Incest-themed TV anime sparks decency investigation

Incest-themed TV anime sparks decency investigation

TOKYO —

It’s a tough time for anime studios. The boom days of direct-to-video productions, when consumers would happily plunk down 5,000 yen or more for 30-minutes of animation, sight-unseen, are long gone. At the same time, TV ad revenue is hard to come by, and in some cases, non-existent for anime programs. So in order to produce a hit these days, you’ve got to put your product on television first, and then find a way to leverage its broadcast popularity into subsequent DVD and Blu-ray sales.

The real tricky part is striking a balance between showing enough for free to keep people watching and interested, yet offering the prospect of something they can’t see on TV in order to drive home-video purchases later. An easy choice for this is sexual content, and the closer a show treads to the censorship line, the more wondrous the delights awaiting viewers in the unrated DVDs are assumed to be.

Recently, one anime may have aimed a little too high in appealing to the lowest common denominator, and is now the subject of a broadcast decency investigation.

Put a pot of coffee on as we go through the unwieldy title of the series in question, “Saikin Imoto no Yosu ga Chotto Okashiin da ga,” or “Recently, My Sister is Unusual.” Relax, the story’s not entirely as creepy as it sounds.

In the series, high school students Mitsuki and Yuya find themselves living together after their parents remarry. The step-siblings are left in Japan when Yuya’s biological father gets transferred overseas and Mitsuki’s mother chooses to accompany him, rather than, you know, taking care of her daughter.

It turns out, however, that there’s a greater danger lurking around Mitsuki than the near-stranger she’s being forced to share a roof with. Instead of a sexual predator, Mitsuki has to deal with a supernatural one, in the form of a ghost who possesses and curses her, saying that if she does not engage in “lovey dovey” activities with her legal brother, she will die.

We doubt we’re going that far out on a limb when we speculate that most shows of this type are produced for, and perhaps by, individuals who don’t exactly spend a lot of time with the opposite gender in real life. If you lack any experience with the varying levels of, and progression in, how affection can be expressed, it’s understandable that being “lovey dovey” is a bold new world. If the idea of kissing or holding hands is that far outside the normal realm of your daily life, it’s understandable that once you’ve taken that terrifying plunge, full-on sex seems just a moment away, and the show’s logic seems to be that acting “lovey dovey” is equivalent with hurtling towards doing the nasty.

The anime is billed as a romantic comedy, despite its premise being neither romantic nor comical.

The series premiered earlier this month on broadcasters Tokyo MX and Sun Television, the latter based in Kobe. The two stations chose to air “Recently My Sister is Unusual” at 10 p.m., a decision which has drawn the ire of Japan’s Broadcasting Ethics and Program Improvement Organization, or BPO.

The non-government organization states its twin (and often conflicting) goals as being to “promote higher ethical standards while ensuring freedom of speech.” On Jan 28, the BPO’s Broadcast Committee for Youth Programming set its sights on Tokyo MX and Sun Television.

“Despite the fact that 10 p.m. is not an unusual time for middle and high school students to be watching television, the program contains explicit sexual situations, such as a high school girl talking about masturbating,” the committee’s chairman announced. Citing numerous complaints from viewers, the committee screened the program for members, who then decided to begin an investigation as to what corrective actions, if any, the BPO should press Tokyo MX and Sun TV for. “Recently, My Sister is Unusual’s” production committee, the group involved in creating the anime’s actual content, has not been named as a subject of the investigation.

It seems unlikely that teens will have their moral cores corrupted by hearing people talk about pleasuring themselves, as that’s already one of the favorite pastimes of individuals going through puberty. Still, that’s not the only complaint that’s been lobbed against “Recently, My Sister is Unusual,” as viewers have reportedly voiced concerns about other sexually-charged scenes the show depicts.

Even if a character talking about masturbation was the only complaint, it’s a little hard to believe the show’s intent isn’t to titillate, or that it’s aiming to open up a mature dialogue on the topic, what with the whole supernatural element.

Following the BPO’s announcement, both Tokyo MX and Sun TV have chosen to shuffle their scheduling, moving the anime’s next episode from its previous Saturday 10 p.m. block to 10:30. The show’s time slot will shift again in February, with Tokyo Mx moving it to Tuesdays at 1:30 a.m., and Sun TV pushing it back even later to Saturdays at 2 a.m. (different channels broadcasting first-run anime on different days and times is not unusual in Japan).

