Cartoon cult with an increasing appetite for sex and violence: Teenagers in Britain are tuning in to a new wave of Japanese videos.

LATER this month at a London night-club a party will be held for some of the 18,000 members of the Manga Club to celebrate an extraordinary cult success: a Japanese animation series which last month had three videos in the top 10.

There would be little point in cult teenage videos that had parental approval, but some of these films are likely to alarm even the most liberal parent. A harmless space wars cartoon series has developed, video by video, into scenes of graphic sex, violence and misogyny.

Manga is known in the trade as Japanimation. The word Manga is Japanese for cartoons, and the series is made in Japan; computerised animations with chaotic storylines (a post-nuked Tokyo overrun by motorcycle thugs), sometimes with subtitles but more often dubbed into English, or at least mid-Atlantic. Some have been the usual fare: inter- galactic 3-D battles, with all-Japanese/American boys winning wars and fair ladies, carrying PG certificates. Some have been hailed as art movies.

But the love of all things Japanese, engendered by computer games, is also bringing teenagers into contact with other aspects of the genre. The Legend of the Overfiend, for example, has an 18 certificate, numerous rapes, and, to quote one video magazine's description of it, 'centi-penised demons, whose forcible fornication causes their partners to explode upon climax'.

Another has a boy masturbating as he watches through the keyhole of a schoolgirls' changing room. All is revealed except, as with all these videos, pubic hair, which the Japanese will not tolerate. In another video there is a lesbian rape, in another oral sex, and throughout there is continuous swearing. The girls in the rape and abuse scenes are usually under- age and often doe-eyed schoolgirls - a popular theme in Japanese films.

The Manga craze is prevalent among the 14-18 age group, almost exclusively with boys. The more adult videos have 18 certificates; but as one executive at Manga's marketing firm admitted, Manga fans of any age will want to keep up with all the new releases, and 14-year-olds can purchase 18 certificate videos with ease. 'Kids want to embrace everything Japanese, and these are sold to the same market and through the same outlets as computer games,' a spokesman said. 'They are sexist, and maybe the stereotyping and sexism are more worrying than the violence. Girls don't do a lot more than grunt and groan.'

Kanjee Bates, 19, who is starting a fanzine, said it was regrettable that the only Manga films shown over here were the sex and violence ones, as there were many art films in the genre. He added: 'I love the animation and the entertaining storylines, but it is worrying that I can walk into W H Smith and see 10-year-olds buying the 18 certificate ones. They are placed next to Bambi as they are all just considered cartoons.'

(Photograph omitted)

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