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Worrying Form of Black Magic Captivates Chinese Youth
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Following on the heels of China's ban on Thai "voodoo dolls" last May, a new kind of "black magic" is proving popular among young people. Called the Death Note, the offending object is a notebook said to bring misfortune and curses upon someone should their name be written inside it. Based on a Japanese anime show, Chinese authorities have moved to confiscate the book nationwide in the last two months after receiving a deluge of complaints from concerned parents and teachers.

The Death Note, its price ranging from 15 to 50 yuan, was first marketed in China as a kind of stationery with Beijing Daily reporting its popularity among primary and high school students.

In reality, the Death Note is a brazen counterfeit of a key element in the popular Japanese comic of the same name. In this story, the Death Note will cause the death of anyone who has his or her name written inside it. Thus, the main character Light Yagami, also known as "Kira", takes revenge on criminals who escape the hand of the law, but failing to realize that in so doing he has become a serial killer.

After proving a smash-hit when published in the Weekly Shonen Jump magazine from December 2003 to May 2006, the series was adapted into live-action films and an anime series in 2006.

The curse plot-line has seemingly struck a chord with some venal Chinese businessmen who jumped at an original method to reap profits from the comic's underground popularity in China.

So far, reports of the notebook have come from the cities of Beijing, Chengdu, Fuzhou, Shaoxing, Shenzhen, Wuhan, Nanning among others. Law-enforcement authorities in the affected areas have declared a concerted and nationwide campaign against this illegal publication after the high volume of complaints.

However, students dismiss the notebook as not being a big deal. "We are under huge pressure to study. This is just a fun way to blow off steam. We don't take it seriously," a high school student told Beijing Daily.

High school students in Shaoxing, Zhejiang Province also attributed the notebook's popularity to peer pressure and saw it as a fad, reported China News Service. "If anybody makes you angry, you can write his name on the notebook and cast deadly curse," said one student, adding the notebook would not really cause any deaths.

"We don't care that the deaths will not come true. It's just a game, we do not want our friends, parents and teachers to die. We write their names in the book as a joke."
However, this easy dismissal has no hold with irate parents and teachers, who are understandably distraught at finding their names included in the notebook. They have lambasted the very idea as potentially deforming children's morals with psychologists and sociologists alike saying any children enjoying the game must suffer from some mental problem brought on by an overly strenuous school environment.

"First we witnessed the popularity of voodoo dolls, now the Death Note, which combine to show that children today lack normal channels through which to convey their negative emotions and alleviate their feelings of pressure," said Dr. Tian Yuanxiu, an education psychological expert with Capital Normal University. She continued to say that any approach sought to relieve depression should not involve or embrace destructive tendencies, thus rendering the notebook utterly evil.

She called for more after-school activities to be offered to students, enabling them to let go of their stress and to enjoy the company of their peers.

Back in April, the State General Administration of Press and Publication's Department of Anti-Pornography and Illegal Publications issued a notice ordering the confiscation of Death Note and seven other illegal horror-story publications. To date, tens of hundreds of copies of Death Notes have been seized, according to various Chinese media.

(China.org.cn by Zhang Rui, May 16, 2007)

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