Is Ecchi Anime As Controversial In Japan As In America?

by Justin Sevakis,

Shaun asked:

I am among probably the most vocally reviled groups of American Anime Fans, the one who unabashedly enjoys Ecchi and Heavy Fanservice shows. There is a debate waiting around every corner in online anime communities to discuss how distracting Fanservice is, How violence is okay but jiggly oppai is just going too far, or how these particular fans (I can assume I'm being included) are doing a disservice towards helping make Anime more culturally acceptable. I'm not writing to really involve myself in any of these discussions as I like what I like and am not about to try to convince others. My question though, is there a similar attitude of this kind of criticism in Japan where these shows originate or is it just an accepted part of their culture?

While I don't think the conversations about boobs in anime are necessarily the same in Japan and the United States, I can definitely say that such things aren't really accepted by the mainstream over there. Exactly HOW not-mainstream, of course, depends on who you ask.

On the surface, Japan, and Tokyo in particular, seem extremely permissive of everything pervy. This is nothing new, of course. I think what really separates Japanese and Western sensibilities when it comes to things like that is the fact that in Japan, people generally don't poke their noses into things that don't immediately interest them, and everyone tends to keep their hobbies to themselves. What can seem huge and mainstream from over here is, in fact, niche content for a tiny audience. I've met tons of Japanese that have no idea that hentai even exists.

So when anime of an adult nature does bubble up to mainstream consciousness, it tends to make lurid TV news headlines, and it's usually as a result of some hikikomori somewhere getting arrested for doing something unspeakably lewd. As the appreciation of cartoon boobs and activities involving their buoyancy are not, and will likely never be mainstream, it simply makes for an easy target whenever someone wants to talk about society's ills, like NEETs, hikikomori, and whatever else you can think of. The real causes of society's ills -- and modern Japan seems to have a lot of ills these days -- are, of course, complex and deep rooted. But the Japanese newsmedia basically is as reactionary and simple-minded as cable news is here in the States, so there is little room for nuanced discussion.

That said, the vast majority of Japanese people are watching those news shows, and NOT watching late-night anime. They probably know some otaku in their everyday lives, but they wouldn't know it, as people keep their hobbies to themselves most of the time. And so media disapproval definitely colors how many people see the anime scene, which is further complicated by liking the non-otaku titles themselves, and the sometimes blurry line between otaku-centric anime and more mainstream fare.

In either country, it's safe to say that any debate on the "merits" of booby anime is not one worth having. Ecchi anime, unless it's horrifyingly violent and/or misogynistic, is way, way, way safer than the vast majority of the metric ton of porn that Japan produces on a daily basis, and nobody's threatening to do away with it in any manner. Indeed, it seems so harmless in comparison to almost everything else in the world today that anyone really wanting to broach the issue with you can probably safely be told to mind their own business.

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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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