Why Are People More Upset By Nudity Than Violence?
by Justin Sevakis,
What's up with the Double Standards in Anime? Something full of blood-n-gore murder-death-kill trends towards the most popular, well received and reviewed shows. Meanwhile, the fan service, T & A heavy shows get lambasted for their content? Is this more of a Japanese cultural/consumer issue. Or are we Americans, driving the "creative bus" so to speak. Is it, we want slice and dice, drive in movies type carnage? Will the US Anime market continue to denounce anything that's not down the Rippers Alley? Is the Rom-Com dead? Are Harem and Witless Twit gone forever? Has the Anime market lost the idea of "fun"?
Americans are absolutely more prudish about sex and nudity in our entertainment than we are violence, especially if it's the over-the-top variety. I've always scratched my head at how parents in this country will freak the hell out at the sight of an unclad nipple on television, but have absolutely no problem letting their 6-year-old see horrifying, gory violence. But then, there's a lot of parenting out there I disagree with.
Anime has always occupied a conspicuous place in our minds when it comes to sex and violence. American fandom came of age in the early-to-mid 90s, which was an era where countless blood-and-spooge OAVs were being made in Japan. Creativity in the burgeoning home video market was being driven by testosterone-fueled young male artists, high on the newfound freedom inherent to not having to get their anime played on television or screened in movie theaters. A huge percentage of this stuff made its way to American shores, where a similar audience of college-aged males ate it up.
But as fandom progressed, the fans got younger (and more diverse), and now most of them are teenagers, and most anime is late-night TV series, which aren't exactly G-rated, but are generally pretty clean compared to most 80s and 90s OAVs. Younger audiences are typically still very influenced by the parenting they're still receiving, and have also likely been shielded from a lot of sex (and, hopefully, some violence) in the media. Seeing really wanton sexual behavior when you're that young and innocent can be pretty shocking. In my experience, younger fans tend to clutch pearls pretty easily. I know I did when I was 13 or so. There's a tendency to assume "today's kids" are completely desensitized to absolutely everything under the sun at a shockingly young age thanks to unfettered internet access, but the truth is a lot more complex and nuanced than that.
That's one reason. The other reason for the difference is that although bloody violence is pretty prevalent in anime, violence for violence's sake is very seldom an anime's entire raison d'être. There really aren't that many shows that maintain a constant display of blood and gruesome violence as the show's sole selling point. They do exist - they're just relatively few in number, especially compared to the number of anime where the chief preoccupation is anime boobs.
Personally, I don't get annoyed when there are boobs in anime. There have always been boobs in anime, there will always be boobs in anime, people love boobs in anime. I draw the line when there isn't anything else in the show - rote, extremely familiar genre stories and power fantasies where the obvious #1 (and #2 and #3 and #4) reason for its existence is endless fanservice? These are a bit more common each season and they're very much not for me - and this is not an uncommon perspective (also, once you've dated for a while, it becomes a little clearer how unrelatable the poorer-written anime "romances" really are.) So you hear a lot of complaining about it.
For the record, I think any adult who isn't bothered by adult content would quite happily sit through a borderline-hentai show if the underlying story was good enough, and the sex was in service to the story. We get shows like this sometimes - think something like Scum's Wish, or even well-regarded fanservice-fests like High School DxD where the characters and the comedy elevate the material to "better than just disposable spankbait" for a lot of folks. I think the reason you hear more complaining about this kind of content in the west is both due to its relative ubiquity in comparison to other types of mature anime content, and also due to a whole swirling miasma of contradictory and frustrating underlying American attitudes about sex and violence.
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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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