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American Legal History on Anime, Manga Analyzed

posted on by Egan Loo

The ComiPress website has posted a commentary that Lawrence A. Stanley wrote about American legal cases involving Japanese anime and manga. Stanley analyzes the legal grounds for the prosecution of a Virginia man named Dwight Whorley. Whorley was convicted of obscenity and pornography charges, involving both materials with real children and "20 obscene Japanese anime cartoons," in 2005. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2006.

Stanley also examines the separate, different case of Christopher Handley, a Iowa man accused of receiving and possessing allegedly obscene manga, as opposed to child pornography. Although Handley has yet to be put on trial for the charges, the government imposed conditions for his release from detention, including unannounced computer searches, unscheduled visits by government officials, periodic drug testing, and restrictions on his movements within Iowa and Nebraska. His pre-trial officer then claimed that Handley violated those conditions by accessing Gothic and Lolita Bible information, a GaoGaiGar: King of Braves anime DVD advertisement, several sexually explicit DVDs, and several websites including ANN. That led to additional restrictions "from viewing or accessing anime on the Internet," from "ordering anime video and written material," or from "engag[ing] in Internet chat." The court also ordered Handley to undergo mental health counseling, during which the therapist must report if Handley "is a danger to himself or others."

The judge in Handley's case struck down some of the charges against Handley and ruled parts of the PROTECT Act of 2003 unconstitutional for restricting free speech. However, Handley still faces charges for possession of obscene material because it was "moved in interstate commerce," and his defense is negotiating a guilty plea for a possible lighter sentence.

Stanley concludes by covering the history of prosecution against pornography and obscene material, including depictions of fictional characters, in the United States. In one 2000 case, a University of Texas professor was unable to convince a jury that Demon Beast Invasion: The Fallen was not obscene in expert testimony.

Other people who have commented on the Handley case include Handley's lawyer Eric Chase, Newbery Medal-winning Neil Gaiman, Dark Horse Comics manga editor Carl Gustav Horn, and Eisner-nominated Manga: The Complete Guide author Jason Thompson.

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