hentai? In Japanese, this refers to adult perversion, and in
regards to a person would mean pervert or sex-fiend. The word hentai has a
VERY strong negative connotation in the Japanese language, and isn't a term
casually said on the street. It has however, become the standard term for
referring to pornographic anime/manga on the Internet. Why make a page about
Hentai? Education and understanding is a good thing. I remember browsing
Sailor Moon page wondering who this "Hentai" guy was, and boy did I get a
surprise when I looked at his image gallery! Naive mistakes like that are
more common than you think. Hentai is also somewhat misunderstood.
Another take on the word hentai is the letter "H". In English the "F-word"
is a similar concept. H is of course the first letter of hentai, but has
a much softer tone to it compared to "hentai". H can be combined with other
words as well.
H-suru - to do the "H" thing.
H-shitai? - you want
Hitori H (H by yourself) is an amusing slang for masturbation.
A third form of hentai is "ecchi", a term often used on the Internet. Many
know ecchi also means pervert, some even know ecchi is derived from the word
hentai, but few seem to know that "ecchi" is just how you pronounce the letter
"H" in Japanese. That's right, "H" isn't pronounced "H", it's pronounced
"eh-chee". I've always thought of spelling out ecchi in English is rather
strange since it's just "H".
When it comes to anime, hentai basically means pornography. A hentai anime has extensive sexual overtones, and some actual sex takes place; be it graphic or not. Sometimes hentai is confused with anime titles that are highly erotic but have no sex, or anime titles that have excessive "fan service", but without sex these are by definition not hentai. H-anime can take different approaches to the topic of sex, but are generally divided into comedy, horror and romance. In horror, H anime is often violent, and depicts the more disturbing aspects of sexuality such as bondage and rape. The approach with comedy is typically a silly show that has some sexual content as well. On the road less traveled are the H anime titles oriented towards romance. These are more story driven and tend to de-emphasize the sexual content. As the strength of anime is more in line with being extreme or odd gimmicks, comedy and horror are more common for H anime.
Probably the most notorious H-anime is "tentacle hentai". These are usually horror titles. "Tentacles" in this sense has a broad meaning, in that it may come from any sort of monster, animated plant, alien, or even machine. If you use your imagination you can probably come up with a few more examples, and there are probably titles that have tried it already. In the past tentacle hentai had a reputation which people associated with all of anime. Thankfully as anime gained popularity these associations have been mostly forgotten. The cause of this being anime marketed as "extreme cartoons", or "cartoons for adults" when first introduced in North America. In a way, H-anime was one of the first viable markets for anime distribution in America. For some people, this was all they ever really saw of anime, and they still judge it based on that initial marketing campaign. (This was a long time ago mind you.)
Hentai anime varies in how good or bad it is, but like other forms of pornography, it's plagued with poor plots, and low budgets; tipping the scales heavily towards bad. Still, at times it is H-anime which has been the most daring in previously unexplored themes; sexual or otherwise.
And of course where would anime be without its paper counterpart: manga? Like hentai anime, H-manga can vary in quality from pathetic pencil drawings, to gorgeous portraits. Unlike H-anime, there is generally as much good H-manga as bad (depending on your tastes).
Amateur manga known as doujinshi has become an epicenter of hentai content. Doujinshi is simply armature manga, be it with or without adult content. The proportion of adult content is however quite high. Doujinshi is considered an outlet by fans to contribute to the things they love, but also a good opportunity for fledgling artists to make a name for themselves. Adding adult content is an easy way to boost sales and get a name out there. Doujinshi is quite often parody material, based off of some better known commercially licenced work. Despite technically violating copyrights, and sometimes taking those licenced works and turning them into porn, the doujinshi market is left alone. In part because of an understood agreement that doujinshi is sold in limited small numbers, and thus not a commercial threat. Also because the doujinshi market is considered a proving grounds for aspiring artists. The doujinshi market is closely watched by publishers who view it as a talent pool. Some examples of H-doujin artists include Oh! Great who would go on to create titles like Air Gear and Tenjou Tenge, and Shoji Sato (known as Inazuma in the doujin world) who's distinct art style is still recognizable in his illustrations for High School of the Dead.
Least understood of all, are Japanese CG games. Hentai in anime and manga can be hard to distinguish, but the Japanese game market blurs lines even more. Make no mistake, CG games can be as hardcore as their anime/manga counterparts, but there is a huge market for similar titles with little to no adult content. Some games are very adult and sexual, but have no sex.
One game format is the "date sim". These games focus on a relationship between the protagonist (played by you) and a varied cast of girls (or guys in some cases). The goal of the game is to play through a story oriented towards wining the heart of a particular girl. Without getting into the gritty details and sub genres, date sims are essentially like relationship based RPGs. Without sexual content these games typically qualify as a bishojo (pretty girl) game. With sexual content they are usually considered an eroge (erotic game).
Similar in theme is the visual novel. A game involves a lot of interactive game play, but a visual novel is more like a multimedia book. Picture stills comprise most of the artwork, accompanied by text dialog, background music and sometimes voice acting. Essentially a "choose your own adventure" book that is computer based. The depth and variety of endings is one key draw of visual novels. In years past, titles had simplistic branches with one end per female character, but over the years visual novels and games became far more sophisticated and daring. A game may include many touching, sweet, sentimental endings, but also may include some very twisted and disturbing content for the end too. Some visual novels, such as the popular Fate Stay Night; have branch points early on. Each arc reworks the story to such an extent that it's like an entirely different title.
Some H games are later released in non adult editions. Sometimes the reverse is also true, although more rare. (Typically the PC version is the adult one.) While erotic content is not required to sell games, the demographic that prefers adult content is large enough to warrant developing games that way to boost sales. Often the amount H content is very small, making many titles easily adaptable for non H releases. Anime requires considerable resources to produce, and manga requires a publisher unless making doujinshi which has a limit in sales numbers. Creating a visual novel on the other hand, requires comparatively few resources. With a good story, and some decent artwork, a new unknown company can achieve great success with the release of a single game (Type Moon releasing Tsukihime for example). Considering the wealth of material to choose from, it's not surprising that visual novels have become a great resource for anime, although the adult content is usually dropped - depending on how hardcore the game was to begin with.
Despite the Japanese inventing some of the most graphic pornographic content and concepts the world has ever seen (and often wishes it hadn't), the Japanese have oddly conservative censorship laws. Neither a penis or vagina is allowed to be shown uncensored. In live action film and anime, genital regions are covered by "mosaics" which have a blur effect. In manga parts are often covered with black bars placed over the "offending content" although the area covered can be so small it hardly hides anything. The current laws in place date back to the early 1900s. Most people recognize how outdated this thinking towards censorship is, however no Japanese politician wants to be seen championing pornography, so it seems unlikely these laws will be changed. Mind you this is from the same nation with a love hotel industry with twice the annual revenue of the entire anime industry.
Anime covering the wide variety topics it does, pornography is a natural extension of Japanese Animation which H-anime fulfills. H-anime itself however covers a broad spectrum of topics and adult nature. It can often be simple pornography, but it can also be much more subtle. H-anime is also misunderstood in that many people tend to simply group it all together despite the fact that hardcore bondage and high school romance titles have little in common.
One misguided example is the now defunct "Hentai free" campaign. The goal was to claim a website to be free of any H-anime artwork, including any pictures from a hentai title even if not remotely sexual. This became so broad that nearly any CG artwork was associated with hentai by this group. This brings up the question, is something really hentai if nothing shown is sexual and taken completely out of context?