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Author Topic: Can hentai ever be purely observed as an art form?  (Read 8183 times)

Offline ImperialX

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Can hentai ever be purely observed as an art form?
« on: February 06, 2013, 08:59:10 AM »
This is a post I'm writing in response to an anonymous question I got asked on my newly created ask.fm account. There are some religious elements here, but I don't think they serve as distractions from the general question. After all, I am providing a personal response and I would ask the same question to all of you guys here at NHRV to think about this. It is quite an intriguing topic.


I wish this wasn't an anonymous question, because whoever you are, you have really earned my respect by asking this. This is truly is an intellectually stimulating question to answer as a Christian. After all, it'll be extremely difficult to not come out of this without sounding like a hypocrite. I will try my best though.

With most hentai out there, especially H-Manga and H-Anime, there is no doubt that it is being drawn (and read) for the sole purpose of promoting, as well as temporarily satisfying the lust of the flesh. I use the word temporarily because just like pornography, hentai can be addictive, especially when your brain gets used to all that dopamine being secreted every time you reach ecstasy. Some H-Manga have better story lines than others such as 赤月みゅうと先生, but ultimately, in every H-Manga and H-Anime, 90% of the pages will be just be sex, sex and more sex. It is impossible to ever justify them as objects created for purposes aside from promoting sexual desire. Thus, even given the amazing artwork, I can't justify looking at it solely as a piece of art form. It's just impossible. I'd be a hypocrite if I said I could.

However, if that was the complete answer to the question (that hentai definitely can't be looked at solely as a piece of art without sinning), then why did I say at the start that it would be very difficult for me to give a real response? You guessed it - visual novels. These huge digitalised books with BGM, CGs and voice acting that often span for upwards to fifty hours or more. Many of these visual novels utilise hentai scenes as absolutely necessary plot devices. Let's take one of my favourite H-Scenes into consideration here - the second to last scene of the Haru route in G-Senjou no Maou. I have a lot of them having gone through many visual novels, but I chose this one off the top of my head due to the OST starting to play right now coincidentally through my headphones.

Spoiler for G-Senjou no Maou:
In this scene, Haru and Kyousuke are finally reunited after all these years. Both of them having spent most of their lives being slaves to hatred and revenge, they can finally seek to find comfort in each others' presence - sexually. To be honest, throughout this entire scene, I was too full of emotion to even remotely consider the possibility of myself pleasuring myself to these two. For so long has Kyousuke seemed redemption and Haru for revenge. This very H-scene cemented the physical bond they share with each other, and this is precisely what drove me to tears by the end of the story where Kyousuke gives up everything in order to protect Haru. The questioning by the police…the confessions he receives through the detention centre's glass…and his eventual meeting with his daughter.


This seems like art to me.

Throughout the entire H-scene, I can truthfully say I didn't feel a shred of lust for the flesh. I didn't feel any kind of libido. No dopamine was being secreted. For about 15 minutes, I could only watch them, with all the pain they have suffered in their lives, finally finding a brief, albeit powerful shelter in sex. The beauty of the H-scene is what makes their decisions as well as actions for the entire reminder of the visual novel leading up to the conclusion so powerful, as well as one of the best romance stores I have ever read. Is it a sin to appreciate this piece of work in this manner? I actually would say no. Here, I am appreciating this visual novel - and specifically this H-scene as a piece of art. I'm not ashamed to say that as a Christian, I enjoyed playing through that SPECIFIC H-scene.

However I also cannot deny that I pleasured myself to the other H-scenes, especially Mizuha (I have explained my 2D preferences in another question before) simply because the storyline and the importance of the H-scene it simply wasn't enough to overcome the lust for the flesh H-scenes normally naturally invoke. In these, I succumbed to temptation and sinned against God. For those, I obviously had to apologise.

Ultimately, I guess it really depends on what kind of role the hentai you're referring to plays in its material. I actually think Haru's scene was deliberately made far more for driving the story than to, say, satisfy one's lust for the flesh. If this was the author's authentic intended purpose, and you're treating it as such without feeling any kind of lust, then yes, it can be justified as not being a sin. However I admit these are extremely rare cases. Out of all the H-scenes in G-Senjou no Maou, this was the only one in which I was too engrossed in the plot to feel any lust. The others…well, I gave in to the temptations and sinned.

So what do you people think? Can you see hentai as art? As something that isn't merely a dopamine catalyst?

