Police arrest Mandarake employees over sale of secondhand erotic photo books

People have arrested the CEO of famous Japanese secondhand book store chain Mandarake as well as four employees in connection with the sale of obscene material.

Best known for manga but also offering collectibles, doujinshi, and anime toys, Mandarake was selling so-called “vinyl books,” a term referring to pornographic photo books from the 1970s and 1980s that showed genitalia. (The “vinyl” part means the plastic that was used to cover the books.)

As regular readers will know, Japan’s strange obscenity laws mean it is nominally illegal to show actual genitalia, hence adult video is pixellated. In certain situations, where the work in question is offered more as “art” than a commercial product, the police tend to turn a blind eye.

According to police reports in the media, Mandarake are suspected of putting images of the books on the chain’s online store from last October to January 2022, and had a stock of around 400 such books at three stores in Tokyo and Osaka as well as its Chiba warehouse.

The five arrested employees have admitted their guilt, though the CEO has apparently claimed that they thought they were selling the books as “erotic art.”

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Mandarake has attracted police interest before, most recently in September 2021, when they raided its new adult store in Nakano on suspicion of selling obscene materials. Thousands of items were seized and an employee and the company were eventually prosecuted for breaching the Act on Control and Improvement of Amusement Business (as the act regulating adult businesses is somewhat euphemistically known).

Indeed, the line is a very blurry one, as the popularity of “hair nude” photo books from the 1980s through to recent times has proved. The publishers and retailers of such books were not prosecuted, as far as we know, perhaps because the trend began with very high-profile female stars and then became unstoppable. They clearly were obscene according to the letter of the law but were also obviously meant to sell copies, as opposed to being some vague commitment to “pure” art. In some ways, the initial hair nude photo book boom in the early 1990s was one of the final signs (along with the rise of AV VHS) that the vinyl books were now obsolete.

It looks like the police are trying to make an example of Mandarake, though retailers and secondhand sellers must now be looking at their stock with caution, wondering if the hair nude photo books or other borderline cases are going to get them arrested next.

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  • TheDude May 30, 2022

    For a government desperate to raise the birthrate the Japanese government sure hates anything to do with sex

  • Bill Smalley June 1, 2022

    So much for ” Cherchez la fur….”

  • Chris June 6, 2022

    It’s enormously absurd and extremely ridiculous!

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