Zhang Xiran, exiting the Rangiora Courthouse in Christchurch. Photo from Stuff.co.nz.
A 22-year-old Chinese male studying engineering in New Zealand has hit the Eternal Shame jackpot, after he was caught with a stash of 10 anime porn DVD’s in his luggage at Auckland Airport.
Zhang Xiran, a first-year engineering student at the University of Canterbury, pleaded guilty to five counts of importing prohibited goods, and was given extra time to deal with unnamed “issues” by a Christchurch District Court judge during his trial on Wednesday.
The offending items in question included hentai depictions of rape, abuse and “bestiality involving eels”.
Judge Raoul Neave said that Zhang, who flew to Auckland from Shanghai Pudong International Airport on an Air New Zealand flight, would not be granted a discharge without conviction until Zhang addressed some unnamed “issues” that came to light in his pre-sentencing report.
Meanwhile, the prosecution has recommended supervision as punishment for the offense, and Zhang has had in his student visa suspended for the time being.
So what exactly could these so-called “issues” be? A quiet sexually frustrated/repressed adult Asian male happens to consume materials from a thriving sexually explicit sub-genre of anime?
That sort of thing barely merits a shrug in certain Asian countries, and can even arguably count as one of Japan’s significant cultural exports to the world.
Eel-porn: Unacceptable kink?
Considering the fact that eel-porn (which is its own genre within the hentai sub-genre of anime) has had hipster-deviant cred thrown its way from places like Vice, and gets comparisons to classical Japanese art of Hokusai, it can get a little gray as to whether or not Zhang can really be deemed an individual with disturbing baggage.
It sounds to us more like a case of an individual being caught for something that plenty of people do on a regular and semi-illegal basis. To wit, downloading free music has always been illegal, but a woman who gets fined $1.9 million USD for grabbing 24 songs is just simply bad luck, a case of one person getting caught for something that isn’t exactly uncommon.
Not to say that we disagree with New Zealand Courts’ arresting and trying of Zhang, but we can’t help but think that he’s a bit confused by the whole affair, and that he’s blaming himself for being unlucky and careless, rather than being a perverted fiend. Though pornography is illegal in China (just like prostitution), that doesn’t exactly stop it and its animated varieties from being commonplace and easily obtainable.
Even something as egregious as sex and children are regularly combined in countries like Japan and elsewhere, and we saw the the two’s unsettling intersection recently when we visited the Comics and Games Expo.
Children were there for the fuzzy animals and their favorite cartoon characters, while models repping game companies were showing off their globular wares in clothing that emphasized certain three-dimensional aspects for the fanboys. And that’s not even mentioning the actual hentai-esque fare available for viewing purchase at the kid-filled convention.
So is Zhang a legitimately disturbed individual who enjoys watching depictions of sexual violence involving eels, or is he merely a poor sap who doesn’t deviate from certain sexual norms prevalent in other countries?
And if it is the latter, then is that an even more disturbing notion to contend with?
We’re curious if the right to enjoy eel-porn would ever become a cultural autonomy issue like, say, the right to slaughter dolphins, whales (for research purposes, of course!) and dogs. Last year, manga animators (including Doraemon co-creator Fujiko Fujio) protested against new laws that would outlaw the depiction of anyone even resembling a minor:
Any character that regardless of actual age has an appearance of being under 18, and has a possibility of causing youths to lust for or possibility of bringing this fantasy to real life, will have to be censored.
Would anyone ever protest and stand up for Zhang, declaring him to be a victim of differing cultural norms, or is eel-porn simply a cul-de-sac of smut too heinous to be legal in a Western liberal democracy like New Zealand?
We do have to chide him for being stupid enough to actually have illicit materials in disc form. Google has rendered everything universal accessible, and this fact (apart from making Zhang look stupid) incidentally makes the whole issue of porn importation rather complicated.