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Monday, April 06, 2020 

CBR's sloppy take on the Nobuhiro Watsuki/Rurouni Kenshin scandal

CBR's written about the now negative reception of Nobuhiro Watsuki's Rurouni Kenshin, who's gone from legend to pariah status (overseas, anyway) ever since he was first arrested for storing child porn in both his office and house, yet only got a lenient sentencing. And there's something they get at least half wrong:
If you were judging Watsuki by his work, he'd probably be the last manga-ka you'd suspect of such a crime. Rurouni Kenshin was a deeply moral series about atoning for one's sins and didn't contain even a hint of the inappropriate sexuality that's common in many otherwise-respected manga.
Umm, if we were to take the anime adaptation from the late 90s as an example, that's not entirely true. In the latter half of the anime series, there was a Prince and the Pauper variation episode where Yahiko was forced to the floor while the main stars and an old aide of a princely figure pulled off his clothes to dress him differently. And in that scene, just before the commercial break, IIRC, the way the animators set up the character actions made it look like the old geezer was going to rape him. If Watsuki ever supposedly had a problem with that, I have yet to find a statement from him, and even if one did turn up, it's just too late. What this does suggest is that somebody whose manga only makes minor use of sexuality as opposed to violence (there was plenty of that), could be a lot slimier than somebody who makes major use of it, whether it goes overboard or not.

And since we're on the subject, their talk of "inappropriate" sexuality is ambiguous, and that poses a problem. How can anybody judge clearly if they don't describe what elements are inappropriate, such as sexual assault scenes played for cheap shock value and sensationalism? Or how there's stories depicting affairs and marriages with brides who're under 16-18 years old? If we don't know what exact elements they find reprehensible, they're not clarifying, and make it sound more like they believe all sexuality is a bad thing (unless maybe it involves male homosexuality like yaoi manga?). Such failure to clarify is precisely why no improvements will ever be made to entertainment, and everything will only be made worse.

They do make a valid argument regarding 2 other mangakas who continued to associate with Watsuki:
Making the situation even more uncomfortable is that Watsuki was a mentor figure at Shonen Jump due to Kenshin's success, and it seems he's maintained that standing even in light of his crimes. One Piece's Eiichiro Oda and Shaman King's Hiroyuki Takei were two of the most famous artists trained by Watsuki, and they still seem to consider him a friend. Oda even interviewed Watsuki this year for a planned Rurouni Kenshin exhibition in Japan.
Okay, here, there's a legitimate argument to make that disciples or not, they're making a dreadful mistake to continue associations with him, and local "traditions" shouldn't have to apply when the subject does something criminally offensive. Nor should there be an exhibition held for the Kenshin work, and outside Japan, most sources like Viz and Kodansha stopped publication a few years ago after the scandal broke.

And the columnist does make a valid point that if Watsuki still holds on to these repulsive beliefs of his, then it'd be better not to put money into his pockets if he wound up taking said money and spending it on all that abominable child porn next. Rurouni Kenshin may have once meant something to segments of the manga crowd, but now, overseas, it's mostly been rendered worthless.

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Is a product tainted if its creator has sullied his or her name in the eyes of justice? Perhaps you should look up how Japan treats the different kinds of criminals if you ever want to go there.

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