If you made it this far, you must have been looking really hard or were really lucky. That is because for one reason or another, seemingly the entire gaming press chooses to ignore one of the most effecting censorship movements in media since … I can’t even remember when we last saw something like that. While some people believe censorship only can occur from the government, that is actually not true. Companies do self-censorship all the time for various reasons, and while I personally think it is always wrong, changing your own games is definitely your right to do. However, Sony and now Steam, too, go beyond that, as they’re now forcing their guidelines onto 3rd-party publishers as well. While Sony’s agenda as of now remains both secret and unpredictable, Steam’s more clearly states that it’s about „young-looking girls“ (source: Kotaku). The reaction to this on certain mainstream forums, however, is a bizarre one: The people at Resetera.com appear to be celebrating this censorship.
A running theme is to call anybody who enjoys games featuring such characters a „pedophile“, while also treating these anime girls as if they’re real people. There are several reasons these people keep shouting in celebration of Sony’s and Steam’s agenda, while banning all and any arguments against it. What these people, as well as the gaming press that continues to stay silent, ignore is the wider reality of this happening: It’s very much a war on anime as a whole. In an attempt to adress all popular arguments in favor of this censorship and explain why it’s ill-rooted, I decided to write a comprehensive article about it. I hope you’ll take the time to read the entire text, because chances are whatever you have to criticize and complain about in one paragraph will be answered in another. So let’s find out why the push against the „sexualization of anime girls“ is wrong, as uncomfortable as that might sound at first glance.
The two most prevalent arguments in favor of this censorship revolve around the age and looks of these anime characters. Either poses logical shortcomings, but both together are simply impossible to be true. The first argument says that only anime girls of age 18 and above should be allowed to star in lewd scenes. But what makes a fictional character „18 years old“? It’s the author’s decision, in other words: It’s an entirely made up number. Characters in Japanese video games have been age-upped in the past already, but let’s think about this: You care about an anime girl carrying the number „18“ in your western version, yet you’re fine with the very same character being 15 years old in the original version? What exactly is accomplished by pretending that an underage character is 18+ years old? Especially if you’re a well-versed gamer and know about the original age!
The second argument even more clearly reveals the absurdity of these complaints: Lots of anime girls are 18+ years old, some even follow the „1000 year old loli dragon“ meme. But people instantly complain about Fire Emblem’s Nowi, too, despite her being a 1000 years old. As silly as these loli dragons may be, it proves that it’s not actually about the age number. Anybody demanding age changes does so for dishonest reasons, but not because it’s actually about the sexualization of underage anime girls. If that was the case, an age of 18+ ought to suffice.
And now you have people complaining abouth both: On one hand, they demand that the age number is important and must be 18 and above, in agreeance with the law. On the other hand, when there are characters that are 18+ years old but look younger, it’s still unacceptable, despite no law saying it’s illegal to „look young“ – unless you happen to live in Australia. This is what we call „having your cake and eating it, too“. Either you argue backed up by law and accept the consequences, or you don’t. But picking and choosing when legality matters and when it doesn’t, that’s dishonest.
But let’s ignore loli characters for a moment. Sony recently enforced censorship on a game that featured anime girls with curves in all the right places. These girls even were 18+ years old, too. Still, massive white rays covered certain scenes, before the developer created entire new scenes where the girls would now wear full-body pajamas. The reason here appears to be indeed the „young looking“ part – which leads into the next issue: In most cases, there is no difference in the aesthetics of anime girls from age 13 to 30. Cute faces, big boobs, nice asses – that’s most female anime character in the history of anime. Anime really only knows the following outer differences in anime characters:
- toddler aged (displayed as a baby)
- elementary school aged (displayed as small, entirely flat-chested child)
- school aged (displayed as mature bodied person)
- middle aged (wrinkles under eyes, lack of ambition sadlol)
- wise old men/women (shrinked body, closed eyes, grey hair)
There is mostly no aesthetic in-between school and middle aged appearance due to the chosen artstyle. Just take a look at the popular Sword Art Online-anime. Hero wife Asuna started as a school student in season 1, now in season 3 she’s in her 20s and still looks the same. The only differences are to be found in fashion. Demanding a specific „looks mature, but not old“ look is impossible for the vast majority of popular anime artstyles and also marks the point at which the current censorship agenda becomes a full-fledged war on anime as a medium per se. It demands an impossibility.
