I don’t know where to place the blame. I know this decision originates from understandable motives; you cannot fault parents for doing whatever it takes to protect their children.
Before I go further, let me provide context. A school in the USA (Gifford Middle School) removed the Assassination Classroom manga from its library a month ago, because an organization called ‘Moms for Liberty’ pressured the school to take action.
If you have not read it, Assassination Classroom is action/adventure. The protagonists are a class of middle school students that spend every chapter trying to assassinate their teacher, an alien that intends to destroy the world at the end of the school year unless his students can stop him.
The story is every bit as outlandish as that description suggests. In the manga, the students will routinely take up arms (rifles, bazookas, railguns) against Koro-sensei, shooting at him when he least expects it.
But believe it or not, Assassination Classroom is a child-friendly manga. So why are some organizations fighting to restrict access to the comic?
Because school shootings are rife in the United States, and in many cases involve disgruntled students who kill their teachers. So, you can understand why a manga where students point guns at teachers would distress parents.
This story is already several weeks old, so I won’t dissect it further. My concern is the precedence the move has set. Americans censor anime and manga all the time. Why do you think characters in the dubbed version of YuGiOh go to the shadow realm when they lose? In the Japanese source material, losing a duel means dying.
But Americans prefer to protect their children from the darker aspects of life, hence all the cigarettes and guns they routinely cut from dubbed anime in the United States. You also have comic book writers like Gerry Conway, who repeatedly criticize manga for sexualizing female characters. They want manga to conform to American standards.
Usually, manga and anime enthusiasts like me ignore these stories because such efforts rarely succeed. Americans don’t apply enough pressure to bring about change in the Japanese manga industry, mainly because the complaints American artists raise are trivial.
But this is different. School shootings are not trivial and you get the sense that tensions are still high in the USA. Japanese creators want their comics to sell in North America.
It would not surprise me if they eventually bow to the pressure, adjusting their stories to appease American organizations such as ‘Moms for Liberty.’ That would suck.
Then again, this is not new; Americans have a habit of blaming popular entertainment for the ills in their society. In the 1980s, they attacked RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons for supposedly encouraging devil worship. A decade later, they criticized gangsta rap for inciting violent behaviour among the youth.
Not long after, they turned against violent video games, suggesting that titles like Call of Duty encouraged younger audiences to take up arms. And now, manga is in the crosshairs. You can blame these reactions on ignorance. During my secondary school days, every adult who classified Harry Potter as a gateway to witchcraft did so without first reading those novels.
Assassination Classroom is the same. Anyone that reads that manga knows that it does not glorify violence. No sane child will go on a shooting spree in their school simply because they read the manga. People with violent tendencies don’t need encouragement from a comic, video game, or song to act on their desires.
Children should remedy this ignorance by exposing their parents to these supposedly dangerous titles. Otherwise, parents will continue to respond irrationally to things they know very little about.