Toshokan Sensou: The Thorny Problem of Censorship

Yes, I know I haven’t been watching Toshokan Sensou as I should have been (I blame slowness on the part of subbers, and then a general unwillingness to trust Ocha! after watching an early episode subbed by them; thankfully, they seem to have improved to acceptable levels, so I should finish this up soon; Iku-plosions will be scattered but intense, light drizzles of Klan Klan relieving pressure in between bouts)

I just watched 7 and 8 (the arc dealing with Tezuka’s rather sinster brother, if you needed a quick refresher), but what jumped out at me wasn’t necessarily the actual storyline (which had me suitably worried for Iku under interrogation and really mad at aforementioned sinister brother so I was quite entertained on that front) but, rather, the whole underpinnings that kind of ran underneath the arc, fundamental to Toshokan Sensou’s general theme: censorship, and the fight against it.

Very early on in 7, Iku gets upset at Sunagawa for writing scathing reviews of a book–not just any book, mind, but her favorite book, which means that she’s a bit zealous about it and will brook no insult. She, of course, berates him in person for this, telling him how he shouldn’t post such negative reviews of books, because what if a fan of the book saw the review and got upset? “They didn’t have to read it,” claims Sunagawa, “and it’s the kind of thing the public wants, anyway. Besides, even library staff have the right to express their opinions however they wish.”

“Holy crap,” I thought at that moment, “that’s a horribly complicated issue you just brought up!” And it is–the right to free speech, commonly interpreted, states that you have the right to say whatever the hell you feel like saying, and that it is up to the people receiving the speech to accept, discard, or ignore it at their leisure. Of course, Iku brings up my very own caveat to that very principle–what if you trash something (be it a book, a movie, a song, an ethnicity, a sociopolitical entity) and then someone who happens to like (or be) that thing reads or hears it? Does your right to say whatever the hell you feel like saying still stand when you start getting antsy and offending other people?

Well, no; you do have the right to say whatever you feel like saying, but common sense and good manners dictates that you at least consider what you’re saying and whether or not you’re offending people by saying it. I’m pretty sure that no matter how carefully you phrase something, it’s virtually impossible to be completely inoffensive to all 6 billion people on the planet. When dealing with this issue, I’ve always found it useful to remember the axiom that “your right to swing your fist at me ends at my face.” Of course, if your intent is to hit my face (or offend me), then go right ahead, neither I nor no one else can stop you; but be prepared for the consequences, whatever they may be.

Iku takes no sass from anyone, which is an admirable and respectable (if sometimes problematic) goal in life.

And, then, of course, the opposite situation is dealt with later in the episode. Shibasaki is given the chance to cover-up a huge scandal in the library wherein someone is illegally burning books, and she has no idea how to react to it, and hypothetically confesses to Iku about it. Iku, of course, the ALA poster child that she is (I want to see one of those READ posters with her on it so bad, but it will never happen), tells her that the crime shouldn’t be covered up, because it’d just make things even worse when the truth surfaced. It seems somewhat hypocritical at first glance (“Don’t diss my favorite book! Stop being a jerk!” –> “Oh you can’t censor information at all! Truth is truth!”) but with just a little bit of thought in the manner, it’s still consistent with the general philosophy Iku embraces wholeheartedly–information is free, but there are ethics to be followed, and morality to be considered. In the first case, Iku simply wants Sunagawa to show more restraint, morality, and ethics in his opinions; it may be what the public wants to read, but is it really proper to say it in such a fashion? In the second, the issue is dealing with the coverup of a crime of unknown heinousness, and her answer is simple, direct, and (with consideration to pauses for dramatic effect) instantaneous: it’s a crime, and even if it’s going to be damaging to people (or even, as Iku finds out somewhat indirectly, to yourself), you can’t censor it. That is pure ethics right there–even if you want to keep it a secret, even if it’s someone you cared about, it is information, and it has a right to be disseminated to the public at large, for their consideration.