If „sexualizing underage anime girls“ becomes a widely supported reality, the majority of popular anime currently being streamed on services like Crunchyroll are in need of being pulled off the website. You don’t have to look for full-on ecchi anime, scenes that sexualize underage or young-looking girls are part of most anime. An unintentional boob grab here, an upskirt panty shot there, and sexy dresses are par the course. Be it Amane Misa in her sexy goth-dresses in „Death Note“, 14 year old Ayanami Rei in her skin-tight plug suits in „Neon Genesis Evangelion“ or that teenage girl in „Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans“ who constantly talks about wanting to bear hero Mikazuki’s children. Or how about comedy-anime „Blend S“ that shows young girls working as sexy maids in a cafe? What about „Shokugeki no Souma“’s foodgasm scenes that has young girl’s clothes explode and expose a lot of skin, on top of them moaning in a sexual manner? The list could go on and on, because „sexualized underage girls“ are the norm in the medium of anime and thus anime-games, too. At the moment, a lot of the people who celebrate the new censorship wave appear to be blind towards that consequence. You cannot make an argument in which sexualizing underage anime girls is not okay in a visual novel, but fine when watching it as part of an anime.
Addition: We’re not talking about porn games or porn anime, if that wasn’t obvious already. Nobody in the current discussion wants to see loli-girls have dicks thrusted in their vaginas. This debate is merely about sexy content, not about full-on porn content. That sort of content has always been banned on video game consoles and nobody was expecting that to change any time soon. Addition End.
A lot of the issues stem from the fact that a lot of (most?) anime take place during middle/high school, so naturally protagonists will be around the age of 15, give or take a couple years. Why is that? For that it is important to understand the life of an average Japanese person. For a lot of Japanese, life in a way ends once you’ve graduated from school. Stuyding at university or joining the workforce has people follow a depressingly narrow path that knows no time for all the adventures, straying-off-the-path and friendship that takes place in your teenage years at school. Some western readers might say „isn’t that the same here in Europe/the USA, too?“ and to a degree, I’d say it is. However, being part of an exceedingly homogenous, conforming society, Japanese people are trapped in a much tighter web of duty, loyalty and ambition. It’d derail this article to go into detail about the Japanese working ethics, but you’re sure to find out more with Google’s help. I’m confident, however, to claim that most of us would hate to work in Japan (once you’ve shaken off the initial „Awesome, Japan!“ idea). So when anime and video games feature underage characters, it is not primarily because of the fetishization of the young, but because that’s the age most believable for Japanese people to experience adventures. Believe me, I’d love to watch a Digimon-anime that has 30 year old digi knights, but it’s probably never gonna happen because of the above.
One of the most severe accusations in all the debate, however, is that people who enjoy such games and anime must be pedophiles. Again, this accusation isn’t only made against fans of the „1000 year old loli dragon“, but even against fans of games that sexualize curvy anime girls with big boobs and other such curves. That’s why once and for all, it is important to confirm what pedophilia actually is. I’ve witnessed it many times: The moment someone attempts to explain this, it is met with ridicule and insults. And yet the difference should be important to everyone. US-Americans especially appear to be unable to grasp that pedophilia is not tied to a specific age of consent that their government decided on. Pedophilia is definied by a biological/psychological reality that is: an attraction to pre-pubescent children. If that isn’t clear enough, allow me: No pedophile would have any interest in curvey anime girls, no matter their age number. Big boobs, big ass? That’s the best pedo-repellant you could think of. A pedophile is someone who’s unfortunately attracted to children so young that they haven’t yet developed any traits of a mature body, hence why pedophiles rarely care about a child being male or female. Again: No pedophile cares about the busty 15 year old girls in Senran Kagura or Naruto. Attraction to anime girls of this age would be called „ephebophilia“, which describes the attraction to 15-19 year old girls – in other words, most of all adult men, considering that’s when women reach their sexual prime. Frustratingly, explaining this important difference usually results in lame remarks like „an ephebophile is just a pedophile with a thesaurus“, which never made sense and comes off as little more than a cheap attempt to shut down discussion. That is because everyone knows how uncomfortable the mere notion of the word „pedophile“ is and nobody wants to associate with that. So want to shut down any valid, reasonable arguments against censorship of sexualized 15 year old anime girls? Shout „pedophile!“ and the people in power will follow suit for fear of public backlash, no matter how wrong and unfounded it is. Let me repeat: No pedophile is interested in girls older than circa 11 year olds. The moment a girl features boobs, ass, a pronounced waist line, etc., any pedophile will turn the other way.
