The majority of the Board therefore deems the publication "Puni Puni Poemy" to be objectionable for the purposes of the Act in that it does "promote or support or tend to promote or support" the exploitation of children or young persons for sexual purposes. It also shows acts of torture or the infliction of extreme violence or extreme cruelty without showing consequences for the perpetrators. The Board finds that the amount of extreme violence and extreme cruelty does "tend to promote or support" the activities even if in anime form.
Puni Puni Poemy — Decision No. 1 of the Film and Literature Board of Review, 21 June 2005
In December 2004 the New Zealand Office of Film and Literature Classification banned the anime Puni Puni Poemy, on the grounds that it "tends to promote and support the exploitation of children and young persons for sexual purposes, and to a lesser extent, the use of sexual coercion to compel persons to submit to sexual conduct." As a New Zealand anime fan who had seen PPP, I strongly disagreed with this decision: so, after online discussions with other like-minded fans, I sought a formal review of the DVD's classification. It was re-examined by the Film and Literature Board of Review in April 2005, but the Board's decision of June 2005 also found PPP to be objectionable.
As a result, PPP remains banned in New Zealand and it is illegal to possess, import or sell the DVD. This also applies to any other media identical in content.
This webpage documents the history of the PPP decision and subsequent review. Despite my personal involvement in the case I have attempted to stay off my soapbox and keep to the facts. My opinions can be found in my submission to the Board, which along with other original public documents is presented below. Anyone researching this topic is welcome to contact me for further information.
Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. For authoritative advice on censorship matters, please contact the OFLC or a qualified legal professional.
This section gives a brief overview of New Zealand censorship law and the government agencies involved. Please see the OFLC website for further information.
Censorship is governed by the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993 and its subsequent amendments. The purpose of the Act is "to consolidate and amend the law relating to the censoring of films, videos, books, and other publications; and to [replace] the Indecent Publications Act 1963, the Films Act 1983, and the Video Recordings Act 1987". It does this by introducing a very broad definition of "publication" that also covers films, videos and even computer games - basically, anything that "is capable of being reproduced or shown as one or more ... images, representations, signs, statements, or words".
Generally speaking the Act does not cover TV or radio broadcasts: these are dealt with separately by section 4 of the Broadcasting Act 1989.
For a publication to be banned it must be classified as objectionable under section 3 of the FVPC Act. You absolutely need to read s3 to understand the PPP decision, because that's where the battle was fought. Particularly for readers familiar with US law, you should note that a publication in cartoon form can still be objectionable: the law is concerned with the effects of the publication's availablity in NZ, not (primarily) with any harm that may have been done in its making. This means, for example, that animated child porn is still "injurious to society" in the eyes of NZ law, because its availablity "promotes or supports" the sexual exploitation of children by depicting child sex abuse as acceptable.
Roughly speaking, s3 sets out a three-step process for the classifying body to follow:
Any publication that is classified under the Act first needs to be tested against s3. If and only if it is found not to be objectionable, other parts of the Act lay out how the publication should be rated.
New Zealand is a common law jurisdiction, which means that the laws in effect are a combination of Acts of Parliament, Regulations, and court decisions (see this article on the New Zealand constitution for more detail). After an Act or Regulation comes into force, it is the role of the courts to apply it. This includes interpreting the meaning of the law, based on general legal principles and precedent.
Since the passing of the FVPC Act, several significant court decisions have been made on its interpretation - copies can be found on the FLBR website (registration required). The most important ones for PPP are the Moonen decisions of the Court of Appeal, named after the appellant Gerald Moonen - their legal significance is much wider, however, since they establish a fundamental principle of how the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990 relates to other legislation.
A very simplistic summary of Moonen's relevance to censorship is:
There is much, much more to the decisions than this - although I haven't read the article myself, anyone serious about this topic should consult Andrew S. Butler, "Judicial Indications of Inconsistency - A New Weapon in BORA Armoury?"  NZ Law Review 43.
One practical implication of Moonen is that a publication does not "tend to promote or support" the activities banned under s3(2) merely because it depicts them. The classifying body is required to show that there is something about the manner of depiction that constitutes a tendency for promotion or support. There is no question that PPP depicts s3(2) material - the issue was whether the manner of depiction met the Moonen criteria.
The FVPC Act sets out the responsibilities and authority of various agencies relating to censorship matters. In general, these agencies are either part of, or associated with, the Department of Internal Affairs. Other agencies such as Customs and the Police are also involved in enforcing the law. A simplified view of how the system works is that it has four levels:
My involvement began after the OFLC delivered its decision, and consisted of applying to the FLBR for a review of PPP's classification. To do this I first had to apply to the Secretary for Internal Affairs for leave to seek a review. Once leave was granted, I made a written submission to the Board, followed by an oral submission when it met to consider PPP.
In October 2005 I returned to Auckland for the Armageddon anime / sci-fi / game convention. I finally got to meet a bunch of people I knew online through the Madboards, and learned more about "devil killer" sake than I think I ever needed to know. The highlight, however, was the forum dinner we organised with guests Tiffany Grant and Matt Greenfield of ADV Films. It was ADV who licensed PPP for distribution in the US - both Tiff and Matt worked on the English adaptation, so its banning was a topic of some interest (as Tiff observed, at least they're in good company).
It's too big to scan, but I have a gorgeous nekomimi-Asuka-with-kiwi poster drawn by Liz Leaper from the Madboards and signed by Matt and Tiff. Matt's message reads:
Hmm... Asuka. Neko Costume. Cat Ears. Kiwi. Any more fan service and this drawing would be banned in New Zealand.
Last update 2010-11-30. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org