The BPO’s investigation was officially opened on Jan 29, and it’s still to early to tell what sort of fallout it will produce. 

Source: Tokyo Sports

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  • -28

    sensei258

    The sad thing is this will help indoctrinate some young people into having sex at a younger age.

  • 2

    KariHaruka

    The people complaining about this Anime should watch Yosuga no Sora.

  • 10

    ambrosia

    sensei258: The sad thing is this will help indoctrinate some young people into having sex at a younger age.

    Really? Indoctrinate? Will it indoctrinate them any more so than Romeo and Juliet did or the bible (Lot, Jacob and so on). For purely biological reasons teens have always and will probably always want to have sex. That's the way it was when people died around 40 and had to pop out those babies early. We live much longer now but in many ways our bodies haven't caught up. And if a manga is going to make a brother and sister want to sleep together then there are a whole host of other issues going on in that house which cannot be blame on a comic.

  • 6

    Michael Craig

    Isn't it supposed to be the parents' and relatives' jobs to tell their kids what they can or cannot watch on TV?

    A media watchdog like the BPO should be the last line of defense!

    Besides, those two stations should have scheduled ImoCho at the wee hours from the get-go!

  • -3

    Stephen Jez

    This is what anime has boiled down to, it's sad really.

  • -4

    ambrosia

    Stephen Jez: This is what anime has boiled down to, it's sad really.

    This is what anime has always boiled down to, maybe not all of it, but a fair amount of it has featured sex and what many would consider to be deviant or inappropriate sex or have you never heard of such manga as Midori Days, Marmalade Boy, Hot Gimmick and of course, The Rapeman?

  • 5

    Stephen Knight

    "Recently, My Sister is Unusual" --> "My Sister has Been Acting Strange Lately."

    Either way it sounds like pond scum.

  • 17

    Setsuna Henry

    But this show isn't really incest.

  • 0

    Bear27840

    It seems to me that this is more guided to an adult viewing and sales than that of a child for I have two friends that buy anime with demons having tentacles and I need say no more to that line of adult anime.

  • 5

    Strangerland

    I don't watch anime, as it doesn't interest me, and this story is a good example of why.

    But I agree with Setsuna Henry - if they are step-siblings, it's not really incest. The reason incest was shunned, is that it produces a high instance of handicapped children. So our ancestors made it socially non-accepted. If the siblings are step-siblings, they do not share DNA, and therefore there is no real reason for the shunning, as the risk of handicap is no higher than it would be between any two random people.

  • 2

    oginome

    Sounds tame to those of us who read Flowers In The Attic as kids.

  • 2

    Christopher Blackwell

    When I was a teenager I used to have ole boo covers I put ver my text books. One of them Incest is a Family Affair. When you consider this was late 1950s no one ever said anything about it.

    Considering that incest is a real problem in al countries and societies, perhaps it is time to stop treating it as a taboo subject and talk about it and how to protect kids from it. A taboo subject is a problem that can't be solved.

  • 3

    Frungy

    “Despite the fact that 10 p.m. is not an unusual time for middle and high school students to be watching television, the program contains explicit sexual situations, such as a high school girl talking about masturbating,” the committee’s chairman announced.

    ... let me guess, that chairman is a man? And this is why I don't like these censorship boards. They inevitably attract those who are completely out of touch with reality.

    Because of prudes like these boys and girls have to learn about masturbation in whispered conversations with friends (who know very little), think it is dirty and a secret, and rarely learn important health guidelines. The sexual education classes are frankly backwards and it results in some extremely risky sexual behaviour in teenagers.

    Do we want kids having sex? No. Are their hormones raging and their sex drives going wild? Yes. Then give them a viable alternative, the information required to do safely and hygienically, and a guilt free pass to do it. I'd rather have a daughter or son who masturbated than deal with a teenage pregnancy.

    Let the high school girl talk about masturbation.

    How is this related to the show? Well, the show features a girl who's so sexually pent up and frustrated that she imagines a ghost threatening her to give her a reason to have sex. If she'd just humped her pillow ever evening she probably wouldn't be interested.