And there’s good reason why making the above difference is important: Calling people who enjoy sexualized 14-17 year old girls a pedophile would mean that pretty much the entirety of Europe is pedophile. Age of consent in France and Sweden is 15. In Germany and Portugal it is 14. Netherlands and the UK have it at 16. The rest of Europe follows these numbers. It should be obvious by now, but let’s spell it out for utmost clearity: If we don’t make an effort to discern between what an actual pedophile is (attracted to children 11 years old and younger) and what ephebophilia (attraction to 15-19 year olds) is, not only do you condemn an entire continent to be pedophiles, you also help normalize pedophilic attractions – because finding a busty 15 year old girl attractive is anything but abnormal. Infinitely less so if we enter the fictional realm of anime. I myself am from Germany and I will call you a „fucking moron“ if you insinuate we’re all pedophiles over here. Let’s put a stop to shouting „pedophile!“ for any shit that someone doesn’t like, only to shut down a fruitful debate.
That actually leads into the next topic, because it reveals what much of this call for censorship really is: An attempt to enforce personal morality onto everyone. When these people see „Dungeon Travellers 2“ and all the sexualized, young-looking girls in the game, it’s not about the law, it’s not about children or anything. It’s a simple matter of finding this sort of content gross, disgusting, younameit. And that is okay. It is everyone’s right to find something gross. And it is your right to walk away, to ignore it, to go on with your life. That’s an ability many people seem to have lost nowadays. „Stop liking what I don’t!“ appears to be a running theme in them, as if their sense of morality is an objective absolute and must be adhered to. But it isn’t. Everybody has his/her own sense of morality and thus decides what sort of media one wants to consume. The hypocrisy becomes even more apparent when you bring in the topic of violence in video games. Once again, doing so is handwaved away in an attempt of „that’s not comparable“, but matter of fact is: It is. The real issue here is that these people know that it would instantly shatter their entire argument, because you will never be able to enforce censorship against realistic, gruesome violence – nobody dares going against Red Dead Redemption 2 or Grand Theft Auto. This is all the more hypocritical, considering you could make a good argument that violent video games DO have a negative influence on the real world, seeing how people all over the world commit murder every single day. No week passes in the USA without a mass shooting. But somehow only games that show sexualized anime girls have a negative effect on real life? That’s a non-sequitur. Hilariously enough, gruesome violence is banned in Japan, any headshots or dismemberment are changed in the Japanese version of games such as Red Dead Redemption 2. That might be just me, but there’s no way one could ever convince me that silly, abstract „anime tiddies“ are worse than murdering a realistic-looking person in RDR2, cutting of his/her arms and legs and feeding it to crocodiles. Clearly, boobs are the bigger evil (/s).
There’s clearly a motif of moral prudery going on and it’s actually negatively effecting video games beyond sexy anime girls. You might not have realized, but AAA games nowadays won’t give the player the option to be truly evil (there might be exceptions, I can’t think of any at the moment, though). I first remember this to be the case with Mass Effect 1. The game gave the player two romance options. If you chose to, you could flirt with both. However, at the end of the game, both girls would meet together with Captain Shepard and force a decision. The „worst“ you could do was jokingly say „why not both“, but then you’d have to choose anyway. At no point would the game allow the player to simply cheat on these female npcs. Playing as renegade Shepard allowed you to murder people if you didn’t like them, but cheating on someone? That’s crossing the line! And that has only gotten worse with time. „Being evil“ nowadays means „being mean“ at best, if there’s even the option to do so. In GTA3, you played a lowly gangster who wanted to become the ultimate mafia boss. In GTA5 your goal is to make money, and only the cartoonishly overdone Trevor fits the bill of an evil character. Where are all the games that allow you to murder, steal, cheat, trick etc. innocent npcs for fun? These days, everything is tied to a strict code of morality, telling the player „this is wrong, this is right“, instead of giving the freedom to enjoy the game in whatever way the player chooses to. When CD Projekt Red showed the first lenghty video of the upcoming Cyberpunk 2077, some people were seriously complaining about the in-game criminals shouting „bitch“ and „cunt“ at the protagonist who came killing them. Really? Demanding politically correct criminals?
