Sexuality versus violence in anime

This topic was a recent entry on AnimeNation’s Ask John column. It begs the question of why American anime fans are often vehemently opposed to moe, fan service, or any other type of anime that sexualizes its characters, while anime that feature extreme violence are rarely opposed and are instead praised. The opposite seems to be true in Japan, with the Japanese fandom adoring fanciful, cute series while the dark, violent series are fewer and less adored. So what determines this difference between how American and Japanese fans react to sexuality in anime versus violence in anime?…

In the original post, John brings up the idea that the Japanese have a greater liking for light-hearted, cute, whimsical anime rather than dark, serious, violent anime. The long-time mainstreamed success of Ghibli movies and family-friendly anime series such as Doraemon, Sazae-san, Pokemon, and One Piece could attest to that. Even though One Piece, Naruto, and other shonen series do have a lot of violence and dark themes, for the most part they remain optimistic and wish-fulfillingly fun without getting too adult-oriented. But while you don’t see flat-out nudity in these kids anime, some of them have no qualms about vaguely showing the unclothed female body or talking about private parts. Of course, such a thing would be unheard of for American kids shows. It comes down to a difference in culture that I’ll discuss later.

Even among otaku-aimed anime, the “light,” and often more sexuality aware ones, usually overtake the “dark” ones in terms of popularity among Japanese otaku, as one can see by the sales and variety of merchandise for moe, ecchi, and romance-comedy anime versus other genres. There are exceptions of course, such as the notable popularity of Evangelion, Akira, Gundam, and Type Moon titles for example. But generally speaking, the reason we see so much more moe and slice-of-life anime is because that’s what’s more acceptable and adored by Japanese fans. So, because the Japanese are more partial to “light” anime, that’s why we see so much of it and may be a reason why American fans tend to be opposed to it. As John states in his post:

We condemn moe because we’re overwhelmed by it, and because there’s so much of it available for relative comparison that we’re easily able to distinguish the outstanding from the mediocre. At the same time, we relish and respect bleak anime because it’s relatively rare. With less available to compare to, even weak or mediocre gloomy shows seem better than they may actually be because viewers overcompensate, coloring the shows with their own grateful sentiment.

Which brings us to the American side of things now. Unlike in Japan, the average American anime fan is more likely to adore dark, violent anime like Cowboy Bebop, Hellsing, and Death Note, and more likely to condemn easy-going, cutesy anime like K-ON, Hayate no Gotoku, and Ano Hana. More often than not, American fans praise serious depictions of violence in anime, no matter how gory or torturous, and at the same time, cry foul whenever there’s nudity or any portrayal of younger characters as sexual beings. Seeing limbs torn off and heads exploding in Elfen Lied and Ghost in the Shell? That’s A-OK. Seeing the girls in OreImo wear revealing clothes or the Lucky Star girls bathing together in a public bath? That’s just wrong.

So what is it that brings about these different reactions to sexuality and violence in anime from American and Japanese fans? Why are sexual depictions in anime more acceptable to the Japanese while violence is more acceptable to Americans? I think the reason is clear when we look at the culture of the two countries. As I mentioned in a previous post about why “cuteness” is widely adored in Japan, that also ties into why the Japanese prefer light-hearted or melodramatic anime instead of dark, violent anime. Their history after World War II of having no military, no right to bear arms in their constitution, and basically being a very peace-oriented country, is a viable reason for why they’re more into “peaceful” themes in anime such as cuteness and comedic slice-of-life scenarios instead of bleak and violent stories. As for why nudity and sexuality is acceptable in anime, that again comes from a cultural aspect. Nudity is not as big a deal in Japan as it is America, communal bathing being a perfect example. Public bathhouses are all over Japan, so seeing people naked around you is a common thing if you go to these places. Kids go to bathhouses too, so they learn from an early age that naked human bodies are not necessarily taboo to see.

Now let’s look at America with its prominent military, right to bear arms, and emphasis on the freedom of the individual to do what they want – these values could arguably lead to a liking of violence, especially in media entertainment. As John pointed out in the original article, Americans are used to violence in cartoons stemming back to Looney Tunes and Tom & Jerry. American society accepts and even glorifies violence in entertainment, but at the same time heavily obscures nudity and sexuality. So while it’s okay for even kids to see violence, only R or X-rated media can feature anything sexual. It’s alright for kids to watch the Harry Potter movies for example, even though they get pretty violent later in the story, but heaven forbid they see a bare female breast. If such a thing were to be seen in anything other than an 18+ work, Americans would be outraged while the Japanese probably wouldn’t think anything of it. I think John summed it up well when he said:

Even though Americans have seen such fetishization in imported anime since the beginning of the American anime boom in the 1990s, it’s still a foreign and unconsciously offensive idea to typical Americans. We praise the inclusion of intense violence in anime because its presence validates animation as being more legitimate, adult-oriented literature than mere children’s cartoons. To varying degrees, we oppose or reject anime that sexualizes children because such fetishization opposes indoctrinated American morality.

