An Open Letter to Jun Hongo

Dear Sir,
I would like to comment on several percieved ommissions and inaccuracies in your article Porn ‘anime’ boasts a big US beachhead in the July 11, 2006 edition of the Japan Times (registration necessary once the article is archived).
I’d like to start with the image included with the article. It is a photograph of an assembled and painted version of this resin garage kit, produced by sculptor Vispo and featuring the character Ayanami Rei from the anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion. While certainly “provocative” it is hardly pornographic, and its relevance to the thesis of your piece is questionable, as it is for sale at a Japanese specialty shop and not on the international market.
Also worthy of further inquiry is the price point the item in question commands, as your emphasis implies it to be unreasonable or somehow abnormal. 73,500 yen (roughly USD $640 at today’s exchange rate) is certainly expensive, but what goes into that cost? First there is the cost of production of the base resin kit, from which the sculptor must derive a profit. A kit of that scale would be sold at between 10,000 and 20,000 yen, unpainted and unassembled, and would only be available on a limited basis at events specially sanctioned for the sale of works featuring such copywritten characters. It would then have to be painted and assembled, a laborious process consuming potentially dozens of man-hours. Assuming a fair rate of compensation for a skilled artisan (perhaps 2,000 yen an hour) the price more than doubles; a conservative estimate for reselling by an after-market painter would be 40,000 to 50,000 yen. The rest of the price would be made up in Mandarake’s profit margin, as they become the third point of sale for the original kit.
The larger point here is that if you have 73,500 yen to drop on a scantily-clad statue of an anime character, this puts you in a small and select group of hobbyists who have chosen to pursue this particular avenue of fandom with a passion. It is not reflective of the majority of casual anime viewers, either here in Japan or abroad.
On to the actual article content:

    “a growing boom in the genre’s pornographic segment is raising eyebrows among the world’s fans of Pokemon and other less-graphic content.”

The world’s fans of Pokemon and other less-graphic animated content have been raising eyebrows at animated porn since Urotsukidoji was released in the US in 1993, if not before. That and other early examples of “hentai” were what led to both the adoption of the term in common English parlance and the common misconception that “all anime is tentacle porn”, a notion that the recent international boom has done far more to dispel than to reinforce.

    “The best-selling product overseas now is a pornographic makeover of ‘Gundam Seed,’ “

This quote needs further explanation. There is no way that Bandai, the children’s toy company and production force behind Gundam Seed, would officially sanction a pornographic anime version of it; if anime (Japanese animation) is the focus of your article it is vital that you clarify this point. Instead, what the Mandarake employee is referring to is probably an unofficial, amateur “doujinshi” publication, or fan comic. In addition, the “best-selling” designation can be explained by the fact that much more widely-consumed media (mainstream anime and manga) are readily available via other distribution routes; it is not surprising that Mandarake, a niche store targeted at hobbyists and one of the few outlets to ship doujinshi internationally, has one of its specialty products as a best-seller.

    “The company and similar shops have seen overseas sales of sexual “anime” grow in the last couple of years.”

Again, this is because “the company and similar shops” don’t sell anything else that can’t be readily obtained via cheaper, domestic channels. The reasons their overseas sales of sexual “anime” (probably not anime at all, but doujinshi and games, as pornographic anime is also widely licensed by domestic distributors in the US and elsewhere) have grown is because international markets have matured, and there’s no longer a need to import what used to be “specialty items” from Japanese stores such as Mandarake.

    “The general intolerance toward pornographic animation and comic books in the West is another factor for overseas fans to seek out Japanese products, Furukawa said.”

While Furukawa is no doubt an authority on the runnings of his business, whether he should be seen as a quotable reference on international social norms is questionable. The fact is that there is no special intolerance toward pornographic animation and comic books in the West beyond an intolerance for pornography in general, though Furukawa’s misconception could have been sparked by knowledge that Western animation companies are much quicker to protect the use of their intellectual property (characters, etc.) in pornographic parody form. In this sense the Japanese companies should be seen as more permissive, but this is not reflective of social norms in either case.
Likewise, the incentive to seek out Japanese pornographic products is the same whether they are animated or not; Asian porn is a ubiquitously popular niche market within the sum of pornography, and Japan produces a whole lot of it.