But let’s return to the original topic, the sexualization of underage girls. Another common theme here is to treat fictional girls the same as real girls. First of all, let’s keep real law for real people. If you invoke real law for fictional characters, then to hell with all and any games that let you kill virtual people. Secondly, the logical consequence from implying that fictional or real doesn’t matter is that the people who enjoy the fictional one also enjoy the real one. As a weeb myself for most of my life, I cannot strongly enough disagree here. I’ve asked other far-off-the-end fellow degenerates if they actually like real loli girls. ALL OF THEM reacted in disgust. The most popular answer being „eww, 3d girls are gross“. That’s the point: Real girls are nothing like anime girls. Maybe the people conflating real and fictional forgot what real underage girls are like: dumb, annoying, immature in mind and body. Meanwhile anime girls, even if it’s loli girls, have the mind of an adult or a caricature thereof. Underage anime girls can be capable scientists, soldiers or political schemers. They most often talk in a confident way that no real girl of the same age would. Honestly, I feel a bit silly having to point out all of this, but it’s apparently a necessity. Anime-fans who are into this stuff don’t want underage girls – they want anime girls, be they of whatever age. And you won’t find such girls in the real world. Not at the same age anyway.
Celebrating the censorship of „sexualization of underage anime girls“ has never been about protecting any real children. Nobody cares about actual age ratings, young kids playing Call of Duty and GTA is an accepted norm. Not a single real child is saved by censoring the boobs of an anime girl, because pedophiles aren’t interested in that either way and those attracted to boobs have plenty of legal options to go about. Forcefully pushing the line of what is and isn’t allowed only shows that certain people care more about having their own morality „win“, rather than understanding that the entire genre of transgressive fiction relies on portraying the breaking of societal taboos. One of the greatest feats of the medium of anime is its incredible breadth of topics and scenarious. Anime reliably manage to deliver new, creative „what if …?“-scenarios free from a fixed set of morality thanks to the lack of Christian values within Japan’s history. It is thanks to this utmost creative freedom that we can enjoy heart-breaking love-stories about forbidden love. That we can have gruesome revenge plots against society. That we can have all those hilariously bizarre worlds and characters. Breaking taboos is what makes for the most interesting stories, that’s why these books, movies and anime regularily manage to be the most succesful. Be it the famous books „Lolita“or „Shades of Grey“, or the German movie „Feuchtgebiete“ that had me almost-throw up over the whole course of the movie. Games like „Manhunt“ used to allow for a different experience. Anime like „Bokurano“ and „Now and Then, Here and There“ put children in life or death-situations and manage to create some of the most emotional, exciting scenes because of it. Story-telling would be a shockingly boring place if we started banning transgressive elements. Yes, they violate the popular moral views of people, but that’s the entire point: Challenging the status quo, putting up a „what if …?“-question no matter how ridiculous.
That’s it so far. Should I find another complaint that needs to be dispelled, I’ll update this article. The above text adresses all the popular criticism in calm, collected manner. If you still disagree then write a comment in the comment section below. But again: Read the entire article first. Millions of people in the world love anime and everything that comes with it. Sony’s and Steam’s censorship agenda mark the attempt to get rid of an entire industry on the back of non-sensical pedophilia-accusations, knowing full well how uncomfortable these are, because explaining to the non-anime mainstream why you’re defending the „sexualization of underage anime girls“ is likely a lost cause at the moment. That’s why it’s all the more important that we, anime-fans, gamers, weebs, nerds, etc. push back NOW against those that try to shut down this fantastic industry that they have no interest in themselves. There’s really only two options: Sit back, do nothing and watch as more and more elements in anime and games are censored. Or be VOCAL now. Make ourselves heard. Show Japanese game and anime makers that we support them, that they’re the ones who have to make a stand now, too. Let’s put a stop to some bitter guys shaming a nice pair of natural „anime tiddies“. Censorship is bad, always.