  • 5

    Fox Cloud Lelean

    Seems tame in comparison to British soaps. I mean come on, watch Emmerdale. That's heavy on incest really. Actual incest. But whatever. At the end of the day, it's the parents' responsibility to monitor what their children watch and decide whether a show is too inappropriate or not. The parents should watch the show first, then allow their children to watch it if they approve. That way, the parents can forbid an inappropriate show, without it "corrupting" their kids. This also has the advantage of providing a means of parent/child bonding, particularly if the parents enjoyed the show. It gives them something to talk about with their children. The lives of adults are very different to the lives of youths. Common ground is needed to stop the two drifting apart.

  • 4

    Kakurenbo

    They are step-siblings. Who cares. Let them do "lovey-dovey."

  • -6

    sensei258

    @ Ambrosia - Of course other things make people think about sex, and "indoctrinate" may not have been the right word to use, but it would plant the thought if it wasn't already there. And if they're thinking about it, somewhere some young people will want to try it sooner than they would have.

  • 2

    ambrosia

    sensei258: @ Ambrosia - Of course other things make people think about sex, and "indoctrinate" may not have been the right word to use, but it would plant the thought if it wasn't already there. And if they're thinking about it, somewhere some young people will want to try it sooner than they would have.

    Sorry, but that's absurd. Being human and having hormones will make most all people want to have sex. There's no need for anyone or anything to plant the idea. It's already programmed into us.

  • -11

    sensei258

    So you apparently have no problems exposing children to sexual themes, I think that's absurd.

  • 5

    Peter Payne

    And the show is on at 2 am, and is heavily censored. I laugh at everyone who is concerned about this.

  • 3

    browny1

    Had a lazy, hazy day - beers, wine and socializing in the garden.

    Came in and checked the news & read the headline as "Insect themed TV anime sparks decency investigation"

    Wondered what could be indecent about bugs.

    Took me through most of it without nary a mention of a hopper or flea, before I scrolled up to the title again.

  • 2

    ambrosia

    sensei258: So you apparently have no problems exposing children to sexual themes, I think that's absurd

    Oh boy! Some posters just can't help themselves putting words in other people's mouths. Did I say I have no problem exposing children to sexual themes? I'm pretty sure I didn't but as long as you brought it up, I'd have to say that it depends on the age and maturity level of the kid. Sex is natural and sex is good. I don't feel that it's something people should be furtive about and I do feel that children should understand it, as best they can, and shouldn't be shielded from it. That aside, if this show is on at 10:00 and you have children younger than 10 or 12 up at that hour and they're controlling what's on the television, then you've got bigger parenting issues than not airing this show can solve. If you want to keep sexual themes away from your children you're going to have to raise them in a cave in some remote, isolated place. Make sure you do not have a copy of the Bible or any farm animals with you because the former is full of sexual themes and the latter just can't help themselves.

  • 0

    Qamar

    ...... I watched the preview of this anime and I found it hilarious not to mention that no it is not really incest anyway. It is true I have grown watching 1980s anime which at least had more decent storylines and sex (unless censored..where I watched anime they censored many reference to sex) was put in some sort of context, and nowadays I watch most anime and go "Uh..what??? What just happened?? What????" but it is up to parents to assess what is good and bad for their kids up to a certain age. Some things/shows, like videogames, are NOT meant for kids.

    First and foremost, if a parent is so scared of his kids finding about the pervie stuff in the world through a show, I personally think that said parent has to make sure that kids understand what's going on in the show, to let the kid get his own idea of what 'wrong' and 'right' early on. I watched City hunter (Angel heart?) when I was age 6. I found the perversion funny, and dad would explain that some men can act like that, and he would also tell me to feel free and slap guys who get frisky and stuff. Whilst, my mom would go into a shouting fit, and drag me to the kitchen, away from exposure because "that's shameful".

    What I find very disappointing is that some parents are scared of talking about 'taboo' subjects with their kids. It shouldn't be like that, especially in a society where sex is in every corner you look. What we need, so that 'kids don't engage in sex at early ages' is information and education, okay this might not work with ALL kids, but at least make them understand what's going on around them. I know I'm not exactly pro-stuff like this, and I hate that the world has to use sex so much, but information and education are good weapons. :)

  • 0

    timtak

    @ oginome Wow, "Flowers in the Attic" is some harsh stuff. I have only read the wikipedia plot but it seems to blow this "lovey dovey" anime away.

