The review into Australia’s classification system has taken a bit of a detour over the last week, thanks to Senator Stirling Griff asking for an immediate review into all anime in Australia. Naturally, the whole situation resulted in the director of the Classification Board being called into Senate Estimates, where she very calmly explained what the Classification Board actually does.
The main thrust of the Senator’s complaints was that too much anime and manga featured the depictions of child abuse or the sexualisation of children, which was an offence against the Commonwealth Criminal Code. Sword Art Online: Extra Edition, which is a summation of the events plus extras of the original Sword Art Online TV series, Eromanga Sensei, No Game No Life and others were specifically cited especially in breach.
A member of the Australian Senate has called on the Federal Government to immediately review "all Japanese anime movies" available in Australia, along with the ban of any anime and manga featuring child exploitation "as a matter of urgency". In a speech to the upper house, Senator Stirling Griff argued that the M-rated Sword Art Online: Extra Edition was a prime example of a title misclassified in Australia, saying the show "undoubtedly features the abuse of children".Read more
As far as the Classification Board was concerned, anime is rated the same way as other film – because that’s what’s set out in the Classification Code. Director Margaret Anderson very politely explained this to Senator Stirling Griff – as did a representative for the Minister for Communications, who oversees the Classification Board.
But still, the Senator pressed on. He brought up Sword Art Online: Extra Edition:
One example I’d like to – which you actually referred to in your media release – is Sword Art Online: Extra Edition, which depicts the rape of a 17 year old character called Asuna, and which her captor will also rape her in the real world when she is comatose in hospital. That scene in particular is not referred to at all in the [Board’s] decision report on the 17th October 2016; why would such a graphic scene like that not be referred to at all in your decision report?
That led the Classification Director to point out that decision reports are “not an exhaustive list” of every impactful scene that has led to its classification rating. She then went on to very calmly explain that context was crucial, and “what we are looking at here is an animated story, it is not live content involving an illegal criminal act that is being viewed”.
For what it’s worth, the scene Senator Griff is probably referring to in Sword Art Online: Extra Edition is about 100 minutes in, where Asuna is chained up and her armour removed. It’s definitely creepy, but there’s never full nudity at any point. In the English dub, Sugou’s online avatar talks about getting an “analyser into your hospital room undetected,” but there’s no actual mention of rape.
But I can imagine a ton of people wouldn’t have predicted this. The Director of the Classification Board, the last line of defence for anime in Australia.
What a wild timeline we live in.