[may contain NSFW pics]
Every group of friends has that one person that likes to make dirty jokes. Yes, THAT guy. Be it high school or college or even in the workplace, there’s always that one guy who’d crack out a “That’s what she said!” or something to that effect. What’s that? You have no friends? Well, do I have good news for you, buddy! Anime has recently been that one lewd pal for those who don’t have IRL lewd pals. Titles like Seitokai Yakuindomo, Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt, and Hen Zemi are out there for your daily dose of lewd jokes, you lonely otaku, you.
And we’re here today on your computer screen to talk about one of those animes, Shimoneta to Iu Gainen ga Sonzai Shinai Taikutsu na Sekai (“A Boring World Where the Concept of Dirty Jokes Doesn’t Exist”). Well, that was a mouthful (heh), so let’s refer to it as the fanbase would, Shimoneta.
Shimoneta is an anime set in the not-so distant future of Japan. In order to maintain peace in society and ensure that children are raised properly, the government has cracked down on anything and everything that is considered obscene. For decades, people have been required to wear surveillance devices around their necks and wrists called PMs, which are used to monitor an individual’s actions.
If you say or even draw anything that could refer to something lewd, it alerts the Decency Squad to your presence in order for them to take necessary disciplinary actions. Indeed, because of this law, Japan was recognized as “the country with the healthiest public morals in the world” — but one has to ask, at what cost? Enter the “terrorist” Blue Snow, who plots to re-educate society by speaking out and distributing lewd material in public.
The story of Shimoneta revolves around the escapades of Blue Snow and her unwilling accomplice Okuma Tanukichi, a new member of the student council in the prestigious Tokioka Academy. Together with a few sympathizers, they form the terrorist group SOX, which seeks to educate the masses with their pornography, hentai, and other indecent paraphernalia about the joyous wonders of dirty jokes and embracing one’s sexuality.
Initial reactions to utopian societies are usually of praise and admiration. It’s idealistic. But we all know that a utopia, more often than not, has a dark underbelly. There are sacrifices to be paid and people who are undermined. That is what we’d like to bring to the fore in this look at Shimoneta. First off, let’s address the question, “C’mon, it’s all just speculation and stuff, you know? It’s not really going to happen, right?” It’s true that depictions of utopian and dystopian societies usually border on the extreme so much that it sounds like pure fantasy, but we have to keep in mind that although it is an exaggeration, it still somewhat reflects an issue that is prevalent today. Not convinced? Let’s look to another aspect of geekdom, video games. You know how Steam would censor games of the sexual nature? Kotaku has written an article about this and we can see that people would go to certain lengths to be “safe for the public”. The underlying sexual nature of these eroge that are being sold on Steam are still there, but some scenes are censored for the sake of being “safe”. We can even talk of the double standard of censorship where anything of a sexual nature is censored, but explicit violence isn’t. Basically, all the blood, gore, and dismemberment of games like Fallout: New Vegas are a-okay, but full frontal nudity? Good luck passing through the censors. So, even though it’s not as extreme as Shimoneta’s censorship, we can see that the principle is still there for the “safety of the public”.
Back to Shimoneta. What can we see as a consequence of this act of censoring? In the anime, we can see that the students of Tokioka Academy, the school known for its high public morality, don’t even have any clue about what they are being protected from. The student council needed Tanukichi, who was from a low public morality school, to tell them what it is that comprises lewd behavior or inappropriate material to better identify and crack down on them. The mention of sex is prohibited as well shown with the usage of the euphemism ‘docking’. This goes so far as some characters not even knowing how babies are made seen by Fuwa’s constant asking of Tanukichi about sex and baby-making. But the biggest consequence of the heavy censorship, we believe, is Anna. Yeah. We’re going there. That scene. For those who follow the series, you know what we’re talking about. The sad part about Anna is that it’s not entirely her fault. She’s not aware of the gravity of her actions specifically because of the lack of information. Take a look at the screen shots of what she said after the… Err… Assault.
Crucial information was withheld from her because of this obsession her parents had with censoring lewd things to the point that she couldn’t even distinguish lust from love. This led her to assaulting Tanukichi, and later on, stealing his underwear, and just being an extremely obsessive pervert in general. But can we really blame her, considering what we know of her upbringing? Something to ponder, indeed.
And here we see what Shimoneta might’ve wanted to tell people. Society, in a way, is like the human body. When the human body is exposed to something potentially dangerous, it adapts to better fight against that bacteria or virus. But if the human body isn’t introduced to danger, it doesn’t learn how to adapt itself to the threat and it grows weak. We see this in Shimoneta’s society, as they’ve never been exposed to things of a sexual nature. Anna, not knowing what constitutes as lewd, doesn’t know how to deal with the lust she is consumed with. And in an ironic twist, she becomes the very thing she fights against. Maybe if she was exposed to these things, with careful guidance rather than sweeping it under the carpet altogether, she would’ve known better than to act that way.
Shimoneta invites you to look at the censorship issue in a somewhat different way, that maybe censorship would actually aggravate the problem rather than solve it. By rendering the masses ignorant, it also leaves them defenseless when it comes to the point when they have to face these issues themselves. And it also teaches another thing — that just because an anime seems trashy on the outside, it doesn’t mean it can’t be an intelligent commentary on our society. Maybe we ought to go beyond the dirty jokes and shenanigans that goes on in Shimoneta to see the moral questions that it offers us. Maybe, just maybe, we need to think harder and dig deeper.