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May 21, 2014 10:42 AM   Subscribe

Disney Studios censors Miyazaki collection, pulls Studio Ghibli compilation. "On Your Mark" a video directed by Hiyao Miyazaki, and produced between early January and late May, 1995 by a team of over fifty animators at Studio Ghibli, in cooperation with other studios, is being censored from the upcoming 13-disc "Collected Works of Director Hayao Miyazaki" collection. Disney is also stopping shipments of a 2005 Ghibli Shorts collection, which features the video, along 22 other shorts that Studio Ghibli produced over the course of decades. The rationale?! Nineteen years after the video's release, one of the members of the band that did the music for the video has been arrested, along with a female acquaintance, after police found MDMA at his home. The musician was arrested Saturday, but has not been charged or convicted, as yet. Both he and the woman he was arrested with claim to be innocent.
posted by markkraft (73 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Fuckin' seriously? I love that video!

On the plus side I had no idea the 2005 release had happened, so it's off to eBay I go!
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:46 AM on May 21


So... wait... is this going to be regular policy? Are they going to pull or dub-over all the vocals from their in-house productions if any of those celebrities turn out to have drug problems and/or legal troubles?

Might've kinda missed the bus on Robin Williams and his cocaine habit, y'know?
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:47 AM on May 21 [30 favorites]


what
posted by ardgedee at 10:47 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]


How does Disney's move relate to Universal's even more sweeping moves of suspending and recalling what sounds like his whole catalog?

Universal Music announced on Monday that it is suspending shipments and recalling goods by Chage and Aska, as well as goods by Aska alone, following his arrest.
posted by He Is Only The Imposter at 10:49 AM on May 21


::throws out Chage and Aska CDs::
::throws out all CDs by musicians who have used drugs::
::has, like, three CDs left::
posted by Faint of Butt at 10:49 AM on May 21 [18 favorites]


That many?
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:50 AM on May 21 [10 favorites]


To be clear: this is Disney Japan, not the US mouse house. Studios and labels in Japan tend to go kind of bugfuck when anything even vaguely scandalous happens.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 10:50 AM on May 21 [34 favorites]



posted by saulgoodman at 10:50 AM on May 21


It's basically Disney (over)acting, in accordance with the general Japanese overreaction regarding potential drug offenses. All of the musician's recordings are getting pulled by Universal Music, too... so basically, big multinationals are censoring Japanese culture -- which is exported worldwide -- because of claims of offenses -- not actual convictions -- decades after the fact. This is not the first time this has happened.
posted by markkraft at 10:52 AM on May 21 [2 favorites]


Wait, Disney releases Ghibli material in Japan too?
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 10:52 AM on May 21 [2 favorites]


How does Disney's move relate to Universal's even more sweeping moves of suspending and recalling what sounds like his whole catalog?

Maybe we're reading this wrong?

Maybe, it was like... ALL the MDMA? Like all of it ever? Maybe the whole performance career was just a distraction/revenue-generating and money-laundering machine for being the uber-overlord of the underground MDMA trade...?

Yeah, I dunno. I'm pretty extremely anti-drug in my views, but this kind of thing just seems insane.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 10:53 AM on May 21


Blimey! I've just been reading about Carrie Fisher's cocaine taking during previous films she's worked on. It's a good thing Disney don't own any of the ... wait ... what? Lucas SOLD WHAT?!
posted by Wordshore at 10:58 AM on May 21 [2 favorites]


Will they be censoring all the movies Steve Jobs was involved with?
posted by BinaryApe at 10:59 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]


there's an element of hazard in messing with folks creative enough to make videos. anyone could get ahold of a snow white costume and a winnie the pooh costume. a video of snow white blowing winnie the pooh would be...

[puts on sunglasses]

unbearable.
posted by bruce at 11:02 AM on May 21 [5 favorites]


I don't know what I was expecting to see when I clicked on a link clearly labeled "Universal Music announced" in the lead article, but finding it to be completely in Japanese kind of reinforces that yeah, this is a Japan issue, not a Disney issue.
posted by Curious Artificer at 11:04 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]


Boy, this sure is some stupid shit!
posted by Our Ship Of The Imagination! at 11:04 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]


That many?

They're all blank.
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:04 AM on May 21 [2 favorites]


Last time I looked, The Beatles were still selling well in Japan (although perhaps not as well as Mariah Carey and, er, The Carpenters).

