Is there any good hentai? Part 1

The “part 1” is ominous but I’ll break up the hentai discussion with other topics, don’t worry.

CONTENT WARNING: This is part of a series of posts about porn. There aren’t any screenshots but even so is article is probably not safe for work, and depending on your life experience, some of it may be upsetting. If you’re familiar with hentai, then you probably know what kind of stuff I may end up talking about, but in this post in particular I discuss rape, pedophilia, and transphobia.

I won’t lie to you, friends: I find hentai utterly fucking fascinating. That doesn’t necessarily mean arousing (although I won’t lie to you about that either). I’ve always been an anthropologically minded guy, especially regarding subcultures I’m involved in. It’s hentai’s place in the larger anime fandom, and in the minds of the general population, that I find fascinating.

Think about it for a moment. As far as pornography goes, the viewing of live-action porn is considered, if not acceptable exactly, at least expected. But in the course of human history, live-action porn is quite new. On the other hand, people have been drawing lewd doodles on the walls of caves and tombs, on canvases and frescoes, carving them from stone, for millennia. The desire to see sexually explicit material is as natural an impulse as the desire to actually have sex, so why should the medium by which you view that material matter? Is cranking down alone in the dark to cartoons really any weirder or sadder than cranking down alone in the dark to videos of strangers actually getting to bone while you’re stuck wistfully fiddling your meat?

The average person would probably say yes, yes it is. Part of this reaction, I’m sure, comes from hentai’s Japanese-ness. It’s from a foreign country, it’s something “else”, it’s alien. There’s a whole tangent about Orientalism available there that’s way outside the scope of this blog, but suffice it to say your typical normie of a certain age probably doesn’t think twice about “regular” porn but thinks hentai is gross because lol Japan so weird.

What I always found kind of surprising though was that anime fans have similar reactions. Hentai, despite being manufactured under the same circumstances, with the same methods, and often by the same people as your “regular” anime, is put in this ghetto by anime fans. It’s seen as shameful to watch it, despite “regular” anime often having tons of sexual content. Many fans choose to pretty much pretend hentai doesn’t exist. Even the word hentai, in it’s typical English application, serves to keep it separate from “regular” anime and manga. Hentai isn’t just a genre, it’s entirely its own thing.

Some may (validly) argue that even if you ignore the sexually explicit visuals, hentai still tends to be much more disturbing content-wise than mainstream anime, and that’s why it should be kept separated – so people don’t get the wrong idea about “regular” stuff. Rape/sexual violence, just regular old violence, rampant misogyny, pedophilia, sex with monsters or demons, and incest are all pretty common to hentai. So to prevent mom and dad from thinking that’s what anime is, we call hentai hentai. It’s not real anime.

But going back to live-action material, many of the most talked about, critically acclaimed films of recent years, and of all time, have bizarre or reprehensible content. The Shape of Water jumps to mind for bringing monster fucking to the masses. Call Me By Your Name, while relatively chaste visually, is about an underage boy having a sexual relationship with an adult. Saló is undeniably influential, and is an absolute nightmare of nihilistic violence, scatology, and sex crimes against teenagers. Some of Lars Von Trier’s movies are incredibly explicit, featuring genital mutilation and unsimulated sex acts, not to mention his trademark misogyny. But here’s the thing: whatever they think of the quality of these movies, nobody really questions whether they are real movies. We don’t have a separate word for them or anything. So why do we do that with hentai anime and manga?

Before anyone gets at me about this, obviously intent matters. The films I just mentioned probably weren’t created primarily to arouse. They were created to tell a story, or for sociopolitical commentary, or for any number of good reasons beyond just being horny for gross shit. Most hentai, of course, is created primarily to arouse. Or is it? The point of this massive preamble that could easily be a blog post on it’s own is not to normalize the kind of revolting shit that hentai so frequently peddles. It’s to make you consider your preconceptions about the literary value of erotica as I try to answer the following question:

Is there actually any good hentai? By good, I don’t mean whether it’s bonerific or has high production values. I mean, is there any cartoon pornography out there that has something to offer beyond it’s sexual content? Is there any hentai that can be consumed for reasons beyond slapping your beef? That ought to be consumed alongside and treated the same as “real” anime and manga?