    “Fans in America seek something special in this anime, and reading them is cathartic,” he said.

“Reading anime?” I think this is the source of the issue addressed above, namely that Mandarake doesn’t sell pornographic anime to an international audience, rather exporting doujinshi. Again, I don’t think it is appropriate to quote a Mandarake manager’s speculation on the motives behind American fans’ taste for doujinshi – why not try asking the customers themselves? We’re out here, and some of us even read the Japan Times.

    “hentai began to gain currency overseas around 2001 and online shops saw a corresponding growth in sales of adult products.”

Funny, that year also corresponds with the growth of mainstream anime presence on the internet, its featured broadcast on American cable TV channels, the boom in US anime convention attendance, and the beginning of my own personal anime fandom. Is it possible that the growth in interest in porn is merely a proportional reflection of the growth in interest in anime in general over the past five years? It certainly seems likely, but we can’t tell, given the lack of information in the article.

    “Fukuda said there will be, and should be, tighter rules against adult anime.”

What does this have to do with the article? Dropping a line like this with no explanation is irresponsible from a journalistic standpoint in the currently charged political climate surrounding the issue. Your later quote from the Harvard anime club president, while a welcome addition, doesn’t do enough to balance this little bombshell – I suggest you invite comment from Japanese parties concerned with freedom of speech and expression as well if you plan to weigh in on the moral debate.

    “According to a report by the Japan External Trade Organization, the number of Japanese anime DVDs exported to the United States increased from 2.1 million in 2000 to 12 million in 2005.”

Not only does this have nothing to do with pornography, it reinforces the impression that anime is a filmographic medium sold on DVDs, where earlier in the piece it was a medium to be “read”. Without a coherent definition of the term you risk confusion at best and misunderstanding at worst on the part of the casual reader.
Also, I doubt this statistic is referring to DVDs directly exported to the United States. At an average price of USD $40-50 per disc (at Japanese rates) this would imply a 500-million dollar yearly market for the import of Japanese anime DVDs, which is absurd; why import the Japanese DVD, without English subtitles, at a price several orders of magnitude higher than the domestically produced, subtitled and dubbed US equivalent? Almost every anime airing on Japanese TV these days makes its way to a US release within a year, so the only people importing region 2 (Japanese) discs these days are the abovementioned hobbyists.
This fact, coupled with the quotes from Mandarake’s sales figures (“adult products account for 30 percent of its international sales”) earlier in the article, paint the picture of a 500-million dollar direct import market from Japan, of which thirty percent (150 million dollars) is pornography; I doubt this is what you intended, but if it were really the case I’d be making a tidy sum in the export business right now and not typing this here.

    “Ryusuke Hikawa, a critic who has collaborated with NHK in producing anime programs, explained that there has been a market for Japanese pornographic anime in the United States since the late 1980s.”

If you had lead with this instead of the Mandarake interview I might not have felt compelled to write in response to your article. As it is, it seems you are using the increased popularity of anime as a whole to disproportionately target an increase of interest in its seedy underbelly. While I agree the increased international interest in two-dimensional erotica from Japan is a topic worth addressing, sensationalizing it in this way does little to add to reasonable dialogue on the subject.

    “In April, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors in California ordered the anime reference book “Manga: Sixty years of Japanese Comics,” to be banned from the county’s libraries, because the book contained “reproductions of pornographic cartoons depicting sex acts, including sex with animals.”

This anecdote, while historical fact, should not be left without critical inquiry if it is to be cited responsibly. It raises questions as to whether the book in question actually contains the objectionable material cited by the Board, and it is at least possible that they misinterpreted the content. Frederick Schodt‘s work is widely regarded as professional, scholarly, and an indespensable part of the canon of literature on the history of modern Japanese art; as it is, the presentation here casts aspersions both on the nature of his work and the character of the author.
I wouldn’t feel compelled to write this were it not for the potential for misunderstanding and harm that could result from a misreading of this article. I believe it could benefit from further research and elaboration, though at its core – the notion that interest in “porn anime” is expanding beyond the rate of adoption of its more innocuous (and vastly more popular) all-ages counterpart – I believe the article’s thesis is spurious, and should be rethought.
Thank you for your time.
Shingo note: I went ahead and sent this to the “letters to the editor” section of the ‘Times, so we’ll see what happens…

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24 Responses to An Open Letter to Jun Hongo

  1. Karasu July 12, 2006 at 11:52 am #

    good luck

  2. cuteproxy July 12, 2006 at 12:19 pm #

    The writer seems to have difficulty distinguishing between anime and manga =p

  3. scottfrye July 12, 2006 at 12:35 pm #

    I can’t believe that a professional journalist/writer can have some many inaccurate information in his article. It sounds like really sloppy work. This type of inaccurate information about anime always gets on my nerves.

