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Cartoon Ruled 'Obscene'

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Jan 13, 2004 12:00 AM PST    Text size: 
JAPAN – A Japanese publisher was sentenced to one year in jail Tuesday for distributing 'obscene' literature in the form of manga cartoons, the magazine version of anime, or animated films.

The title of the magazine in question is 'Misshitsu,' also known as Honey Room, and is among many popular titles in Japan that represent a genre of animation that has become hugely popular among Japanese consumers.

Today's ruling is the first of its kind in Asia to declare a comic book 'obscene material,' the BBC reported. Japan's definition for obscenity, which was established in 1957, is material that is "unnecessarily sexually stimulating, (which) damages the normal sexual sense of shame of ordinary people, or is against good sexual moral principles."

The Japanese are known for producing extremely explicit anime and manga content that frequently depicts sexuality and nudity, but today's case is the first to involve manga content that was so explicit it was considered 'pornographic.'

The court's ruling is considered a blow to freedom of expression, and critics of the court's decision are already predicting that it will have a dire impact on the anime and manga industries.

According to the BBC, the judge overseeing the case came to his decision based on the lifelike quality of the cartoon renderings in their depiction of human genitalia.

Japan maintains very strict laws on the sale and distribution of pornographic materials. According to the BBC, around 45 percent of the books and periodicals sold in Japan are manga.

The publisher of the manga cartoon, Monotori Kishi, will serve jail time for obscenity, in addition to a three-year suspended sentence.

Kishi plans to appeal the case in a higher court, the BBC reported.

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