I am back with part two of my exploration of the dirtiest, nastiest, and most extreme Japanese anime I can find. This time I have added in some hentai which made for some titillating (tentaclating?) watching. Throughout this, YouTube, Funimation, and Crunchyroll have been my best friends, allowing me to glimpse ever further behind the curtain of controversial animation.
Japanese anime often is surrounded by themes of psychological troubles, gender identity/sexual politics, technology/the technological body, coming-of-age stories, clashes with adults/elders, and dystopian/apocalyptic imagery. Extreme, or controversial, anime is violent and disturbing -- it’s pure physicality and visual pleasure. Arterial sprays, disembowelment, infanticide, murder, mayhem and more, describe this element of anime that some have witnessed, and most dare (or refuse) not to experience. As previously discussed in Part 1, anime can be a taboo-breaking, controversial, and scandalous art form, and one I have grown to cherish and enjoy. This goes to show that anime isn’t only about mechas, magical girls and cutesy romances!
This time around I was able to get my grimy hands on: When They Cry (2020), Gantz (2004), Legend of the Overfiend (1989), and Midori (1992).
Higurashi When They Cry (2020)
When They Cry (the North American release name) is based on the manga and video games. The anime runs for 26 episodes and follows a very confusing “question and answer'' arc system. A Wikipedia entry on the series describes it as:
“The answer arcs generally recapitulate the events of the corresponding question arc, but from a different perspective, using the change of protagonist to solve various mysteries and come to a different conclusion….. Apart from the main question and answer relationship, the story of the arcs are not directly connected, although a multitude of parallels exist which allow the observant reader to gain extra insight into the mystery.”
Wow! I wish I had known this before investing time into the series as it made for a very disjointed watching experience and I really didn’t like this aspect. The first episode of When They Cry opens with the brutal killing of a woman with a blunt object, then the remaining episodes proceed to be relatively uneventful, taboo-wise. It blends a murder mystery with a spooky curse, but also with some very cutesy anime in the “moe art” style (small arms/legs, big heads, big eyes, big breasts, thin waists). There are minimal scenes with blood, violence and gore, with a generalized theme of victimized girls and women. There was an episode completely dedicated to shopping, cooking and eating (?). I wouldn’t watch this one again, and will admit, I watched until episode 10 and bailed.
Another anime based on a manga, Gantz is a 26 episode series with an interesting premise: when groups of people die under natural circumstances, a device/computer called Gantz revives their “copy” and has them fight alien intruders. If they can defeat enough aliens to gain 100 points then they can live again and go free. But, the execution is unfortunately disappointing. I found the pacing and characters incredibly frustrating which made watching each episode quite painful. It’s also VERY tame in its sex and violence. The show opens with decapitations but ends on a low note. Gantz contains scenes/themes of sexual assault, misogyny, objectification of women, child abuse, and self-harm (though this is few and far between). The most upsetting aspects of this show were the usage of the slur “fag” and how this one side character kept calling Kai (our female protagonist) “tit girl” and “tits”. I wouldn’t watch this again. So far, everyone, I am off to a terrible, lacklustre start!
Urotsukidoji: Legend of the Overfiend (1989)
YES YES YES! This is why I am doing this and this is exactly what I wanted. It’s an epic, bonkers, grim/dark, horror film with demons, human/demon hybrids, and a whole lot of sex. It opens with a massive demon orgy with four breasted female demons! It’s highly imaginative and beautiful to watch, with some excellent late 80s style animation. It’s a dark apocalyptic anime that contains scenes of intense violence, bloody carnage, demon rape, masturbation (female/male), erections, threesomes and one male character receives the gift of a magical demon penis. One demon even has many phallic (and working) tentacles! Besides the rapey bits, it’s not an overly taboo film, though it made for a very engaging watch. It was an entertaining and mesmerizing anime. I would recommend it, watch it again, and even buy it.
Available on YouTube in all of its beautiful grotesquerie, Midori is an hour-long descent into madness and depravity. It’s a stunning and bleak look into the life of an orphaned girl, Midori, who joins a circus and is forced to remain via manipulation of the circus “freaks”. She bears witness to sex, is raped by the “freaks”, and basically is coerced into a pedophilic relationship with the magician Masamitsu. She is lost and alone but eventually breaks free. I guested on an episode of One Missed Pod with Zack Long and we discussed Midori in great detail, so please listen to our discussion on this wonderfully disturbing anime.
Sexuality in Anime
Though seemingly simplistic or exploitative, in anime there can be more than meets the eye to explain the gendered violence and explicit sexuality. Japan is a conservative country tarnished with sexual repression and a lack of sexual education, so it is important to view their representations of sex and sexuality from an Eastern lens and less of our Western one. Sexuality in North America seems to be concerned more with identity, morality, and taboo, leaving little room for exploration. We are staunch in our sexual identities and they become so much of what we are, whereas in Japan it is seen more in a fluid manner, where it’s just one facet of a person’s personality or identity. Homosexuality has played a part in Japan’s history for centuries, with Samurai having sexual experiences with all genders and sexes. But, it is all still very private and not meant to be discussed in public, with family, and generally not between couples. This means we see an explosion of sexual expression through anime that delves into the realm of fantasy.