  4. Shingo July 12, 2006 at 1:12 pm #

    It seems pretty obvious that this was a quick piece of work dashed off under deadline without a lot of time to do the background research, but that doesn’t excuse so many egregious mistakes, at least from my point of view. I guess if nothing else this will hopefully clue him in to the fact that some of the JT’s readership is rather easily provoked when it comes to their hobby of choice.
    Oh, and let’s keep it civil, OK?
    [edit to clarify] I’m trying to avoid ad hominem attacks here as there’s a chance it’ll actually be read by someone at the paper; be nice for them to see the prettier face of the fandom (such as it is). And no, I haven’t suddenly become the Dave Aldwinkle of the anime blogosphere. :V

  5. Randall Fitzgerald July 12, 2006 at 5:28 pm #

    As I largely like to consider myself a semi-professional journalist (having done what I do for a while in more mediums than I’d like), I’d like to put out there that I’ve long felt the Japan Times to be a bit on the lower end of things, so far as journalistic integrity, and standards go. This article sort of stands to prove the rule to that end. While I’ve come to expect this sort of inaccuracy to be commonplace in the American market, I don’t think it’s acceptable for a paper that is trying to serve itself up as a Japanese information source. The article itself is poorly paced and poorly structured, at best.
    To touch on specific areas that you brought up, Shingo:
    The San Bernardino banning.
    I follow that part pretty closely for ikimashou, and the story sort of goes that one mother from the community had her son tell her that the book contained nudity, she called to complain, and he banned it immediately without reviewing the book. I have great respect for Shodt’s work and he always does a good job of covering all the bases of a subject he’s writing about. With manga, this happened to include the elephant in the Protestant livingroom, and so on that basis it was pulled from shelves, despite clearly being part and parcel with the history of manga.
    Censorship:
    I have my own thoughts on this (loli is a form of release that maybe shouldn’t be taken away), but it still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in an article that pays less than lipservice to the issue. A passing glance at the reform laws is one of those good ways to get uneducated, yet zealous, protestors out in the streets to rally against a cause without information. You’re absolutely right when you say it’s irresponsible.
    Harvard Anime Club:
    I don’t really see how this has anything at all to do with the article. You’re asking an uninformed AnSoc leader to comment on a field that he or she probably has little to no interest or experience in. As it stands, the only ero-centric, English-language blog I’ve seen is run by me (Not ikimashou… haha), so I’m not really under the impression that too many people in the States are comfortable with their own fetishism, especially enough to warrant the sort of market share the article mentions. And anime clubs don’t go near hentai, so that’s on a personal basis anyway. In fact, I can only really think of HD, Sex & Games (sort of), and moetron off the top of my head as places that post ero-content with any sort of regularity. It’s not that popular here, at least to that effect. A lot of people I’ve talked to in the community actively hide it, so purchases are likely pretty low on the list of things they want to do, and even my own writer uses a pen-name, which is fine with me, but I think it helps put perspective on the attitude over here.
    It’s not some crazy new, breakout industry. Hentai anime itself has been around for forever, and sells ok as it is. Doujinshi sells little or not at all in the US, what with our limited number of Japanese speakers. And eroge is pretty much limited to what Peter Payne and crew bring over. I’ve rambled on too long now, but still, I think the whole article is sort of baseless itself, and if it isn’t in parts, it lacks any real credible source to give it the legitimacy it needs to make any real statement. I’m unimpressed. I hope they publish your letter.

  6. shoujo July 12, 2006 at 5:35 pm #

    I would expect nothing less than wishy-washy factless, misinformative journalism from the paper that prints the mindless crap Amy Chavez writes.

