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Protecting Our Children

Parent Awareness Alert

By JoAnn Hibbert Hamilton

Currently, there is a stylish Japanese pop culture invasion into this country. Unknown to many parents, it includes what most of us would consider false religions, faulty worldviews, violence and pornography. It seems especially deceiving to parents because so many of the images feature children with big innocent looking eyes. Americans see these images as an indicator that the content is for children. This is definitely not the case.

As Rhonda Handlon writes in her article, “Art Form Still Shaping Pop Culture” (Plugged In, November 2004, Focus on the Family):

“Japan exports billions of dollars worth of merchandise into the United States in the form of manga (comics, graphic novels) and anime (animation), video games, card games and more. Video stores have entire sections dedicated to anime. . . Anime Network expects to be in 1 million homes by year's end. Several major publishers have manga lines.”

“Japan is a land steeped in religions, traditions and superstitions that promote wildly diverse ideologies. On a given weekend, a typical citizen might celebrate a Christian wedding, mourn at a Buddhist funeral and worship at a Shinto shrine. A common crisis prayer is ‘Gods and Buddha, please help me somehow.' That syncretism — a hallmark of anime — is being embraced by American teens.”

Religious characters in anime have included demons, exorcists, vampires, priestesses and sorcerers. A multitude of Shinto-inspired spirits dwell in everything from rocks to the sun. Handlon wrote:

“Woven through all of this are counterfeit presentations of Christianity.”

Anime often perverts truth by partnering good with evil for noble purposes.

Parents who were concerned about violence in Power Rangers will find that anime, as Handlon puts it, “ups the ante considerably.” To put it mildly there are depictions of severed heads spurting blood. This is just a sample of the violence. Strong self-sufficient girls in anime are never able to hold up to men, and physical combat between men and women is common.

“Sexualized anime is a mud hole that has claimed even the most unsuspecting,” states Handlon. A simple Internet search of “anime” can lead teens to hentai (pornography ) in just a few seconds. Nudity is traditionally not as taboo in Japan as America, Handlon explains, and so it is frequently interspersed in what parents think is an okay video or game.

Much of the manga exported to the United States was never intended for children, but parents don't understand this. Animation meant only for adults in Japan is embraced here by children because Americans tend to think all animation is for children.

There is no universal rating system for manga. TOKYOPOP, the world's largest non-Japanese publisher of manga, came up with its own system. But can we trust the rating that sellers of this material establish? Handlon says, “Older titles, web content and products released by smaller publishers are likely to carry inaccurate ratings or none at all.”

As products cross the ocean there is more change, according to Handlon:

“The original Yu-Gi-Oh! Graphic novel and trading cards didn't become popular in Japan until artists spiced them up with mild erotica. Those images were cleaned up before coming to America, but now 4KidsEntertainment is releasing the uncut Asian version on DVD with the graphic novel and trading cards sure to emigrate as well. Sadly, Most U.S. families won't even know there's a difference when purchasing this familiar title.”

We surely do need to carefully evaluate what we allow to enter the minds and hearts of our children.

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