JAST USA is censoring Shiny Days, but angry fans should think twice before lashing out at JAST. JAST promises a solution that should satisfy everyone.
To the great consternation of fans, JAST has announced that it will be censoring its upcoming release of Shiny Days, alternate universe prequel to bestselling interactive movie School Days. As feared, ero-scenes involving Kotonoha’s “underaged” younger sister Kokoro and her classmate will be cut from the official release (slated for release on September 25th).
|Kokoro Katsura from Shiny Days|
The official stance
From their official forum announcement:
… some content will not be included with our shipping version, principally a few specific scenes with Kokoro and her classmate are being omitted. All other game content is included, and all visuals are 100% uncensored and mosaic free. We hope fans will be understanding of the need to not have these scenes in the shipping version, which we have to do both to avoid problems for ourselves and our customers as well as visual novels as a wider genre, which are really beginning to take off in popularity.
… none of us on the team have any moral objections to the content for Shiny [Days]…
JAST USA is.. well.. a US company, but they sell and export their games worldwide. Censoring or cutting content out of a game is never an easy decision, but we had to do it to comply with various international laws. Just because it’s a grey area in the US or legal elsewhere doesn’t mean we can apply this standard across the board.
Back with School Days HQ, [Sekai Project] hosted a survey asking people what content is illegal in their respective countries. Underage, bestiality and rape content were the top 3 in results. While I don’t agree on cutting these out, we are obliged to in order to sell to these countries.
I understand why people would be angry about this censorship and their justification of not buying the game, but at the same time I don’t want to play chicken with criminal code and be put on a registered sex offenders list.
Personal views of freedom of speech and censorship don’t mean anything when we have staff who are in countries where [child porn] laws not only exist but are used to prosecute individuals who are in possession of such content. The above is not only a risk but a serious safety concern for staff and customers. It would be immoral to ask our staff to become martyrs and put their safety and futures at risk just to localize one game…
A JAST staff member further elaborated on legal specifics, explaining why this particular title had to be censored--even though titles with similar content had previously been released uncut.
… Canadian staff [working with us] are scare[d] since the incident of the Canadian eroge staff member [getting detained and charged for importing obscene material]. Their involvement in the distribution of similar material could result in problems for them, and it’d be immoral for us to put our staff at risk for customer or company gain.
On the US State side, our company is at risk under California Penal Code 186.2.3 as defined by 311.2, with the crux of a hypothetical court case being the literary and artistic value of the game based on not our standards but “contemporary community standards.” LWR and Song of Saya have themes, gameplay and stories that are easier to defend than those within Shiny Days when taken as a whole...
To clarify rumors that have been buzzing around: both the digital and physical official releases will be censored. “Shipping version” in the official announcement didn’t mean what wishful thinkers thought it did.
The extent of cuts
Several ero-scenes involving Kokoro and her classmate will be removed from the official release. In addition, further edits may be necessary since these scenes are referenced in a wider story arc involving Kotonoha and her mother Manami. The School Days series is well known for its twisted drama, and there’s little doubt that any edits could impact the drama in this story arc (one of many potential paths in the greater work). JAST doesn’t have the resources to make more than minor changes to an interactive movie, so likely the explicit scenes will not be shown to the player, but they’ll be implied to have occurred off-screen.
JAST is removing the loli content from Shiny Days… or are they?
Given the above, it seems like JAST is dead-set on censoring the loli content in Shiny Days to protect themselves and their customers. This is their official stance for the official release. However, as with censored fetish nukige Starless, they’ve dropped hints that fans should look forward to an unofficial uncut release.
From the official forum announcement:
While there will not be any kind of official patch to fix these scenes by us, we’re confident the Internet will make such a patch for fans who want this content back in the game.(Note that this part was in a smaller font than the rest of the message, a subtle hint that there’s more to this than what they’re letting on.)
Peter Payne, chief of JAST and J-List, added less subtly in a fit of exasperation:
…I am all but saying there’ll be a 99.9% official patch through unofficial channels…This isn't the first time JAST has censored a game and promised fans would be "more than happy with the result". A decensor patch for Starless was stealthily released several hours before the official download went live–with demosaiced art in the restored scenes.
My reaction to Shiny Days’ censorship
I was extremely disappointed when I saw this announcement. I’m a huge fan of the School Days series, and I’ve been looking forward to Shiny Days for several years now. I even went and played Cross Days in Japanese to tide me over til this release. I’ve previously posted about my stance against censorship relating to MoeNovel’s ill-conceived release of If my Heart had Wings. I’m also a lolicon, and the particular content being cut is directly relevant to my interests.
