A group of parents from the central Russian area of Ural wrote an open letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin requesting a ban on the popular Japanese manga series Death Note. The parents are claiming that the manga series itself is harmful to children, and they claim as evidence a girl who committed suicide early this year – leaving four of the comic books at the scene of the incident.
According to local Russian media, a 15-year-old girl left Death Note comics and a suicide note before jumping from the window of their 13th floor apartment in Yekaterinburg on February 20 of this year. Judging from the reactions of the parents, local police are now obliged to investigate if there is any connection at all between the suicide and the popular manga series. In the open letter, the parents of the girl demanded of the Russian government that the proliferation of the books – and even the related anime DVDs – be banned. They argue that the Death Note manga series “helps generate interest in death” in children and in turn, has negative effects on their emotional development. Manga comic books are very popular in Russia, especially since the famous Japanese series’ are translated into the local language – the complete volumes of the Death Note series were translated to Russian in 2012. This particular comic book tells murders stories committed by putting the names of targets on a notebook given by “Death” himself. Access to manga comics is relatively easy, as Russian kids and young adults can easily buy them at bookstores in regional cities.
As a parent, we grant that it would be somewhat jarring to find these comic books at the scene where your child committed suicide. But taking all things into consideration, they are surely not the first parents to complain about the content of Japanese manga. I’m an adult, and even I don’t particularly approve of some of the manga comics I’ve seen. But if their only reason for banning literature and art is that it “helps generate interest in death” – then it is a pretty lame reason for censorship. By that argument, the popular HBO TV series Six Feet Under should be banned as well, if all it takes for censorship is to generate interest in something inherently painful or bad (that’s very subjective too). Time will tell if this will generate a reaction from the Russian government, but we hope it does not. Not only is it a total waste of a perfectly good series, but it will set precedent for censorship as well.