  • -4

    sensei258

    My kids are grown, so I don't have "parenting issues". "Sex is natural and sex is good...children shouldn't be shielded from it". Apparently, the age of "10 or 12" old enough to view incest as entertainment? Or am I "putting words in your mouth"?

  • -3

    praack

    Sorry people, I like Anime- however the idea that one with this premise is being shown on television and school age children can even possibly see it just makes me shudder.

    though sex in itself is not a "bad thing" does it need to be part of mainstream escapist reality? i don't think so. and to lamely state " well all kids are doing it because of puberty" and to consider anime a healthy form of expression- just such a crock

    just have to disagree

  • 0

    Cheeseburger23

    Has Seitokai Yakuindomo ever been investigated?

  • 0

    oginome

    timtakFeb. 02, 2014 - 07:41PM JST

    @ oginome Wow, "Flowers in the Attic" is some harsh stuff. I have only read the wikipedia plot but it seems to blow this "lovey dovey" anime away.

    It's one of the most insane books I've ever read. The sequels notch up the insanity even further. Lurid, purple prose, melodrama that makes Dynasty look insipid, and the dialogue is to die for. Much more exciting to read as a 10 year old than Enid Blyton ;)

  • 2

    Michael Craig

    If you don't like what's on TV, just don't watch it! Just turn the TV to another channel or turn it OFF! Simple as that!

  • -2

    ambrosia

    sensei258: Apparently, the age of "10 or 12" old enough to view incest as entertainment? Or am I "putting words in your mouth"?

    Ummmm....yes, you are since what I said had to do with kids younger than that being up at that hour and controlling the television. As for this being incest, it's been pointed out a number of times now that they are not blood relatives so this is not incest. As to whether or not it's appropriate entertainment for a 10 or 12 year old, I guess each parent has to make that decision based on the maturity level of the kid in question or do as Michael Craig so wisely suggested and just turn the channel. Even at the age of 10 or 12, the parent should be the one deciding what is and isn't appropriate entertainment for their particular child.

    praack: Though sex in itself is not a "bad thing" does it need to be part of mainstream escapist reality? i don't think so

    Then can we safely assume that you limit your entertainment viewing to cooking programs, sports shows and nature documentaries and fast forward through the commercials? You're free to feel how you want but I hope your antipathy towards violence being part of the maintstream escapist reality is as strong as your feelings about sex being part of it.

  • 1

    Maulana Rahman

    ok... um... the good thing on the show is : lovely story... i like it so much... especially because is comedy the bad thing on the show is : mitsuki must get possessed by hiyori to get lovey dovey with yuuya onni-chan or she'll going to hell...

    comment : considering my age, favorite,trait and personality i kinda like it... well because i'm anime lovers (obviously)... i suggest you (who making this show) must restrict the age for all viewers (reccomend 14 or 15/teenage age)

  • -4

    Kobuta Chan

    What I do understand was this film producer, screen writer and director are somehow fancying in incest sex.

    Their own family should be careful and watch out their behavior. They may commit incest crime.

  • -1

    Noliving

    The reason incest was shunned, is that it produces a high instance of handicapped children. So our ancestors made it socially non-accepted.

    So just to expand upon this are you saying that if we found away to gene splice so that siblings could reproduce without the handicapped children you would be OK with it?

  • -1

    sensei258

    As you say, you were talking about "kids YOUNGER than 10 or 12". So conversely, watching sexually themed anime must be okay at age 10 or 12. And, at one point you say "children shouldn't be shielded from it (sex)" then you say "each parent has to make that decision". Up on a soapbox are we?

  • 2

    HonestDictator

    So whats the big stink about this anime? First of all non-blood relation does not equate to incest. I know a lot more titles that cross this line than this... Koi kaze shudder... 2nd of all, this is a freakin' anime! It's FICTION! It doesn't exist in reality so no rules are broken! The day when people get bent too out of shape over what happens to fictional beings will be the day everyone who plays video games or watches anime for rape/murder/theft etc of fictional entities.