Does the OMGDRUGS filter only apply to Japanese artists?
posted by Devonian at 11:05 AM on May 21


"finding it to be completely in Japanese kind of reinforces that yeah, this is a Japan issue, not a Disney issue."

No harm, no foul!
posted by markkraft at 11:10 AM on May 21


::has, like, three CDs left::

Ironically, those require drugs to be listenable.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:13 AM on May 21 [12 favorites]


Might've kinda missed the bus on Robin Williams and his cocaine habit, y'know?

Just wait til they find out about Hannah Montana.
posted by mstokes650 at 11:14 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]


Devonian, yes actually. For whatever reason Japan goes absolutely insane about scandal involving Japanese artists, but scandal involving gaijin artists is just gaijin being gaijin.
posted by sotonohito at 11:16 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]


Puff is just the name of the boy's magical dragon. Are you a pothead, Focker?
posted by Saxon Kane at 11:17 AM on May 21


Meanwhile in Cupertino:
Gigantic! Gigantic! Gigantic!
A big big love
.

Very different corporate philosophies on display here.
posted by zarq at 11:20 AM on May 21


You kind of have to look at this from a Japanese perspective - drugs (outside of alcohol) are not socially acceptable in Japan. If you are going to use drugs, for heaven's sakes don't get caught.

While it was highly annoying to me when I was in my early twenties in Japan, these days I think the taboo is great. Cuts down on petty theft, and definitely no Crusties either.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:22 AM on May 21


Oh shit nobody tell Disney about Fantasia. Also let's hope the Japanese moralists don't know about about Rez or Space Invaders Extreme.
posted by Nelson at 11:26 AM on May 21


It's not "Japanese moralists", it's just a different culture. I think Americans sometimes forget that there are other, equally valid ways of looking at the world.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:28 AM on May 21 [8 favorites]


See also Novala Takemoto, a brilliant Japanese author and fashion designer whose career was pretty much destroyed when he was caught with an amount of weed so small that it would get you laughed out of the average American police station.
posted by Itaxpica at 11:29 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]


This is the same Disney that intially released trailers for "The Tigger Movie" with Third Eye Blind's "Semi-charmed Kind of Life" as the background music. Even though the song is explicitly about doing crystal meth.
posted by Badgermann at 11:29 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]


It's not "Japanese moralists", it's just a different culture.
Surely it is by definition "Japanese moralists". Forbidding broad drug use (without getting bogged down in the individual health and collateral damage issues surrounding individual drugs) is absolutely a moral issue. Given that this is happening in Japan, I can't see any way this isn't a case of Japanese moralists (in this case the term "moralists" appears to apply to the bulk of Japanese) applying a particular moral code to someone's actions.
posted by leo_r at 11:42 AM on May 21 [9 favorites]


Is this the same Disney that previously has had David Johansen in its employ?

(Great FPP headline, BTW!)
posted by ZenMasterThis at 11:45 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]


"I think Americans sometimes forget that there are other, equally valid ways of looking at the world."

I would have more appreciation for your defense of widespread use of censorship without charges being filed, much less a conviction, if I didn't recently hear a nearly identical defense of how British POWs were treated by a former Japanese Imperial Army officer, in a BBC documentary.

I think it's important for people to realize that just as there are other, equally valid ways of looking at the world, there are also other, less valid -- and more valid -- ways of doing so.

Moral equivalency is a fundamentally flawed argument to make, even when cloaked in multiculturalism.
posted by markkraft at 11:49 AM on May 21 [9 favorites]


markcroft--and comparing the censoring of music of Japanese artists by Japanese companies is not quite the same as POW and war experiences. The social. economic and political oppression of women is a no starter for me regardless of the culture/religion. But I do not care one whit if some countries ban alcohol and maintain double standards re: its use and sale. And I think it is perfectly appropriate to flex moral equivalencies based on cultural differences if there are significant qualitative discrepancies in the differences.
posted by rmhsinc at 12:02 PM on May 21


I understand that Japanese attitudes toward drugs tend to the extreme, but in this case wrecking someone's career and, hell, trying to erase their life's work over an accusation? And an accusation of what, that he may have enjoyed taking a substance that's significantly less harmful than alcohol? I don't think that's equally valid, no.
posted by 1adam12 at 12:02 PM on May 21


The official charge against ASKA, the 57-year-old aging pop star in question, is violation of the anti-methamphetamine law. Presumably, because MDMA is classified as a form of meth in Japan (although methamphetamine may have been discovered as well).

