Anime Film Scripting Traditions (c. 2022)

Cultural Barrier:  Japanese film-makers are not allowed to depict adult-themed story elements.  Japanese film censorship is based on cultural beliefs (not legal beliefs).  Bureaucrats and religious leaders decide what is ‘culturally acceptable’, and politicians make that law.  ALL films are considered Public Displays because audiences see and hear anything depicted in the film, in large enough numbers to be regarded AS the public.  No allowance is made for fictional stories told in films.  In real life, Japanese can do or say anything in private, but since everything in a film is officially public, Japanese films can’t show any adult content because that is culturally offensive in a public place (a film), or show events that are not real.  This is effectively a Privacy Ban.
Foreign films show characters acting out emotional and social story elements so audiences can see what they think and feel.  For cultural reasons, that would be unacceptable for Japanese characters in a public place (a film).  Unlike books, film is a VISUAL story-telling medium, so all story elements must be SHOWN.  Japanese cultural beliefs are unlikely to change, so unless film censorship rules are relaxed, Anime is a lost cause, really...  very unlikely to tell adult stories well.
  Anime art-style is visibly artifical, but NOT cartoony, so can tell adult-themed stories convincingly.  Audiences accept characters as substitutes for real people.
  For Anime stories set in Japan, characters ALWAYS behave politely and very formally, because they are ALWAYS in public (a film).  Expressing ‘private’ thoughts or emotions is culturally offensive in public.  Film audiences, therefore, can’t follow adult-themed stories with emotional content.
  To avoid SHOWING anything culturally offensive, Anime scripts usually use Shinto’s ‘Spirit World’ magic as a metaphor.  This keeps ‘rude’ stuff out of sight, but also ruins all adult credibility.  International audiences, with different cultural heritage and reality values than Japanese audiences, just have to guess.
  Extreme Understatement is often used, showing a possible story influence, with audiences then expected to imagine a following effect.  But if adult audiences SEE nothing happen, they logically conclude that nothing did happen.  It’s a film, after all – a story – all story elements need to be shown in some way.

To compete with foreign films, either a Fiction Disclaimer (that the film does not represent reality) or a relaxation of the Privacy Ban (or both) is needed.  Then, like in all foreign films, at least some adult-themed story elements could be shown.  Otherwise, Anime will be forced to return to making only kids’ films.  Excellent Anime art style is a good foundation...  but beautiful images with very vague, ineffective story-telling is a hopeless combination.

Possible solutions:  Here are some ways to show adult-themed or emotional story elements WITHOUT offending Japanese cultural purists:

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