Ever since the manga revolution hit American shores, comics industry observers have been writing for parents to catch on to the fact that their kids are reading stories about passionate gay love affairs and teachers seducing their students, and a full-on book burning crusade taking place.
Fortunately, that hasn’t happened. Outcry has been limited to isolated incidents where parents found out their kids were reading something beyond their age-appropriate level; there have been a few library board meetings, a few local TV news stories, but nothing approaching a movement.
And the latest incident will probably end up the same way. A father in Salisbury, MD was surprised to find his son reading DRAGONBALL Z by the great Akira Toriyama, and, after complaints, the school library pulled the book. Although DRAGONBALL has been shown on American TV and was the subject of a secret movie earlier this year, it was the sexual content that the dad found objectionable:
In one, the protagonist, a young boy, pats the covered crotch area of a sleeping teenage girl before removing her panties. The same boy later appears naked in the bathtub and is naked when he performs flying jump kicks.
In another scene, a Peeping Tom watches a naked teenage girl as she takes a shower. Furthermore, the novel shows a teenage girl flashing a bearded man; and another man asking a girl about her bra size.
The book, published by Viz, is rated T for Teen, and that sounds pretty saucy, but as J. Caleb Mozzocco reports, it’s not quite as bad as an ad for GIRLS GONE WILD:
If you’ve read Toriyama’s Dragon Ball comics, you’re no doubt familiar with the scenes in question (Yamcha’s the peeping tom, Bulma’s the girl and Master Roshi is the bearded man). You might also be scratching your head that this is something that even needs discussed at the level of a county government.
Goku is drawn with the body of a Valentine’s Day cherub, and while he’s occasionally nude, it’s the innocent nudity of naïve childhood. His penis is drawn on the page here and there, and it consists quite literally of two semi-circles. Fourth-graders will see more detailed male nudity in your average book of renaissance art then in Dragon Ball….The peeping scene could be considered sexual, as could a later scene where Bulma flashes the panties-obsessed Master Roshi (readers just see her butt) but there’s nothing even vaguely sexual about a Mowgli-like little orphan boy who lived his whole life in the woods running around naked here.
In short, this wasn’t quite the smoking gun you’d think. Mozzocco includes scans such as this:
And that’s about the same level of nudity as you will find in an average Go Daddy ad.
Simon Jones has more:
The early volumes of Dragonball did have a great deal of sexual (or I guess, what puritanical individuals would percieve as sexual) comedy, much of which actually played on Goku’s complete and utter naivete of gender roles and boundaries; Bulma’s no-pants flash and constant incontinence, Goku’s predisposition for free-balling, Roshi’s dirty old man persona, and a certain memorable match in the first tournament come to mind. But disgusting? Imagine if some of the more risque Bugs Bunny cartoons were made today. Would Holloway say they promoted transvestism, bestiality, and sexual sadism (re: Little Red Riding Rabbit)?