In short, the reason violence in animation is praised while light-hearted sexual depictions are condemned in America, with the opposite being true for Japan, again boils down to a big different in cultural beliefs and values.

53 Comments… read them or add your own.

  1. TWWK says:

    I actually abhorred the flying limbs AND T&A in Elfen Lied. :)

    I also think there’s something to be said for the conservative Christian culture in the U.S., which so strongly emphasizes sexual purity in media.

    • Yumeka says:

      Yeah, I probably should have mentioned that the prominence of Christianity in America also influences how sexuality is handled in the media.

      I don’t really mind intense violence in anime like what’s seen in Elfen Lied, it’s just that when there’s too much of it in a single series/episode that it starts to lose its shock value for me.

  2. chikorita157 says:

    I think you came up with the same points I made in my editorial about the differences between the west and the east, but you explain it in more detail since I don’t exactly have a vast knowledge of Japanese culture. Of course, I wrote about it in February because something about violent video games bothered me. But yes, cultural differences could explain why Americans accept violence over cuteness. I’m pretty sure this holds true to other Asian countries holding different values from the west.

    • Yumeka says:

      Now that you mention video games, I remember reading once that the original Japanese box art for a Kirby game was changed for its American release, giving Kirby an angry, “ready for action” expression while on the Japanese box he had a cute, smiling expression. Little examples like that show how much more accepted cuteness is in Japan while in America it’s usually associated as something childish and feminine.

  3. Edward says:

    I find the sexual double standard the majority of Americans have on themselves very fascinating, and I doubt it will change anytime soon due to the nature of religion, among other reasons. To be fair, I think people outside of Japan are slowly beginning to understand the value of sex as an integral part of human life with the increasing international success of anime (fans in particular). To quote from the book Japanamerica: “Hokusai did a woodblock print of a pearl diver being raped by an octopus more than two hundred years ago. It’s the same thing [as hentai]. And you people . . . put Hokusai in art museums” (p. 133). [BTW, if you haven’t read Japanamerica by Roland Kelts yet, I highly recommend it.] However, it will certainly take a while for foreign cultures to adapt to foreign ideas, and I find it sad that many people aren’t as open about sex as they should be.

    • Yumeka says:

      Yeah, ideas concerning violence and sexuality have been so ingrained in American culture for so long, I too doubt we’ll see a radical change anytime soon. But things are changing and becoming more liberal so it may just take a very long time. Like you said, sex is an integral part of human life and has been depicted in art and literature for centuries. While I don’t think kids should be watching X-rated movies or anything, I think it would do them good to have a little exposure to the idea of sexuality and realize that the human body isn’t anything to freak out about (would probably help them act more mature when they start taking sex ed. classes in middle school =P)

  4. Myna says:

    I don’t have a problem with sex or nudity. (Ever since I watched Queen’s Blade I’m practically immune to fanservice and all that stuff.) I definitely don’t have issues with extreme violence.

    However, I do have issues with sexualizing young girls. Like that once scene in OreImou when the main guy accidentally gropes Kirino and her lacy underwear becomes visible. Hot springs and public bath scenes are totally okay. But when cutesy high school girls (who don’t look like high schoolers) (K-ON!) and elementary schoolgirl lolis (Nanoha) actually become a fetish…that’s where I draw the line. At least Queen’s Blade was sexualizing ADULT women.

    (ugh, I hope this makes sense and that I’m not contradicting myself anywhere.)

    • Yumeka says:

      I get what you mean that showing sexual situations isn’t the problem, it’s when the subjects are underage girls. While I don’t enjoy such scenes, like the one you mentioned from OreImo, if it’s part of the story, serves a purpose for building the characters, and isn’t advocatingthe idea that having incestuous physical contact with your sister is a good thing, then I can forgive it. That’s one of the reasons why I had a problem with Nisemonogatari – the incestuous themes and sexualizing of the girls didn’t always seem to serve a purpose and that toothbrush episode ended like it was a “good thing” they were acting like that. I’m surprised you were okay with all the stuff in Nise but the scenes in OreImo bothered you.

      I also don’t like the idea of making fetishes out of young girls, like dakimakuras and similar items. But unfortunately its part of how anime is marketed in Japan, so as long as the anime doesn’t throw the sexualizing in my face and actually makes it part of the story, it’s fine with me. Then you have rare series like K-ON where there’s no fan service and no merchandise depicting the girls in their underwear or anything like that – but that could just be how KyoAni markets their stuff (the Key series were the same way).

  5. Marina says:

    For a moment I misunderstood your title to refer to sexual acts that are violent in reality but presented as desirable, such as the seme in BL. I guess that’s a subject I’ve been contemplating since I’m watching a yaoi at the moment.