Offline Zeitgeist

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Re: Can hentai ever be purely observed as an art form?
« Reply #1 on: February 06, 2013, 11:29:34 AM »
As a genre as a whole, I would say no. But I would also say the same about anime. I dont consider all the harem/moe blob shows "art." The entirety of hentai(H-Anime, H-manga, Eroge etc) I wouldn't classify as art. But that isn't to say an individual piece of work cant be art. Meaning, if an H-whatever is legitimately good, I'm not gonna fault it or stigmatize it for being an H-whatever. Hentai isnt inherently wrong or bad. It is simply a differing narrative approach. If it has the pacing, atmosphere, characters and whatnot needed to be good, then it is simply good.

As for the sex. Sex scenes are like profanity, they can offer a sense of realness/emotion or just come off a crass and vulgar. A well placed "****" or "God damn it" can really add power/emotion to a scene. Capturing a character's frustration or bringing levity better than any censored alternative. Seeing a well developed romance blossom in the symbiotic act of "making love" can evoke infinitely more emotion than simply an implied sexual congress.

The intent behind the creation of something should not and does not detract from whether it is art or not. Hentai being made for stimulation and satiating ones desires is irrelevant. Whether the Mona Lisa was painted from passion or for profit does not impact the fact that it is a work of art.

I seem to equate good to art. But, I suppose, even the bad are art? I dont know myself. "Art." Not my thing.
« Last Edit: February 06, 2013, 12:46:30 PM by Zeitgeist »

Offline Marid King

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Re: Can hentai ever be purely observed as an art form?
« Reply #2 on: February 06, 2013, 12:25:03 PM »
Sexuality has pretty much always been a part of art; look at paintings or sculptures from almost any culture and era, and eventually it will pop up. My guess is that bygone artists weren't doing it purely to show off the aesthetics of the human body. With that in mind, what really separates an H-game/anime/manga from an old painting of naked men/women? Sexual content hasn't excluded works from being called art before, and I don't believe it should now.

If anything, hentai is more than art, not less, in the same way that a movie or a symphony can be both art and entertainment. If you ever want to observe hentai purely as an art form, simply don't approach it with the intent to whack off.

Of course, if you did that you would find that hentai is generally garbage-quality drivel.
« Last Edit: February 06, 2013, 05:20:47 PM by Marid King »
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Offline Aelms

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Re: Can hentai ever be purely observed as an art form?
« Reply #3 on: February 06, 2013, 01:51:48 PM »
Hentai, by purpose, is deliberated made to sexually stimulate the audience. When a product is made under the genre of Hentai, I do think that i will always be under this purpose. For the context of the producers, I think that any form of hentai is a product that aims to take advantage of the consumer's sexual lust.

I don't deny that there are many different visual novels that I read which I regard highly because of their plot and portrayal of characters. The sex scenes may have been stimulating but when I recommend the games to friends, they do not come to mind (and often hinders the process of my friends picking them up). In some visual novels, in particular 'Saya no Uta', sex is used to attach the audience to a character for a particular plot purpose. It was effective. I sympathised with a character that I may otherwise have come to hate as I learned more about the character. But it was undeniably a sexually stimulating scene.

I am in favour of some hentai products being an art form but it is noticeably for reasons other than it being a hentai. However, I can also understand that the depiction of a sex scene can lead to a better portrayal of character relationships than otherwise. Hentai as a genre does not promote the creation of art works as some products (ie. most in Fate/Stay Night, Sharin no Kuni) would have been just as affecting if the sex scenes were removed completely. There are also times where the depiction of sex are important to the plot and I am glad to have seen it for more than reasons of physical pleasure. This might mean that the producers have smartened up and realised that sex with context is better than sex without, meaning that the overall experience is still aiming at selling sex. However, it can also mean that there is really more to the sex thing than just dismissing it as fap-material.

I'm more for thinking that each person should consider each piece of entertainment individually and should consider whether something deserves to be an art form based on its own individual merits, rather than generalising by genre.

