Maryland Library Removal Updates + Our Thoughts
Published by 08 October 2009, 9:14 AM EDT

Delmarva Media Group’s local news website has a new story following-up on yesterday’s announcement that the Dragon Ball manga was being pulled from a Maryland school library due to “graphic” content.

Despite writer Greg Latshaw‘s opening line about manga often being geared toward adults, an unfortunate quote from Salisbury University professor Adam Wood further leads in the article inferring that all manga is for adults. The article continues with an announcement from school spokesperson Tracy Sahler noting that the Dragon Ball manga has indeed been pulled from school shelves, and that while a committee (consisting of internal administrators as well as those “outside” the school system) will review the volume in question, the final decision rests with Superintendent John Fredericksen.

Councilman Joe Holloway (who has not responded to our request for comment) distributed photocopies of certain panels from the manga to his fellow members in a meeting on Tuesday, describing them as “disgusting”.

While we have not dived into our own personal feelings on the matter just yet (stay tuned to this weekend’s upcoming podcast… you will probably get more than you bargained for), we cannot help but be disgusted, ourselves, with a comment from Mark Thompson, county school board president:

“The pictures I saw, if it was meant for adults, it crosses the line for child pornography. If it’s for a child, why show these scenes for children?”

This reminds me of a fabulous piece of reporting from ABC 17 News in which the following was stated with regards to the Nintendo video game series, Animal Crossing:

“There is no reason an adult should have [Animal Crossing: City Folk],” says Andy Anderson, Mid-Missouri Internet Crimes Task Force.

Anderson says adults playing “animal crossing” and similar games are likely doing it for the wrong reasons.

If Dragon Ball is pornography (and if Animal Crossing aids child endangerment), so is and does the vast amount of children’s programming that has ever aired on American television. Forgive the distracting argument, but seriously…?

Does Dragon Ball manga belong in an elementary/middle-school library? I cannot answer that question; for the earlier parts of the story, sure, maybe not. Was I in middle-school when I discovered the series? Yep. Have I grown up to be a relatively normal, productive member of society? Pretty sure I have.

Rest assured that we applaud the parent involvement in this situation. Far too often parents are completely removed from their child’s interests and activities, and it is refreshing to see a parent not only get involved, but also take action.

However, to demonize a product with completely out-of-context examples, misinformation, and clear attention-grabbing ulterior motives is what you can call truly “disgusting”.

Much of the fault lies with the American distributors of the series, namely FUNimation and Viz. Since 1995 and 1998, respectively, there has been nothing but conflicting marketing and demographic catering from each of them. Is the anime kid-friendly or is it super-bloody-awesome-hardcore? The manga is rated “Teen”, but clearly marketed at children of all ages. The “Shonen Jump” magazine runs claimed to be faithful to the original version at launch, and yet slowly transitioned into an edited shadow of its former self. The new “Chapter Book” format is being released alongside countless repackaging of the original manga. Home video releases are “uncut”, but video games retain the censored name changes.

How on Earth is the uneducated marketplace supposed to interpret all of this and made a final decision?

They can’t.

Make no mistake: Dragon Ball is for kids. It was always for kids in Japan (McDonald’s is getting DBZ cards again later this month), it was always for kids in North America (we had DBZ figures at Burger King), and it always will be. What makes the series so magical is that it can be enjoyed by people of all ages.

Is it sometimes crude? Is it sometimes ridiculous? Of course it is. What nine-year-old child wouldn’t find an anthropomorphic pig parading around with panties on his head absolutely hilarious…? Do these parents and council members seriously believe that a 16-year-old girl would not be proud of her bust size and use it to her ridiculous advantage? This is the same series where a character is able to defeat an opponent who smells and looks foul (with his hands down his crotch, no less) because he realizes he doesn’t have a nose. Folks, this is the logic we are working with in the universe of the Dragon Ball manga.

This all came about because the mother of a nine-year-old contacted a city councilman about what they considered explicit sexual material in a comic book aimed at children.

FUNimation may want to reconsider their marketing toward the “nine-year-old born every day“.

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