This whole topic is a huge, horrible nightmare of a mess, and even though I agree with the ethics posted above, even I can’t follow them 100% of the time–if emotions are raging and flying or my brain isn’t paying attention to what it’s saying (or if I make a conscious, knowing decision to violate the ethics to make a stand), I do slip up; we all do. But I do find it a good guideline to keep in mind when dealing with people in general, and especially in public forums.

And, anyway, if I really wanted to, I could place a pillow over my mouth and scream that the pope is a homosexual hermaphrodite, and no one would ever know but me. That’s also a valid way to deal with stress and things you dislike, since we all have things we hide under the surface in order to maintain harmony with fellow humans that we wouldn’t dare tell anyone else. But maybe that’s what LiveJournal is for these days!

6 Responses to “Toshokan Sensou: The Thorny Problem of Censorship”

  1. 1 EvilDevil 14 July 2008 at 1:13 am

    “I could place a pillow over my mouth and scream that the pope is a homosexual hermaphrodite”
    Oh, Crap. You know our secret!!! Dammit who told you!!!

  2. 2 otou-san 14 July 2008 at 4:55 pm

    While fundamentally Toshokan Sensou is a romance story (I think), it ultimately bothered me that only a couple episodes really went into the topics you mention here. I wanted a lot more of that, especially the book review one, because it made for better character development of Iku than any of the romantic or war elements. Those are complicated issues, and she had to wrestle with them.

    Myself, I take that “strongly disagree with what you’re saying but will defend with my life your right to say it” stance.

  3. 3 OGT 14 July 2008 at 7:49 pm

    It does kind of bother me too, but I still like the series. I don’t actually know if she did any wrestling with them or not in-episode (she certainly didn’t have a huge internal monologue to this effect, anyway) but that tension was definitely there. The romance is the focus of the story for the most part, however, which doesn’t bother me at all, but might cost it in the long run. I haven’t seen the rest, so we’ll see.
    Also: Voltaire is awesome.

  4. 4 issa-sa 15 July 2008 at 4:11 am

    This thorny problem is something that rather plagues my actions in RL and my blogging (though less on the latter since there’s the whole animal avatar to shield me and I mostly come off as ‘trolling’ anyways). Sure were free to say what we want, though sometimes what we want to say isn’t what people want to hear, but you can’t please everyone (and you really shouldn’t say things just to please people, nor to outright displease them), so… Yea, it’s a large thorny mess all right.
    Seeing as you can still pick out these fine points from the episodes, I hope that you don’t find the romance costing the show in the end of Toshokan Sensou ;P

  5. 5 OGT 15 July 2008 at 7:20 am

    Oh, it’s not going to cost it too much, if anything–I am a sucker for a good romance, even if it pops up where I wasn’t quite expecting it. Doujou and Iku is pretty good, anyway; I don’t see Toshokan Sensou losing the 9 I already gave it, but it might not get the 10 I fervently want it to have, is all I meant. And that will depend on how the rest of the series goes from here.
    What I meant by “costing it” was that it could be a romance with social commentary–which, obviously, it’s still doing–but it also might just be a romance with social commentary on the side. With its premise, it can (and should) be both; but what’s going to influence its score in the end is how well it accomplishes whatever it’s going to do.
    And, yes, this “thorny problem” plagues my life too. Sometimes I have to smack my wrist to keep myself from saying something extremely stupid and totally out of line with my general philosophy because my emotions got the better of me. You can’t please everyone, so, while you shouldn’t aim to intentionally piss people off, you also shouldn’t worry too much when they do get pissed off. I, of course, have terrible problems with this last part, to the point that I will assume I have pissed people off when I really haven’t. Yay.

  1. 1 Toshokan Sensou: Strength Admist Hardship: A Clash of Ideals? « Anime wa Bakuhatsu da! Trackback on 27 July 2008 at 1:00 am

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July 2008

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