To get to the bottom of this I picked several works of anime and manga erotica that are some combination of culturally impactful, well-regarded by fans, and/or just notorious for whatever reason, and plowed through them under the assumption that they deserved the critical eye I was training on them. I don’t have the time or intestinal fortitude to write up all of them at once, so I’m breaking it up into an as of yet undecided number of parts. In this first part, we’re going to talk about 2 anime OVA series, one of which was later cut into a movie. First up:

Bible Black

Every era of anime fandom has one. That hentai series that achieves such a memetic notoriety that even non-otaku types know about it. In the 2000’s, right as the internet age was becoming what we now know it to be, That Hentai was Bible Black, a series of six OVAs. Every hormonal fourteen-year-old sneaking a peek at internet porn on the home computer stumbled upon Bible Black. Whispered tales of its fuckedness spread across message boards and high school cafeterias.

They sacrifice some chick to Satan right at the beginning, man. Like that’s how it opens! And then the school nurse starts groping this other chick! Like, they’re lesbians, bro! Yeah, and then the school nurse grows a dick!”

Wait what?”

But not just any dick, dude! A dick of improbable size! But she still has a pussy!” Or at least that’s how it went in my freshman study hall.

Every That Hentai has something that makes it unique enough to draw the public eye even amid the aberrant or impossible sexuality that animation permits. For Bible Black, that’s futanari, aka the girls with crazy dicks I just brought up. Futanari likely has it’s roots in the fetishization of trans or intersex people, but it’s completely different from typical trans porn. Futa girls usually have impossibly large penises, sometimes also have vaginas, and sometimes can extend and retract their penises at will. In the 2000’s trans porn was of course a known quantity in America, but futanari had yet to really catch on. The combination of the internet increasing it’s reach, plus the Satanic angle, pushed Bible Black into the public consciousness, and the girls with huge cocks cemented it’s notoriety. Or something. Probably. I don’t really feel like doing the research to be sure for this one.

So is it any good? Short answer: no. Long answer: Hell no. Bible Black is fucking terrible. There are brief moments of inspired direction in the opening sacrifice scene, and the Satanic angle is sort of unique among hentai, although certainly not in the greater horror/erotica genre. But the director apparently used up all his ammunition in the first few minutes. The series is visually lifeless, the story is incoherent, and the character designs are aggressively ugly. Every character wears a constant grimace, as if they’re eternally catching whiffs of a portapotty on a hot day. And while most hentai is going to be offensive to somebody, I imagine Bible Black would be particularly offensive to trans people, given that the main villain is a woman with a penis whose reason for living seems to be to rape young cis women. Not a great look if you ask me.

Bible Black has exactly two potential points of interest. One, it’s based on an eroge that is part of a group of games from the same creator that are all named after King Crimson songs. So that’s a kinda fun tidbit. Two, its English dub is so fucking hysterically bad. Most of the women have thick, fake eastern European accents for some reason, the script is terrible, the delivery is mindblowingly bizarre. My favorite line was “Oooohh, you woonderfle BEYITCH!”

Moral of the story, I cannot recommend Bible Black. It is capital B Bad. The fact that it’s a cultural artifact to the point that many non-anime fans have heard of it doesn’t make it worth watching, even as a curiosity. If you absolutely must see it, grab a beer and watch the dub until the school nurse’s big, throbbing reveal. You’ll have seen everything you need to to understand its place in history.

Not off to a good start, are we? Next up:

Kite

Kite is a pair of OVAs directed by Yasuomi Umetsu and later spliced together into a movie. According to an interview with Umetsu that can be found on the movie’s home video release, Kite was originally not supposed to be pornographic. Umetsu conceived it as a regular old movie, but could only get a studio to buy in on the condition that he add graphic sex scenes. So he did.

