My Hero Academia and Assassination Classroom are the two most frequently banned manga titles in the United States.
According to data from PEN America and EveryLibrary Institute, at least 15 different comic book series were challenged or banned from 15 school districts in the United States between July 2022 and September 2023. As detailed on Comicsbeat earlier this month, Yusei Matsui’s sci-fi comedy Assassination Classroom was pulled from shelves in 10 different school districts over concerns about the series glorifying or encouraging shootings at school. Kohei Horikoshi’s My Hero Academia has received two official bans, with lawmakers saying it contains sexual content inappropriate for young readers. Atsushi Ohkubo’s Soul Eater and Yana Toboso’s Black Butler were each banned twice. The frequent censorship of these and other manga indicates a broader initiative against Japanese media in the United States.
The majority of these bans originate in Republican-ruled states, where conservative and/or religious groups regularly lobby lawmakers to withdraw materials deemed inappropriate from libraries. . Earlier this year, school districts in Florida and Wisconsin banned Assassination Classroom after complaints from the Indian River County Chapter of Mothers for Freedom and the nonprofit Citizens for Freedom-based at Christianity. Both organizations accused the series of explicitly promoting gun violence against educators. This argument stems from the fact that the manga’s plot revolves around a group of students plotting to murder their teacher, who is actually an evil alien creature committed to destroying the earth unless the students could kill him within a year.
Moms For Liberty President Jennifer Pippin decried the series’ depiction of students wielding guns, saying “we don’t want students to think it’s okay to kill their teachers.” However, school districts also took action after petitions from concerned parents. Wisconsin’s Elmbrook School District removed five Assassination Classroom episodes from its digital library after parents accused the series of both sexualizing minors and promoting gun violence. My Hero Academia was also flagged for sexual content as it did not shy away from fan service with its female characters. In addition to Florida and Wisconsin, Texas, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Utah and Kentucky have also banned manga due to content-related concerns.
Lawmakers have begun passing broader legal measures to remove some manga from school libraries. In June 2023, THE READING ACT, (Restricting Explicit and Exclusive Educational Resources for Adults) was signed into law. This Act requires book vendors to highlight sexually explicit and/or sexually related material using a formal rating system, with the ability to restrict access if the material is designated as “obscene material”. In arguing in favor of the bill, Texas Representative Matt Shaheen cited Kumo Kagyu’s Goblin Slayer as an example of what the bill would restrict, describing the series’ graphic depictions of sexual violence and rape. “Anyone who believes this is acceptable is mentally ill,” Shaheen said.
Other manga titles that have received bans or challenges in 2023 include Soul Eater, Naruto, Citrus, Hana-Kimi, Fruits Basket, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, and Spy x Family, among many others.