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Toren Smith on Manga Censorship

[Note: This article was written before the publication of the 3x3 Eyes: Curse of the Gesu in 1995. I found it on a Ghost In The Shell web page that has since disappeared (http://www.nuthatch.com/rynersw/manga/gits/toren.html) , so I am making the article available here. - David]

To all fans of Studio Proteus manga:

There has recently been quite a fuss over the "missing pages" in Ghost in the Shell #2. This has been addressed in detail elsewhere by both myself and Dark Horse, but I will repeat things briefly here. A variety of forces made the removal of the two pages necessary. First, the fact that to leave them in would have required a strong "Mature Readers Only" warning both in the distributors catalogue and on the cover of the comic itself. Dark Horse has had over ten years of experience with the sales damage caused by such notices (up to 40% of ordinary sales). However, as both Studio Proteus and Dark Horse are creator-driven companies, we offered Shirow the choice. He himself was tired of getting flak over the pages (even in Japan) and decided to remove the pages, retouch the previous page, and rewrite some of the dialogue. "The dialogue on those pages is of no importance, story-wise," he said (which is true). The pages are available untouched in Intron Depot, and will continue to do so, despite the sales limitations this has meant. Those of you who follow the comics market closely are no doubt aware of the massive upheaval going on the the industry these days. For the rest of you, let me just say that these are dark days indeed. Manga has enjoyed a bulletproof reputation in the industry, sailing almost untouched through the minor and major earthquakes that have shaken the comics business over the last few years. But the challenge we face in the future is grave, indeed. Not only do we have to cope with the upcoming complete change in the distribution process, but with the fact that these changes are putting undue stress on the direct sale market and the small comic book stores that have been the backbone of our business.

Further, paper prices have risen almost 100% (that is not a typo--one hundred percent) in less than a year, and are headed straight up with no end in sight. Most analysts believe that a further 100% is probable before it levels off, and are pessimistic that they will ever fall significantly. Black and white comics have been particularly hard hit, due to the fact we need to use higher-quality stock than color books, in order to prevent print-through. The result has been that is is now some 15% more expensive to print a black and white book than a color book, belive it or not, and the cost of printing a comic has nearly doubled.

To add to our woes, the spectacular rise of the yen against the dollar means the Japanese publishers have seen their royalties plummet almost 30% in the last year. They are not amused, and are asking for increased royalties. The end result is that, despite the pleasing sales gains enjoyed by all manga over the last two years (due in no small part to the increasing popular appeal of anime), we are closer to our breakeven points on many series than ever before.

What does all this have to do with "censorship"...? Simple. A 40% loss in sales on a series is a death sentence, especially if it comes during the first few issues, when the retailers are setting their long-term order levels for the book. This is above and beyond the problem of some poor sap in Swollen Groin, Arkansas getting hauled off to jail by some red-neck sherriff. They don't fly up to San Francisco and arrest me, or up to Portland to grab Mike Richardson--it's the minimum wage employee behind the counter at the time they walk in that ends up in jail with the murderers and father rapists. So you can see why we have to strongly warn retailers about the contents of the books, even at the cost of huge amounts of sales--and you can understand why some retailers cannot carry such books.

All this boils down to is this--had we left in the two "girls just wanna have fun" pages in the Shell #2, the resulting sales damage would almost certainly have resulted in the immediate cancellation of the series. Even if it had not actually killed the series, it would have led to it straggling along at break-even levels (it is an extremely expensive series to produce, as we are using the very best of everything for it, from translator to paper stock). This is not the way to convince Dark Horse to stand behind manga during these dark times. Sadly, comics are a business (if money was not a factor, I'd be publishing the complete works of Tezuka starting tomorrow). Dark Horse in general and Mike Richardson in particular have supported manga through thick and thin, and have made every effort to satisfy the fans. But they have to make money, or the manga line is doomed.

All this has been a prelude to telling you that we have made alterations in two more of the manga we are bringing out. The alterations have been made for the above reasons, and will the full knowledge and cooperation of the artists involved. I will describe them here (for those of you who have the original volumes in your collections).

Gunsmith Cats: the infamous Minnie-May blow-job scene, page 50 in or Kodansha volume. Sonoda considered redrawing the page, but decided that just yanking the whole thing worked fine. We will also be removing the blood on the bed in panel 3, page 161. After this, there are no more scenes of serious concern in the series as published to date, and nothing more will be changed. The nudity later on is mild, and in any case, the series will have found a dedicated audience by then--sales losses on a single issue will not affect future issue sales significantly.

3x3 Eyes: Firstly, I'd like to thank the 3x3 Eyes fans who sent letters to Mike begging for the series to return. It was a long, hard, battle, but it's back. Now--please make your friends buy it too, or we're doomed! Changes will be made to the following panels in Volume 2: panel 1, page 49. Panel 4, page 50. Panels 2, 3, and 5, page 51. Panels 5 and 7 on page 52. Panels 2, 7, and 9 on page 53. Panel 2 on page 55. Panel 3 on page 58. If you look at those panels, you will immediately see why. The penis-like tentacle coming out of her mouth is just a bit too much, and in fact is harsher than anything to be found in the rest of the series to date. After discussion with Takada, it was decided to remove it (no other alterations will be made), under his direct supervision, and with his panel-by-panel approval. No other changes are planned for the remainder of the series.

I regret the unfortunate necessity to make such alterations to keep a few tight-ass bluenoses happy. But we live in the real world, and hard decisions are sometime necessary. If I have to knuckle under and chop a couple pages or retouch a few panels in order to get the rest of the series out, I'll grit my teeth and do it. Studio Proteus has produced over 15,000 pages of manga to date, and has had to make alterations on four of them (not counting the changes made without my permission in the Innovation 3x3 Eyes series). That's about three one-hundredths of one percent. Not a bad average, considering the pressures we've often been under to make changes. I hope this calms some of the more upset of you among the fans, and helps you all realize that decisions at Dark Horse and Studio Proteus are not made in a vacuum, nor are they made carelessly.

Now, for those of you who enjoy sexually-related material, Studio Proteus(in cooperation with Eros Comics) will be starting a line of erotic manga. The first series, Temptation by Hiroyuki Utatane, will be out in August, followed by Princess of Darkness by Yuichiro Tanuma in September, Junction by Toshiki Yui (the Kirara artist) in October and Exhibition by Suehiro Gari in November. All are not only completely uncensored, but we've persuaded the original artists to draw in all the bits that were missing because of Japanese censorship. It's all very hot stuff, chosen to meet the high Studio Proteus standards for art and story, and I think fans of erotic manga will be pleased.

Finally, I would like to thank all the fans who expressed their concern about Ghost in the Shell. Your vigilance will keep us all honest!!

Toren Smith

3x3 Eyes story, art, and characters Copyright © 1987-1999 Yuzo Takada / Kodansha.
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Last updated: February 28, 2011 6:39PM PST
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