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In 2018 the famous manga creator, Nobuhiro Watsuki, was arrested on charges of possession of child pornography, with investigators seizing roughly 100 DVDs and CDs with child sexual abuse imagery (under 15 years of age) from his personal collection.

The penalty? No jail time and only a 200,000Yen ($1,700) fine.

In a matter of months his publisher welcomed him back and life continued as normal.

Then, a few weeks ago (23 December 2021), Japan again gasped in surprise at the arrest of Kenya Suzuki, the famous manga creator of "Please Tell Me! Galko-chan", a manga series about high school girl Galko and her friends. Mr. Suzuki was arrested for importing prohibited items (child pornography) from Germany, and a police search of his home found a further 46 books containing child pornography.

And although these artists were not arrested for producing child pornography, their involvement in the manga and anime industry has once again added fuel to a hot debate related to virtual child pornography in Japan.

Possession of child pornography was declared illegal in 2014, but specifically excludes child pornography in the form of manga and anime. The manga and anime industry argues for freedom of expression through the arts, while anti-trafficking activists (including ZOE Japan), are concerned that these “art-forms” are contributing to child sex trafficking in the following ways:

Sexual objectification of children, increasing their risk of being trafficked

Many manga and anime stories are based on themes of incest, sexual relations between adults and children (even teachers and children) or depicting violent sexual acts between children and creatures. They normalize and even romanticize the rape of children for adult entertainment, and as a result increase the risk of sexual exploitation of actual children.

Grooming tool

Young children are unable to distinguish between fiction and reality and easily engage in a fantasy world. Thi