    For your actual topic, I find your discussion on East versus West very intriguing and fairly explanatory for why there’s so much Western distaste for moe culture. But I wouldn’t go so far as to say that we accept violence, especially not recently. I remember quite a bit of grumbling from the excessive violence in Deadman Wonderland, and even in Blood-C. I have worries that Zetman may digress from its assumed plot into a battle anime.

    • Yumeka says:

      Yeah, I didn’t mean to sounds like America accepts violence in general, just that having it in media is more likely to be seen as entertaining than lack of it. But too much of it in anything other than a horror movie could become distasteful, for anime and for anything else. I haven’t seen Deadman Wonderland or Blood-C, but I wonder if they could be any worse than Elfen Lied ~_^

  6. Hogart says:

    Wait.. moe is about sexuality now? When did this happen? I thought it was just about fetishizing “cuteness”? I rarely see a “moe” show do anything I’d consider more than childishly sexual. I honestly think this is a false dichotomy.

    That, and the type of Americans I know who despise overt “sexualization” also despise overt violence.. so I always feel like the odd man out when it comes to this kind of conversation.

    Heck, I don’t even think I’d agree that Asians are less ashamed of sexuality than North Americans. I found them to be freer in different ways, with the usual bands of weirdos who can’t tolerate such things being just as vocal over here.

    Maybe I’ve just been out of circulation too long or something?

    • Yumeka says:

      It’s not that the general idea of moe is sexual – it’s just how moe characters are often depicted in sexual situations (that don’t lead to actual sex, as Alterego9 below mentioned) such as panty flashes, breast gropings, stuff like that. Moe, or the fetish of cuteness, in itself isn’t about sexuality but it can be mixed with it (I suppose that would then equal ecchi and fan service).

      I’m sure most Americans don’t totally despise seeing sexual scenes in movies or TV shows – it’s more that they feel they have to hide it with great effort from anyone under 18, so it’s safer to just have less of it in general outside an R-X rated movie. It’s not too unusual for people who dislike sex scenes to also dislike violent scenes, and for people who enjoy one to also enjoy the other. But for society in general, violence is much more tolerated in media.

  7. Alterego 9 says:

    In general terms, I think the most important difference between the two is, that sexuaity in anime has a very specific Japanese flavor, with Japanese fetishes, and japanese tropes.

    Even if it’s not someting extreme, like lolicon, Japanese sexuality has all sorts of baggages: The universal expectation of virginity, (leading to no actual sex scenes), the fetishization of concepts that don’t meen anything to us (yukata, sailorfuku, school swimsuits, shimapan, nekomimi, french maid unifoms, yaeba, etc.

    Meanwhile, though Japan has it’s own violence tropes; mecha fighting, shonen duels, Japanese high fantasy, etc., these are not excessively praised in the west. They have their fandom, just like anything, but the ones that ere really praised, are a small niche of shows that were heavily inspired by WESTERN action movies: Cowboy Bebop, Trigun, Ghost in the Shell, Darker than Black, Hellsing, etc, these all feel very american, with all their guns, action movie character archetypes, plots, etc.

    Often, when THESE have sexuality in them, (American-inspired sexuality, not the Japanese one), that is also well-received.

    • Hogart says:

      Interesting idea/point.. this might actually be why I’m so lost whenever this type of argument is made.. maybe I just don’t notice the sexuality in moe anime I’m too desensitized to it. I just see them as innocuous, symbolic, and generally harmless.

    • Yumeka says:

      That’s a good point that what constituents sexuality scenes and what constitutes violent scenes is different in Japan. A lot of the Japanese tropes and fetishes seen in anime would probably either not mean anything to an American viewer, or might weird or creep them out because 1) any kind of sexual depiction in animation is still very foreign to Americans (unlike violence) and 2) like you said, the way its depicted with things like hot springs and underage girls in bikinis, is again very Japanese and could be seen as going against American morals.

      Also a good point that the heavily praised anime in America are the ones that are very Western, with Western action archetypes and even Western-like depictions of sexual scenes.

  8. BeldenOtaku says:

    I…need to show this to shonen-lovers(moe-haters) that regularly bug me, right now!
    You’ve very cleared clearly summed up the systemic roots of American aversion to certain aspects of moe/slice of life anime, while (rather hypocritically) praising the violence of more “adult” series.
    And you’re right, it all boils down to how the two cultures see the same topic and issues, such as nudity, violence (or presence of weaponry within the society), and the degree to which a living human being can express sexuality.
    Also, I never thought about how the amount of content available affected the opinions and strong emotions of certain “sides” of the argument. The large amount of moe content does allow for a vast sampling of “bad” or “low quality” anime, while the sometimes slim pickings of what Americans would call “good” anime prevents an adequate sampling of the quality of the series in general. Which certainly makes it easy to point out the “flaws” of moe/slice of life, and raising the generally mediocre as something more due to the lack of content sampling.
    Americans continue to confuse me, the double-standards of our media is baffling. Our inclination to gratuitous violence yet our intolerance of the slightest inclination of sexuality in anything lower than a PG-13 movie is quite disturbing.

