(NSFW) The Beginner’s Guide to Anime, No. 175 – Shimoneta: A Boring World Where the Concept of Dirty Jokes Doesn’t Exist

Shimoneta
© Hirotaka Akagi, Shogakukan/SOX

A little while ago, when previewing a BBC Three documentary about the issue of child sex abuse and pornography in Japan, there was debate in our comments section. This was mainly because of I attacked the programme over biased coverage, especially towards anime and manga which in Japan can legally depict fictional underage sex and I thought it was a touch hypocritical for the BBC to cover this subject given their issues with Jimmy Saville and the like.

This month, a new anime series was released on DVD and Blu-Ray in Britain which was a partial reaction to recent Japanese laws on censorship, and it’s a series that has a reputation of being the smuttiest anime around. Put it this way, there is a reason I’ve decided not to post a trailer for the show in this article like I normally do, which is that I’m not sure my bosses would allow it.

Broadcast in 2015, Shimoneta (which means “vulgar slang” or “blue joke”) is a comedy series set in a dystopia. In this future version of Japan, the government is watching on everyone, with all citizens having to wear a device monitoring what they are saying and doing. This is because in the future Japan has outlawed everything that is considered rude. Not only has all pornography been outlawed, but so has swearing, and even sex education has been curbed because it’s too rude. Think of the world if it was run by the late Mary Whitehouse.

Tanukichi Okuma is a student whose father was punished under Japan’s new laws and as such is ostracised by everyone because of what his father did. However, he has rejected his father’s rudeness and has managed to get into the top “Public Morals School” in the country, mainly to see the girl he loves, Anna Nishikinomiya, the only person to befriend him as a child.

However, on the commute to his first day at school, the train Tanukichi’s on is attacked and he’s kidnapped by someone called Blue Snow, an “erotic terrorist” who masks herself by wearing a pair of knickers across her face and spreads soft-core porn around the station. Tanukichi learns that Blue Snow is actually Ayame Kajou, a member of his school’s student council along with Anna. Ayame’s father was also arrested for being too rude, but he was able to help Ayame in some ways. For example, he create a device on her phone that allows her to say whatever she wants for three minutes a day, and what she wants to say normally involves sex and rude jokes.

Ayame decides to create her own organisation called SOX, dedicated to bringing smut back to Japan, and forces Tanukichi to join. They later get other people in their group, these being Otome Saotome, an artist who to avoid being detected drawing porn by her hand movements uses her mouth to draw instead; and Kosuri Onigashira, the daughter of a famous pornographer. SOX are also helped by another student, Hyouka Fuwa, a classmate of Tanukichi’s who loves science but due to the government’s laws knows nothing about sexual reproduction works.

The series sees SOX constantly attempting to get one of the authorities, including Anna, whose parents just happened to be the people pushing forward more anti-rudeness laws. There is one extra development with Anna however. In one of SOX’s escapades, Tanukichi accidentally kisses Anna, and thus she ends up falling in love with him, but because of her misguided ideas about love and sex, her attempts to show her affections are rather extreme. These include Anna attempting to rape Tanukichi, and making biscuits for him containing her “love nectar” – i.e. her ejaculate.

Now, I should state that I don’t find the comedy in Shimoneta to be very funny. The series has a reputation of being very smutty, but often it comes across as more childish and immature. One of the jokes just involves Ayame rolling on the floor excitedly shouting “penis” and “vagina” repeatedly. For me, the problem with Shimoneta is that actually it’s not rude enough. If you did the exact same scene again, but replaced the words with actual swear words, that would have made the scene both ruder and funnier. The show says it’s vulgar, but they only use the f-word once in the entire show. The most offensive part of the show, annoyingly, isn’t anything comedy, but the attempted rape scene, which some see as a double-standard because as it features a female character raping a male character people treat it differently in comparison to a scene showing it the other way.

Instead of looking at Shimoneta as a comedy, let’s look at it as a dystopia, and as a sci-fi story. Many of the best dystopias comment on something that is happening in the present, and when this was created the Japanese government had indeed pushed through new censorship laws. You might argue that in a country where cartoon paedophilia is legal this is a good thing, but so many creative artists in Japan are worried that this might just be the thin end of the wedge, and are worried about what else might get censored. Yes, the scenario in Shimoneta is an extreme one, banning all that is rude, but don’t forget that there are those people, like the late Mrs. Whitehouse, who probably would have welcomed such a future society where did manage to ban this filth.

It is not just in Japan too. Britain’s pornography laws a bit strange too. That scene involving Anna’s “love nectar” for example, would be illegal if it was actually pornographic because the law bans depictions of female ejaculation, but male ejaculation is fine, so you can argue our laws are sexist.

In Britain, much of the talk in terms of censorship concerns things like rape culture and whether or not comedians should do material about rape. Personally, I think it should be possible to make material about the most controversial of subjects, but a pet annoyance of mine is comedians using “freedom of speech” to defend offensive material that’s just rubbish. They also tend to be the same comedians who while preaching about freedom of speech are more than willing to tell hecklers to shut up. I’ve seen people compare Dapper Laughs and his right to do rape jokes, to Lenny Bruce who was arrested for obscenity in 1960s America, but I don’t think the two are comparable. Bruce was funny for starters.

The rows about censorship, freedom of speech, rape culture and so on will go on and on. In terms of this anime however, while it is not the greatest show around, it has its own ideas that it tries to express. If you want to watch you can do – just don’t say I didn’t warn you about its contents.

Shimoneta: A Boring World Where the Concept of Dirty Jokes Doesn’t Exist is released on DVD and Blu-Ray by All the Anime via Funimation.

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