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Anorak | Nothing Comic About This ‘Manga Verdict’: Simon Lundström Is Innocent

Nothing Comic About This ‘Manga Verdict’: Simon Lundström Is Innocent

by | 4th, April 2011

A BESPECTACLED graphic novel expert, Swedish translator of Japanese Manga comics and owner of over four million cartoon images, Simon Lundström is himself like a cartoon image of a nerd. But according to the Swedish courts his Manga collection is perverse.

Last year, Lundström was convicted of possession of pornographic material after 50-odd Manga images stored on his hard drive were classified as child porn. The Swedish court of appeal later agreed that 39 of the illustrated images, none of which has been banned in Japan and none of which shows real people, fitted the definition of child porn. Lundström was fined 5,000 Swedish Crowns (£500). Meanwhile, his main employer, publisher Bonnier Carlsen, has stopped giving him translating commissions, and Lundström has been burdened with a reputation of traversing the biggest taboo of our time: getting off on kids. The case has now been appealed to the Supreme Court.

Cultural commentator Ulrika Knutson did not exaggerate when, earlier this week, she  described the case as a Swedish censorship scandal, perhaps the worst one in modern times “. As she points out, it should not simply be left to ‘other young cartoon nerds and Manga fans’ to defend Lundström against the legal and moral trials he has been subjected to since a note informing him that he was suspected of child pornography crimes was slipped through his home mailbox last summer. Instead, anyone who values freedom of speech must also defend the renowned Manga expert.

Looking back at Lundström’s treatment at the hand of the courts and assorted moralists, the word ‘Kafkaesque’ comes to mind.

Possession of child porn has been a criminal offence in Sweden since 1999. As of July last year it is also illegal intentionally to watch child porn, which includes illustrated images depicting persons who have not fully gone through puberty, or who are under the age of 18, in sexual circumstances.  According to an official from the Swedish Department of Justice, in order to be classified as pornographic, an image must be ‘sexually arousing’. And although the law does not apply to images that are ‘of artistic value’, only the creator of an image can use artistic freedom as a defence.

In other words, Swedes are not allowed to own or intentionally look at drawn images of non-real characters that a court could determine might to some people resemble child-like figures in situations that for some could be sexually arousing.

It’s an absurd situation: judges deliberating over the artistic merits of images, trying to determine what stage of puberty illustrated characters might be at

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Posted: 4th, April 2011 | In: Key Posts, News Comment (1) | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink