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In my few years of watching anime, I have noticed varied amounts of ecchi-ness portrayed and the corresponding censorship it generates. I mentioned "varied" because I have noted differences in censorship techniques (black/white bars, excessive lighting) and the amount dealt to the scene. For instance most non-ecchi anime have the breasts censored, some only have the nipples removed, and a quite a few bare them completely. The quite few who go the extremes may even be classified as hentai already.

Points in case (I wanted to include pics but then decided against it):

  • Partial covers: Gokukoku no Brynhildr, Infinite Stratos, Trinity Seven

  • Bared completely: HighSchool DxD, Yosuga no Sora, Elfen Lied

My question: How does Japan implement various levels of content ratings (G, PG, R18+)? Is it the production studio who applies these varying amount of censorship or is there a committee assigned that does it? Does the same apply for violence/gore censorship?

  • possible duplicate of What are the anime censorship laws in Japan? – Luffy Dec 19 '14 at 11:49
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    I don't think my answer on that question addresses the cases in this question. For these non-hentai anime, the story is more self-censorship to drive sales than censorship for legal reasons. To me, this question is different enough (though closely related) that it should probably get its own answer. – Logan M Dec 19 '14 at 13:08
  • Regarding content ratings - they're much less a big deal in Japan than in the US. Eirin is the closest equivalent for movies, but there isn't really anything like TV-Y, TV-PG, etc. for television shows. Vaguely related question: anime.stackexchange.com/q/5003/1908 – senshin Dec 19 '14 at 23:35
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Japan does not have any rating system for normal television. Some satellite television requires an 18+ age check to contract some channels.

DVD/BD and movies have a rating system similar to North America (G/PG12/R15+/R18+).

Most such censorship in anime is "self-censorship". Each TV station has a different code, and the code is different for different airing time slots. Morning anime and evening anime have more restrictions. Late night anime have less restrictions.

TV stations do not explicitly state what the code is, but the director of Bokurano wrote a blog post that says that he was asked not to show blood in the anime.

They have restrictions on blinking the screen (which can cause epileptic seizures), drinking alcohol, tobacco, violence and fanservice (ecchi) scenes.

One important group about censorship is BPO (Broadcasting Ethics & Program Improvement Organization). BPO is an organization concerned with ethics of broadcasting for all TV stations. Sometimes, they ask TV stations to remove shows which were deemed bad for children.

Another reason is the shift in animation business models. The old model got most of its profit from commercials. In that time, anime production removed entire non-compliant scenes instead of adding lighting. But recently, anime production gets more profit from DVD/BD than from commercials. They find that broadcasting a censored version and selling an uncensored version on DVD/BD is a better strategy to increase sales.

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    大変いい回答でしたので、もっとなめらかな英語にしようと思って編集しました。何らかの誤りをもたらしたのであれば、ぜひ編集あるいはコメントして下さい。 – senshin Dec 20 '14 at 9:18
  • Regarding blinking / epileptic seizures - see also anime.stackexchange.com/q/5092/1908. – senshin Dec 20 '14 at 9:19
  • nice! I didn't know anything about the blinking scenes part. Learned something today. – romcom_god Dec 20 '14 at 10:03
  • @senshin and nhahtdh, Thanks for grammar fixing. That's a reason I post some answers to this site. – kumagoro Dec 21 '14 at 4:50
  • @romcom_god The code of blinking (and notice ) was added after Pokemon shock. – kumagoro Dec 21 '14 at 4:53
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kumagoro's answer is relatively good when it comes to mandated censorship, but there's another common case of voluntary "censorship" which is done voluntarily by production studios. For ecchi anime like the ones listed in the OP I think this is likely at least as common as any other reason for censorship.

The majority of television anime which get this treatment are late night shows. These late night shows operate in a very different way from traditional shows; they have to buy their own airtime from stations and rely on some combination of DVD sales and revenue sharing with the original source material. Because of the time slot and the fact that they are purchasing the airtime themselves, most of the broadcast guidelines simply don't apply. There is some more information on this at Why does anime usually air at night in Japan?. In any case, at the end of the day, most series need to sell DVDs to make a profit. The TV-aired version is essentially an expensive, high-quality advertisement for the DVDs and the source material.

The trend we've started to see with the rise of late-night anime is an increase in self-censorship. Most commonly, this is just airbrushing over shots with fanservice or with various other techniques. These are characteristic of the TV versions; such censorship is removed for the final DVD releases. Among the examples you listed, I'm quite sure that the DVDs of both Gokukoku no Brynhildr and Infinite Stratos have uncensored nudity. Trinity Seven possibly will as well, but I haven't seen any of the DVDs yet (the first just came out yesterday) so I can't confirm this. By censoring the TV release, this makes consumers more likely to spend the (rather large amount of) money required to purchase the full version. There's also been a rise in DVD bonus features and DVD-only episodes for similar reasons. So, to first approximation, the reason such censorship exists is because studios stand to make money from it.


Nowadays, the unusual cases are the ones where the TV broadcast is uncensored, like High School DxD. In most cases like this, only the broadcast on certain stations is uncensored or with reduced censorship. The most notable such station is probably AT-X, a premium channel which airs anime. They're known for having lower censorship, partly because of the premium status. In many cases, these shows air both on regular stations (in a fully censored form) and on a premium channel like AT-X in a partially- or fully-uncensored form. It's generally assumed that in such cases some agreement is made between such stations and the producers which is mutually beneficial, though the details of such agreements are private. Also note that even in the case of shows like High School DxD which aired on TV with essentially no censorship, there were modifications made to the final DVD product and short specials added to boost sales.

Interestingly, overseas simulcast companies like Crunchyroll also make agreements with producers to air their content outside Japan. Since DVD sales overseas aren't such a concern, the version they give to these streaming companies is sometimes less censored than the Japanese TV version. One recent case of this was Rail Wars!, for which the Crunchyroll version had far more uncensored underwear shots than the Japanese broadcast versions (but still no nudity, which was present in the DVD releases). This drew the ire of many Japanese commenters on various internet message boards.


I should state that this really only applies to TV anime, which is pretty much the only place you see this anyway. It doesn't apply to hentai series, which almost always release directly to DVD. Such shows are basically always uncensored, except insofar as they are required to be censored by the law. Likewise, OVAs and specials aren't typically censored in the way I described above, since those are finished products. If you see censorship in other places, it's probably for other reasons, but for the series you're talking about this is the explanation.

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