For those debating the moralist rights and wrongs of Japanese drugs, here's a short primer on meth laws in Japan. Meth--a Japanese invention dating to the early 20th century--was popularized during WWII, when it was handed out like candy to soldiers and members of the Tokkotai (the Kamikaze pilots). (Students of history will remember that the Wehrmacht in Germany took a similar approach with its troops). Fast forward to the end of the war. The black markets in Japan are now flooded with meth, known under the brand name philopon (ヒロポン). In due course, it works its way into polite society, and before you know it, tired housewives and stressed out salarymen are shooting meth as a pick-me-up.

The harsh anti-meth laws in Japan are a way of coping with this early epidemic. Meth rooted itself in the Yakuza black-market economy after it was made illegal, and the government, for right or wrong, has been struggling to contain it ever since. Every so often a popular entertainer is arrested and thrown to the wolves--made into an object lesson for common citizens. It only takes trace amounts to generate this charge. In the case of ASKA, the arrest was based on a urine test.

Meth, due to its connection with entertainers and its association with early, post-war Japan, doesn't have quiet the same stigma as it does in the US. Here, it conjures up an image of crazed tweakers in rural trailer parks (or, a few years back, the Tina-lovers of the gay club scene). In Japan, it's associated with high-level entertainers and actors and criminals--people who, in the US, would most likely turn to cocaine. By comparison, weed and heroin are relatively scarce. The truly down-and-out and the homeless turn to alcohol, or--for a really cheap high--bottles of paint thinner.
posted by Gordion Knott at 12:05 PM on May 21 [25 favorites]


Moral equivalency is a fundamentally flawed argument to make, even when cloaked in multiculturalism.

This sounds fine when discussed in the abstract in the SUB pub or the dorm room, but unless you have actually lived in and experienced a different culture, I don't see how you can hope to argue this point. Sure, there are universal human rights, but drug use isn't one of them.

My point is that it's a cultural taboo. People also take their shoes off when going indoors. Is that wrong, too?
posted by KokuRyu at 12:21 PM on May 21 [3 favorites]


And since moral equivalency is on the table here, why is Japan's taboo against drugs wrong, and US permissiveness right? Look at the tremendous damage drug use has done to American society. The damage is not even limited to the United States. Look at Mexico and Colombia. Or Afghanistan?

Perhaps we should ban drugs and solve a whole bunch of problems?

This assumes that are "right" cultures and "wrong" cultures. However, if we agree that there are different cultural points of view that are *equally* valid (and that the US is not the end of history)...
posted by KokuRyu at 12:24 PM on May 21 [4 favorites]


Perhaps we should ban drugs and solve a whole bunch of problems?

The bans, according to most serious experts studying the subject (as opposed to random cranks on the internet with strong opinions), are the primary cause of the problems and are certainly causing far more problems for society than the drugs themselves.

That's just for one.

But yeah, even so, it's always still fair to question if something seems like a reasonable way to do things and to wonder if the principles behind this case are being applied fairly and consistently. Just because cultures have perspectives on things doesn't mean those perspectives can't be challenged or critiqued. Lord knows, nobody's shy about criticizing our culture--and for good reasons. Why should they be?
posted by saulgoodman at 12:34 PM on May 21 [2 favorites]


markkraft: " I would have more appreciation for your defense of widespread use of censorship without charges being filed, much less a conviction, if I didn't recently hear a nearly identical defense of how British POWs were treated by a former Japanese Imperial Army officer, in a BBC documentary."

This is two privately held companies, Walt Disney Studios Japan and Universal Music, overreacting and jumping the gun prior to any convictions, by choosing to censor what they release to the public.

Comparing that to the treatment of POWs under (I assume?) Hirohito's Imperial Japan seems wildly, ridiculously and stupidly inflammatory.
posted by zarq at 12:37 PM on May 21 [2 favorites]


US permissiveness

Compared to like, Malaysia or Thailand or whatever, sure, but the War on Drugs is pretty much the prime cause of the problems in Mexico, Colombia, Afghanistan, etc.

