How Does Uncensored Hentai Make It Out Of Japan?

by Justin Sevakis,

Skikes asks:

How does uncensored Hentai make it out of Japan? Is it released illegally in Japan or is a censored version produced for Japan and an uncensored version produced for other markets? And if that's the case, why aren't more uncensored hentai released internationally?

Many people don't realize that hentai is censored in Japan. The naughty bits are always obscured with a mosaic filter (or something similar) when you buy hentai (or any other adult video) over there. But hentai is always animated in its full glory to begin with.

Uncensored porn is illegal in Japan, but it's really only illegal to sell or import. The Japanese criminal code only specifies "distribution" of "indecent" materials. Having a master tape somewhere of uncensored porn isn't going to get you busted. And Japan produces a LOT of porn. No porn is photographed with censorship in place -- that censorship is usually a video effect added as a final step in the production process, as the final video is formatted for authoring onto disc, or uploading to the internet.

So uncensored versions exist at some point. All a porn producer has to do is keep a copy of the uncensored version around, before applying the censorship and shipping it off for manufacturing. Those uncensored versions are kept for sale to overseas areas, which don't have those censorship laws on the books. The fans don't want that censorship, so the US publishers always request the uncensored versions.

I've seen some hentai titles where the animators got lazy and didn't draw any detail where they knew censorship would take place, but the majority of hentai has quite a bit of detail down there. (Sometimes, quite horrifying detail.)

In recent years, web savvy fans in Japan realized that they were getting a bum deal compared to fans overseas, who didn't have to deal with the censorship. They started importing uncensored American hentai DVDs, and not buying or renting the super-expensive Japanese discs. So the hentai producers decided not to allow the uncensored masters to be published overseas anymore. Most publishers balk at this, and don't want to proceed with licensing it.

The market for hentai in general has declined, with very few porn shops left in the US (the primary means by which hentai was sold), and Amazon refusing to carry it. There's also the general attitude that most people don't want to pay for porn or have a physical copy of said porn on a shelf. So between that, and the refusal to allow uncensored versions to be released overseas, and the whole market in North America basically went away. What's left is essentially just re-releases of old hentai titles that were previously released uncensored.

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Anime News Network founder Justin Sevakis wrote Answerman between July 2013 and August 2019, and had over 20 years of experience in the anime business at the time. These days, he's the owner of the video production company MediaOCD, where he produces many anime Blu-rays. You can follow him on Twitter at @worldofcrap.

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