    • Yumeka says:

      America isn’t the only country with this sort of hypocrisy of glorifying one vulgar thing in the media and condemning another, but the violence versus sexuality thing is a big one. Like I said and you reiterated, it’s a result of centuries’ worth of ingrained ideals from our Constitution and most prominent religions. It could possibly change, but if it does, it will be very slow.

  9. Bryce says:

    Insteresting post. Personally, I think the preference of violence over cute and light-heartedness has definitely led to American movies being so awful these days.

    • Yumeka says:

      I don’t think lack of violence and more cuteness in particular would necessarily make a good movie. It’s still about being well written, enjoyable, and having good production values. So even a very violent American movie can be great while a light-hearted romantic comedy can be terrible. But every single movie doesn’t have to have violence or crude humor in order to be good, which a lot of American movie companies seem to think.

      • Bryce says:

        I certainly agree with what you are saying. Movie companies certainly do think we all want violence and crude humor. However, people are more apt to say that a light-hearted and/or cute is bad if it is, so storylines are necessary there to hold interest, as you stated. Storylines also let us know if violence is necessary or not, but the fact, which we both agree on, that movie companies think we all want eye-candy in every movie, such as violence, they do not try to make storylines because not many people these days complain of gratuitous violence and sex.

        That is what makes me think that more violence resulted in a lack of story, though sometimes things are done right and none or very little of the violence is over-the-top gratuitous.

        That was a good reply.

  10. RANDOM says:

    In Japan, top tier DARK animes get more sales than top tier LIGHT animes.
    the tops are NGE, Bakemonogatari, Gundam seed, Gundam SD, Madoka, Haruhi . Only Bake and Haruhi could be considered light.
    In Japan, discussions of sales of anime usually uses the sales of Infinite Stratos as the benchmark (as it is a unremarkable anime in every imaginable aspect yet has superb sales), and every anime that sells more than IS (around 33000 per disc) would be considered very famous. (Code Geass, Fate Stay Night, Fate Zero, Macross F, FMA are all good examples of animes that sell more than IS).
    And in this group, the overwhelming majority are dark animes. Less than 5 light animes sell better than IS, while 30 dark ones sell better.

    The benefit of light animes is that even if the anime was horrible, it would still gain enough sales to prevent a loss, if a dark anime was horrible, the most likely ending for it would be like Blood-C or Fractale, with less than a thousand sales, causing a great loss for the production committee.

    That’s why dark animes are generally more ambitious than light ones, they get rewarded more for high quality and punished more for low quality.

    • Yumeka says:

      That’s interesting about the sales. So it would seem that because “light” anime is generally more enjoyed by Japanese fans, even the mediocre ones will sell decently. But for “dark” ones, the exceptional ones sell better, but if they’re not of that quality, they typically fall by the wayside.

  11. Jeremia says:

    I recently came to a conclusion, that the culture of Estern Orthodox countries is a lot more similar to Confucian countries than it is to western Christian ones. I’m Belorussian, and, I’m sure I can speak for most of my countrymen when I say- moe is a lot better thing than “darkness” in anime in our opinion; one thing though- I would never think about moe as anything sexuall, though I lack the skill in English to further this point.

    As for the ‘heavier’ anime, well, try as you might, there’ll never be a second Dostoyevsky- we were all brought up reading classical literature, watching movies that consist mostly of dialogues and learning the deepest,most methaphisical theology there is, and because of that, most of the things that Americans find meaningfull or deep is not nesseserly so for us (politics is not the only reason the Eastern World hatess America for ;P ) .

    Well, I got sidetracked a bit, nevertheless, you might find my reply at least remotely interesting.

    • Yumeka says:

      Didn’t Confucianism come from China? But yeah, those ideals are very much instilled in East Asian culture. There’s been very little influence from Western religions in Japan even to this day. They’re still mostly about practicing customs and a mix of Buddhism and Shintoism, poly-theological ideas quite different from Christianity.

  12. Inushinde says:

    I think it’s well known that this isn’t just an anime thing. Even in our films, the ones that have almost fetishistic levels of violence can be passed off with a PG-13 rating, while those that have any inkling of sex or relation to sexual matters would be hard-pressed to get anything less than an R unless there was no body contact whatsoever. And when something combines the two, they’d might as well forget about it being released at all outside the independent film circuit unless the director has some serious chops.

    There’s something that I saw not too long ago on porn, where the MPAA wouldn’t, and still won’t to my knowledge, let anything past a three second kiss on film if it wants to get anything less than a definite R. There are definitely differing attitudes toward sexuality between America and Japan, and ours tend to lean toward the puritanical whether we know it or not, and at this point it just seems nonsensical when we have such a wide world open to us like never before.