(And do people lose record contracts and basically get stricken from the record when they allegedly don't take off their shoes inside?)
posted by kmz at 12:40 PM on May 21 [2 favorites]


Regardless of their cultural attitude, taking major economic reprisals against a person prior to their conviction, or even the release of significant evidence, is wrong. The cops could be totally mistaken, everything could end up dropped, and this would still be a career-ruiner.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:42 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]


And since moral equivalency is on the table here, why is Japan's taboo against drugs wrong, and US permissiveness right?

Japan doesn't have a taboo against drugs. You can see salarymen staggering home wasted every night of the week.

I'm not sure that the USA is a model of permissiveness in this respect either. If you're an ex-felon and you turn in a dirty piss sample, you're going back to jail.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:54 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]


why is Japan's taboo against drugs wrong, and US permissiveness right?

so, how many people in japan are in prison for drug offenses compared to the u s?
posted by pyramid termite at 1:20 PM on May 21 [3 favorites]


Perhaps we should ban drugs and solve a whole bunch of problems?

Sorry, in this timeline most if not all governments did ban drugs and it turned out that actually having a war on drugs was a pretty bad idea. Drugs are still there but the war has killed and hurt a lot more people, corrupted more societies than drugs ever did.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:30 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]


US permissiveness (MDMA-sales convict writing from inside a US prison)
posted by telstar at 1:46 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]


Regarding widely misunderstood and abused terms such as "moral equivalency" and "cultural relativism", I have recently found the distinction between etics and emics to be helpful and clarifying.
posted by polymodus at 1:49 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]


My point is that it's a cultural taboo. People also take their shoes off when going indoors. Is that wrong, too?

only if it interferes with the ability of US multinationals to sell product.
posted by ennui.bz at 1:52 PM on May 21


Faint of Butt: "::throws out Chage and Aska CDs::
::throws out all CDs by musicians who have used drugs::
::has, like, three CDs left::
"

"Go home, burn all your records all your tapes all your cds...
reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeal fucking high on drugs..."
posted by symbioid at 2:17 PM on May 21


Regardless of their cultural attitude, taking major economic reprisals against a person prior to their conviction, or even the release of significant evidence, is wrong. The cops could be totally mistaken, everything could end up dropped, and this would still be a career-ruiner.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:42 AM on May 22


Michael Jackson would have a fair bit to say on that topic, one imagines
posted by DoctorFedora at 2:54 PM on May 21


Against my better judgement, I watched it. It was horrible and pointlessly cruel and sadistic. But if they took all the horrible, pointlessly cruel and sadistic anime off the market, they wouldn't have anything left to sell.
posted by charlie don't surf at 5:13 PM on May 21


The bad guys in the video look like they're all from Rolling Thunder.
posted by damehex at 5:19 PM on May 21


Sigh. I love my adopted country of Japan, and I am generally hesitant to point out what I perceive as cultural flaws because that would make me just another whiny gaijin who should Just Move Back Home, Then. But Japan's incredible myopia (and hypocrisy) on the issue of drugs is just so bullheaded and wrong. The public perception of "drugs are bad, mmmkay?" is very widespread. It's not even a topic for debate in the public sphere. What drugs? All drugs! All are bad, full stop. End of story. Heroin, meth (known as shabu), cannabis, MDMA...not that your average drug crusader could name even these or any others or know the difference or know why they are bad. The jail sentences seem to be about the same level of harshness, so if you get busted with weed you'd get the same sentence as if you were busted for heroin. But no one questions this because only losers whoo shame their families do drugs, right? (said the drunken salaryman after his 10th beer right before puking his yakisoba on the street...dodging morning street pizza is a daily routine for Tokyoites. And that's all just hunky dory).

It's really quite amazing the difference in cultural acceptance between a lot of Asian countries (not just Japan) and the West, especially now. Smoke a joint in Colorado and no one cares. Get caught with it in Japan and it's an automatic jail sentence, maybe years. Hard to wrap my head around that.
posted by zardoz at 5:20 PM on May 21 [2 favorites]


Not to derail the conversation about the hypocrisy of Japanese drug use, but the FP post got me very excited about seeing Disney America releases of the remaining Miyazaki/Ghibli movies. Unfortunately the links point to Japanese releases, which had been announced for some time. Now I am back to being disappointed. Shame on you Markkraft and your tantalizing media promising headline. Shame on you.
posted by bionic.junkie at 5:34 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]


Hard to wrap my head around that.

