In the second retailer sting in less than a week (see 'Golden Apple Stung'), Cleveland's WEWS Channel 5 went undercover to show how easy it was for underage teens to purchase adult anime titles.  The story originated when Pam Dennis, a Channel 5 producer, noticed the adult content of the cartoons her 16-year-old son was watching.  Outfitted with a hidden camera, the teenager then showed how easy it was to score an adult anime video at a Cleveland-area Suncoast Video store.  When confronted by reporter Ted Hart, the clerk at the Suncoast store apologized and returned the purchase price of the video.


Suncoast was the first national video chain to champion anime, and in general the Suncoast stores carry a wide variety of anime titles including some that are clearly adult.  Obviously national chain stores will have a much more difficult time regulating sales than independent operators who can supervise employees directly at the store.  Since no prosecutions (or bad publicity) will result from this particular bit of investigative reporting, it is unlikely that Suncoast will react by changing its purchasing policy.  Channel 5 did not identify either of the national chain stores that were targeted, though ICv2 has learned that Suncoast was one of the chains involved.


Unlike the TV undercover operation in LA that targeted Golden Apple, the Channel 5 story appeared to be more about enlightening the general public that adult cartoons are out there, rather than about skewering any individual retailer.  The key message of the Channel 5 report was that 'a lot of what's available in the video stores is a long way from what you see on television.'  Like comic books, animated cartoons suffer from the common perception that they are entirely for children.   In addition to the outraged reaction of a representative from Citizens for the Protection of Children in Medina, Channel 5 also sought out an expert commentator, Joe Simon, owner of Retropolis, an anime rental store in Lakewood, Ohio.  Simon pointed out that many anime deal in a mature, sophisticated way with themes from adult genres such as horror, science fiction, and comedy.


While Channel 5 was more interested in educating the public about adult anime, this undercover operation as well as the one in Los Angeles should put retailers on guard.  While it is extremely unlikely that any prosecutions will occur in Cleveland or LA, storeowners in other areas may not be so lucky.  The problem is that the American public is largely unaware of the existence of adult anime and comics, and when these adult genres are brought to light in undercover operations, retailers can get in real trouble; and with two undercover TV news reports in one week the question becomes, is this a coincidence or a trend?