Following claims from a crossbench senator that the Classification Board were "making decisions in isolation to criminal law", the Classification Board's director has responded, reminding the senator that the censor's duty is "not an assessment of the genre type" or whether anime "depicts 'real' people or animated characters".
The statement was effectively required after a speech in the upper house by Senator Stirling Griff, who earlier this week called for the "immediate review" of all Japanese anime movies in Australia, and the ban of certain titles like Sword Art Online: Extra Edition, Goblin Slayer, No Game No Life and others.
A crossbencher in the Australian Senate has called for a review of all manga and anime classified in Australia to screen out the glorification of child sexual abuse, specifically citing Eromanga Sensei for depicting "wide-eyed children" in "explicit sexual activities".
In a response to Senator Griff's remarks, Classification Board director Margaret Anderson wrote that the Board was "aware of concerns about the classification" of certain anime, as well as "comic books featuring manga style drawing not being classified by the board".
Anderson's statement indicates that the Board is supportive of including manga under Australian classification law. "The Board is aware that a campaign has been launched about the sale of Japanese manga and anime in Australia and that in the context of the Government’s Review of Classification Regulation this issue has been raised," the statement reads.
Regarding the classification of series like Eromanga Sensei, Anderson noted that the Board classifies films according to the film guidelines, and that there are no separate guidelines for the classification of anime. "The Film Guidelines require an assessment of impact of six classifiable elements (themes, violence, sex, coarse language, drug use and nudity); not an assessment of the genre type or whether the film depicts ‘real’ people or animated characters," Anderson's statement says.
The full response can be read below in full:
The Classification Board (the Board) is aware of concerns about the classification of certain Japanese anime genre films, specifically Sword Art Online: Extra Edition, No Game No Life, and Eromanga Sensei Volumes 1 & 2, and about comic books featuring manga style drawings not being classified by the Board.
The Board classifies films in accordance with the Guidelines for the Classification of Films (the Film Guidelines). There are not specific or separate guidelines to classify animated films. Films can be classified in the classification categories from G to R 18+ (with the X 18+ category limited to films containing sexually explicit activity). If a film contains content that exceeds the scope and limits of content that is permitted in the R 18+ category, it will be Refused Classification (RC). Films in the anime genre have been classified across a range of categories, including M, MA 15+, R 18+ and RC.
The Film Guidelines require an assessment of impact of six classifiable elements (themes, violence, sex, coarse language, drug use and nudity); not an assessment of the genre type or whether the film depicts ‘real’ people or animated characters. The Guidelines state “Context is crucial in determining whether a classifiable element is justified by the story‑line or themes. This means that material that falls into a particular classification category in one context may fall outside it in another.”
In addition to determining the classification, the Board must determine consumer advice for a film. The purpose of consumer advice is to draw attention to only the most impactful and frequent content relating to the six classifiable elements. Therefore, not all the content in a film will warrant consumer advice. The classifications for the named films are:
Sword Art Online: Extra Edition is classified M with consumer advice ‘sexualised imagery, sexual references and animated violence.
No Game No Life is classified MA 15+ with consumer advice ‘strong sexual themes’.
Eromanga Sensei Volumes 1 & 2 are classified MA 15+ with consumer advice ‘strong sexual themes’.
Regarding comic books, only submittable publications are required to be classified. The Board classifies submittable publications in accordance with the Guidelines for the Classification of Publications. It is the responsibility of distributors of comic books to decide if the comic book should be classified. States and territories are responsible for classification enforcement legislation which includes offences for selling an unclassified submittable publication.
The Board is aware that a campaign has been launched about the sale of Japanese manga and anime in Australia and that in the context of the Government’s Review of Classification Regulation this issue has been raised. The Board welcomes this review.
Director, Classification Board