Geography and culture matters. I think most Japanese would look at the drug culture in the US, the war on drugs in the US, the incarceration rate, etc. and would not want the same for Japan.
posted by gen at 5:35 PM on May 21


wow, thanks. that was awesome. that was like a Miyazaki/Moebius collaboration i never knew i should have been wishing for.

oh yeah, fuck Disney. it's not like they haven't messed with the psyche of millions of little girls for the last 30 years or so with their horrid princess dreck.
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 5:54 PM on May 21


It's not "Japanese moralists", it's just a different culture. I think Americans sometimes forget that there are other, equally valid ways of looking at the world.

It is a mistake to think Japan is a monolith, even if it sometimes looks like one, either within or from outside. There are as many different kinds of Japanese people as there are Americans. You can be sure not all Japanese people approve of this media decision, just as many millions of Americans clutched their heads and screamed at the TVs when cable news decided it was going to be all about a particular missing plane for several weeks.

This sounds fine when discussed in the abstract in the SUB pub or the dorm room, but unless you have actually lived in and experienced a different culture, I don't see how you can hope to argue this point.

Please, let's not play the you're-not-ALLOWED-to-argue-that game.

My point is that it's a cultural taboo.

There are lots of taboos, in all cultures. We in the US, in fact, had the anti-drug-use one for a long time. We still kind of do have it, actually, it's just gotten (a little) better recently. Here's hoping Japan gets better too.
posted by JHarris at 6:39 PM on May 21 [2 favorites]


"That's just how the Japanese are" is a seriously lame cop-out.
posted by Brocktoon at 7:09 PM on May 21 [3 favorites]


"Unfortunately the links point to Japanese releases, which had been announced for some time."

I think it's important to note that Japanese DVD and Blu-Ray releases of anime and films are not only exported and sold in the US market, with or without a US version being made... ones which don't have an official US version are are also released worldwide, thanks to the effort of fansubbers, who have largely been recognized as having helped create a worldwide market for anime and Japanese films in the first place... so much so that the Japanese distributors are now collaborating with the fansubbers to release official overseas versions of their products.

In fact, most Japanese fansubbers who release subs of movies usually wait until the Blu-Ray has come out, as they want the end product to be at the highest possible quality. If the Blu-Ray never comes out or is censored, for some reason... that's a problem that effects fans around the world.

Lots of obsessive Miyazaki fans I know won't watch the English versions of his work, because they just don't have the right translation, the right tone, the right feeling.... which is really important, given the nature of the work. Fansub groups often do a far superior job of conveying this than even official translations do, largely because what they do is a labor of love, often with higher standards and more time spent on the project... time that might not be justifiable for a potentially small distribution to an overseas market.

If there's anything Miyazaki / Ghibli that you haven't seen as yet, chances are good that fansubbers and Asian torrent sites will bring it to you first and best... so when the Japanese censor their releases, it interferes with the ability of people in the rest of the world to have access to the complete breadth of his work, regardless of whether its picked up for US distribution or not.

(If I were a torrenter -- not that I necessarily am, mind you -- I might be curious about seeing whether there are any downloadable versions of Ghibli ga Ippai Special Short Short available now, before it is censored and the original 2005 torrents lapse into unseeded history...)
posted by markkraft at 7:35 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]


And yet ANOTHER reason why going through official, paid outlets for media is something I don't do. This is like chiseling out portions of the Sistine Chapel ceiling because some of Michelangelo's paintbrushes were made by a peasant who enjoyed eating morning glory seeds once an autumn. Utterly inane.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 7:43 PM on May 21


It is a mistake to think Japan is a monolith, even if it sometimes looks like one, either within or from outside. There are as many different kinds of Japanese people as there are Americans. You can be sure not all Japanese people approve of this media decision, just as many millions of Americans clutched their heads and screamed at the TVs when cable news decided it was going to be all about a particular missing plane for several weeks.

I understand what you mean, and yes there are a few people in Japan that understand that their War on Drugs is both arbitrary and draconian. I realize I'm painting with a broad brush...but a broad brush is appropriate. It really is a broadly held belief--by young people as well--that all drugs are necessarily awful. In America something like 40% of people have tried marijuana at least once. In Japan, it's something like 1% (many of them young people who have traveled abroad). That's a vast difference.

