Although nudes appeared in Japanese graphic stories (manga) since the 1960s, the first animated productions that were sold as hentai, that is, as a pornographic product aimed at adult audiences, appeared in the 1970s, such as Azuma Hideo’s Cybele or Cream Lemon.
The hentai as a genre appeared first as animation and then developed into graphic stories.
Formats of the hentai
The hentai comes in two formats:
Sleeve. Manga is the Japanese comic book. It differs from Western comics in that the pages are read from left to right. It was born in book format or printed magazines, but nowadays it also exists in digital format. Animé. These are cartoons with stylistic characteristics similar to manga, but with less detail. This is because the time the animé viewer has to observe the image is much less than the time the manga reader has.
Manga and animé are not exclusive formats of the hentai, but exist in other types of works such as adventure, historical or romantic fiction.
Absence of restrictions in the hentai
One of the main characteristics of the hentai is that, since they are cartoons (animated or fixed), absolutely any situation can be represented.
This means that fantastic characters, hermaphrodites, sexual organs of impossible sizes, etc. can appear. Moreover, in certain types of hentai, penetration of internal organs is shown, which would be impossible in pornography with real actors.
The fact that no real people are involved also makes it possible to depict situations of extreme violence.
Since some of the hentai works represent situations of psychological and physical violence, sometimes including rape (of adults and children) and torture, there is a critical position that this type of pornography promotes acts of violence.
Advocates of this type of hentai argue that no person is really hurt or humiliated, as might happen in pornography with actors, and that hentai consumers can distinguish the difference between fantasy (watching drawings of violent situations) and reality (exerting violence on another person).
In this sense, the hentai would be analogous to the practices of sadomasochism, in which violence is agreed upon and therefore it is not the real imposition on another person, but the expression of a fantasy.
However, the hentai can reach the hands of adolescents who can be harmed in the development of their sexuality by the association of sex with violence. The negative impact of these works may depend on the recipient.
This controversy cannot be resolved yet as there are no definitive studies on the effect of violence in pornography on the consumer.
Legality of hentai
There is no clear definition of the legality of hentai presenting minors in sexual situations. In the United States, there have been cases in which the use of hentai has been punished for the possession of obscene images.
In other cases, freedom of expression has been defended because no minor has been involved in the production of the works. This legal gap is more or less wide depending on the country.
Categories according to the sex of the protagonists
In addition to hentai that shows heterosexual intercourse, there are two specific categories for hentai between people of the same sex:
Yaoi. The protagonists are men who have relationships with each other. If they have androgynous characteristics it is called «bishonen»
Yuri. The protagonists are women who have relationships with each other.
There are also works both yaoi and yuri that do not belong to the hentai, in which no explicit sex is shown but simply a love story.
Sub-genres by theme
Ashikoki. Masturbation through the feet.
BDSM. Consensual relationships of sadomasochism, bondage, servitude, etc.
Incest. Relations between members of the legal or blood family.
Vanilla. Romance leading to sexual encounter.
Sub-genres by character characteristics
Bakunyû. Women with abnormally large breasts.
Bestiality. Animalized-looking characters or the intervention of animals in the sexual act.
Futamari. Hermaphroditic or transsexual characters, who may have both genitals.
Lolicon. Pre-adolescent or prepubescent girls.
Todlercon. Girls and boys under the age of 6.
Western history of hentai
The representation of the naked human body has existed since the earliest art forms. However, in order to be considered pornography (as is hentai) it must be a representation of sexual acts intended to provoke sexual excitement in the viewer.
Representations with clear pornographic objectives became widespread in the fifteenth century, with the improvement of the printing press, which made it possible to distribute and sell copies of prints with explicit sexual content.
They have in common with the hentai that they are fictitious representations of the sexual act. However, with the development of photography, pornography was mainly devoted to images of real situations.
Another western background of the hentai is erotic animations, as much of the hentai is animated. These animations began to be produced in the United States in the 1920s and were of short duration (less than ten minutes).
Eastern background of hentai
In Japan, between the 17th and 19th centuries, shunga, a genre of drawings and engravings of sexual situations, was developed. They were sold in image albums or as illustrations for books of popular literature.
Their price was high, partly because there were usually prohibitions on their creation and marketing.
Shunga is an antecedent to hentai because both are sexually explicit fictional representations. Like the hentai, it included impossible situations, such as the involvement of monstrous, mythological or imaginary animals.
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