The president and CEO of manga publishing conglomerate Kadokawa, Takeshi Natsuno have received heavy criticism on July 23,2021 for comments perceived as pro-censorship pointing at sexually stimulating content in the manga industry.
On July 21st at an Abema Prime program, Natsuno took part in a conversation about whether photos of “gravure idols” (essentially bikini models) were appropriate in manga magazines targeting boys and men. He said that although one shouldn’t force something to disappear entirely, Japan is overflowing with manga that is “even more stimulating than gravure.”
“A lot of Japanese manga won’t pass review at Google or Apple. So, while keeping that in mind, I do somewhat have the feeling that we have to re-establish the standards of what is okay to release and what isn’t for the internet era. In the publishing industry that I’m in, everyone is in the pro-freedom of speech camp, but I do get this strong feeling that we have to redraw the line somehow.”
His comments were criticized gravely for expressing a “pro-censorship” view and for conveying a misleading impression of Kadokawa’s corporate direction. President Takeshi Natsuno’s comments in support of manga censorship sparked outrage across international social media users as many were concerned that one of the biggest manga publishers in Japan had suddenly decided to willingly censor itself.
The comments were criticized strongly online by various writers and creators. Love Hina and Negima! creator Ken Akamatsu commented that it is a possibility that Natsuno expressed his remarks without seriousness or conviction to attempt convincing other large publishers to censor their manga, but a person with his level of influence has the power to impose self-censorship at Kadokawa. He also pointed out that unlike other publishers such as Kodansha and Shogakukan, Kadokawa is on the first section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange. “It appeals to shareholders to conform to the standards of foreign capital,” Akamatsu said.
Novelist Mikito Chinen chipped in by saying:
“If it [censorship] were to happen, then Japan’s manga and anime would lose all their predominance. Manga and anime are received well overseas because they were created with freedom and without consideration for what will do well there. It is quite dangerous for this kind of opinion to emerge from Kadokawa.”
Natsuno also apologized over Twitter for making viewers of the TV program uncomfortable by using words such as aho (“idiot”) and kuso (“damn; shit”).
On July 26, Mr. Joka Kurita, the management representative of Nico Nico, which is part of KADOKAWA, made a comment saying that “Nico Nico will not change its expression regulation policy”
This backlash eventually led Kadokawa to issue a statement on July 27th, apologizing for what they have described as Natsuno’s “personal” opinion, clarifying that said opinion does not reflect the company’s “business operation policy”. It also mentions that Natsuno is now “deeply reflecting” and will take a 20 percent cut in pay for three months from August through October.