One of the huge differences between western cartoons and anime is the use of drugs. Turn on adult swim on any given night and you’ll be hard pressed to find a show that doesn’t have a drug reference every five minutes. Well, maybe, King of the Hill, but let’s not forget that they had an episode where they used crack cocaine to catch fish. In anime, however, it’s something you hardly ever see.
Now, you might come across the occasional side character that never spends a second without a cigarette in their mouth, but that’s about it. And drinking sake is something they don’t shy away from putting in a anime, either. When it comes to recreational drug use, though, it might as well not exist.
Anime with drug use
While it might be rare, anime is not entirely without its drug references. Though they are mostly obscure and indirect.
In Black Lagoon there is a character named Leigharch. In the manga he abuses cocaine, however, in the anime, he’s a heavy marijuana smoker. Like something took straight from the 1936 motion picture script of Reefer Madness, the marijuana causes him to have very inconvenient hallucinations.
In the One Piece movie, Strong World, Oda inserts a plain as day reference to smoking marijuana. While it might not be blatant to all, anyone that has ever held a joint can’t un-see it.
A lot of this probably stems from the policies surrounding drugs in Japan. In Japan, there is no headshop on every corner like you’ll find in downtown Denver, Colorado. Hell, often times Japan will even deny you entry if you have had a drug offense in another country. Just ask Mick Jagger, Paul McCartney, or Paris Hilton — they have all been on the wrong side of this policy.
Even when it comes to prescription drugs their laws are extremely strict. For instance, pills like Adderall — which seem to be forced down kids throats in America — are completely illegal in Japan.
In some states here in America, if you get caught with a little bit of weed you won’t even get so much as a ticket. In Japan, however, even a small amount of cannabis can put you behind bars for five years. With laws like these, you can bet teenagers are looking for other outlets to rebel against their parents than the smoking games of their American counterparts.
There are Japanese citizens like the actress, Saya Takagi , who is running for the Upper House with hopes of leading the nation through marijuana reform. Her goal is to open Japan’s eyes to the medicinal benefits that can that can be achieved through marijuana.
Now, there’s no telling if drug reform will lead to mainstream anime seeing more drug use, however, you can certainly imagine that you won’t be seeing it as long as Japan’s views stay as they are now.