Anime covers a wide variety of subjects and can be aimed at a lot of different audiences. It can get pretty graphic and occasionally, pretty friggin’ uncomfortable. So it comes as no surprise that there are a lot of anime and manga that have been banned from various places. Some of the reasons and the extent of the trouble the anime caused can get surprising though. While some bans are obvious, some anime was hit with the banhammer for reasons that are fairly innocuous, or a result of severe misinterpretation and invented conspiracies. So let’s take a look at some of the most controversial, widely banned anime and see what got it on the chopping block.
Death Note- Banned in China and Almost in New Mexico
Death Note is an anime that’s caused a surprising amount of real life trouble. The anime is centered around a notebook with mysterious powers- when a person writes the name of someone in it, the chosen target drops dead. There have been real-life murders based off Death Note and a lot of children have gotten in trouble for making Death Notes in their own in school. Because of that issue, Death Note was banned outright in China (along with several other anime). Schools in Albuquerque, New Mexico also tried to ban it, but it didn’t go through.
Attack on Titan- Banned in China
Attack on Titan is another of the 38 anime China recently banned. It bears mentioning among the horde only because it’s very popular and because Chinese authorities’ explanation for the banning has been passed around a lot. It was that they believe of the authorities that children would internalize Attack on Titan's violent imagery and become delinquents. It’s an argument video games have seen a lot too, that fantasy violence can cause real violence. Think of the children!
Pokemon- Banned in Saudi Arabia
Pokemon is a hot topic right now, experiencing a boost in popularity and visibility thanks to Pokemon GO. For 20 years it’s been a beloved children’s franchise full to the brim with cute critters. It seems hard to find anything objectionable about it, but several episodes were cut even when airing in America for including sexual themes and whatnot. But nothing is more severe than the full-on ban of Pokemon in Saudi Arabia and the reason for the ban is pretty eyebrow-raising.
Pokemon was banned for having “Zionist themes” and for “promoting gambling.” Saudi Arabia’s mufti (high priest) pointed out the various symbols on the Pokemon cards as the source of the “Zionist” claim. “"Most of the cards figure six-pointed stars, a symbol of international Zionism and the state of Israel," he said. Other symbols were also pointed out as being anti-Islamic, like “crosses, sacred for Christians, triangles significant for Freemasons and symbols of Japan's Shintoism, which is based on the belief in more than one god."
There was an earlier ban in 2001 when many people in Saudi Arabia were convinced Pokemon was Japanese for “I am a Jew” instead of being short for Pocket Monster. "It has been proven that this toy is part of a Jewish plan to corrupt the mind of our young generation because it alludes to blasphemous thinking, it mocks our God and our moral values and is therefore extremely dangerous for our youth," a Shiek was quoted as saying in a Los Angeles Times article. Which is a bit of a baffling claim when you consider Pokemon comes from Japan, which does not have all that many Jewish citizens.
Axis Powers Hetalia- Axed on South Korea
Axis Powers Hetalia is an anime that basically personifies countries as cutesy dudes (there are a couple girls too). These people tend to embody the stereotypes associated with their countries (Japan is silent and serious but likes porn, Italy is a slacker with a pasta addiction, etc). It mainly focuses on the alliance between the Axis Powers of World War II, presenting the countries in question as cute and funny dudes despite all the carnage those countries were responsible for during that time. You can see why that would make a lot of people uncomfortable.
It’s definitely unsurprising that some citizens of South Korea might take issue with the show, considering how Japan colonized their country during the aforementioned war. A personification of Korea is present in the Hetalia manga (and it doesn’t help matters that his hanbok is drawn incorrectly), but was taken out of the anime due to South Korean protests.
The anime was deemed offensive by the South Korean government and a petition to get the series banned got more than 16,000 signatures. The South Korean station that was going air the show, Kids Channel, apparently received death threats. Likely because of this, the show was pulled from the channel’s lineup and never aired.
Barefoot Gen- Banned in a Japanese City
Speaking of World War II, Barefoot Gen is a manga, later adapted into an anime and live action series and movies, that focuses on a seven-year-old survivor of the Hiroshima bombing. It’s based loosely off the mangaka, Keiji Nakazawa’s, own experiences as a Hiroshima survivor. This manga is one of the few that is banned in its home country.
