Japanese Manga Ruled Obscene

A Tokyo court has ruled a Japanese manga book obscene, in a landmark court case that sparked debate o­n freedom of expression and the position of the country’s ubiquitous “manga” comics.

Judge Yujiro Nakatani found Monotonori Kishi, publisher of Misshitsu (Honey Room), in violation of the Japanese penal code regarding the sale and distribution of obscene materials. Citing the manga as “too graphic”, Kishi was given a o­ne-year sentence, suspended for three years.

“Bodies were drawn in a lifelike manner with little attention to concealment (of gentalia), making for sexually explicit expression and deeming the book pornographic matter,” Nakatani said. Under Japanese law, items deemed too explicit or sexually objective are required to be covered up or concealed in some manner (hence the well-known “mosaic” effect of many adult anime and manga).

Kishi immediately appealed to the Tokyo High Court. In a news conference, Kishi said, “It is an infringement o­n freedom of expression and deals a great blow to the publishing industry…. The verdict will force publishing houses to curb their activities and lead to a decline in manga.”

Additionally, Kishi’s defense attornies argued that some photographs, videos and other items found o­n the internet and elsewhere, were far more explicit than Misshitsu. They also argued that article 175 of the Japanese Penal code was in violation of Article 21 of the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech and the press.

Article 175 of the Japanese penal code does not clearly define what is deemed obscene, but the current legal precedent was set by a 1957 ruling of a Japanese translation of the book Lady Chatterley’s Lover. The Supreme Court at the time declared obscenity to be anything “unncessarily sexually stimulating [which] damages the normal sexual sense of shame or ordinary people, or is against good sexual moral principles.”



  1. Actually, I probably should have referenced the Mainichi Shimbun article I read in regards to it.  And I agree.  Most of the people in the news have no idea what they're reporting about and o­nly make the situation worse.  I was doing some digging around o­n another board and heard the BBC article came with pictures from Spirited Away.  You don't see them using pictures from Who Framed Roger Rabbit? when reporting about crime in cities, sheesh.

  2. The first paragraph of your post is still verbatim from the Beeb article, so… both, probably.

    The “manga comics” bit has a lot of loaded subtext in the UK. Placing “manga” in quotes has a way of recalling the Overfiend censorship/ban scandal, the ill-researched tabloid articles, and the damage that Manga UK did to anime’s reputation here. Jonathan Ross and the BBC1 Akira sub notwithstanding, the Beeb generally have a heap of disdain for anime and manga. Spirited Away was probably just what they had to hand.

  3. It's not much different in the US, either.  We have much of the same problems here, just with different manga: the “adulterization” of kids because of Sailor Moon, the “epilepsy paranoia” caused by that episode of Pokemon, and the damage that Bandai, DiC, and Fox do to anime's reputation here.  Most of the media here still has the old adage o­n cartoons: if cartoons = Disney and Disney = safe for kids, then cartoons = safe for kids, so it shocks them if something more risque than The Simpsons gets shown.  I don't doubt that the Beeb used Spirited Away because it was the o­nly thing available, but I bet if it'd gotten covered here in the US (which, to my cursory view, it hasn't), they would have used Pokemon or Sailor Moon or something equally harmless just to have a convenient sacrificial lamb. 

    After all, it's so much easier to blame someone else for problems instead of taking responsibility for them yourself.  Maybe the publishing company did go too far, or maybe the law is unfair.  That's not so much the issue anymore so much as how big the backlash is going to be…and it's going to be coming, sooner or later.

  4. So, wait, they decided NOW that there was an obscene manga? Hasn’t it already been established that there is an entire genre of stuff like that for perverted people? (Hentai).
    Well, I guess it’s not surprising. Japan takes a long time with these types of things. To my knowledge, they haven’t even admitted fault on the whole “Rape of Nanking” thing.

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