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 (US$48) 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. We’d peg its creepiness at, oh, 97 percent. 98.5, tops.
▼ Yes, we know this is the cover of the manga comic, and not the animated version, but when literally over half of our starting image search results spat back scenes of girls being fondled, we decided to cut things short.
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.
▼ “So long, sweetie! Have fun all alone in the house with the boy hitting his sexual peak that neither you nor I have known for more than a few months!”
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.
▼ This teen has to choose between having her sexual partners forced on her or dying. Wacky!
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 January 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.
▼ “Woooooo! Let me talk to you about the plight of factory workers in southeast Asia!”
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 January 29, and it’s still to early to tell what sort of fallout it will produce. Once the organization has this situation sorted out, though, there are a few other things we’d like them to take a look at regarding the “improvement” of Japanese television.