The manga is pretty gruesome, depicting the horrific effects of radiation poisoning unflinchingly. But that’s not the only reason it was banned. Barefoot Gen was also removed from elementary schools and junior high schools in the Matsue city of Japan because it didn’t shy away from depicting the atrocities the Japanese troops committed against citizens of China and Korea. This did not sit well with Japanese nationalists, who refuse to admit these war crimes ever took place. One such nationalist was the person who first contested the manga. While the official ban claims the graphic content was the reason, it's likely the nationalist attitude that kickstarted it.
Kinnikuman- Banned in France
Kinnikuman depicts a heroic character (Brocken Jr.) wearing a Nazi uniform, complete with swastika. Depicting a “good Nazi” is against France’s hate speech laws, so only a small fraction of the anime episodes were allowed there and the manga was banned entirely. It should be noted that Japan has apparently also grown uncomfortable with that element, since in the new Kinnikuman manga, the character no longer sports swastikas.
Excel Saga- Last Episode Banned from Airing Anywhere
The story of the banned episode of Excel Saga is a strange one, because the staff intentionally made the final episode so violent and obscene it would be banned from Japanese television. The episode was even made three minutes to long to air. The director said “it felt good to go past the limits of a TV series” though he added it’s probably not something you should do too often as a creator. The episode was aptly titled “Going Too Far”. It was never broadcast, but it’s included as a bonus on the DVD release.
A Kite- Banned in Norway, Censored in the US
A Kite, also known as Kite, is a film about a young female assassin who uses bullets that make people explode. It depicts an extremely graphic rape scene involving an underage girl (the protagonist). As a result, it was banned in Norway due to laws against child pornography. It was also censored in most US releases, though it was eventually released uncensored.
Osumatsu-san- Episode Pulled from Streaming Worldwide
Osumatsu-san is an anime rife with parody, but Japan doesn’t have any laws protecting parodies from copyright violations. So several parodies in the first episode of Osumatsu-san and the Anpanman parody in the third were deemed to cross the line. The entire first episode of Osumatsu-san was pulled from worldwide streaming as a result. The Anpanman segment in the third episode was also edited. The first episode won’t even be released on DVD and the crew will animate an entirely new episode.
Aki Sora- Discontinued in Japan
Incestuous themes have been known to pop up in anime, but recently Japan is cracking down on the sale of erotic manga featuring incestuous themes being, y'know, available to children. As a result, the manga Aki Sora (which depicts a sexual relationship between a brother and sister along with tons of rape, incestuous or otherwise) won’t be reprinted. Though it probably could be if the mangaka was willing to put an 18+ stamp on it, but she doesn’t want to because she.... uh, apparently...didnt make it for adults. So if children can't enjoy her incestuous rape-filled stories, no one can!
Fate Kaleid/liner Prisma Ilya- Banned in Russia
Prisma Illya is a magical girl show that sexualizes minors up the wazoo. Russia declared it child pornography and banned it as a result.
Transformers: Robots in Disguise- Episode Pulled From Airing in North America
The first episode of the Transformers: Robots in Disguise anime was pulled from circulation in North America thanks to one big event- 9/11. The first episode featured a scene where Optimus Prime crashed through a skyscraper. The network felt it was too similar to the destruction of the World Trade Center and pulled it from the airing schedule.
Nymphet- Publication Cancelled in the United States
This was another anime that was pulled due to concerns of child pornography. The title deals with a nine-year-old girl making sexual advances toward her teacher. And he might have some feelings back, even if he suspects her sexual advances are due to trauma she’s experienced (a real thing that happens) and is concerned.
Many have argued this manga is a black comedy, but nevertheless it shows a nine-year-old doing very sexual things and an adult even going so far as to get hard in response, so yeah, there were complaints when the manga started being published and retailers quickly dropped it.
As a result, the publisher canceled United States distribution of the series, saying "my primary reason for canceling Nymphet is due to my recent realization that later volumes in the series can not be considered appropriate for the US market by any reasonable standard."
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