You sit in front of you television with your controller in hand, palms sweaty. You knew this moment was coming—a character is about to die. The blade inches closer and closer to the characters abdomen and you are already cringing but you can’t look away. The spinning blade is seconds away from cutting into flesh when—the screen goes black.
The latest game to be added to the list of censored items in Japan is Until Dawn. When I first read the article about Japan cutting a few gore filled scenes in the survival horror video game I was a bit shocked. I always had this idea of Japan being pretty accepting of gore. Take for example some of their own works that in my opinion seem far more graphic. Lesson of Evil, Battle Royale, and even the violence they allow in their manga Berserk. In then end, it really all falls to Japan’s laws of censorship. Article 175 of Japan’s Criminal Code (translated) is the following:
“Any person who distributes, sells or publicly displays an obscene writing, picture or other materials shall be punished with penal servitude for not more than two years or be fined not more than two million and a half yen or minor fine. The same shall apply to any person who possesses the same with the intention of selling it.”
The irony to this is that Article 21 of the Japanese constitution prohibits censorship. However, after reading Article 175 it’s hard to call it anything else. Even the way the article is written is open to a wide array of interpretations. What is classified as ‘obscene’? Why can the violence in Battle Royale play out while a videogame is left cutting to a black screen? From what I have gathered, it keeps returning back to Article 175. This article is used most often for Japanese Pornography. Making sure to censor the really sexual explicit moments. Again, because this is written so vaguely, the word ‘obscene’ can be talked about in not just sexual themes, but also about gore, violence, or any other racy topic of conversation.
Then on Monday, November 22nd, 2011, Bill 156 was passed banning:
“Any material that may be detrimental toward the healthy development of youth because of their capacity to be sexually stimulating, encourages cruelty, and/or may compel suicide or criminal behavior.” – Dan Kanemitsu’s Paper Trail
It is now nearing the end of 2015 and Bill 156 didn’t seem to do too much—granted the Bill is really only referring to content in Tokyo—but weather it is through Bill 156 or Article 175 video games seem to continue to be affected. Resident Evil 4 no longer shows decapitations or other portrayals of gory death, Resistance: Fall of Man and Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune has blood removed from the game. However, some of these games like Resident Evil 4 which came on in 2005, was censored in a time before Bill 156 was even passed and thus going off of Article 175. Still, the censorship in Supermassive Games’ Until Dawn is by far the biggest and most vocal upset. Until Dawn treads familiar horror genre ground in that it tells the story of a group of eight friends who become trapped in a remote mountain lodge and quickly find themselves fighting for their lives as they are picked off one by one in pretty violent and graphic displays. In Japan though, the gore isn’t there and Japan fans are going nuts over this censorship.
“I just want the death scenes to be viewable to us Japan gamers, make it less gory? That’s fine as long as we see the deaths then we’re happy for now,” said YouTube user JeyVGaming. I must say that while I agree that Japanese gamers should be able to see all the gore and graphic visuals of the game, editing our game is taking away from the developers main idea for a scary gore filled horror game. Japanese gamers are so upset in fact that while the game is scoring a 4/5 in the states, it is only getting a startling 2.5/5 in Japan.
The thing that gets me is also how this game is censored in Japan. The screen doesn’t just go black, but instead the audio is still intact so while you stare at the black screen you can still hear the haunting and tantalizing yells of your digital friends getting slaughtered. At least Japan did allow this death to go uncensored:
It’s a shame that such censorship exists, because I like to believe it is the gamers right to choose to play a video game and see all the graphic details the game has to offer. While some censorship is tasteful, like in Fallout 3 where “Fat Man” nuclear catapult weapon was renamed “Nuka Launcher”, as the original name was a reference to the bomb used on Nagasaki. I believe that graphic scenes can make a game and it should be the choice of the player whether they wish to encounter such visual details.