Shonen Jump, a monthly manga magazine used to preview the books of manga publisher Viz LLC, sparked a controversy after a Florida grade school teacher complained that a copy of the magazine purchased by a fifth grade student at a Scholastic Book Fair contained inappropriate content. A Viz spokesperson told PW that the material was clearly rated for older teen readers and added that it should not have been made available at the fair. About 18,000 copies of the magazine (out of 120,000 copies offered through the fairs) have been returned.
While Japanese comics (or manga) are very popular among younger children and older teens, differing cultural interpretations of the content has the potential to cause problems. According to published reports, complaints about Yuyu Hakasho, a comic strip featured in Shonen Jump, led to the publication being pulled. The teacher is reported to have complained that one character had a "swastika" on its head and that another was depicted smoking a cigarette. There were also reported to be complaints about violence and mild profanity.
Evelyn Dubocq, a spokesperson for Viz, said, "The book was presented to younger kids, but the magazine and books are clearly marked on the cover for older teens." Dubocq told PW, "We believe in ratings. It is the responsibility of the person in the classroom to make sure the rating is appropriate for their students." Dubocq disputed the cigarette-smoking character complaint ("the character uses a cigarette to light his way; he never smokes") and said that there was no swastika in the comic. "It is an ancient Buddhist symbol called a manji," she said, "and there is a disclaimer in the book that explains its meaning in Japanese culture."
Alan Boyko, senior v-p of Scholastic Book Fairs, told PW, "In this instance we missed a few things that were questionable." He noted that even though the book was labeled for teens, "who knows what 'teen' means?" Boyko also emphasized that while Scholastic was accepting returns, the company will continue to offer manga publications. "We have a good relationship with Viz," Boyko said. "Manga is a very popular art style. We're competing against videogames and movies, and we want to attract boy readers. When we find something that kids like, we're going to offer it."