Social stigma plays a much bigger role in Japan (and other places) than in the West. There's just simply no debate or discussion in the media on this, much less a movement towards decriminalization or legalization. Of course, I could be wrong about that, as I don't read and watch all media, but the average person gets virtually no nuanced information.

And I can guarantee you that far fewer people in Japan are outraged at the Aska outrage than folks in the states were outraged at CNN's coverage. That analogy doesn't compute at all.
posted by zardoz at 7:58 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]


The video is mostly 6-minutes of Aeon-Flux-like context-free violence, an alternate ending, and a soundtrack I've already forgotten. Censorship sucks, but it's not as though people are being denied access to some fantastic mind-blowing experience.
posted by unmake at 8:01 PM on May 21


And I can guarantee you that far fewer people in Japan are outraged at the Aska outrage than folks in the states were outraged at CNN's coverage. That analogy doesn't compute at all.

I am not sure about that -- but my thinking is from the other side. For all the complaining that was done about cable news' insistence of reporting on that plane, they must have kept at it for some reason.

In any case, it is more of an example than an analogy.
posted by JHarris at 8:39 PM on May 21


Whoa just watched the "On Your Mark" short on Vimeo. Maybe this isn't about drugs at all. The video itself, viewed in light of recent events and the present conservative cultural environment in Japan, is probably viewed as being ideologically impure. There are nuke symbols all over it, cops going rogue and images of religious extremism - heady stuff even in a fluffy music vid.

This is the first time I have seen this video and I thought it looked like Miyazaki characters dropped into a crazy Moebius/Jodorowsky Incal universe.
posted by vicx at 11:30 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]


Honestly, the post is a little misleading, and should say Disney Japan, which is a different thing, entirely, than Disney back in the States.

For a little bit of extra information, Aska's arrest has been pretty much non-stop news since it happened. Every news show, every wideshow (essentially talk shows with news, interviews, wacky guests, etc) has talked about it nonstop. It's freakishly huge news here, and could be career ending for the guy (or, after say, five years of contrition, he'll be allowed to have a comeback). As permissive as Japanese culture is about alcohol and sex, drugs, tax evasion, and breaking 'serious' laws are a gigantic no-no for celebrities. Obviously, normal people get arrested for these things all the time, but then again, normal people do those things all the time, too. It's not like drugs don't exist here, they do, and plenty of people use them, but the penalties are very, very strong. All of the jumping up and down and pointing of fingers when someone gets caught is the most ridiculous part of this.

Fun side-note: mushrooms used to be perfectly legal here, up until, I'd like to say 2004? When they got banned, they went from being a perfectly legal thing to carrying the same weight as possession of heroin: 6 years in prison for any amount. For mushrooms. There are some things about this country I deeply love, but their 1950s Reefer Madness approach to drugs is definitely not one of them.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:30 PM on May 21 [3 favorites]


To put someone in jail for years and make their life's work taboo for a single incidence of being caught with a basically harmless drug seems astonishingly unjust - unless you see drug-taking as a crime against society, in a culture where society accrues the sum of the rights of those who comprise it. In that case, you've committed an offence against millions of people and the justness of the punishment is self-evident.

The Asian sense of society is something I'm only dimly able to perceive, despite discussing it with anthropologists who've done field work there. But I do have a sense that collectivism is a much greater force in defining identity than is common in the West, and it works at many different levels. Certainly, as China has come into much closer and more detailed economic and cultural contact, there's been no lack of opportunity to see how criticism (actual or perceived) of anything Chinese is taken as an attack on the whole, with what seems to us to be excessively prickly results. Japan's much longer and more integrated relationship with the West has given us a different perspective, especially those of us who don't have much actual contact, but I don't doubt the cultural acceptance of damage to society as an attack on all its members.

Drug-taking is profoundly solipsistic (with the notable exception, often, of alcohol). This aspect of the experience is not seen as a primary problem with drugs in the West, where the right to go to hell in your own handcart is part of the landscape. But I can quite see how it is far more serious in other cultures, especially when celebrity is added.

I cannot enter into the consciousness of other cultures (I have enough trouble with my own), and that's where justice resides. I do think, though, that respect for the individual and a willingness to be critical of society enhances those aspects of humanity of which I am most fond, and militates against its greatest cruelties, and actually enhances the power of society to protect its members.

