A Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly ordinance restricting the distribution of sexually explicit manga comics or anime threatens to cancel one of the world's largest anime, or animation, fairs.
The ordinance, approved Wednesday, makes it illegal to sell or rent manga or anime depicting "extreme" sex acts, including rape and incest, to readers under the age of 18. The ordinance also bans images of characters that appear to be underage and are engaging in sexual acts.
"This is a no-brainer," said Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, following the vote Wednesday. "Would you show those images to your children? Think of it. This is our responsibility as adults."
The new law only applies to the Tokyo metropolitan area, but the debate over it has gotten so heated that even Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan felt the need to weigh in on his blog earlier this week.
"Sound upbringing of youth is an important subject," Kan wrote. "But it is important to export Japanese animation to the world. I would like to see those concerned cooperate to avoid any possible situation that would hinder Tokyo from hosting an international anime fair."
A group of 10 major manga publishers has already released a joint statement, expressing its intention to withdraw from the fair.
Following the vote Wednesday, the president of Japanese media company Kadokawa Shoten took to his Twitter account to announce he would not participate out of protest.
Sexually Explicit Comics a Multi-Billion Dollar Industry in Japan
The International Anime Fair is considered one of the world's largest anime and manga fairs, and attracts more than 100,000 visitors.
Manga comics make up a multi-billion dollar industry in Japan.
While such child-friendly titles as Naruto and Pokemon work better in the U.S., sexually explicit comics have long threatened to cloud the image of one of Japan's top cultural exports.
Images of "nonexistent" underage characters in manga, anime and video games are legal.
Possession of child pornography is not criminalized in Japan, though producing and distributing is, AFP reported.
Critics of the new ordinance say the conservative Tokyo governor is trying to limit freedom of expression. Ishihara has long campaigned against what he calls "unhealthy" images depicted in manga and anime.
The new ordinance goes into effect in April 2011. Retailers, artists and publishers who violate the law face fines of up to $3,500.
AFP contributed to this report.