I wouldn't usually cover a story that everybody on the internet is already all over (I have a Mazinger blog to run here), but this one has worrying consequences for pretty much every American manga/anime fan. Christopher Handley has been in some very serious trouble lately. His crime was importing some manga from Japan: a package was randomly searched by the postal inspector, and they decided they did not like what they saw. They didn't like it so much, in fact, that Handley's house was raided. We don't yet know what the comic in question was, but that's not really the point. It can be the most unimaginably horrible thing ever put to print and the government still wouldn't have the right to break into a private citizen's home. Simple reason: it's not real.
Let's get to what's bubbling under the surface here: lolicon makes me sick, guys. Hell, a lot of my own comics make me sick. But it's got absolutely nothing to do with what makes us sick. Fiction contains these things. Should anybody ever be sent to jail for fiction? Why? What does that accomplish? At best, we've prevented something from happening that we had no way of knowing would actually happen, punished a theoretical crime. Good job?
Anyway, long story short, Handley's been in legal hell since '06. Jerked around and manipulated by clueless law enforcement (an ad for Gaogaigar was used against him, I kid you not), yesterday he finally put in a guilty plea, finishing the government's long work of wrecking his life. He could be put away for up to 15 years for comic books. This is insane.
As fans of anime and manga, and under the insanely strict standards applied to Handley, I wouldn't be surprised if all of us have something that could be deemed obscene by an overzealous postal inspector. I've got my Koike comics, mainstream fans have their sexualized teenagers, and the moe fans have, well.. everything. How many jails would we need to fit everybody who ever bought that Hellsing volume where the Nazi vampire takes a big ol' bite out of a baby? It's child abuse, you know! So, yeah, it's draconian madness and all, but let's stay safe. Let's all not order any comics from Japan for a while, okay? Especially if we're in Iowa. Hell, if I was in Iowa I'd be getting around to burying my comic books under the earth forever about now. Write your representative, give to the CBLDF. Listen to Neil Gaiman.
(note: I am an hour from Book-Off NYC and sacrifice nothing by this course of action)
What pisses me off is that while the government is wasting its time legislating fantasy and law enforcement is wasting its time on hunting witches, children are hurt, abused and violated in this country. Actual children. What positive goal does putting Handley away achieve for us as a society? I just don't see one. The way I see it, the people doing this are just doing it so they can feel better about themselves, so they can say they "protected the children". The children in question, of course, are imaginary: but then, we seem unable to tell the difference anymore. Mission accomplished!