Uniformity is for dandelions.
posted by Devonian at 12:12 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]


>It's freakishly huge news here

In the media frenzy surrounding ASKA, are any newscasters mentioning the yakuza connection?

A few years ago, standup-comedian-slash-TV-host Shimada Shinsuke was taken to task for aligning himself with the yakuza, and forced to retire from entertainment at a relatively young age. Shimada's offense was relying on the yakuza to manage buildings that he owned in the red light districts. Apparently, it's a no-no for entertainers to partner with anybody in the organized crime world.
posted by Gordion Knott at 2:23 AM on May 22


I haven't paid enough attention to the whole thing to know, honestly, if they're hyping a boryokudon connection. The word yakuza is pretty much never, ever used on TV here, but with the drug cases, they almost never talk about where the drugs came from, unless they say something like "I got it from some foreigners."

Shimada's case was pretty different from this, and as far as I can recall, his involvement wasn't for anything so serpentine. Evidently, he had trouble with someone at some point, and he turned to a yakuza that he vaguely knew for help, and since the guy had helped him, he wasn't in any position to push him away. Having received a favor, he was pretty much in their debt, and couldn't get out from under it, though I do vaguely recall him being in trouble with the yakuza for trumpeting his connection, too. The thing is, he was essentially the biggest catch in the new laws against the yakuza, that any payment of any kind to the yakuza is, itself, a crime. Even people being blackmailed (a pretty standard method of fundraising) can be arrested for paying them off. From what I've heard, they've managed to make the penalties for being extorted and paying the off just as bad, if not worse, than actually committing the extortion in the first place. Given how entrenched the system of protection money is here, it might well take something that drastic to effect change, but it's pretty harsh in its own light.
posted by Ghidorah at 11:44 AM on May 22 [1 favorite]


Sounds like the Yakuza runs Japan.
posted by telstar at 6:20 PM on May 22


Telstar, if that's the impression I gave you, then I must have not been very clear. The laws against giving money to the yakuza have really, really hurt them. The laws themselves are incredibly strong, yet very vague, to the point that there were questions about how far they went, up to and including whether delivering something (a package, a pizza, even) to a known yakuza would be enough to charge the delivery person and/or company.

The yakuza don't run this country. The banks, and the very, very large corporations do. This whole issue with Aska highlights the fact that the group enforcing the morality in this situation is a corporation that's acted well before any possible outcry could develop, and one could assume largely against the wishes of the target market they're affecting here. I'd be stunned if someone who was willing to pay all that money for a Ghibli collection (keep in mind, DVDs here can still cost about $40, and blurays more) would stop themselves when they found out one small part featured Aska's music.

At the absolute most, there might have been a connection to the yakuza when it came to buying the drugs, but even then, they're not the only game in town.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:38 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]


The only cheery thing about this is that unlike the other incidents with musicians getting arrested for drugs, there has been a huge rush to buy Chage & Aska albums on iTunes before it all gets pulled.
posted by Bugbread at 5:38 AM on May 23


I have a LaserDisc version of "On Your Mark" around here somewhere that I picked up at AnimeExpo more than a decade ago. Maybe one of these days I'll dig it up and stick it on eBay.
posted by the_artificer at 7:48 AM on May 23


Wow. This is all over the news, but I've only heard that he was arrested for possession and use of 覚せい剤 ("stimulants"), which means meth in 99.9% of cases. Googling a bit, it seems that he was arrested for a urine test which found him positive for both meth and MDMA. This makes his insistent claims that he thought it was Annaka (a prescription mix of caffeine and sodium benzoate) really goofy. Sure, maybe for meth, this makes sense as an excuse. Not necessarily believable, but makes sense. "I dunno, I'd sniff it/smoke it, and it would wake me up, and I'd be really energetic, so I thought it was Annaka". But MDMA? How dumb would you have to believe the police to be, or, alternatively, how dumb would you have to believe the police think you actually are, to mistake the effects of MDMA for Annaka? I would normally just assume that the police haven't let him know that they found him positive for MDMA, but he's talked multiple times with his lawyers, made statements, etc.
posted by Bugbread at 4:17 PM on May 23


Devonian: "Drug-taking is profoundly solipsistic (with the notable exception, often, of alcohol)."

Or, (notable esception wise) as the case may be, MDMA. Rather.. ESPECIALLY MDMA.
posted by symbioid at 8:08 AM on May 24


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