Offline TypicalIdiotFan

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Re: Can hentai ever be purely observed as an art form?
« Reply #4 on: February 06, 2013, 10:34:21 PM »
No.
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Offline Ejecting Pilot

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Re: Can hentai ever be purely observed as an art form?
« Reply #5 on: February 06, 2013, 10:51:24 PM »
Interesting thought. I was in class today when there was an interesting quote that came up. "There is an art in concealing art". Or was it "Art is the act of concealing it"? The only reason I bring this up is what your guys' examples brought to mind. I haven't played any VN except for Katawa Shoujo and that is western. It seems that those VNs or eroges you guys use as examples are sexual in nature but arrive at the sexual climax in an emotionally gratifying way. And as a result may move beyond your sexual desries, as that is how I felt when playing Katawa Shoujo. In my experience with doujinshi (hohohoho), I come specifically for the tits, sex, and climax. But, every once in a while a doujin will surprise me in the way it is conveyed, the ultimate end of sexual lust is concealed underneath a story that may contain characterization, melancholy and empathy. And those doujinshi I hold in high regard as works of any kind. So perhaps it is not necessarily the fact that hentai involves a vivid (and sometimes visceral) portrayal of sex, but how it reaches that climax. As Aelms and Marid King allude to, it is very much a matter of perspective. For the most part, most hentai is quite crass and vulgar as Zeitgeist mentioned perhaps due to the fact that story and characterization is less of a focal point as compared to reusable cels and overexaggerated squishy noises. But perhaps when a hentai focuses less on the latter and more on the former it stops being a hentai? 

No.

Or that too.

Offline Sorrow-kun

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Re: Can hentai ever be purely observed as an art form?
« Reply #6 on: February 06, 2013, 11:52:34 PM »
In the words of Reverend Lovejoy, short answer: "Yes" with an "If," long answer: "No" -- with a "But".

Offline Sorrows Neptune

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Re: Can hentai ever be purely observed as an art form?
« Reply #7 on: February 07, 2013, 01:01:37 AM »
I'd say hentai (and pornography in general) is indeed an art form, just one that's purely subjective due to its purpose of arousing the audience, and thus simply isn't worth discussing in most cases.

That's why when I reviewed the first couple episodes of Senran Kagura on my blog, I tried to stray away from talking about the fanservice too much, since assessing the fanservice in a fanservice show just seems pointless...which is also why trying to review that show was waste of time.

Offline Shadowmage

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Re: Can hentai ever be purely observed as an art form?
« Reply #8 on: February 10, 2013, 12:05:40 AM »
Yes and no. 

Yes because there are situations where the act of sex can be used to evoke certain emotions to drive home a point of the movie.

No, because art is ultimately a social construct, and there's no way you're going to get mass consensus on overt sex being art.

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Offline TypicalIdiotFan

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Re: Can hentai ever be purely observed as an art form?
« Reply #9 on: February 10, 2013, 09:29:38 AM »
I would say that the answer is an even more simple basis of semantics.

Hentai, by definition, is simply pornographic material.  Art is already art.  If hentai crosses over into art, it is no longer hentai and now art.  If I were to draw a Venn Diagram for this, the circles would never overlap.
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Offline Clicking

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Re: Can hentai ever be purely observed as an art form?
« Reply #10 on: February 11, 2013, 07:46:10 PM »
Not really. They're already separate by definition.

The real "puzzler" is as to which of the two categories does the subject in question belong. But this is an easy question. Art is a product more than the sum of its parts and the goal of eroticism here is to guide the viewer to a set, emotional answer and/or an involving, climactic finish. On the other hand, the purpose of hentai and erotica is just to give the viewer a climax or a finish.

*rimshot*

Offline Kylaran

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Re: Can hentai ever be purely observed as an art form?
« Reply #11 on: February 12, 2013, 08:21:50 AM »
Not really. They're already separate by definition.

The real "puzzler" is as to which of the two categories does the subject in question belong. But this is an easy question. Art is a product more than the sum of its parts and the goal of eroticism here is to guide the viewer to a set, emotional answer and/or an involving, climactic finish. On the other hand, the purpose of hentai and erotica is just to give the viewer a climax or a finish.

*rimshot*

What if the emotional feeling it is meant to evoke is a feeling of pleasure and/or arousal like many sensuous but not fully pornographic scenes in films?

Offline AH

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Re: Can hentai ever be purely observed as an art form?
« Reply #12 on: February 12, 2013, 02:50:26 PM »
Generally speaking...erotic art is, nevertheless, art. The lines between "erotic" and "pornographic" have never been set in stone throughout human history. Many pieces of erotic art were originally considered to be purely or mostly pornographic back when they were originally made but that has ultimately changed with the passage of time, regardless of whatever the creators might have initially intended (which could go either way). The perceptions of critics and the audience at large have varied with the centuries.

So I don't think there's any "one size fits all" answer here, but something that must be evaluated on a case by case basis and which will inevitably change as even more time passes. And of course, whether or not it is particularly "good" art is another matter, since even a work that does not meet a subjective standard of quality in a particular era isn't automatically disqualified from being art.
« Last Edit: February 12, 2013, 02:55:43 PM by AH »
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