Point Counter Point: what is hentai?

It has been quite a while since I’ve written a post that I have thought of incisively and thoroughly (although I still did try to write what little I could in those previous posts of mine) as the usual obstructions plague me: there still remains the same old frustration with myself, sometimes the recurring depression, and the feeling of simply drifting towards nowhere. I thank those who do read my blog and who support me (even if the support is only in print) for the cogent suggestions that have helped me cope with my personal struggles.

I still face those struggles this time around: in fact, these struggles have intensified: even with study, I still fail some of the tests I’ve taken, but with your words and with a newfound will of mine to simply forge on, I know I am able to act better and to decide more clearly what is to be my fate rather than drift lonely, to be blown by the wind. For those words, thank you.

* * *

Now having written those words to purge my mind of all extraneous thoughts, the topic I’d like to dissect and discuss for this post is: what is hentai?

I’d like to give credit to jinyamato for giving me an idea of what to write about, because without our debate regarding Rumbling Hearts I wouldn’t have thought of this in the first place. Our debate was at first a simple disagreement which metamorphosed into questioning the very definition of what makes hentai itself. As this past argument of ours illustrates some good points (and addresses some good questions) regarding hentai, I will introduce the said argument to you in the next paragraphs.

It all started from a jocular and facetious discussion; we were initially talking about pornography which led to a discussion about hentai. Someone popped the question in the IRC channel we stayed at that particular time, #animeblogger, as to what the best hentai was. For an answer, I said ‘Kimi ga Nozomu Eien,’ but this was followed by strong disagreement from jinyamato‘s part.

I was pretty sure that in some manner KgNE was hentai, but since jin disagreed I decided to do some shallow research on the subject. The best way to do shallow research is to utilize Wikipedia. It said that hentai ‘is subsequently used in many other countries to refer to anime, manga and computer games with explicit sexual or pornographic content.’ I know that for formal research scientific journals and maybe journals on the psychology of the Japanese must be referred to, but this definition was already enough with our debate (at least, I perceived it to be enough) as it was only passing.

I argued that KgNE was hentai on the grounds that it had one scene where it was Mitsuki and Takayuki explicitly engaged in sexual intercourse: it was quite damning, in fact, because the only censored parts of that scene was both their inguinal areas. Other than that, it was a no-holds-barred scene: there was even some moaning and there also was breast exposure by Mitsuki. It is, however, only hentai when we agree to the definition of Wikipedia (which may be a trusted source sometimes, but definitely not all of the time). And, regarding the dictionary definition of ‘explicit,’ which although is not all-encompassing, is acceptable by most people, it means ‘fully and clearly expressed or demonstrated; leaving nothing merely implied.’ It is a fact that their genital areas were censored. However, the fact that the imagery contained somewhat ‘symmetrical docking,’ to which other than sex I have no idea what happened between the two of them, and the damning imagery (breast-exposure, the sexual position, the time of the day [night], the lack of people, the silence) I personally thought nothing was to be implied anymore. This, however, made me want to explore fuller definitions that are less likely to be castigated because they bud from reliable sources.

I won’t say I searched far and wide or to the ends of the Earth, but I did find a good read regarding it. From that text, I’ve gleaned that the Western definition of hentai, or rather, to be more accurate, the outsider’s definition of hentai considerably differ from the Japanese definition of hentai.

Hentai from the outsider’s or gaijin‘s perspective simply means a set of images (moving or not) that suggest explicit sexual activity or pornography. From a Japanese perspective, however, this is highly different. Hentai (from the text linked above) heavily evolved in Japan to what it is right now, but it isn’t treated with the same distaste as outsiders often treat fans of it. For the Japanese, as I’ve gleaned, it is a normal way of life. Homosexuality (both male and female) has been prevalent since the times of the shogunate (if I remember correctly, Nobunaga had a male partner), and it has never been punishable by law. This was because the Japanese society was (and remains to be) a patriarchal society, and a man deemed himself to be proud to copulate with a being equal to him rather than a being lesser than him (a woman). It was even preferred. Thus, the Japanese thinking regarding reading or viewing of hentai material (homosexual or not) has never been as contemptible as outsiders looking towards other outsiders who appreciate hentai (or, to the Westerners, synonymous with perversion). The Japanese also subsume hentai to be imagery that is extreme and highly perverse (as well as with sexual activity and pornography). It is, again, accepted normally in their way of life, however, whereas we look at it with contempt. The hentai that do manage to escape from Japan and imported to Western countries are the series there that are relatively more tame.

Hentai was basically an evolution: from the rough woodcuts and paintings collectively known to be ukiyo-e, or ‘pictures of the fleeting world,’ it slowly became imagery that was more and more refined. By post-WWII, pornographic imagery (even extreme) was already accepted by most Japanese that burlesque pictures were posted in their streets. I can reiterate what the text I linked said, but that would be simply repetition: I suggest you read the linked text because although I have generalized my insights from that text there (as well as put in some of my stock knowledge), there is a lot more insight and a lot more in-depth research performed for that article than this blog post that tries to explain what is hentai (or, more accurately, its evolution through time in Japan).