Now Yasuomi Umetsu is a very horny man, and even if Kite were a regular ass movie, I’m sure there would have at least been a few boobs in it. But the fact that he really wanted to make a neo-noir action movie is apparent, especially if you watch the edited version. See, here in America Kite had a somewhat troubled release. It was initially released in 2000 in a 45-minute long version, which retained all the violence and some of the nudity but was not pornographic. It feels like a real action movie! Unfortunately the sex scenes bridge the gap between some of the plot points. Without them, the 45 minute version can actually be a little confusing. It doesn’t help that Kite is told non-linearly through flashbacks anyway.

So in 2002 a “Director’s Cut” edition that was just barely feature length was released. Those extra 15 minutes came, of course, in the form of graphic sex scenes. But this edition wasn’t uncut exactly, because it was missing twelve seconds of footage. It wasn’t until 2008 that a completely unedited version was released in America, and it was this version that I watched for this article.

Kite is the story of Sawa, an orphaned teenage assassin (19 to be exact, if the back of the DVD case is to be believed). She is being sexually abused by the man she works for, a corrupt cop named Akai. Akai, it turns out, is also the man who murdered her parents. After meeting Oburi, a boy about her age and another one of Akai’s killers for hire, Sawa and Oburi concoct a plan to escape their life of crime. But even the best laid plans can fail.

Kite’s plot is not really all that complicated, but it does have a lot of shifting alliances and other moving parts, and is told out of order, so its arguably the densest hentai ever, story-wise. And it is a surprisingly compelling, often disturbing noir type of story. Coupled with an ambiguous, Sopranos-ass ending, it manages to achieve a borderline hoity toity, artsy fartsy vibe. It’s visual design is also great, with distinctive character designs and cool use of color. The movie takes place in a very drab world, and the only bright splashes are the blood and 90’s fashion.

Honestly if it weren’t for the fact that all the sex scenes are really rape scenes, I could recommend Kite almost unequivocally. It has more in common with Tarantino movies or maybe something like The Departed than it does most hentai. And even when it’s doing the hentai thing and blatantly showing cartoon penetration, it’s still not exceptionally graphic, at least not in the lurid, fisheye lens from behind and below zoomed in on frothing crotches way that a lot of hentai is. But, and this is a big but, it may not be depicting it in outrageous detail, but it is still depicting a young woman’s rape at the hands of a police officer who is also sort of a pseudo-father figure to her. There’s a lot of fucked up power dynamics going on, and the fact that it’s porn and obviously supposed to titillate makes these scenes a hell of a hurdle to jump if you’re trying to enjoy it just as a movie.

To make matters worse, there are those infamous 12 seconds. Sawa is purportedly an adult in the main timeline of the film. But those 12 seconds are all flashback. It’s not entirely clear, but it seems like a flashback to VERY shortly after Akai killed Sawa’s parents. I think it’s supposed to be the first time Akai rapes Sawa, and Sawa is clearly a child. I’d put her around 13 years old. It’s extra fucked, and makes it difficult to recommend the movie even to people who may otherwise be open to the idea that porn could have redeeming artistic and literary qualities.

All that said though, Kite is absolutely worth a look if you can stomach it. It’s a solid dark action/drama with a unique visual style. The porn is the least important part of the whole thing (although still kind of necessary). I recommend watching the Director’s Cut version. It’s the closest thing we have to “good” hentai.


I wrote this over a long period of time. I’m a very horny man, but I’m not such a deviant that I can watch and write about trashy rape cartoons constantly. As a result, I don’t know everything I drank while writing it. I’ve been on a gin kick lately, so that was probably a lot of it. I picked up a bottle of Drumshambo Gunpowder Irish Gin recently. Pricey compared to fuckin Beefeater or whatever but it’s absolutely worth it.

At the moment of posting this though, I’m drinking a Mountain Dew Kickstart. Blueberry Pomegranate flavored. It’s tasty.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s