    As for anime, I admit that I find something like Black Lagoon infinitely more appealing than Toradora for a rewatch, even though I loved both dearly. Even then, American fans have standards; I know a fair few that are laughing at the pretentions toward gritty darkness in Zetman, for instance. Still, I know that many here would choose to watch that over more lighthearted series any day of the week.

    • Yumeka says:

      Great thoughts. It does seem strange that Americans are still so bent on obscuring sexuality in the media when the world is so much more open to us now than ever before. But like I said in previous comments, Christian and Constitutional ideals are still so ingrained in our culture even though we’ve changed in so many other ways over the centuries.

  13. Ælysium says:

    I don’t think its to do with the post war retreat really, but as you outlined and TWWK said in the first comment, there is a basic difference in culture acceptance in Japan compared to the States. Hmmm, if anything, I would disagree that America retreats from sexualization and such because as is obvious from just about every single american sitcom or romcom that comes out, sexual relationships and suggestiveness is rife and it sells incredibly well. You’ll seldom get a show that doesn’t revolve around sexy people doing sexy things and thinking about being with other sexy people. I think the difference in Japan, is that the emphasis of “cute” things is far reaching beyond just girls. Boys have it as well, and do they love it.

    Whilst there is a way to act in public, I daresay I would imagine what some do in their private time. The otaku culture is highly stigmatised in Japan but just by the sheer popularity being the highest it has ever been, one must realise it this stigma then inflects in the shows that come out. This love of cute, moe things and over sexualized characters is the result of such a culture. You wouldn’t dare to be seen reading it in public, but you could buy doujinshi in just about every convenient store without weird looks. It this kind of 2 sided attitude to the issue that I think then makes the audience crave a public viewing of such characters. Violence and such is still popular, but it is seen as childish and even when it isn’t, no one will reprimand a grown man for reading JUMP on the train. It isn’t suppressed. Whereas a man reading say a lucky star mag would definitely get a bunch of looks. Its a cliché but its true, Japanese culture is also somewhat more effeminate, especially extreme otaku, and so it isn’t a surprise that moe is becoming more of a trend. In the west its seen as pretty uncool or for men, as questionable of their straight sexuality. In Japan, such stigma doesn’t really happen. People, especially otaku culture, are much more free to be effeminate, or free with the conventional definitions of what is right for certain genders and such – just look at things like akiba kei. Its clear gender and sexual vagueness is a lot more tolerated in Japan than in America which means the market for cute/moe/loli etc things are much more popular. In America, you’re either a weird girl for liking it or you’re a homosexual/sexual deviant of a man. Remembering that the majority of Japanese and Western fans are men, this all comes together pretty neatly.

    This is where the two fundamentally clash I think. It isn’t so much that Japan doesn’t like violence or the States don’t like cute/sexual things, rather how the groups see each thing. Japan loves violence, shown easily by how huge seinen and shonen are and America has lots of sexualization, its just that they seem to clash on where these things are acceptable for which genders and what age groups.

    Sorry for the essay aha it was just an interesting topic ;)

    • Yumeka says:

      In response to your first paragraph, I know that subtle, witty discussion of sexual themes is very popular in American TV shows and movies…it’s just that actually showing any nudity, or underage kids exploring sexual ideas, is when it becomes a big no-no. Making light of sex in comedies through mostly dialogue alone has been appealing to Americans for a long time, but serious depictions of it would usually require an R-X rating.

      Good points about how being “effeminate” or liking cute things is more accepted for males in Japan than in America. Being too much of an otaku is still looked down upon in both countries, but not as much in Japan. And yeah, there’s certainly a market for violent media in Japan and sexual media for America – it’s just a question of which is more generally accepted in the mainstream of the culture and which is more obscured.

  14. jimmy says:

    This was an overall well-argued piece and I largely agree, but there are a few distinctions I think could have been made more strongly.

    Firstly, I believe equating moe and sexuality is a bit of a leap in logic. Complaints against and disdain for the two are totally different. Compare “K-On! sucks, nothing happens, it’s just a bunch of cute girls doing crap all for twelve episodes” with “Man this OreImo thing is creepy, what’s with the damn Japanese and their incest fetishes?”. While the latter contains a fair amount of moe – especially with the appropriately in the context of this argument-nicknamed Kuroneko – and the former draws a few eyebrows with some of the humour that borders on ecchi – such as the infamous whatserface flashing the entire audience moment, there is more so a correlation between disgust for the two than a distinct similarity.

    (What is a good point is that it’s more often sexualisation of minors that attracts this condemnation – can you imagine anyone being disgusted by Fujiko Mine’s behaviour in the new Lupin III anime? And compare this to the similar style of sexuality-as-a-weapon used by, say, Rin in Kodomo no Jikan.)

