National

Self-censoring kicks in as hostage drama plays out

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

As Japan’s hostage drama unfolded last week, TV networks altered their schedules and some pop singers changed the lyrics they sang live out of fear that inappropriate content might offend.

On the Internet, some people welcomed the displays of sensitivity, but plenty of others scoffed at the nation’s tendency to self-censor, which at least one Twitter used called “creepy.”

On Friday, three-piece pop band Ling tosite sigure changed the lyrics of “Who What Who What,” a song they performed on TV Asahi’s weekly Music Station show.

“We received questions about why some words were different from the original version. Considering the recent situation, our members discussed the matter with program (producers) and changed the words,” the band wrote on its Twitter account following the broadcast.

The phrase “chidarake no jiyuu” (bloody freedom) became “maboroshi no jiyuu” (phantasmal freedom), and “moroha no naifu” (double-edged knife) became “moroha no feiku” (double-edged fake).

While some fans were complimentary in replying to the tweet, elsewhere on Twitter and on the nation’s online message boards there was a general harrumphing.

“What about the freedom of speech?” one asked. “This is ridiculous. Japan is really becoming more cowardly,” declared another.

Others said: “Don’t invite (the band) to play if it has to change the lyrics.”

Music Station that day also included a set by boy band Kat-Tun, which was expected to perform new song “Dead or Alive.” The songstresses silently replaced the number with another new work, “White Lovers,” instead.

Meanwhile, Fuji Television Network Inc. canceled an episode of “Ansatsu Kyoshitsu” (“Assassination Classroom”), an anime that was scheduled to air at 1:20 a.m. last Saturday.

“Ansatsu Kyoshitsu” is based on a popular manga of the same name, which depicts junior high school students trying to kill their teacher, an octopuslike creature that plans to blow up the Earth in a comical way. The teacher can move with superhuman speed and therefore survives the pupils’ repeated attempts to kill it.

A Fuji TV spokeswoman said the episode that was scheduled to air on Saturday included a scene where a character grabs a knife, which it swings around.

“We thought the content was inappropriate to air, so we canceled it,” she said.

There were similar examples of self-censorship in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011, a period in which many companies chose to pull their commercials from TV networks.

The vacant slots were filled instead with public infomercials concocted by Advertising Council Japan, better known as AC Japan, a body that runs feel-good public service announcements about the environment, safety, disaster recovery and other issues.

One Twitter user said Japan’s tendency to self-censor is unnatural. The user questioned whether it brings about any good.

“Music Station and Ansatsu Kyoshitsu, I don’t understand this mood of self-restraint. It’s not like the situation will become better by showing self-restraint. It was like this when the (2011) disaster occurred, but it seems hypocritical and I find it very creepy.”