How is the censorship of Shiny Days different? Why should we boycott MoeNovel and support JAST?
MoeNovel committed the most despicable kind of censorship: voluntary censorship to reach an audience that chooses to boycott the content in the original work (i.e., the sexual content). They did this purely for marketing reasons: they thought that removing the ero content would allow them access to traditional marketing channels that would allow them to reach a wider audience and achieve more sales. They essentially turned their back on the Western fanbase that wanted to enjoy the same work that Japanese fans had enjoyed. They chose to target casual mainstream VN readers with a censored game over the existing eroge fanbase with the original game.
JAST is censoring Shiny Days for legal reasons: this is coerced or state-sponsored censorship. It is a fact that virtual child pornography is illegal in English-speaking territories (e.g., Canada, United Kingdom, Australia) where JAST does business. It is a fact that JAST USA employs contractors from all around the world where the content in games like Shiny Days is not allowed.
But most of all, JAST is not abandoning its fans. They have to maintain a facade of plausible deniability. They’re unlikely to be prosecuted in the US over content in Shiny Days, but it’s still possible. Christopher Handley of Iowa was charged under US federal statutes and sentenced to 6 months in jail in 2010 for obscene manga including sexually-explicit “depictions of children”. Understandably, JAST doesn’t want to become a test case for the newest version of the US Protect Act. They can’t officially acknowledge they’re working to put an uncut version in the hands of fans, but they’ve done what they can to reassure fans that they’ll be happy with the end result.
Why taking a hardline anti-censorship stance is dangerous for freedom of speech
I understand that many people, especially Americans, are vehemently anti-censorship. They refuse to buy any work that has been altered for political or social reasons, or support the companies that do so. This is a perfectly fine as a general principle, but we must understand that general principles are a guide for decision making and that they ignore extenuating circumstances. Threat of legal action is a valid extenuating circumstance. Yes, censorship is evil. Blame the US government for putting these laws in the books. Blame other governments for having even more draconian laws. Don’t shoot the messenger for bowing to the threat of force.
What people need to understand is that as long as JAST believes there is a credible legal threat (and if those quotes at the start don’t convince you they do, I don’t know what will), infringing content will NOT be officially released. Shiny Days could sell 0 copies and bankrupt JAST, and it still wouldn’t change their mind. At this point, JAST has two options:
- Release Shiny Days and similar titles with cut content, then work behind the scenes to make a restoration patch available for fans who know where to look.
- Don’t release titles with legally questionable content.
How partial censorship could serve a legitimate purpose
Censorship is evil. Partial censorship of a work is the lesser of two evils, when the alternative is that the work won’t be released at all. Partial censorship followed by restoration of the cut content isn’t ideal, but it could also serve a rather sneaky purpose.
Consider that you’re an eroge fan living in Canada, which has strict rules regarding importation of virtual child pornography. You’re a collector, and won’t settle for anything less than a boxed collector’s edition of Shiny Days. On one hand, you could import an uncensored version of Shiny Days and risk legal action when customs inspects your package. On the other hand, you could import a censored version which poses no legal risk, then download a patch to restore the cut content. In other words, you could smuggle contraband into the country by separating out the illegal content and obtaining it from a safer source, then recombining it at its destination. That’s a classic and effective tactic taken out of the Smuggler’s Handbook.
The latter option is a crafty way to “stick it to the man” while minimizing personal risk. From a certain perspective, JAST would essentially be providing eroge laundering services free of charge! Annoying if you live in the US, but actually pretty useful if you live in an Orwellian dystopia like the United Kingdom.
My advice to concerned fans
Trust JAST to do good by its fans. This is the same company that released Song of Saya and Littlewitch Romanesque completely uncensored (not only that, but they had the guts to put a loli raising sim on Steam, which is a hilarious victory for
But don’t demand too loudly that JAST stop censoring its releases, or they might just listen. Be careful what you wish for. Vehement opposition of censorship, targeted in the wrong direction, can just as easily restrict freedom of speech as enable it.
For those who trust JAST to restore the cut content, Shiny Days is available for preorder at J-List, and is slated for release September 25, 2015. Keep an eye on the VNDB release page for Shiny Days, which should be updated when the content restoration patch is released.
To my valued readers
If you liked this article, check out some of the adult visual novels on J-List (especially Shiny Days prequel School Days), browse my other articles in the Popular Posts section, and feel free to follow me on Twitter.