gakuen often poked fun at teachers or treated them as villains, and the teachers did not like it. Some say that this may have been more disturbing to some people than the nudity and skirt-flipping.

Thus, the criticism of a manga once again became active. How did Osamu Tezuka, who desperately tried to calm down the situation a few years ago, move this time? It was "Started to draw a manga similar genre to Harenchi Gakuen, called Yakeppachi no Maria (やけっぱちのマリア. Yakeppachi's Maria)".

Yakeppachi no Maria was the manga serialized in Shonen Champion (少年チャンピオン. Now, Weekly Shonen Champion. 週刊少年チャンピオン). The main character, Yakeppachi (ヤケッパチ), is a junior high school boy, but after reading signs of pregnancy in his body, he gives birth to the ectoplasmic girl through his nose. The ectoplasmic girl was transferred to the sex doll created by Yakeppachi's father and named Maria to live as a human.

The ectoplasmic girl moving from Yakeppachi's nose to the sex doll

© Tezuka Productions

This manga, like Harenchi Gakuen, which was the motivation for writing it, was considered problematic, and four months after its serialization, the entire magazine was designated as a Yūgai tosho in some areas. The term "yūgai tosho (有害図書)" directly translates to "harmful book", and those designated as such are subject to age restrictions on purchase and viewing. This system applies not only to books but also to video works.

According to Osamu Tezuka's official website, there were many other manga that challenged the depiction of sex and violence in addition to Harenchi Gakuen at the time, all of which violated what Tezuka considered to be the taboo against drawing manga, and so he drew this manga out of shock and "desperation (in Japanese, it is "yakeppachi")".

This manga has some silly, such as the heroine being a sex doll and frequent nudity, but is like a gakushū manga (学習まんが)*, carefully explaining the mechanisms of the human body and hormones. I do not know much about the manga that was popular at the time, but if Tezuka did not like a manga of the time, as the official website says, then this manga, which seems to be more educational than entertaining, functions as an irony to a manga of the time.

*Gakushū manga... A learning manga. It is a kind of teaching material for children, and it is made with manga so that even children who are not good at studying can learn with curiosity.

As a result, Yakeppachi no Maria did not gain as much popularity as Harenchi Gakuen, and has a low profile among Tezuka's works. When it comes to Tezuka's works that deal with sex appeal, Fushigi na Melmo (ふしぎなメルモ. Marvelous Melmo), which was made into an anime, is better known. But, Harenchi Gakuen is still famous today not only because of the popularity of the work itself, but also because it is widely known to have had a strong influence on later debut mangaka. One of the best examples is Rumiko Takahashi (高橋留美子).

The following is a translation of an interview with Takahashi in 2013.

Interviewer: What are your influences as a painter?

Takahashi: I think I have been greatly influenced by the works I have just mentioned, but I think Go Nagai sensei's presence is quite significant. I became obsessed with Harenchi Gakuen and then Devilman. At that time, story manga and gag manga were very different from each other. Even if they were drawn by the same artist, they were drawn with completely different touches. But Nagai-sensei drew both gags and serious stories with almost the same heads tall... "I didn’t know you could do that!", I longed for him.

Interviewer: So you were influenced by him in terms of how to be a writer.

Takahashi: Of course, he may have influenced my drawing style as well. I thought the sleek body lines of the girls in Harenchi Gakuen were revolutionary.

「るーみっくわーるど35~SHOW TIME&ALL STAR~」高橋留美子画業35周年インタビュー (4/5) - コミックナタリー 特集・インタビュー

Takahashi, a great admirer of Nagai, started serializing Urusei Yatsura (うる星やつら) in Weekly Shonen Sunday (週刊少年サンデー) in 1978, and became a popular writer. Urusei Yatsura is a gag manga that begins, the main character, Ataru Moroboshi (諸星あたる), as a representative of the people of the earth, plays oni gokko (鬼ごっこ. Tag) with Lum (ラム), a girl from Oni zoku (鬼族) who has come from outer space to invade the earth.

With this, the genres of love come (ラブコメ. Romantic comedy), SF comedy, and dotabata love comedy (ドタバタラブコメディ. Slapstick romantic comedy) took root in the world of manga. Also, after the "moe (萌え)" genre was established in the 1990s, this manga is always a candidate when people talk about the originator of the genre. It is a legendary manga that has had such a strong impact on future generations that without its existence, not only today's manga... but also all other Japanese media such as anime and games might have been different.

This innovative work soon caught the attention of the animation industry, and in 1981, the TV anime began broadcasting. When Ataru starts playing oni gokko with Lum in the first episode, he is devastated by the reality that he cannot even touch her because she can fly. After thinking it over, Ataru decides to take away the top that covers her breasts to make Lum come closer to him.

Ram being robbed of her the top

© 高橋留美子/小学館

The development of Lum's breasts being exposed is the same as in the original story, although the details are different. But, after this scene was aired on TV, the TV station was said to have been flooded with calls of protest. This is one of the episodes that make you feel the remarkable difference between the manga and TV anime media. With manga, unless the reader is interested and voluntarily reaches for the book, he or she will not be able to know the contents. But, with TV anime, even if you just turn on the TV, there is a possibility that the content will be known to an audience that was not originally the target audience. This led to sudden complaints about the portrayal, which had been largely unproblematic for the first three years of the original series.

In 1970, Harenchi Gakuen began to be heavily criticized because the major media, newspapers, announced its existence. Although newspapers are not as effective as television, they are a more effective medium for advertising than books in bookstores. At least that was the case at the time. That is, Takahashi went through the same process of criticism as Nagai, whom she admired.

This anime became explosively popular, not only because of the excellent original work, but also because of the skills of the up-and-coming animation professionals, led by Mamoru Oshii (押井守), who served as chief director. On the other hand, it is said that the TV stations had to deal with complaints every time because of the overly free style. Well, maybe that unreasonableness has become one of the charms of Urusei Yatsura nowadays (is it?), but while this powerful influence of TV has benefited anime, it has also often plagued it since its early days.

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