“Oh, you just wait!” she said. “Our exhibition has got all kinds of manga stuff in it. But the coolest part, the really amazing part, is an Adults Only bit. I mean, don’t get me wrong, we understand that manga and anime cross over all kinds of genres and areas, and that there’s manga for kiddies and manga about pets, and manga for old people as well. So we get that. But we also know that the adult stuff is part of the whole picture, and we don’t want to leave that out.”
So far, so good. The exhibition seemed to be ticking all the right boxes. A broad church of material, and adult material hived off where it should be, in an Adults Only section that dared you to cross the threshold with the same force of will that it might take to enter a sex shop. In other words, if you’re the kind of person who won’t want to see what’s on offer, you’ve got plenty of warning to stop you from “accidentally” stumbling across it.
Okay, I said, this all sounds fine to me. What’s the problem?
“Well,” she said. “We figured that there was no point in doing things by halves. If we’re going to promise something shocking, I figured we should deliver something really shocking. You know what I’m saying?”
Not really, I said. But I had this awful feeling I was just about to find out.
“So we got hold of a copy of Schoolgirl Milky Crisis [not its real name] the most shocking, most controversial anime ever made, and we’re going to run it on a loop in the Adults Only section of our exhibition. So when people come in, their eyes will pop out on stalks! I mean, that thing with the donkey? Come on! And I never knew you could do that with HP Sauce!”
Wow, I said. I mean, really, wow.
“Our problem is,” she said gingerly. “Well, it’s a bit shocking, isn’t it? We’re a bit worried it might be breaking the law…”
Ah, I said, now I see. Yes, you are breaking the law. It’s not certificated by the British Board of Film Classification, so you are not able to legally show it at your venue, not without some elaborate acrobatics with the wording on your tickets. And it is sure to cause plenty of trouble for you in terms of obscenity – which shouldn’t surprise you, as you set out to be shocked. You might find yourself shut down pretty quick. Not to mention that you appear to have bought this in Japan and smuggled it into the country, which suggests that you haven’t actually got written permission from the Japanese licence holders to have it in your venue at all.
“Oh,” she said. “I hadn’t thought of that. Do you have any advice?”
Yes, I said. When seeking to do the most controversial thing you possibly can, bear in mind that intellectual property theft and public exhibition of an obscene title will probably do the trick. It will, however, be almost certain to guarantee that the only publicity your display attracts will be about how controversial and shocking it is, which rather ruins the point of your big, all-inclusive project.
“Oh dear,” she said, crestfallen. “It’s a bit late now…”
(This article first appeared in NEO #58, 2009)