Japan

JoJo’s Bizarre Fatwa

A Japanese publisher has been forced to suspend sales (via) of a series of comics, and the related DVD series, after Muslims decided to take offence. At issue is a 90 second scene in JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure in which, Dio Brando, a villain, picks up a copy of the Koran as he orders the execution of the hero and his friends.

After a viewer posted negative comments and the still scene on a web forum, others started jumping on the bandwagon until Sheikh Abdul Hamid Attrash, chairman of the Fatwa Committee at Al-Azha in Cairo, decided to step in and call the cartoon an insult to Islam.

‘‘This scene depicts Muslims as terrorists, which is not true at all,’’ he said. ‘‘This is an insult to the religion and the producers would be considered to be enemies of Islam.’’

According to Shueisha, the publisher, the scene was ‘‘a simple mistake.’’

‘‘Neither the original comic nor the animation intends to treat Muslims as villains. But as a result, the cartoon offended Muslims.’’ said the official. ‘‘We apologize for the unpleasantness that the cartoon may have caused and will carefully consider how to deal with religious and culture themes.’’

The official said one of animators came up with the idea of using an Arabic book in order to give the scene a more authentic feel as the villain was hiding out in Egypt.

With that in mind he went to the library and found a book, which turned out to be the Quran and inserted it. No one realized the mistake as no one could read or speak Arabic, the official said.

Of context and apologies are irrelevant in the face of an opportunity to be offended and there have been calls to boycott Japanese products.

Japanese nationalists threaten cinemas over film

Yasukuni is a documentary by Chinese film-maker Li Ying about Japans Yasukuni shrine. The shrine, where Japan honours its war dead – including a number or war criminals – has seen its share of controversy in the past and, inevitably, some of that has affected reactions to the film.

Japanese MPs have called the film anti-Japanese and right-wing activists have threatened violence against cinemas planning to screen the film this weekend.

Five cinemas have cancelled screenings because of this.

A right royal censorship dispute

Princess Masako: Prisoner of the Chrysanthemum Throne The Guardian (via) reports that Ben Hills, the author of a controversial biography of Crown Princess Masako has accused the Japanese government of censorship after newspapers refused to carry advertisements for the book.

The English version of Princess Masako: Prisoner of the Chrysanthemum Throne was published in February, sparking protests from the Japanese foreign ministry and the imperial household agency, which accused the author of insulting the royal family. The Japanese translation of the book was scrapped, but the English version was released in Japan three weeks ago.

Hills, an Australian journalist, claims that Masako, who gave up a promising diplomatic career to marry the heir to the throne, Crown Prince Naruhito, in 1993, is suffering from clinical depression.

This has become a freedom of speech issue, Hills said during a visit to Tokyo. I dont care whether the Japanese people like my book or not - they should have the chance to read it and make up their own minds. This is what the foreign ministry and imperial household agency were trying to prevent.

The books publisher in Japan, Daisan Shokan, was refused advertising space in all of the major newspapers, including the Asahi Shimbun, which positions itself as the countrys leading liberal voice. One paper said it would not take an ad because [Hills] had not responded to the government protests, said Daisan Shokans president, Akira Kitagawa. I find that reasoning very strange.

Hills said he had received threatening emails ahead of the Japanese publication of the book, and Daisan Shokan has also been the target of intimidation by ultra-nationalist groups.

The foreign ministry, predictably, denied there had been pressure on newspapers from it or the royal household.

Disrespectful criticism

Princess Masako: Prisoner of the Chrysanthemum Throne A Japanese publisher has canceled plans to publish a translation of Princess Masako: Prisoner of the Chrysanthemum Throne following protests from the Japanese government.

The biography, written by Australian journalist Ben Hills, was released by Random House in December and claims to lift the veil of secrecy shrouding Japans royal family. The book is billed on the cover as the tragic, true story of the 43-year-old princess, a Harvard graduate who abandoned a diplomatic career to marry royalty, and describes her a virtual captive of the imperial palace who has been bullied by bureaucrats into depression.

Hills said in an e-mail to The Associated Press on Saturday that he was very surprised and disappointed by publishing house Kodansha Ltd.s decision. We regard this as a blatant attack on freedom of speech.

He hoped to publish the book through another publisher with the courage, Hills said. The Japanese people have the right to know what is going in their royal family.

Criticising the emperor was regarded as serious crime in the first half of the 20th century and there is still a strong tradition of deference to the countrys royal family today. Japans Imperial Household Agency and its Foreign Ministry had demanded an apology from the author for disrespectful descriptions, distortions of facts and judgemental assertions with audacious conjectures and coarse logic, although government officials were unable to identify most of the passages they found problematic. The government has also complained to Random House in Sydney.

Hills said earlier this week that he and Random House stand by the accuracy of the book, had no intention of apologising and that the government was trying to pressure Kodansha to shelve the Japanese version of the book.

Fined for self censorship

From Twitch comes the news that NHK, the Japanese public broadcasting company, and two production companies were fined US $16,529 by the Tokyo High Court after being found guilty of self-censorship in a documentary aired in 2001.

The documentary was about a mock trial of Emporer Hirohito for alleged war crimes in WWII, including the authorization of Japanese military brothels staffed by Asian slaves. Before airing the film, NHK executives met with then-chief cabinet secretary Shinzo Abe, now prime minister, and Shochi Nakagawa of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, who voiced complaints about the anti-imperial tenor of the show and urged the broadcaster to be objective. NHK then re-edited the program, cutting out the guilty verdit at the end and the incriminating testimony of Japanese soldiers. The plaintiff, Violence Against Women in War Network Japan brought suit, saying that they werent consulted on the re-edit. Abe and Nakagawa were not punished. NHK has been known to buckle to political pressure, especially the majority LDP party, which sets the broadcasters annual budget.