  7. Tsubaki July 12, 2006 at 5:53 pm #

    I have already given up trying to correct those kind of people’s misconception about anime. But I really love your reply to that article.
    It’s very neutral and factual, without the overtones of a angry fanboy. I hope it smacks that journalist’s face.

  8. omo July 13, 2006 at 12:34 am #

    Is there any English-language news site that is sensibly written and published in Japan? JT is the only other one and know, and it’s slightly better than the other one we all know.

  9. loplop July 13, 2006 at 1:53 am #

    I’m really surprised that something that poorly written was actually published . . . It almost sounds like some one has a ax to grind somewhere . . .

  10. Ultima July 13, 2006 at 4:56 am #

    An intelligently, well thought out reply/letter. Excellent work. Hopefully, in the future, Jun Hongo will take better care in properly researching his subject before publishing it.

  11. Shingo July 13, 2006 at 5:01 am #

    >>Randall Fitzgerald
    Thanks for the additional info on the San Bernardino banning. I remember reading about it awhile ago when it happened, but didn’t have the resources while writing to go back and dig up more info (though in hindsight an ANN search probably would have found it). Ahh, the power of the reactionary right.
    “It’s not some crazy new breakout industry.” I think this sums up what I was trying to say. Porn has been around since people could draw, then reproduce images photographically; cultures have exchanged porn since they began bartering for furs (ok, maybe a bit later than that)… anyway, for the article’s point to stand it really needs a lot more substantial research.
    >>shoujo
    I find that the JT’s quality varies pretty widely; it’s useful for headline news based on fact, not so good when it delves into “cultural reporting” or home-grown opinion. I’d like to see them conform to a higher standard across the board.
    >>Tsubaki
    I figure if we don’t try to correct these misconceptions eventually it’s going to come back to haunt us. One politician in the right place reading a poorly-worded article like this one has the potential to knock down the fragile house of cards we’ve come to enjoy, or at least put a serious crip in the style of a lot of legitimate anime fans.
    I don’t want to smack anyone’s face, though. Bouryoku hantai~
    >>omo
    To my knowledge JT is the best that’s out there. Unlike that other site you mention they tend not to just translate verbatim from editorials or sensationalist pieces found originally in the Japanese press; they actually give a byline to a member of their staff, so they can be held accountable for what they write. I hope they’ll step up to the plate and take responsibility.
    >>loplop
    I wouldn’t go as far as saying there’s an ax out there being ground with this piece… as I read it it’s something that looks like an easy target for material that will draw a few eyes to the paper (LOOK! PORN!) without requiring much effort on the reporter’s part. It’s just this sort of journalism that can be the most dangerous though, I think (or maybe I’ve been reading Gamepolitics too much).

  12. Martin July 13, 2006 at 6:55 am #

    Wow, that’s some seriously well thought-out stuff there! Especially considering how amateurish and ill-informed the article in question was.
    Good luck with the feedback (if any) that you get for this. Hopefully the editor will see your response as the thoroughly researched and articulate piece that it is – anime fandom still seems to need people to set the record straight like this, even after all this time.

  13. Clay July 13, 2006 at 11:47 am #

    I had bought the dead tree edition of Japan Times and did not see this article in the July 11 paper. Was this a web-only exclusive article?
    Journalism standards in Japan are pretty low. Too much emphasis is given on anecdotal evidence and too much weight is given to what anonymous people say (especially prominent on Japanese news on TV). The style (quality) of reporting here is different from the Western style, to say the least.

  14. Shingo July 13, 2006 at 1:10 pm #

    >>Martin
    The sad thing is (whether for the writer or for me, I’m not sure) that I didn’t do a single bit of research to write this. Just used what I had sloshing around in my head (I had picked up two of Vispo’s garage kits in the past, so I was familiar with his work. Pure chance there). The rest is what I would consider to be relatively common knowledge for a devoted anime fan, though that may hinge on the definition of “devoted” (probably readable as “insane”). I do hope it merits some response from the JT, though as of yet nothing has cleared my mailbox…
    >>Clay
    I live a bit too far from Tokyo to find the paper edition of the Times on newsstands or in book stores in the area, so I can’t say for sure. It must be a web-only story, if you say it was absent; some comfort comes in the implication of limited distribution there I guess.
    I don’t watch enough Japanese TV (and my kanji skills keep me from all but the most rudimentary understanding of newspapers) to have felt the full force of Japanese press ineptitude. I’ve heard about the tactics they employ in covering the particular tabloid story of the day, which bring a whole new meaning to the term “press gang”; I’m glad I’ve never encountered one of these rabid mobs in person.
    I would hope, though, that a news outlet reporting in English – regardless of its physical location or the nationality of its reporters – would adhere to some sort of international standard of credibility despite the weakness of prevailing local standards. I guess the lesson here is that just because it’s in English and in a newspaper it’s not necessarily true. :V Listening to too much NPR for my news may have set the bar too high…

