Tracing Obscenity Trials in Postwar Japan

The Art of Censorship in Postwar JapanIn 2002 a manga (comic book) was for the first time successfully charged with the crime of obscenity in the Japanese courts. In The Art of Censorship in Postwar Japan, Kirsten Cather traces how this case represents the most recent in a long line of sensational landmark obscenity trials that have dotted the history of postwar Japan. The objects of these trials range from a highbrow literary translation of Lady Chatterley’s Lover and modern adaptations and reprintings of Edo-period pornographic literary “classics” by authors such as Nagai Kafu to soft core and hard core pornographic films, including a collection of still photographs and the script from Oshima Nagisa’s In the Realm of the Senses, as well as adult manga. At stake in each case was the establishment of a new hierarchy for law and culture, determining, in other words, to what extent the constitutional guarantee of free expression would extend to art, artist, and audience.

The Art of Censorship in Postwar Japan is among the most lucid and engaging cross-disciplinary projects to emerge from Japan studies in recent years. It will appeal to a broad readership both inside and outside Japan studies, in particular scholars of literature, visual culture, law, and the emerging field of affect studies. Kirsten Cather accomplishes this remarkable feat by combining close readings of aesthetic, literary, and visual texts; careful exegesis of court cases and juridical documents; and detailed rendering of cultural, historical, and political contexts. The Art of Censorship demonstrates once and for all, without ever forcing the issue, that culture and politics are inexorably intertwined. I can think of no other study in the Japanese case that does it so well.” —Gregory M. Pflugfelder, Columbia University

Studies of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute
July 2012 / ISBN 978-0-8248-3587-3 / $45.00 (CLOTH)

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