    The other distinction I’d say should have been made more clearly was that the United States of America is not representative of the entire Western anime fandom. While you referred to America (sic) throughout, it didn’t seem to be an article that talked about the US exclusively, apart from references to horror at seeing a female breast and this garnering an R rating, which come off as unusual to an Australian such as me, or my cousin who grew up in England. The post, albeit while referring to the US, effectively talked about Western anime fandom minus a few particularly American references.

    In conclusion, moe≠sexualisation of minors and the West≠the US.

    • Vampt Vo says:

      Exactly. Speaking as one of the fans who generally dislikes the “light” shows and enjoys the “dark” ones (though the distinction is a massive generalization), I can say that sexualization doesn’t bother me at all. Sexualization of underage people, however, gets pretty creepy.

      Even more specifically, I get creeped out by scenes and series that sexualize young female characters in absence of any sexual context. They are not young people grappling with their sexuality and the sexuality of their peers; they are purely objects of desire, subjected to sexualization and fetishization from their audience. (Of course, this is rarely used as commentary—its primary goal is almost always titillation.)

      And I always advise people to be very careful with defending moé and lolicon as a cultural difference between East and West rather than simple commercialized perversion. By using the “cultural difference” defense, you are implicitly stating that as long as another culture is OK with sexual exploitation of children, we should be too. The same argument could be made for repression of women in some Muslim countries, and I doubt many of you would defend that.

      • Kal says:

        Well, that is a bit of a cultural double-standard right there. So it’s not ok, to portray some content with sexual innuendo, but it is ok to portray extreme violence like we have in western series/movies. I’m sure some Japanese people are having this exact same discussion, but the other way around…

        Neither is good, neither is better than the other, they are just both different. Companies pursue those lines of entertainment, because that is what people want to see. If people want to see a chicken tap dancing in purple shows, then I guarantee that is what the entertainment companies will push on us.

        We as consumers dictate what the entertainment companies will pursue. It’s not really their fault, they just produce what we want to see (hence, we buy it, and they get $$$). I’m afraid there is no easy solution for it. We can attack “moe”, or the more sexual-innuendo anime/movies/books out there. But if they sell well, they will keep producing them.

        • Vampt Vo says:

          How have I created a double standard? I am OK with sex AND violence in my media, as long as there is no fetishization of sexualized children. My one sticking point is that thing about children, but again, do you really want to argue against that? Do you think that a culture that sexualizes children is OK simply because they’ve decided that it’s culturally acceptable? (Not to say that Japan has done this, though many would claim just that.)

          And yes, it’s all business, but that doesn’t mean we just sit back and say “too bad, pedophilia makes money.” Discussion and critique can change the industry by changing the minds of fans, so criticizing moé (or any trend we find objectionable) has a very valuable purpose.

        • Vampt Vo says:

          I took another look at your comment and realized I missed the part where you specified the double standard. The difference, I would argue (and I do argue a bit in my previous comment) is in the attitude toward the violence or sexualization. A film that fetishizes extreme violence is also very objectionable in my book. A film that *contains* extreme violence, much like a film that *contains* sexualized children, is a vastly different issue.

      • Yumeka says:

        Like I said to Myna in the fourth comment, I also don’t like a lot of fan service in anime, especially of underage girls, and such scenes usually make me uncomfortable. However, if the scene serves a purpose in the story and isn’t advocating that this is a “good” way to act in real life, I can tolerate it if I enjoy the rest of what the show offers. If I saw a TV show or movie where Muslim women were repressed or children were sexually exploited, I would of course be disturbed. But that doesn’t automatically mean it’s a bad show or that it’s advocating these things in real life.

        It’s like reading works of literature that have a lot of creepy sexual depictions – if it’s a well written and enjoyable story, I won’t be immediately turned off because a few scenes make me uncomfortable. If it’s a book that’s all sexual fluff, just like an anime that’s too focused on fan service, then it’s not for me. Take the scene from Evangelion where Shinji accidentally dumps Rei’s drawer of lingerie on the floor and ends up groping her breast. That scene is a bit uncomfortable, considering they’re both underage, but it helps build the awkwardness of their relationship and it’s not like the rest of the series is all about that kind of stuff. Sure, some otaku get turned on by that and may see Rei as an object of titillation. But to me, she’s just an anime character from a good series. I don’t particularly like the fact that underage female anime characters are often marketed as sexual objects, but I can enjoy them my own way in their respective show without thinking of them as such, and that’s what matters to me. What’s good about K-ON is that it really is just about the cuteness of the girls as there’s no fan service or nudity in the series or its promo art and merchandise. Probably why it’s popular with more than just otaku.

