Discussion: Would you travel with your smutty manga?

Having just purchased an iPad, taken a trip and heard about other manga blogger’s support of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF, for short) during NYAF/NYCC, I wanted to discuss traveling with manga.

I never bring manga that would cause problems on a trip with me. After all, I wouldn’t read manga like Sundome anywhere near my mother, who is my usual travel companion. I don’t own too many manga that are much more explicit than Sundome, so I figured I could always explain your standard shoujo romance in terms that didn’t paint me as some kind of pedophile.

Then I downloaded Ai Ore onto my iPad…

Not that Ai Ore is a bad manga, but I wound up reading it on the plane ride home and got a little embarrassed about it. I had completely forgotten how smutty Mayu Shinjo manga is and, despite the fact that no one actually had sex in the volume I purchased, I wasn’t sure I could explain it away to a suspicious customs agent. (There was non-con, underage kids cross-dressing, a lot of flashing, etc.)

And, with the manga-related customs case going on in Canada right now, it makes me a little more nervous to travel with manga, especially since I travel to a lot of countries where they might be less forgiving and where I might not speak the language.

Even though Ai Ore probably wouldn’t get me into too much trouble in Canada, judging by the list of comics they’ve prohibited before, I’m definitely going to be deleting any smutty manga or comics from my apps before I go through customs. Thank goodness you can just re-download your purchases later.

What do you think? Would you travel internationally (or domestically, since TSA can still search your possessions for anything they deem suspicious) with risque manga? Which do you think would be a safer medium to carry, print or digital?

For that matter, do you think you could convince a customs agent that manga is a non-threatening work of art? How would you go about explaining the differences between manga tropes and those of contemporary Western fiction?




About Daniella Orihuela-Gruber

Daniella is a freelance manga editor and blogger. She likes collecting out of print manga and playing with her puppy. Yes, someone got her a puppy already.
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12 Responses to Discussion: Would you travel with your smutty manga?

  1. kk says:

    Eh, I’m sure people travel with their (probably some illegal/problematic) porn on their hard drives all the time. Whos gonna check whats in everybody’s hard drives?

    • Canada, apparently. I’m sure they don’t check everyone’s hard drives, but just the idea that customs could check yours and charge you as a sex offender just for having some comics they disagree with is scary. Since taste is highly subjective and some countries seem to think having a drawing of a potentially criminal sexual act is equal to having photography or video of a potentially criminal sexual act, one should be cautious.

      That being said, I’m sure most people really do travel with porn on their laptops, smart phones, hard drives and tablets all the time. It’s still someone thing that people should be aware and careful of while traveling. Some countries just aren’t very accepting of certain sexual tendencies.

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  3. Well, there was that one time on a school trip when I brought along Bride of the Water God (which is a little steamy/smutty, not something I would have wanted my teachers to see anyway) and my friend and I were reading it so I guess the answer is yes I would probably do it. XD

  4. CRO says:

    As a Canadian I always feel concerned about this whole cross border manga thing. I hope that my country isn’t as difficult as it is made out to be. Ai Ore is available for sale in all of the mainstream book stores here and I would like to think if you can buy it here, then it couldn’t possibly be a problem to bring across the boarder. I’d like to think so anyway. That being said, I probably won’t be going cross-border shopping for the cheaper priced manga in the US if there is any chance that could be trouble bringing it home.

    What I hate is the border making me feel bad just because I read manga, and I don’t even read the smutty stuff.

    • Aside from this customs case, I definitely don’t think traveling to Canada is difficult. It’s just a little weird that such a liberal country (as far as I can tell) is so harsh on comics that involve sex.
      Ai Ore was really just an example because it made me a bit embarrassed to be reading it in a public place and nervous that someone would look at the manga the wrong way.

      I think most of us don’t read the really smutty stuff either, but it’s just the idea that you could be prosecuted for liking to read a comic that depicts a certain sexual act.

  5. Kris says:

    Honestly, traveling across country borders, I wouldn’t carry anything remotely smutty in print or on a digital device. I just won’t take that chance. ESPECIALLY with yaoi. I don’t mind reading it around (as long as the cover isn’t blatantly obvious or offensive), but I’m not going to risk getting arrested for carrying a manga like Great Place High School Student Council across a border (not that I would; I hate it…but it’s a perfect example since even the title states it’s about high school students, and it’s filled with sex).

    However, in terms of just having it in public…well, I’m probably not going to read something as explicit as Ludwig or…just about any Yoshinaga yaoi title…on a bus (where anyone can see) or at a family gathering (where it would offend people). But otherwise, I’m not embarrassed by it. Unless of course it’s reeaaaally steamy, but my cheeks are always flushed anyway, so maybe no one would notice. ^_^

    • I honestly wouldn’t have been embarrassed about Ai Ore if I was reading it in the privacy of my home. But on the airplane when who knows who might looking over my shoulder? (I was in an aisle seat.) It was definitely a little embarrassing to think that some stewardess or passenger might see and possibly think “what’s wrong with that girl?”

      But I think next time I go traveling, especially overseas, I am not going to be reading smutty titles like Ai Ore where anyone can see.

  6. dave merrill says:

    I’m an American citizen who lives in Canada and I cross that border two or three times a year, easy. The important thing to remember is that the customs agents have a lot of leeway as to what they allow and don’t allow into their respective nations. One person will be passed on through with entire collections of amazingly obscene material, while the next person in line, carrying something not nearly as objectionable, will be stopped and their material seized. It all depends on lots of variables; time of day, what the customs officer had for lunch, your general appearance and attitude, quotas, you name it.

    On the whole I say it’s probably not the greatest idea to try to cross international borders with material that a reasonable person might find offensive. Unless you like the idea of being a legal test case, why take chances?

    PROTIP: When coming back from Japan and Customs asks you what you’re bringing home with you, don’t use the word “manga”. It’s a big waving red flag that begs for extra attention.

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