  15. Randall Fitzgerald July 13, 2006 at 3:59 pm #

    omo:
    I used to read http://www.crisscross.com/jp/
    They used to be called something else, but they tend to do short news blurbs rather than long articles, so it’s a bit more infocentric, I think. Plus they do sweet “man on the street” questionaires. Those are fun to read.

  16. omo July 14, 2006 at 5:36 am #

    Randall:
    That is pretty neat, thanks!

  17. Sydney2K July 15, 2006 at 8:32 pm #

    BTW, wasn’t it Paul Gravett’s book that was banned, not Fred Schodt’s book? *puzzled*

  18. Anonymous July 16, 2006 at 8:42 am #

    anime blogosphere lol

  19. MAMA July 18, 2006 at 7:42 pm #

    Hey Shingo,
    Your open letter is great, but i had some comments about certain issues while reading it.
    Second paragraph – While you mention that the doll is not pornographic, i’m guessing 10 out of 10 parents will be very uncomfortable finding the doll in their teenage son’s bedroom. Agree?
    And, besides, do you expect a daily newspaper to publish anything kinkier (the REAL hentai figures) than this doll on their page?
    Third paragraph – cost of the doll. Whether the cost of the doll is 50,000 yen, i’d say 10 out of 10 people (that are not experts like yourself) would be surprised that anyone would pay 73500 for a product like this. I wouldn’t pay 100 bucks for a hamburger made of kobe beef, because regardless of the cost it takes to make the product, 100 dollars is too much for a burger. The same goes for the doll.
    Fourth paragraph – yep, that “small and select group of hobbyists” are growing in numbers, buddy. That’s the whole point of the article.
    Sixth paragraph – “the pornographic makeover” is probably referring to a “doujinshi”. You’re right. But then again, I understand why a newspaper would avoid using the term “doujinshi” and simply rephrase it as a “pornographic makeover” to make it easier for the readers to understand what it is.
    Eight paragraph – “The fact is that there is no special intolerance toward pornographic animation and comic books in the west beyond an intolerance for pornography in general” Check with the case of the San Bernardino library. The stuff they banned over there is regarded as art in Japan. Hint?
    Ninth paragraph – “We’re out here, and some of us read the Japan Times” – I wouldn’t bet on a newspaper interviewing a anime fan instead of an anime expert when writing an article. Although, they should.
    “What does this have to do with the article” regarding Fukuda’s comment – well, I believe the author was trying to explain that not everyone in Japan is a fan of exporting hentai anime.
    DVD stats – check the homepage of JETRO and its there, man.
    “I’d be making a tidy sum in export business” ; go get em tiger.
    “i wouldn’t write this were it not for the potential for misunderstanding and harm that could result” – what misunderstanding and harm??
    I guess, what I am trying to say, is that as terrible as the article is, its not as one-sided or innaccurate as you mention.
    Luego cabron,
    MAMA

