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As I have been watching anime, I have found that a lot of the more modern shows which contain content not suitable for TV viewing use bright light to censor bodily parts, overly violent/bloody imagery, etc.

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When I watch older shows, like Evangellion below, there are also scenes that are inappropriate for viewing, but the shows usually solve this by conveniently placed items or viewing angles.

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In some other shows, there are also placeholder images which are sometimes placed on top of the area to be censored, a sort of combination between the two.

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But at least these two alternatives are usually slightly humorous and do not feel overly forced, whereas bright light from nowhere usually breaks my immersion with its very unnatural feel.

I find some shows have become unwatchable because of this trend - I dropped Tokyo Ghoul recently to wait for the DVD release, because I couldn't tell what was happening in certain scenes (lack of light in this instance, but same concept).

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Where has this trend come from and which anime was first to include it?

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TV Tropes has a page on the shadow censorship, which is essentially the same thing. The basic idea comes from overall censorship laws, such as exist in Japan. As this article mentions, a common means of censoring genitals is a "mozaiku" or mosaic, which is pretty much just a pixelization of the area. This page talks about the airbrushing over of female genitalia in pornography magazines.

The white bars (or shadows) seems to be, from what I can tell, attempts to censor genitalia (and sometimes violence/gore) in relatively unobtrusive ways. Shadows and light flares can more easily pass for being just a part of the scene than random people's faces, black bars, blurring, or pixelization. Similar things happen in this, for example, where clouds obscure Naruto's jutsu.

The light flares are also sometimes used to block faces or people, especially in pictures, though that it more of an in-universe censorship (when they're dead or need to be kept a secret, etc.) than censorship because of the law.

As for why not all of them are done in the way that the Neon Genesis Evangelion scene was done, I have two answers. The first is that it is often done for laughs or to add comedic effect, which is not necessarily what is being aimed towards in gory or sexy scenes. The second is that it is not always practical. A lot of work would need to be put in to making some scenes be able to always have something in front of the genitalia or wounds of the character, while light bars, shadows, or clouds are a lot easier.

As for which anime had it first, I currently can't find that, but I thought it would be more helpful to post this at least.

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