The Beginner’s Guide to Anime, Extra VIII – Will an anime or manga ever be X-Listed?


WARNING: This column deals with subjects considered to be deeply offensive, including rape, paedophilia, bestiality, graphic violence, murder, bigotry etc.

Past columns have talked about censorship and freedom of speech in anime. Most of time, you can do pretty much anything: you can have gory violence, or graphic sex including rape and paedophilia. Some manga have come into trouble because some people think they are racist, but the government have never prevented a manga or anime from being sold outright in Japan. The only thing that tends to be censored is genitalia.

However, there are plenty of people in Japan who worry about censorship of the industry. Many want to find out what exactly are the limits. Could there ever be a point where a manga or anime was so scandalous that the government would step in and say: “You cannot do this. This cannot be sold or displayed.” Some people have tried to find out, resulting in the “X-Listed Contest”.

This idea was created by a group of friends running an anime convention in Sapporo, Hokkaido, in 1985. After the event finished they were busy celebrating, having a few drinks, and then started talking about fan-made manga, known as “dojinshi”. Some pornographic dojinshi had been sold at the convention, and so they had the idea of creating a really seedy, rude, fetish-filled, bad-taste manga. Named Rape Me Now!! and published under the group name of Satsujin 1 (Murderer 1), it not only featured the lead character, a 9-year-old boy, being raped, but also beaten-up, forced to have sex with a dog, eat his own faeces, cut off and eat his own penis, and finally being choked to death by sucking a horse’s member. They self-published it, and managed to get it printed without being arrested, by making sure to blur out only what needed to be blurred out by law.

The comic spread like wildfire among certain circles, not just for fans of pornographic manga, but people working in the “alternative manga” circuit who were interested in more obscure works. At the following year’s convention, more people became interested and tried making their own bad-taste works. Works that are in such bad taste, that I dare not post any images because I’m worried they might break British obscenity and/or extreme pornography laws.

It was decided to turn it into a competition, which became known as the X-Listed Contest, the name being reference to X-rated material. The “listed” bit came from the description of the contest’s objective: “The winner will be the creator of a manga or anime so scandalous that the government would block any commercial release of it, and would put on a list of works that would be deemed too offensive to show.”

The main rules are:

  • It has to be either a manga or an anime. No other format is allowed.
  • The maximum length for manga is 20 pages.
  • The maximum length for anime is 5 minutes.
  • It can be offensive in any way you choose. It can be racist, sexist, homophobic, violent, pornographic, politically contentious etc.
  • All authors who submit work must also act out a brief scene from their work, live on stage.

This last rule was put in to add humour to the ceremony. Obviously most of what is depicted in these works is illegal, so it has to be acted out carefully. Entrants in the past have acted out murders, rapes, cannibal feasts, have blacked-up, made mock speeches attacking minorities and so on. Some people have won the contest by doing very realistic performances of their work. One winner, Takeshi Tobe, wrote a story called The Last Supper about a man who eats himself, and before the performance he had part of his flesh surgically removed, and then he ate it on stage. Not only that but he act out his scene faithfully, which involved eating it raw (he vomited much it back up again during the performance), from a dog bowl and laced with powerful laxatives. He then defecated on stage and started throwing his faeces at his “dinner party guests”, who he claimed were the audience.

The prize of the winner is to have their work released commercially, either in print if it is a manga, or as an Original Video Anime (OVA) depending on the format. Despite the fact that every single winner is terribly grotesque, the Japanese government have never blocked a release, meaning that the entrants are always looking for new ways to cause offence.

Below are some of the winners from previous years:

  • XXX/1999 by Yuto Ashihara – A pornographic rendering of the popular manga X (No. 70). It featured the central character Kamui Shiro being raped by fellow character Fuma Monou, having a sword rammed up his anus and out his torso, and a second sword stabbed through his groin. Kamui also has his head repeated banged up against a wall, then his face is burnt off by a blowtorch, and finally Fuma removes the two swords, slices open Kamui’s belly, and Fuma forces Kamui to eat his own intestines. This entry was noted for being the first to use characters from another work, so was considered controversial not just for the graphic content, but also for the copyright infringement. However, there are many fan-works released based on other people’s shows so that was not considered a problem. In her stage performance, Ashihara used make-up to created what looked like a badly damaged face, and ate pig’s intestines.
  • Abe’s Reich by Hiro Ohtaka – One of the more recent winners and one of the few presented as an anime, this was a vicious, satirical work attacking Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Critical of Abe’s right-wing stance on several issues, he made a anime portraying him as an Adolf Hitler-like figure, exterminating anyone who disagreed with him. People wondered whether a anime that attacked a current prime minister might get censored, but it never did.
  • The Korean Dependency of Japan by Katsura Kubo – On the other side of the political spectrum, this manga was designed to be as racist as possible. It was an alternative history story set in a world were after World War II the Koreans were given Japan as an award by the Allies. The story depicts the occupying Korean forces in every negative light, with them murdering, raping, abusing and violating every Japanese person in sight in what they see as “divine punishment”.
  • Nuclear Justice by Shuzo Okazaki – Probably the most sensitive subject in Japan is the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This conspiracy thriller followed a Japanese man who wants to bring peace to the country. Instead of the Americans dropping the bombs, he makes them and plants them in the towns himself. This story is the one that has attracted the most anger, especially in the towns that were victims of the bombings, but again, it somehow managed to be published.
  • My Private Harem by Moonlight Kunt – The most commercially successful of all the winners. It is a shotacon (male paedophilia) series in which the central character, whose name is never revealed and is simply called “God” by all the other characters, is a serial kidnapper, paedophile and fetishist who targets boys. He castrates them, brainwashes them and forces each boy to become “top” of a particular kink. The opening, winning story, sees a 5-year-old boy named Shinji to become a “pain-slut”. When acting out her scene Kunt performed on a doll. The series is now in its 11th print volume and has been turned into an OVA series.

The series has becoming increasingly popular as a cult event, although it still fails to get much mainstream media coverage due to the adult content of the contest. It is now tradition that the X-listed Contest is held annually at 10pm on 10th October (as X is 10 in Roman numerals). Although the venue for the next event is not yet confirmed, it is rumoured to be organised by Department-H, a fetish event in Tokyo.

Most people will no doubt see this contest as utterly horrible, and that none of these series should be published, certainly not in English. However, it still helps continue the debate into freedom of speech, artistic licence and so on. Should the government ever step into sensor a work at all? Should creators self-censor? Are we to blame for wanting to read and see such material? It is such questions that the X-listed Contest forces you to answer.

In case you failed to spot it – April Fool!