There are overtly “perverted” male characters in anime, either for comedic relief or to show male escapist fantasies towards women. In GANTZ we have the very horny virgin Korono who can only think about sex and regularly gets erections in class. He talks about sex, fantasizes about sex, has wet dreams and is breast obsessed. Once he finally loses his virginity he seems to calm down. Another example of this perverted character is a scene in Legend of the Overfiend where a young demon woman is on her hands and knees spying on people through the bushes, and a guy sneaks up behind her, sees her underwear underneath her skirt (lots of panty fantasies in anime), and proceeds to start taking them down to catch a glimpse of her nether regions. Anime that are filled with sexual concepts, themes and tone are to give young Japanese males someone to fantasize about being; the men are seen as sexually aggressive, assertive, dominant and confident, something they might yearn to be.
As we venture further into the *cough* folds of sexuality in anime, one would be remiss if they didn’t discuss hentai. Hentai means perverse sexual desire or being sexually abnormal. It consists of graphic depictions of sex, fetishism, sadomasochism, homosexuality, gang rape and supernaturally induced sex/bizarre sexual partners (think tentacles). It’s animated mainstream porn, essentially, with unrealistic depictions of women’s sexuality and anatomy (orgasms from penetrative sex?!), gargantuan breasts and hairless bodies. Though, what’s disconcerting is the element of young women appearing to be even younger than they are, women that are more child-like in their demeanour and appearance.
In Japan, sexual morality looks different than here in North America. Sexual morality is also an aspect of public welfare, which is defined as an idea “shared by an average person of good sense, a sense of modesty and shame.” Also, Article 175 of the Japanese Criminal Code ensures that the creation and/or distribution of “obscene” material is a criminal act. Since sex/sexuality is very private in Japan, what the artist sets out to evoke from their reader in manga, or viewer in anime, is what makes the difference. If you intend to invoke sexual arousal through your work then that is considered obscene, but if you want to create beautiful erotic images then that is OK. There are many examples of erotic literature and art in Japan’s history that aren’t considered to be perverse, like the famous Hokusai's erotic woodblock prints (our very first example of tentacle erotica!).
This criminal code meant that you couldn’t show explicit images of genitals and pubic hair, which allowed metaphorical and/or magical versions of genitals to be created (i.e.: tentacles as phalluses). Unfortunately, the laws in Japan don’t explicitly mention underage nudity/sex. This is where juvenile and child-like images are seen, causing discomfort in North American viewers like myself. The characters are, in theory, of consenting age, but they sure as hell don’t look like it. Even though a good number of these movies/shows/manga enjoy depicting teenagers in sexual acts (who are still obviously not adults) this leaves something to be questioned.
Hentai is created with the male gaze in mind, like a lot of mainstream pornography is. The close-ups, the “money shots”, and thin, large-breasted women, it’s there in all of its animated glory.
I skimmed/browsed through a variety of options, but they all seemed very similar, so in this realm I watched:
Bible Black (2002)
This OVA is the first in the Bible Black series. It is truly animated pornography with a tremendous amount of graphic sex and minimal plot. The “plot” is centred around a mystical satanic cult whose leader, Kitami, with the development of satanic/demonic power, grows a large penis. The magical energy created by a book of spells causes all the teenagers in the high school to constantly have sex with each other (and their teachers!). There is mystical rape, statutory rape, and various sex acts, including a surprising amount of anal! With a dramatic, cliché twist at the end, I can see where the series is going. Don’t forget to hydrate!
Black Gate (2004)
This manga turned series only has two episodes that were released. Like Bible Black, there is a loose plot surrounding a Stargate (1994) looking device and an alternative world. The “black gate” is protected by a handful of high school girls and one teacher. I think the story would have been interesting if there were more episodes. Similar to Bible Black, Black Gate has mystical rape, demon sex, and this one actually shows lesbian sex between two girls, one of which looks to be about 12 years old. It’s unpleasant. The women in a fair amount of these series are very submissive, allowing men to take complete charge of the sexual activities. In this series, you can have sex to gain powers but what those powers are is yet to be revealed since there were only two episodes. The manga might be worth looking into, minus the underage nudity.
Exploring the vast complexities of anime has been a real treat and I have been officially converted into a big fan (but far from a weeb!). There are many more titles to watch but for now, I will put this investigation to rest as I digest (and suppress?) all that I have witnessed. For those that dismiss Japanese anime as a genre for super nerds and 12-year-old Japanese girls, you are sadly mistaken and are missing out on an incredibly diverse, imaginative, enjoyable, and valid form of entertainment.
1) Controversial Images: Media Representations on the Edge - edited by Feona Attwood, Vincent Campbell, I.Q. Hunter, Sharon Lockyer
2) Sex in Anime and Manga - https://japanpowered.com/anime-articles/sex-in-anime-and-manga
3) Why Does Anime Portray Men as Perverts? - https://japanpowered.com/anime-articles/why-does-anime-portray-men-as-perverts
4) Why do people love hentai? - https://www.scmp.com/lifestyle/families/article/2161860/why-do-people-love-hentai-japanese-anime-porn-hong-kong