  20. Shingo July 18, 2006 at 9:27 pm #

    >>MAMA
    A well thought out response. Let me address the points you bring up one by one:
    First, I don’t expect a teenager has the sort of disposable income to afford the pictured doll. It is more likely that the parent would be the consumer in the instance you propose.
    “100 dollars is too much for a burger.” Not if you’re a burger enthusiast, which is my point. There are gourmets who spend this kind of money on food because they prioritize it as a hobby. There are anime fans who spend this kind of money on dolls because they prioritize it as a hobby. If the article were showcasing scantily clad dolls as a hobby, like a gourmet’s appreciation of a $100 Kobe beef burger, I wouldn’t have a problem with it – but nowhere is the opinion of someone who would actually buy the item in question brought up.
    The small and select number of hobbyists are growing, true. But out of proportion to the growth of the broader fanbase? I doubt it. The article doesn’t present relevant statistics, regardless, and is making a mountain out of a molehill.
    The term “pornographic makeover” is strongly implied to be an anime. I find it hard to come away with any other reading from the article. The implication that it is an anime is disengenuous.
    “The stuff they banned over there is regarded as art in Japan.” No, it’s regarded as porn. Or as pop culture trash, depending on the context. If a book in the San Bernardino library contained screenshots from Japanese live-action bestiality porn it would have been banned as well, which is more toward the point I’m making – porn is porn is porn, whether drawn or not, when it comes to distaste for it in Western culture.
    The “anime expert” is a salesman, not a sociologist. He’s qualified to talk about his line of work, but I don’t see his comments on fan motivation as carrying much weight.
    My “what does this have to do with the article” was directed at the percieved injection of bias on the part of the reporter in choosing to select that particular quote for inclusion. If his thesis is that anime porn is scoring big in the US, opinions regarding the legalization of said porn in Japan seem tangentially related at best.
    I’m not questioning the DVD stats, I have no doubt that they’re accurate when correctly interpreted. The article does not correctly interpret them, however. This is also why I’m not exporting DVDs right now – the “export statistics” reflect domestic localized licenses, not direct exports.
    What misunderstanding and harm? It just takes one poorly-informed politician reading an article like this to start a crusade against the PORN ANIME MENACE threatening the morals of American society, and in turn deprive responsible adults of their freedom of expression. I care about the (mis)represntation of my hobby in the media, which is why I wrote this letter.

  21. Randall Fitzgerald July 19, 2006 at 12:37 pm #

    Sydney2K:
    The book pulled WAS Paul Gravett’s book. Still, it’s a scholarly read in the same vein. Sorry about the confusion. Here are links to my coverage on the things.
    Intial Story:
    http://ikimashou.net/2006/04/14/manga-book-banned-from-ca-libraries/
    Follow up:
    http://ikimashou.net/2006/05/04/barstow-community-college-tells-postmus-to-suck-it/
    (Sorry for the links, just for anyone who wanted follow-up on the book banning thing. People need to know so they can help fight the good fight!)

  22. Shingo July 19, 2006 at 1:01 pm #

    >>Randall Fitzgerald
    Thanks for clearing that up, bit of a black eye for me. At time of writing I recalled it as Schodt’s book having been pulled for some reason and didn’t bother to double-check… oops. Was there another recent case where Schodt’s book was banned, or am I smoking some nature’s herb?

  23. MAMA July 19, 2006 at 1:51 pm #

    Hola,
    There was a case in Maine a couple of years ago, i believe, where a manga reference book was banned in public libraries. Maybe that was Schodt’s work. Not sure though.
    Anywho, Shingo, thanks for the reply!
    some thoughts on your response –
    Like you mention, only a true anime enthusiast would pay 73500 yen for the doll. I agree. But in the same way the sales of 100 dollar burgers (which probably was intended for true burger enthusiasts as you said) was widely reported on many papers, i see nothing out of the ordinary for a newspaper to use Rei’s photo with an article that reports the boom of hentai genre.
    What i am trying to say, is that I don’t see why anime lovers (like myself) would or should feel uneasy about the photo being used here.
    Sorry to keep on using the burger-example :), but, if a burger lover found a photo of kobe-beef burger on the paper and claimed “its only for the burger enthusiasts, don’t report it like its for everyone!” wouldn’t you feel…awkward about the notion? Wouldn’t the presence of a 100 dollar burger by itself be worthy of an article?
    Besides, taking the caption of the photo as an “emphasis which implies it to be unreasonable or somehow abnormal” might be a bit of an overreaction.
    The article does not showcase the doll as merely a “hobby” for the enthusiasts – true. But from what i understand, the whole point of the article is that ; what once was a hobby for the core fans is now gaining a fanbase in the U.S. according to doujinshi and dvd exporters.
    In that case, it wouldn’t make sense for the writer to say that “the hentai boom is only for enthusiasts,” would it?
    Quick question – why would it be okay for you as long as the article indicates that the dolls are merely a hobby for the true enthusiast? Why is that such a big deal? Is it because you disagree that hentai anime is gaining ground even in the broader anime fan base? If that’s the case, you would be denying the quotes by the DVD exporters in the article which claim that the sales of Hentai anime is growing in america.
    “But out of the proportion to the growth of the broader fanbase? I doubt it” – okay, even if it were growing accordingly to the number of broader anime fan, I still think its newsworthy that a new anime culture, which is by many considered obscene, is beginning to gain ground in the U.S. I think its huge surprise for the majority of Japanese that words such as hentai, bukkake, and gokkun are being frequently used in he states.
    I completely agree with you that the article is making a mountain out of a molehill. But then again, that seems to be the tendencey with most newspaper stories, don’t you think?
    BTW Hikawa is not a salesman. Although not a sociologist, I’ve read his articles about anime culture published on IMIDAS (which is like an encyclopedia of modern terminology in Japan) and was impressed. The guy has plenty of knowledge.
    All in all, I don’t think the article is powerful enough to iniciate any “crusade against the porn anime menace” like you mention. I’m not worried ;)
    Take it easy
    MAMA

