One thing I am envious of in Japan is their freedom to publish pretty much whatever they want. Not because I’m pro-smut, violence, or anything like that but I often feel that the US’s guise of “protecting the children” often have a negative effect on what adults can consume whether it’s graphic novels or video games. Similarly, I also feel that there is a double standard set upon the aforementioned industry and the book or literary world, and the movie and music industry. For some reason, the latter gets away with having bone-chilling movies like Saw, and very illustrative graphic scenes written in text but should you do the same scene in a manga or video game, it gets rapped as too graphic or inappropriate. Think Hot Coffee and Grand Theft Auto.
Japan’s government has been battling this issue of censorship in Japan for years now. You may have heard how publishers aren’t permitted to draw pubic hair, show genitalia, or face fines or punishment. The Wall Street Journal took a look into this issue and from the article, the Japan Book Publishers Association’s self-regulation are actually making a dent in the industry so much so that “since 2004, after publishers increased self-regulation as part of a deal with local authorities, the number of ‘unwholesome’ books has decreased from 124 books in fiscal 2003, to a mere 31 in 2009.”
For some interesting articles on censorship in Japan or in the US, check out The Wall Steet Journal’s Row Brews on Tighter Adult Manga Curbs, Non-Existent Youth Bill Pushed Back for Revision, and Manga, Censorship and Obsenity.