Japanese Erotica: 1

Alex Henderson
Over the past five years, Japan has experienced what may be its most important obscenity case in decades. Publisher Motonori Kishi, president of the Tokyo-based Shobunkan Co., was arrested in 2002 and vigorously prosecuted for selling a sexually explicit comic book called "Misshitsu" ("Honey Room").

While one of Kishi's associates, an editor/cartoonist, agreed to pay a fine of 500,000 yen, Kishi opted to go to trial and fight the charges — and in 2004, he was convicted and given a suspended sentence of one year in jail. Attorneys filed an appeal on behalf of Kishi, who wasn't the first person prosecuted under Japan's obscenity laws but the first person prosecuted in that country for selling sexually explicit cartoons.

Kishi's legal problems came at a time when Japanese erotica is bigger than ever and is — according to webmaster Hiroshi Yakamura — developing an ever-increasing following in the United States and Europe. In Japan, erotica can be found in a variety of forms — some hardcore and some softcore, some animated and some non-animated, some depicting vanilla sex and some depicting S&M and bondage.

Yakamura, who is part of a company that sells a lot of Japanese erotica online, notes that one thing separating Japan's adult entertainment industry from the adult entertainment industries of North America, Brazil and Western Europe is the fact that in Japan, animation is a major part of erotic expression.

Basic Japanese Terms
Yakamura, who spoke to XBiz under the condition that his real name not be used in this article, stressed that anyone who is interested in selling Japanese erotica needs to be familiar with some basic terms, including animé, manga, hentai and tentacle porn (also known as "naughty tentacles" or "tentacle penetration").

The term animé is used to describe Japanese animation in general — some of it erotic, most of it non-erotic — while the word manga refers to many different types of Japanese comic books, which range from Grated to X-rated. Animé is what one sees in a manga; but animé doesn't have to be an entire manga, it could simply be a single illustration. Hentai is the erotic side of animé and manga — and while the majority of animé doesn't involve sexual themes, hentai commands an enthusiastic following in Japan's adult market.

"Hentai is a form of animé that is specific to adults," explained the Los Angeles-based John Anello Jr., a veteran music and video producer/business affairs consultant who has been to Japan on business. "Basically, hentai is Japanese porn cartoons, and it's a major part of the Japanese porn industry. When I was in Tokyo on some business several years ago, I saw a lot of hentai displayed and easily available. There are many variations of hentai and many different themes — dominatrix themes, bondage themes, schoolgirl themes, girl-girl themes."

One intriguing form of hentai some would call hentai's lunatic fringe, is tentacle porn, which depicts people sprouting octopus-like tentacles and using them to perform sexual acts. Tentacle porn can be broken down into various sub-categories; it can cater to heterosexual, lesbian or gay tastes, and it can cater to either vanilla or S&M/bondage tastes.

"The big boom in naughty tentacles has passed by, for the most part," Yakamura explained, "but it comes back every now and again."

Anello emphasized that hentai and its many variations are not representative of animé on the whole. Many of Japan's mainstream animé artists, Anello said, avoid hentai just as mainstream Hollywood actors and directors generally do not make adult movies. In the United States, the most famous example of mainstream animé is perhaps the popular "Pokemon" cartoons, which are created with children in mind.

"In the U.S., mainstream companies like ADV Films and TokyoPop have really capitalized on the popularity of mainstream animé," Anello said, adding that a mainstream animé convention like the annual Animé Expo, which is being held in Anaheim, California in July, is designed to promote non-hentai animé.

"If you go to the Animé Expo," Anello explained, "there is a part of the convention where retailers come and sell their stuff — and they have some hentai there. But it's buried and concealed because they don't want the kids to see it. If a box contains any hentai, you'll see a disclaimer saying, 'Only 18 and older can look in this box.'"

In part two we'll look at Japanese obscenity laws and the Kishi prosecution.