Nobuhiro Watsuki tells police “I liked girls between the ages of upper elementary school students to about the second year of junior high.”

On November 21 the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department announced that Nobuhiro Watsuki, manga artist/author and original creator of popular anime series Rurouni Kenshin, is under investigation for child pornography charges.

During a separate investigation, the authorities came across information indicating that the 47-year-old Watsuki (whose birth name is Nobuhiro Nishiwaki) had purchased videos featuring naked 15-year-old or younger girls (the Japanese term used in the report is juudai zenhan, which can refer to any age between 10 and 15). A subsequent search of Watsuki’s Tokyo office and home resulted in the discovery of approximately 100 DVDs and CDs which were seized by the police.

Watsuki has not been formally arrested, but has admitted to being in possession of the material, telling the police “I liked girls between the ages of upper elementary school students to about the second year of junior high.” Elementary school lasts six years in the Japanese school system, making second-year junior high students either 13 or 14 years old.

The charge being brought against Watsuki is a Simple Possession violation of the Child Prostitution and Child Pornography Law (as opposed to charges of producing or distributing the material). The exact statute, in its current form, went into effect in 2015 and carries a penalty of up to one year imprisonment or a fine of one million yen (US$8,900).

The development comes as Rurouni Kenshin, one of the most popular anime/manga series of the 1990s, and an influential title in the development of overseas fandom, is in the middle of a renewed wave of relevance. In addition to a successful live-action movie adaptation trilogy and a stage musical version, the Rurouni Kenshin manga once again began serialization just a few months ago, as Watsuki returned to the story (which originally ended in 1999) to write and draw its new “Hokkaido Arc.”

Only three chapters of the Hokkaido Arc have been published so far in monthly manga anthology Jump Square, but published Shueisha is suspending its serialization indefinitely, having released the statement:

“We received the report, and as a company, we take it very seriously. The author is deeply remorseful. The Rurouni Kenshin Hokkaido Arc, which is being serialized in Jump Square, will be put on hiatus as of the December 4 issue.”

The development comes as a shock to many Rurouni Kenshin fans, given that the series has long had a largely chaste, non-sexualized atmosphere, as opposed to many other action series that run in boys’ manga anthologies. Given how much of the creative force and approval rights for manga series reside with the original creator in Japan, and how quick Japanese publishers are to distance themselves from any connection to criminal activity, the charges against Watsuki could end up having very significant implications not only for new Rurouni Kenshin products, but for the availability and continued printing of its back catalogue as well.

Sources: Yomiuri Online, J-Cast, Nippon Television News 24, Kyodo Tsuhin 47 News, Asahi Shimbun Digital
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