        In short, I can handle seeing sexualizing of young characters in anime as long as I don’t feel the show is trying to get me to feel that this is a good thing, or if that’s all the show is about with little effort given to story and characterization. There’s always going to be someone who gets turned on by any character, and unfortunately a lot of anime companies market the characters that way. But as long as I can enjoy what I’m watching my own way and don’t feel creeped out, I don’t have a problem. I know a lot of anime fans who enjoy moe/ecchi/fan service anime and are perfectly decent people who don’t advocate sexual exploitation of children, in the same way people who get a kick out of violent video games aren’t violent people in real life. So I don’t think there’s anything to be alarmed about if viewers enjoy something questionable in their private time but can still separate what’s acceptable in fiction versus reality.

    • Alterego 9 says:

      Though the west also very often fetishises minors. Not exactly CHILDREN, but most anime chaacters aren’t exactly chidren either, they are older teens, what an American would call a “jailbait”.

      The western porn sites are full of “barely legal teens” (that are actually adults with twintails :( ).

      American teenage drama TV shows have more sex in them than the average anime. (not more nudity, or more fetishization, but at least more actual coitus happening).

    • Yumeka says:

      I actually was careful to only say “America” in my post as I don’t have adequate knowledge of other Western countries. Perhaps I should have made the distinction more clear so I apologize for that.

      And that is a good point that there are two reasons people dislike moe – “it’s boring, nothing happens, too cutesy” or “this fan service is creepy.” So I probably should have said that I’m focusing on the latter as that’s where the sexuality comes in (but Japan’s love of light-hearted shows comes from both).

  15. Kal says:

    Pretty interesting points, and I agree with all of them. And it makes perfect sense. Especially after your previous post about the cuteness being so predominant in Japan, it all kind of fits into place.

    But I can understand it being shocking to us westerners. Just yesterday, I saw the first episode of Zetman this season, and a grown woman picks up a 7-8 year old boy from the street, and offers him food, and bath. And she simply takes her clothes off, and takes a bath with him… If I give just that description to anyone here, I’m sure they’ll start thinking ALL kind of things and situations. What happened in the anime? Well, nothing. They just had a bath, and she was reminded of having a little brother, and he was reminded of what it would feel to have a mother. It was a pretty emotional scene, and quite good actually. So there was no sex, no sexuality, no awkwardness, nothing. However, in our culture, those are taboos. Taking a bath together with someone is a very sexual thing. And it’s probably something that the western society does not want to say “it’s ok” to do. Personally, it’s not really ok for me either, but I can understand that there is no sexual connotation in Japan either. So I guess it just comes down to how open minded you are.

    Personally, I’m more open minded, and I do not initially reject an idea unless I’ve researched what it means. So a scene like that, I take it for what it is. I do not think that everyone can do that here in our western countries though, so they just go for the more socially acceptable “violent” anime… Which, to me, is probably less socially acceptable as you mentioned… I don’t know, I guess there is not much else to say, you summed it up pretty nicely, just wanted to give an example.

    • Yumeka says:

      Yeah, what you described in Zetman is exactly the point I was trying to bring out about the communal bathing in Japan. Even Totoro, arguably the most beloved family/kid movie in Japan, has a bathing scene like that with the father and his two little girls. Nudity in a movie/TV show just isn’t a thing to freak out about in Japan.

  16. TalithaVM says:

    Couldnt find any other place to put this but… :c)

    I nominated your bolg for the Versatile Blogger Award via my latest post,!!! The rules for the nomination are in the post. :c) Congrats and good luck!

  17. Adziu says:

    Quite apart from the interesting issues of American insecurities and foibles, which you’ve done a good job of commenting upon, it’s also worth remembering that the average American anime fan – even the downright obsessive one – likely watches and is otherwise exposed to considerably less anime than his Japanese counterpart.

    Even those of us who watch a hell of a lot of anime must accept that it’s not like when you’re in Japan and the TV can be left on playing anime, the commercials and the billboards show you anime and you are the direct target of marketing for the DVDs.

    Japanese anime fans can watch a hell of a lot of anime of all types, so it’s not a case of either/or – you’ll find a lot fewer people there loving action and hating moé because the mindset is more that you consume all of it, and if you’ve been challenged and moved by something deep and psychological you can relax and unwind with some moéblobs.

    Obviously I in no way pretend I can speak for everyone when I make these generalizations.

    • Yumeka says:

      That is a good point, especially for the old days before streaming videos/torrents when it was pretty much impossible for anyone outside of Japan to watch the latest airing anime. Even though nowadays we can watch seasonal anime right when it airs, we still don’t have the kind of TV access and advertising they have in Japan.

  18. Savo says:

    Good post, it really helps sum up the difference in culture between Japan and America in these matters. The difference in cultural opinions between America and Japan on sex and violence are indeed fascinating to study.

