While the court upheld the conviction, it lowered Motonori Kishi’s sentence from a suspended prison term to a fine.
Kishi, president of the Tokyo-based comic book publisher Shobunkan Co., was indicted for distributing 20,000 copies of the comic book “Misshitsu,” or “Honey Room,” in 2002.
The court on Thursday suspended a one-year prison term imposed on him and ordered him to pay a fine of 1.5 million yen ($13,800) instead. Kishi has already been fined 500,000 yen ($4,600).
Presiding Judge Kenjiro Tao said that the comics were obscene, but added, “There is a considerable gap in obscenity compared with that in material of real images, such as DVDs.”
The court rejected the defendant’s free-speech plea that the prohibition of the sale of obscene literature is unconstitutional.
The case, originally heard in Tokyo District Court, was the first major case in nearly two decades in Japan to focus on printed adult-oriented material. It also was the first time Japanese comic books, or “manga,” had been targeted under Japan’s criminal code.
Both courts based their rulings on the work’s obscenity on three prerequisites under a 1957 Supreme Court ruling.
In a judgment against the translator and publisher of “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” by D.H. Lawrence, a landmark ruling said that expression is obscene when it is “unnecessarily sexually stimulating, damages the normal sexual sense of shame of ordinary people, or is against good sexual moral principles.”