  24. Shingo July 19, 2006 at 3:37 pm #

    >>MAMA
    This is turning into quite the conversation here. I’m glad you took the time to reply to my own rather long-winded reply, and I’m afraid I’ll be answering in kind again:
    First, the burger example. As I see it, posting a picture of a non-pornographic anime figurine in an article about animated pornography is like posting a picture of a plastic cow in an article about Kobe beef burgers with the caption “this plastic cow costs 200,000 yen. Many people are eating expensive cow products these days.”
    As you said in your initial reply, it’s not like the paper can print a picture of the article’s subject matter without getting in hot water. I would suggest that either a) the article widen its subject matter to include the growing hardcore anime fanbase as a whole, recognizing that the pornographic element is only a part, or b) find a more topical image (one within the bounds of what’s fit to print, perhaps an Akiba storefront in its entirety), or c) not post a picture at all. Sure, the figure is somewhat related to the topic of the article, but there are certainly better-suited examples out there.
    “what once was a hobby for the core fans is now gaining a fanbase in the U.S. according to doujinshi and dvd exporters.”
    I didn’t get this message from reading the article; I thought it was talking about “anime porn”. What would make sense for the author to say is: “anime is becoming increasingly popular in the US, and its ‘hentai’ counterpart along with it”. The article doesn’t effectively articulate a sense of proper balance here.
    “If that’s the case, you would be denying the quotes by the DVD exporters in the article which claim that the sales of Hentai anime is growing in america.”
    I should make it clear that I firmly believe anime porn, doujinshi, hentai, whatever you want to call it – it’s all becoming more popular in the US and around the world. Definitely. This site and others like it, not to mention 4chan, danbooru and others, wouldn’t have a readership if it weren’t for the growing popularity of 2D smut from Japan.
    With that said – there is no quote in the article from a DVD exporter who is claiming the sales of hentai anime are growing in America. There are two unrelated quotes: one from the Mandarake guy, who was pretty obviously talking about doujinshi, and one from the Japan External Trade Organization, which is pretty obviously talking about the sale of the sum total of domestically licensed anime DVDs – hentai or not.
    As I stated in my initial response to the article, I think this trend is newsworthy, regardless of its rate of expansion (which as far as I can tell is unknown, relative to the rate of expansion of non-porn anime at least). As such, it’s worthy of a comprehensive, contextual treatment – not the shoddy expose provided here. Yellow journalism sells papers and titillates the readership, but I think a more thorough exploration of the issue would be far more interesting – and yes, less potentially “dangerous”.
    I at no point implied that Hikawa was a salesman. I would have been interested in seeing more from his perspective in the article, actually – it was a pity he was shoved into the middle instead of leading the piece. The salesman I was referring to was Furukawa, the Mandarake manager.
    I agree with you, it’s hardly likely that this piece will be the one to spark any sort of anti-anime crusade. But as long as this misrepresentation, shoddy research and misuse of terminology continues in the popular media the risk is there that some politician will latch onto it as their own personal vote- and attention-grabbing crusade baby – just look at the video game industry in the US these days to see what can happen when these things get blown out of proportion.
    Thanks again for the reply!

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