Masuchika, G. (2015). Japanese cartoons, virtual child pornography, academic libraries, and the law. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 54(4), 54.
Author Masuchika discusses the controversial subject of libraries collecting certain manga’s that may depict younger children in sexual situations. Masuchika explores these collections with anti-obscenity laws in the US. this has major implications on the collection developer, and may put the library at risk to criminal liabilities. Another implication Masuchika brings up is that these types of laws could have ramifications on lead librarians who might in turn use heavier censorship in regards to developing the collection (2015, p.54).
Graphic novels and comics has become extremely popular, which in turn has led libraries to collect such materials. Typically graphic novels can be controversial, and sometimes have a very risque themes. Masuchika explains “themes of the human condition often include the unsavory, vicious, nasty, and cruel, and comics and cartoons, with their subversive, rebellious, “underground” history, are a good media for the expression of these themes. It is no surprise that examples of highly graphic nature, both violence and sexual, can be found in the pages of graphic novels” (2015, p. 55). Materials of this kind are not necessarily the problem, however the problem becomes prevalent through the collection of manga.
In order to understand the law on this issue, Masuchika explains anti obscenity laws, and virtual child pornography laws, as well as civil and criminal liabilities. In order for works to be considered obscene, it must comply with the following guidelines:
(1) whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest
(2) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law
(3) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value
(2015, p. 56).
Next Masuchika explains the impact of the Protect Act of 2003, which defines acts of obscenity that can be banned on two conditions: “First, that child pornography can be a visual depiction of any kind, including a drawing, cartoon, sculpture, or painting. Second, that “it is not a required element of any offense under this section that the minor depicted actually exists.” (2015, p.57). Masuchika argues that this really calls into question libraries who collect Japanese manga.
The author brings into question the cultural differences between the regions of Japan and the United States. Japanese culture has different views on nudity, especially nudity with adults and children. Family and communal bathing is a part of Japanese history, and presently still takes place. The one major issue Masuchika discusses is the style of art which seems to be a big problem. The females are depicted as being younger than 18, regardless of any type of narrative accompanying the manga (2015, p. 27).
According to the author, there have been no civil or criminal charges against a librarian, or library at all. The author asserts that this is a fine line, especially because others have been prosecuted for distribution of child pornography, with materials that were Japanese manga's. Masuchika discusses that librarians civil liability immunity has never been tested in courts, and asserts that maybe that line gets drawn, especially in lieu of the information they are gathering to expose communities to.
Although I find myself disagreeing with Masuchika, it does not make this article any less important. I find myself questioning the fact that Japanese manga drawing style is being brought into question, not only that, but the author is generalizing many manga's by saying there is typically sexualized imagery. Despite my disagreements, this article was a great and interesting read. It really has some hard hitting questions, and touches on very serious problems that could perhaps have a large impact on libraries.
It brings up very real problems that come up with collection development. There are questionable materials that the collection developers will come across and have to make the decision if they want to include it in their collection. This also brings into question intellectual freedom, yet adhering to US laws as well. Masuchika ends her article quoting the executive director of the ALA’s office of intellectual freedom, Barbara Jones. She says “There are many reasons for self-censorship, and one is fear” (2015, p. 59). This fear, similar to what the author is saying about Japanese manga, can lead librarians and collection developers to halt acquiring materials that are considered controversial. This has large implications on libraries and their free forum of information gathering, and access of materials.