For decades a debate has raged over violence and profanity in art and how it can impact children of an impressionable age. In Russia, Death Note is the latest target in the censor’s crosshair.
A Russian court in St. Petersburg has recently ruled to ban a number of notable anime series, including Death Note and Tokyo Ghoul. At the time of reporting it appears that this ban relates specifically to a number of online websites.
However, efforts are ongoing to widen the ruling to include bans of the anime shows in question at large. Other high profile series that have been targeted since December in the same court include the more innocuous Naruto, Elfen Lied, and Interspecies Reviewers.
Death Note has courted controversy since the release of the original manga in 2003. The concept of a notebook that can cause the death of anyone whose name is written in it appealed to alienated youth almost as much as it frightened those around them.
The manga was banned in large parts of China as early as 2005 and has caused notable concern throughout much the rest of the world. Most of this concern originates from worried teachers and parents and relates to copycat-style notebooks and teenage suicides.
Banning art, or other exciting materials for that matter, rarely has the intended consequences. It drives up public interest in something that may have otherwise gone away by itself, and can quickly descend into witch hunts.
It is also worth noting that very little credible research has demonstrated a causal link between witnessing violence in media and perpetrating violence in real life. There appears a real risk here that very different works are being lumped together due to stylistic, or even just cultural similarities. Just because it looks the same, doesn’t mean it is the same.
If Russia is really interested in stopping their people from committing acts of violence against one another they might want to look elsewhere than Japanese anime. Perhaps Russian football?