It is notable that Japan is among the places with the smallest crime rates in the whole world, and I’ve read somewhere that having the power and the media to be able to perform perverse actions in one’s head has lessened its occurrence in real life (which is good, I think).

12 Responses to “Point Counter Point: what is hentai?”

  1. lolikitsune Says:

    The KGNE anime isn’t porn, and thusly, I believe, not hentai by gaijin standards.

  2. Darkshaunz Says:

    Hentai in its strictest definition means “Pervert” or “Perverse” in Japanese, I believe (emphasis on the word “believe”, no doubt higher skilled Jap talkers may correct me on this). You outlined this well in your discussion. I am not even going to pretend understand Moonspeak at all, in fact, I can speak better Russian than I can Jap (Vasdroya Comraden!).

    Ironically, the “Hentai” anime genre is filled with sexual penetration and all the other delicious things people usually associate it with. Even though the word “Hentai” itself does not necessarily imply any penetration of sorts. We can safely assume the genre is labelled “Hentai” possibly because they are assuming people who watch it are “perverse”. To which I say, no shit, we are healthy red-blooded young men, of course there’ll be watching/encountering said material.

    That said, there is a genre called “Ecchi” in anime, which is like the softcore porn equivalent of “Hentai”, assuming we are doing the Eastern to Western interpretation kind of gig as you outlined in your discussion. In saying all of that, What is Hentai? Hentai is normal way of Japanese life, you won’t find another place where sex is treated even more liberally than say, America or France (Paris’s streets have sex shops with public displays, well at least when I went there), you can even include Amsterdam in there.

    Its always the case, banning something or making illegal, your crime rates will increase. But if you legalize shit like Holland legalized cannabis, you find that drug addiction decreases and people lose interest because its so readily available and it’s “officially accepted”. Same goes with the “blue” material in Japan, its so widespread and common, its become integrated into Japanese society, nobody really gives a shit or a second thought of it. There are literally Doujins in any bookstore selling children’s books.

    All that deep reflection aside, Hentai is delicious Fap material. And I hope everybody here who reads and thinks about Mike’s very red-blooded piece, you sit yourself down and find some new hentai to enjoy. The Night is young, men, and so are you. Hail Youth. Also Mike, this is probrably the closest thing to an “allowed” discussion you pioneered on Animeblogger.net.

    It was a “Pleasure” to participate in another Mike post. Did you see what I did there?

  3. Senna Says:

    It’s always a tricky task to define a term like “hentai” which comes from Japan and has a different meaning there than it does in the U.S. and other countries. “Hentai” in Japan has come to mean “something perverted.” “Hentai” in the U.S., et al, has come to mean the genre of anime containing pornographic, explicit sex (the anime equivalent of porn). This genre is known as “eroge” in Japan. Now, with that out the way … I do not see KGNE as “hentai” in the non-Japanese sense, where hentai = porn. There’s a sex scene, yes, but calling KGNE a hentai is like calling a Hollywood movie with an R-rated sex scene “porn.” If an obvious sex scene is all that’s necessary for an anime to be a hentai, by that definition Paradise Kiss, Perfect Blue and a host of others (which all contain sex scenes, though the one in PB is not “real”) are all porn as well–which I wouldn’t agree with personally ^_^;; (but this is if you hold the given definition of “hentai,” of course)

  4. Mike Says:

    From what I gleaned from the article you linked to: it seems that “hentai” is used more in the sense of “abnormal sexual depictions,” comparable to the English “queer” but without necessarily the condemning implications or the homosexual connection. I didn’t find the depictions of sex in KgNE, while raw, particularly “abnormal”–it wasn’t that different from a Hollywood movie. So would KgNE properly fall more in the broader category of “ero”?

  5. wontaek Says:

    I believe Japanese called Cream Lemon series, Animated Pornagraphy.

  6. meganeshounen Says:

    Heh, Darkshaunz literally scared my real post away, so I won’t be pretending that I have indepth knowledge about this topic. ^^;

    In my perspective (and probably), countries that have Christianism as its dominant religion seem to have both people that utterly disdain hentai, while also having people that are pretty hardcore as well.. Both sides of the coin, if you will.

    Example? Eh.. I won’t go there.. ^^;

  7. jinyamato Says:

    i have discussed this topice with mike alrdy…. dan mike knows my points…. so i won’t repeat them here……

  8. cebukitty Says:

    since we’re on the topic… what’s the most tasteful hentai out there? one that doesn’t involve violence, rape scenes and tentacles πŸ˜› and level with me, do stuff like those really turn men on?

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