Two words, Shoujo Tsubaki.
The media industry frequently bans content for various reasons, as if it were second nature. In contrast, proponents and opponents of the prohibition are much more inclined to be intrigued by a narrative about something proclaimed forbidden since the world prefers tales about objects labeled BANNED. Recognize that some outlawed things have grown increasingly influential when compared to their initial capability because they provide a spark of fresh concepts for someone else to exploit this loop to their benefit.
Banning is not frequent in the anime universe, but it does occur. With the greatest of intentions to safeguard audiences from potentially ambiguous, damaging, indecent, and objectionable material or imagery, such anime are regularly disputed. In keeping with this, an anime titled Shoujo Tsubaki is sufficiently distressing for individuals to remove its remains, providing further evidence why it was prohibited worldwide.
About The Widely Banned Anime: Shoujo Tsubaki
Short synopsis: The 14-year-old protagonist Midori in the semi-animated indie movie Shoujo Tsubaki (The Camellia Girl) from 1992 undergoes physical and emotional assault by the freak show’s staff members. The addition of a dwarf magician turned an already terrifying situation into a nightmare.
WARNING: The following content contains themes of rape, abuse, and other sensitive topics that may be disturbing or triggering for some viewers. Reader discretion is advised.
To help support her dying mother, heroine Midori has become known as the Camellia Girl for selling camellias on the roadside. A guy who appeared like a pedo approached her and offered shelter if she ever found herself without a place to call home. When she returned home, she discovered that her mother had passed away and been ravaged by rats.
With no other options, she chose to reside with the mysterious circus owner to support herself. Unfortunately, her dreams of a better life were dashed when she was forced to become the sex slave of the circus’s misfits, whose mistreatment only furthered her madness.
The protagonist, who has been mentally and physically tormented, finds solace in a group of puppies, only to have them cruelly butchered and smashed to death by a sadistic circus entertainer. She attempted to flee, but the sadistic madman chased after her, seized her, raped her, and told her she’d never be happy again in this lifetime.
Shortly after, Midori developed romantic feelings for a significantly older man named Wonder Masamitsu. The growing infatuation between Midori and Wonder Masamitsu, an adult magician dwarf, seems more unsettling than what has happened thus far in the film. Masamitsu has a few sequences where he either kisses the main character or begs her to. There are also scenes of them making out and discussing wedding bells in a flower field.
The Men Behind the Anime
Hiroshi Harada, the creator of the highly controversial anime adaptation of Shoujo Tsubaki, is featured in a 1992 interview where he talks about his background:
As a child, Hiroshi Harada experienced loneliness and bullying, which had a profound impact on his artistic expression. Bullying is a recurring theme in his films, including the 1985 film, The Death Lullaby. This movie marks his first independent production, following his decision to leave the animation industry in the 1970s to pursue a career as an independent animator.
As for the manga artist behind “Shōjo Tsubaki,” Suehiro Maruo, is highly regarded as a leading figure in the Erotic-grotesque genre. Born on January 28, 1956, Maruo’s distinctive art style is influenced by both Japanese Ukiyo-e prints and Western fine art. In the early days of his career, Maruo grappled with the constraints of showcasing his work in short strips for adult magazines. With these limitations, he persisted in pushing the envelope of artistic expression. Eventually, his talents were recognized by more prominent publications, allowing him to create larger and more renowned works.
Fast forward to 1987, Hiroshi Harada became intrigued with the idea of adapting Suehiro Maruo’s 1984 manga, Shōjo Tsubaki, into an anime film. Despite attempting to secure sponsors for the project, he was met with resistance due to the controversial subject matter. As a result, he was forced to take on the roles of director, screenwriter, storyboard artist, and animator, self-funding the project with his life savings and loans. Over a grueling period of five years, he worked tirelessly on the film, with only voice acting, music, and sound effects being outsourced. With an unwavering commitment to preserving the original artistic style and plotline of the manga, Hiroshi Harada painstakingly created over 5,000 sheets of animation for every single image in the movie. Such was the enormity of the task that voice recording only began in the summer of 1991, with the film finally completed by Hiroshi Harada in 1992.
Using such a straightforward “inappropriate” term to characterize this animation and its subject matter is an understatement. Art, as a means of expression and communication, can often push boundaries and challenge societal norms. However, it is important to recognize that certain limitations may be necessary, particularly when it comes to grotesque elements involving physical, psychological, gory, and sexual abuse against children and animals. These depictions can be deeply disturbing and have the potential to perpetuate harmful ideas or normalize such acts of cruelty.
Two commendable features of this anime can be highlighted: Firstly, truth be told, the artwork is quite remarkable, evoking similarities to the iconic styles of Junji Ito and Shintaro Kago. Secondly, the exceptional acting effectively conveys a sense of unease to the audience. Beyond these aspects, however, there is little else to praise.
In a video of Akidearest she shares:
if anyone wants to know, is this anime really banned in Japan? Yes, it is, but for some reason, you can still buy the manga. I guess they think that it’s a little bit more tolerable to read something than actually watch it, which kind of contradicts this. Why did we make a live-action of this, Japan? You could have literally made a live-action of anything else.akidearest in a video titled: I Reacted to Japan’s Most Banned Anime
She is right. The film was forbidden worldwide and in its nation of origin, Japan, and its recordings were obliterated because of the trauma and despair it induced in its audiences. It has since become known to be among the most contentious anime movies ever because of its themes. Despite the ban on Shoujo Tsubaki, the manga remains accessible for exploration. Interestingly, a live-action adaptation directed by Torico was released in 2016, even with the unsettling content. This is likely attributable to the film’s growing popularity among horror anime enthusiasts, who have cultivated a substantial cult following for it.
Consequently, whether or not people end up seeing this animated film is ultimately up to them. Considering anime is intended to be comforting, the spectators must constantly select their serenity above anything that can disrupt their enjoyment of the medium.