Friday, June 24, 2011

Anime Is Not Hentai!

I don't really know how the whole "all anime is hentai" mentality began spreading, but damn, it spread. Most people and their moms (especially their moms) seem to have this huge misconception that anime is little more than a sword fight followed by twenty minutes of gratuitous and uncouth sexual deeds. This is a completely false idea, and it is creating a disturbingly negative view of anime and of Japanese culture itself.

Goku sure is sexy this time of year.
Before I get into the full rant mode that I feel I'm becoming somewhat known for, we should probably go over a couple of terms. Hentai is a word that translates to something along the lines of "perverted and weird", but in the land of mass media it refers to "cartoon porn". "Cartoon" being the keyword there. Hentai refers to all pornographic material of a pen, brush, or pixel nature, be it Fairly Odd Parents or Naruto, if it's not a photograph or live action film, it is hentai. Unless it's considered "fine art", as that somehow has a free pass to show all the boobs it wants.

Anime in Japan simply means "animation", but because here in America only the things drawn in our American sketch pads can be considered cartoons and animation, "anime" has come to be a term used to describe "cartoons featuring somewhat distorted characters with really big eyes, huge hair, wide mouths, and awesome, bouncing melons." In some circles it also means "everything previously mentioned, plus it has to have come from Japan", because apparently Avatar: the Last Airbender doesn't meet any of the previous criteria.

Someone should explain this to me. Are there not enough boobs?
Somewhere in the mid-nineties, when anime was really just beginning to become a prevalent cash cow for children's networks, a group of bigoted parents got it into their heads that anime was some kind of Devil child porn. They then set forth on a mission to get this same ridiculous idea in the heads of every other parent this side of the North Atlantic and abolish this hideous oriental imagery from tarnishing the minds of their heavenly little cherubs.

Of course they forgot that Americans were responsible for South Park. Oops.

Now, I'll be fair and admit that yes, the hentai market is undeniably massive and a lot of anime features some form of perverse humor, be it cross dressing or the token sleaze bucket. Most of this is done for the same reasons that people cast Jessica Alba: marketing. Let's face it, sex sells. This is a universal, fundamental truth, and it is never going to change. This is the same reason half of the paperbacks on your wife's bookstand feature shirtless men who look like Leonardo Dicaprio. If your wife says it isn't porn, it's a book, she's lying. Go grab a Playboy and tell her it isn't porn, it's photography.

Screw the periodicals! I appreciate fine photogra- EW! HER FACE!
However, just because sex sells and is frequently used as a marketing ploy doesn't mean the material therein is actually a porn, or even close to it. Actually, a lot of American brands use sexuality to sell their products or attract viewers to their shows, movies, what have you. Don't believe me? You clearly didn't click the link earlier in this paragraph.

"Okay, Nate, we get it. Anime isn't porn, and sex is universally used to sell greedy people's shit. It's probably the same reason you chose to write this article. I bet you just wanted to get a sexy picture on your RSS feed or something to get all those nasty hentai perverts to click en masse."

"I clicked it for the blog! I swear!"

Oh yeah, "those hentai perverts". Let's talk about them for a minute. Next to the whole "anime is tentacle porn" misconception is the one about how everybody who watches anime is some dirty pedophile waiting in rose bushes to leap on your unsuspecting child as they waltz happily home from school. This simply isn't true. For starters: roses have thorns.

Secondly, nobody is calling the audiophile with four-hundred albums featuring not just half, but full-on bare naked ladies dancing joyously over a beach, swaying their hips in the moonlight, a pedobear. Nobody looks at the Trekkie and assumes he's going to beam their kid into his van. Nobody bats an eyelash at the old guy who happens to wear Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse on all of his clothes. But the second you utter the words "I like anime" and suddenly every parent in a fifty mile radius is making sure they're now giving you a seventy-five mile berth.

Convicted sexual predators. Every single one of them.
Something else that's happened is that somehow watching hentai is creepier and more perverted than watching real porn. But that's a rant for another day. Like July 24th.

The fact of the matter seems like it has less to do with anime not being accepted as an art form, and more to do with two things people are afraid of. One: foreign cultures, especially those of "the Orient", because everyone is actually a huge bigot. Two: peoples' irrational fear of not growing up. Before I finish up, I think I might elaborate on that last one a little bit.

There seems to be this fairly universal fascination with belittleing anybody above the age of nine who still watches cartoons, which are consistantly being proven not to be a kid's medium, or plays video games, or hell, even reads books. People for some reason feel threatened by adults who walk around wearing Naruto and Sasuke on their shirt, and I'm really not sure why, especially when more than half of these people claim to be strong advocates of individuality. My only guess is that these people who watch cartoons, play games, go to Yu-Gi-Oh! tournaments, etc., create this fear in many people because everything they're doing seems to go against the raging hard-on society has for turning kids into adults way too freaking fast. If you aren't straddling that hard-on, well, I guess it's like going through high school without sitting on one. And for some reason that gets you ostracized. That's another rant for another day.

What you should be taking away from here is this: anime isn't porn, hentai watchers aren't any dirtier than the average person, and we should all be a little more open to the individual hobbies a person wants to take up.

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