    I never thought about it much before, but violent titles do seem to be the minority, at least nowadays. Quite a few animes feature brief scenes of intense violence (for example Shu getting his arm blown off in Guilty Crown), but very few venture into imorbidly disturbing territory like Elfin Lied did. Personally, I’d like to see more violent titles, but I am an American fan, so take from that what you will.

    However, I can’t honestly say that I blame the average American anime fan for being turned off by the sexualization present in many anime. I don’t feel that most fans have any issue with nudity itself, rather that they take offense at the sexualization of underage characters. Because of the culture American fans are raised in, objectifying children comes across as creepy in nature, regardless of the cultural context. I don’t have a big issue with it, unless the show is blatantly pandering to the lowest common denominator.

    • Yumeka says:

      I think once anime became a “late-night” thing that was mostly made to cater to the otaku rather than a more prime time audience, is when the violent titles started lessening and the “moe” titles started increasing. But there are still plenty of dark anime being produced each season to satisfy fans of those even if the light shows are in the majority.

      I agree, it’s more of the sexualization of children that’s so unacceptable to American fans than just plain sex and nudity, again because of indoctrinated ideals steaming from religion and culture.

  19. Cytrus says:

    Isn’t sex and violence a standard Hollywood combination? I think it’s the combination of sex with innocence/cuteness/youth that causes a powerful dissonance in some western anime fans.

    • Yumeka says:

      Yeah, like I mentioned to Savo right above your comment, it’s not so much sex that Americans have a problem with so much as associating sexual situations with cute, underage characters.

  20. Persocom says:

    I’m an American, I have a son. I support sex and sexuality in anime over violence, but I still don’t mind violence. Both are natural and happen everywhere in the world every day. You can’t turn on a TV without seeing both. You can’t watch the news without an overdose of violence. I think the real issue with sexuality in America is that in the vast majority of anime all the characters are underage, no matter how adult they seem. America is big on putting the pedophile tag on anything related to such in a desperate holy witch-hunt to cleanse the world of evil. *yawn* There’s a huge difference in cultures, especially in bathing culture. If a man bathes with a young girl, even if a relative, that’s pretty much taboo in America, am I right? “We” seem to think everything is sexual, even the most innocent things.

    • Yumeka says:

      I agree that sex and violence are a big part of life and there’s no avoiding them. Also that Americans are so quick to label anything as pedophilia or sexually offensive. So it’s especially disturbing in anime when underage characters are presented as sexual beings even if no serious sex actually takes place. I wonder if that would be any different if America had public bathhouses like in Japan?

      • Paul says:

        To be honest i don’t think public bath houses have much of anything to do with how Americans see young sexuality. most high school students that do sports or take P.E. have to take showers and change in the same area. plus most public pools have changing and showering areas that you see plenty of naked people in so i really don’t see the difference.

  21. Paul says:

    America is actually very open to showing nudity “to adults” japan blurs any thing below the waist while American rated R and above can show anything they want.

    Sex is in our commercials, TV shows, we just prefer to not have young people become numb to sex so early so we keep it out the shows they watch.

    just think of how many people see violence as not a big deal in movies video games because they are numb to it and the fact kids play them.

    In many Japanese anime they show young people dressing and acting sexually, if people were exposed to this all the time they would soon become numb to the idea of sex at a young age is the norm.
    I was fairly violent in grade school i doubt it was because of TV but what i did was not taboo just boys being boys, because we American’s are so numb to violence we just don’t see it as that bad, I don’t know about you people but i don’t want that to happen when it comes to kids at that age having sex.
    Of coarse I’ve never been to japan so i don’t know how they and there children perceive sex but if it’s how our culture perceives violence i am very disappointed in the country that makes great anime.

    i guess i’m just american that way

  22. Cryomancer20x6 says:

    This is my first time ever reading this blog, so…. hi! Back on topic, I think this may be partially due to a somewhat substantial age gap in the American anime fan. I’m 29 now and have been watching anime ever since I first saw Ronin Warriors, Macross, and Voltron as a kid. My views and wants from a story have changed *greatly* over the last 10 years or so. My preference for darker anime tends to stem from there generally being more meat to the story instead of high school level drama, which turns my stomach now. Death Note, for instance is a brilliantly written mystery/suspense that would hold my interest if it where a novel. If one were to try to novelize one of the countless “lighter” anime, it would wind up reading like exactly what many of them are (setting included) – high school drama. I really don’t think that it’s necessarily the violence that attracts Americans to certain anime, but a presence of good writing and art. For instance, as soon as I see someone with a super secret special attack more than likely I’m going to skip that show and move on. As for the fan service aspect? I think it’s mostly the stigma that many Americans have that anime are “cartoons” and adults should have absolutely no reason to watch them. However, in all the time I’ve spent in the anime culture here in Atlanta, I have *never* come across a serious fan that didn’t look forward to the token fan service episode. I’m cutting myself off before I find myself writing a novella. :P

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