A Tokyo court has ruled a Japanese manga book obscene, in a landmark court case that sparked debate oÂn 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 oÂne-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 oÂn 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 oÂn 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.”