Dear Viz -

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Dear Viz

By Chris Beveridge     -

Dear Viz,

For all intents and purposes, I'm probably not your main market. I'm male and thirty-four years old. I'm not a teenager and I'm not female. While the music industry is rapidly trying to figure out how to keep people my age and older buying their products, the manga industry seems to be pushing people like myself away. One recent example is yet another decision made by Viz.

I began reading Viz manga back in 1992 when I could pick up the Viz Select Manga 40-odd page individual releases of Ranma ½ and the Silent Mobius comics before they started going into graphic novel format. When graphic novels came out, I bought those but continued with the monthlies. In fact, it took nearly twelve years before Silent Mobius finally ended and I stuck with Viz throughout all of it, waiting and paying patiently for that final ending. When Viz was doing primarily the oversize $16 graphic novels, I didn't buy up everything but I kept to a few favorites and made sure that I put my support where the titles I loved where.

One of my favorite series that I've stayed with throughout the years, both in original format and repurchased in "action edition" format, is Masakazu Katsura's Video Girl Ai. I like many others had fallen in love with the OVA series and have followed through to see what the manga was like. I knew going into that series that there were issues with edits but that the edits were done in Japan and you couldn't get the original version there anymore because of it. I was completely fine with that because it was very much out of Viz's hands. The end result is that I got and continue to get a very enjoyable series with artwork by my second favorite artist out there on a regular basis. It's always a happy day when a new volume arrives.

So it was with great anticipation that I was looking forward to seeing the new series to be released here by Katsura called I"s. While I knew nothing at all about the story, I knew I'd get some sweet looking designs, probably more fanservice than some people could handle and an interesting story. But now I'm not able to get this at all. Some early review copies that got out contained something quite bothersome. In scenes where the characters are naked for whatever reasons, stars have been placed over their nipples.

Am I looking at the cover of a porn video?

No, it's the interior pages of a new manga series with a Teen+ rating, which means thirteen and up by all conventional standards. The age of thirteen is a mysterious one when it comes to children as they're coming of age but still expected to keep to being children but facing the responsibilities and duties of an adult. In film, the PG-13 rating has been established in order to protect those in that group from full on sex and incredibly overt violence. What it does allow and some wallow in what's affectionately known as T&A, or tits and ass. Most people will admit that at the age of thirteen, sex is very much on the minds of people that age and whether for better or worse, they will be titillated by things. Films use this as a draw to bring in the crowd since the "I saw boobies!" mentality can weigh heavily in a group and peer environment.

Which is why it's bizarre that Viz would choose to obscure the original artwork of the naked breast by covering up nipples with stars. Stars. This title, like Video Girl Ai, is clearly aimed at a teen audience and speaks to them. It has characters that people this age will relate to and experiences that may be similar. And oh my god teenagers are going to see boobies. Now I could full well understand that this would be done if I"s was being run in a magazine like Shonen Jump or some other magazine that was hitting general newsstands. I have zero issue with that at all and honestly I don't care at all what changes are made to anything that runs in a magazine. But when it comes to the graphic novels, where people are dropping ten bucks a pop on them and they're not considered disposable like the magazine is, it's unacceptable to make edits like this to the title. Let me emphasize this: it is unacceptable.

While I will agree that this isn't on the same level as the recent issue with CMX and Tenjho Tenge, a title clearly not meant for the Teen/13+ market, it falls right in the same category. Someone at a company decided that it wasn't in their best interest for people to see tits. Teens wants to see them. Hell, they live for seeing them. People in their twenties are probably trying to see as many as they can through college and on. And people in their thirties like me, hell, I see more of them than I can think of since my wife has had kids and did breast feeding and I've even been around when there have been groups of women doing that at once. Quite frankly, breasts don't exactly frighten me like they do someone at Viz apparently.

Viz's doing this, particularly after the Tenjho Tenge incident, is like a second slap in the face to fans. We want to support the manga industry so we can get the titles we want. We're putting down our hard earned money for this and yet we only continue to be treated like we're all under thirteen. Viz has done good with bringing out more adult minded titles in the last year with things like Sensual Phrase and the rather raunchy Doubt, but there continues to be some sort of internal conflict on how to deal with titles as it's not the same across the board. Lines like "The good news - I will lose my virginity before I'm 30! The bad news, it will be to this creep who is going to RAPE ME. Worst Day Ever!" are acceptable but the visual of a breast and nipple is unacceptable. I'd say that there are weird standards there but it doesn't even sound like there are standards.

I'm not surprised that edits continue at Viz like this though. The string of titles only seems to continue in this Shonen Jump Advanced line that's supposedly aimed at older fans. Numerous changes to Ultimate Muscle are the most obvious, but it's worth noting changes to some of their regular Shonen Jump titles: the edited out "ninja-centerfold" nipple in Naruto, cigarettes edited out of Hikaru No Go and Yu Yu Hakusho. Viz has enough experience doing the edits. But what I think really boggles me in the end about it is that they used stars to do it instead of just removing them entirely. It's like, how can we draw even more attention to thinking our readers are children that need to be protected?

Someday I hope to actually read I"s. And admire the beautiful artwork that Katsura is known for, particularly of the female form. And I hope that the only stars that are in it are those that Katsura and his staff drew themselves.


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