Piracy – Anime’s New Warning Label

When Crunchyroll began streaming this season’s Charger Girl Ju-den Chan, it created quite a stir. The original show pushed the boundaries of all decency and featured nudity, violence against women, massive crotch shots, and probably the worst taboo of them all… urination! But on top of that, Crunchyroll sparked even more fury from the fans by showing a censored version of the series on their streaming service.

But I think a lot of folks sort of missed the one part of Ju-den Chan that I found the most interesting and shocking of the whole series-

The anti-piracy warning at the start of each episode.

Warning messages are something that anime fans have gotten used to for well over a decade. In late 1997, an episode of Pokémon featured a strobe effect that caused hundreds of children to feel dizzy and then be rushed to the hospital.

While only a small fraction of those children actually suffered from epileptic seizures, the “Pokémon Shock” caused a wide spread panic across the country that demanded anime be safe and sanitized for the sake of the public. So strobe effects were no longer used in the medium from that point on, and many TV shows began with the following warning message:

“Please be sure to watch anime in a well lit room and at a safe distance away from the TV.”

Of course, I guess if you were to watch anime on the big screen in a darken movie theater, you were probably doomed to just break into seizures right there in your seat. 😉

It was a ridiculous warning for an overreaction to an isolated incident, but these warning messages became a staple in anime culture since then. And while some series just brushed it off with some text on the screen, other series had fun with it.

Both Full Moon and Hayate the Combat Butler had a little skit at the start of each episode showing one character advising the other to move away from their TV sets. The series School Rumble, on the other hand, actually made a parody of the warning by having its characters suddenly bring it up in odd and comical moments before each episode.

But it’s been well over a decade since the Pokémon Shock, and there has not been a single case of children suffering from epileptic seizures since then, so the need for a warning has started to fade away from public concern. Apparently it’s been replaced by a new issue currently plaguing the Japanese anime industry.

The Charger Girl warnings are very similar to School Rumble’s seizure warnings. Every episode, a different character, usually in a sexy or provocative way, says something to the effect of:

“Lately, many people have been downloading their TV shows over the internet without the right holders’ permission. Distribution via the internet or bootlegs is illegal. Please remember that.”

It’s rather direct and to the point, and it really stands out given the sexy way the characters say it. But does the message get out to the people that need to hear it?

Well, when I asked the Twitter community what they thought of the warnings, many appeared to be unaware of what I was talking about. It seems the “raw” video of each episode that was originally uploaded to the internet had the warning message edited out. So when the many fans download the fansub illegally later on, they never get to see the message at all.

So right now, it looks like the warning is simply preaching to the choir that is already watching the show in a legal and legitimate matter. But it still provides evidence that the Japanese are well aware of the piracy problem, and they are now publicly denouncing it for the world to see. This disproves the common fan belief that the original Japanese companies don’t care about piracy so it’s perfectly fine to download it.

I’ll be interested to see how many other shows begin to display these anti-piracy warnings before each episode. Perhaps in a year or two, they will become just as common and recognizable in the anime community as the seizure warnings have been for the past decade.

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