  • -2

    ambrosia

    sensei258: As you say, you were talking about "kids YOUNGER than 10 or 12". So conversely, watching sexually themed anime must be okay at age 10 or 12

    I was talking about kids that age or younger being up at that hour and having control of the television, something I think is the parent's responsibility but as long as we're going to play that game, if the kid in question is deemed mature enough by the parents to handle it, then yes, I think it's okay for them to watch sexually themed television. Since I obviously have to spell it out for you, I'm not talking about hardcore porn but shows which take a milder approach to the theme of sex and could be used to engage your child in honest and open discussions about sex, relationships and responsibilities. You obviously disagree and that's your right. My brothers and sisters and I were not shielded from sexual themes and managed to turn out just fine, as did most all of our friends who grew up in households with similar attitudes. It was the ones who's parents never talked to them about sex and censored everything who usually ended up pregnant or impregnating far earlier than they wanted.

    And, at one point you say "children shouldn't be shielded from it (sex)" then you say "each parent has to make that decision".

    Obviously it's up to the parents and how they feel about the maturity level of their kid. Does that really need to be spelled out? Apparently I don't live in the black and white world you live in. Kids are naturally curious and if parents allow open dialogue in the house, the kids will probably be comfortable asking questions from a young age. I don't condone lying to them or using childish names for body parts. Why attach shame and mystery to an act that is perfectly natural? They're going to face sexually themed manga, movies, commercials, magazine covers, music, etc. no matter what you do to shield them from it so why not let them face it armed with a little knowledge and the ability to know that they can comfortably and shamelessly talk to you about it? Like I said, you're free to disagree. To each his own. I have far more issues with all of the violence that kids are exposed to than I do the sex.

    Up on a soapbox are we?

    That's a bit rich coming from someone who proclaimed that this manga was going to "help indoctrinate some young people into having sex at a younger age".

  • 1

    lostrune2

    Why are we complaining? Are we complaining that there's too much sex on TV? Are we complaining there's too much sax 'n violins in Hollywood movies? Are we complaining about Miley twerking? Are we letting them do what they do?

  • 1

    JoiceRojo

    They are not blood-related siblings, so why call it incest?, this is similar to marmalade boy. I agree with most of what ambrosia said, the parents should decide the level of maturity of the kid to decide whether to expose the children to these kind of anime, however, it is also true that some parents might "shield too much" to something that they can see as morally reproachable, so that "shield" can backfire.

    Let me tell you an example, in my country, there were a lot of teenage pregnancies during the 90s and earlier 21st century, at that time the children explored by themselves their sexuality, since the society were restrictive in censorship and internet was "something new", teenagers would engage in sex at an earlier age 12-15 years, with little guidance, not on the aspects of reproduction, but emotional and family value aspects, They knew at that age that they could get pregnant, but they didn't know what the meaning was emotionally-speaking, they could get involved with cousins or first cousins because they didn't know if it was right or wrong, and those parents that "shielded" too much their children without giving them their own sense of values to couple with that (but then again, when you have a strong sense of morale and family values, you wouldn't need to shield) they would end up with rebellious children that would defy the strict rules of not dating before a certain age, obey a curfew, watch "forbidden" stuff.

    I see that this article is to open the discussions about parents and children, not the topic per se , since I did watch an anime (on OAV) that really dealt with incest (Angel Sanctuary), although I doubt that was shown on Japanese TV.

  • 0

    jrockway

    It's important to realize that this is fiction. Fiction is a medium where one can explore themes that are on the outskirts of acceptability. The characters aren't real. Nobody gets hurt. The point is to make you think about what's right about and wrong about social norms, and maybe sell some ad space, BluRays, and figurines.

    This series in particular doesn't seem too edgy to me. The brother and sister are not blood relatives, so you should just think of them as normal high school students. The age difference isn't extreme. They're not related. Even going by conservative American standards, there's not a whole lot going wrong here, certainly nothing that doesn't happen in real life.

    Certainly, the sexualization is gratuitous, but that is not exactly something new to the television world.

    (Also, there are plenty of "worse" incect-themed animes that have been on TV, like OreImo. Actual blood relatives! Oh noes! And the characters are younger, and the animation leaves very little to the imagination as to the physical proportions of the female protagonists. Where was the outrage then?)

  • 1

    Aaron Loki Brummett

    Too worked up over a cartoon!

  • 0

    TedJohnson

    Why is this only now becoming an issue? You know how many shows had this kind of content before? Besides, It's anime.

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