Enjoying Manga/Anime in Thailand

I’m Thai although I have been living abroad for six years, and my passion for manga and anime developed there. I have come back to live in Thailand now, for two years at least. The first question I asked myself was “Will I be able to enjoy manga and anime like I used to?”

Perhaps more so that I thought I would be able to:

  • Manga is prevalent here. Local publishers are capable of licensing many promising titles, and a tankoubon sold at about 40 baht (about $1.5 or 200 Yen), which is 6 times cheaper than in the U.S., and 2 times cheaper than in Japan. I am currently being able to enjoy Himatsubushi-hen and Kurogane no Line Barrel, two titles not licensed in the US yet, thanks to them. However, I get frequently annoyed by the translation quality.
  • We also have light novels. Shinigami no ballad has been translated up to Volume 3, and Shakugan no Shana will be published momentarily.
  • Anime DVDs are sold for about 300 baht ($10 or 1200 Yen) with Thai and Japanese audio with Thai subtitle. Nanoha series and the two semesters of School Rumbles have been licensed and published. There are also anime VCDs sold for only half the DVD’s price, but the absence of the Japanese track would shy me away from consuming them.
  • There are at least three doujinshi events yearly, which I have yet to check out.

But there were some times I thought that Thailand was not a good place to be:

  • The government has been exercised its power to censor websites and other medias they deem inappropriate for public morality. Youtube is banned because it contains video clips of some anonymous dude defacing the King’s pictures. Films are controlled and censored by a board consists of only conservative officials who fear that they would lose positions or face charges if they don’t flex their muscles enough. By the way, there’s no rating system in Thailand. It’s either banned or not banned.
  • The new Electronics Crime Bill was recently passed and enforced by the junta. Although the bill itself would outlaw government censorship of websites (but the Youtube block has not been lifted! Damn it!), it has a lot of mandates that makes me worried about my online privacy. My traffic to and fro the Internet would be recorded by ISPs for at least 90 days, and any police officer wold be able to obtain the information without subpoena. The bill also orders that ISPs keeps information such as national ID number, address, and credit card information of customers ready for the purpose of investigation. Odex would be pleased if it were a Thai company. (Although I think something like the Odex controversy is very unlikely to happen here because the prices of anime goods are attractive enough for most people.)
  • The attitude of the people in general is very conservative. Lolitron has this covered. This would not only mean that it would be a long time before I can buy adult doujinshis in a convention in Thailand, but also that some dude might be fired from his job only because he possesses some.

In terms of access to Japanese materials, Thailand is probably one of the best places on earth to live other than Japan itself. The access, however, is not free (as in freedom) but rather a controlled one, and is to a large degree affected by the mood of the general public and some bureaucrats I don’t even know. What if some day the censor panel think Negima or Toloveru is too risque for the children? What if they think Elfen Lied is too graphic? Can I write about ero doujinshi or eroge in my blog? It’s all too uncertain now, but at least I can only hope that the next election would bring more freedom and more appropriate mechanisms to protect my privacy than what currently is available at the moment.

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One Comment

  1. Posted July 20, 2007 at 5:05 am | Permalink

    Haha excellent post… I had no idea Thailand had such deep titles such as Higurashi’s Himatsubushi-hen licensed. Looks like Singapore is the only asian country anal-minded enough to get all the fucked up titles.

    And there’s always ODEX pissing us off with the narrow-minded policing of anime in Singapore. Majority of the discussion has been covered over at DarkMirage’s blog a month ago though…

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