Untangled: Why Are the Anime and Cosplay Communities So Preoccupied with Sex?

We invite readers to submit questions to us regarding anime, culture, religion, or most any topic!  We’d love to respond to your queries!

Last week, Torin sent us the following comment:

Hello! I sincerely apologize if this seems inappropriate, but I’ve been trying to find someone to ask about this for quite some time. I have a question regarding the general anime community’s apparent preoccupation with sex. I’ve noticed this both online and at conventions. My question is, WHY? I can write some of it off as hormones due to the high number of teenage anime fans, but I can’t seem to avoid encountering hordes of people whose main interests I consider seriously immoral. I very much enjoy cosplaying but the other fans that I encounter are driving me away from my interests.

Torin, that’s a great question…and a very complicated one.  My immediate reaction is that what we consume, media-wise, is a reflection of who we are.  American culture is definitely moving more toward both the “anything goes” attitude – so showing of “explicit drawing” or reveling in shotacon (<— this REALLY gets to me) is becoming a little more acceptable, especially among our younger generation.

Also, and this is more just our natural condition, we seek fulfillment in things that titillate.  As anime has grown in popularity, it’s no surprise that individual fans would become preoccupied with sexualizing their characters – bizarrely or not.  But with the advent of the Internet and the growth of convention culture, along with that idea I mentioned earlier about more and more acceptance of almost anything, these ideas go from private to public, and take on a life of their own as Tumblr, Twitter, forums and other outlets key on our “consume it now and consume it fast” attitude. 

As for cosplaying, I’m less sure – I’m not really attuned to cosplay and convention culture, honestly.  But certainly, when I attend cons, I’m pretty surprised at what I see (certainly not all of these girls are super fans of Yoko Littner, are they?!).   But I do believe that same connection I mentioned above applies here.  And it becomes very scary because as we push our boundaries further and further, lacking restraint, horrible things can occur.   Isn’t there some connection here to rape culture and the problems that women encounter at anime conventions?

Torin continued his comments with the following:

For example, a few years ago I discovered Hetalia. I’m extremely close to giving it up entirely because I can find no one to hold an intelligent conversation with. They care only for their favorite yaoi pairings, feel the need to show off explicit drawings they’ve made, and have no respect for the characters or actual history. Similar behavior may be found among the fandoms of the other anime I watch. It’s terrifying. I would have been perfectly happen never to learn what ‘shotacon’ means. I lack the capacity to understand why so many people are obsessed with these things. Do you have any ideas about why this might be? Thank you!

I conferred with R86 on your question, and he had some really great thoughts more specifically on some of the ideas you mentioned:

The anime fandom in general (plus associated groups such as the Vocaloid fans) are, in my estimation, a group for which everything goes, especially regarding sex. And I don’t claim any moral superiority here, since I think about sex as much as anyone. It’s the insisting on reading sex into everything one sees that I don’t understand. Many of the people Torin references are well out of their teenage years, and should be used to the hormones by now.

R86 goes on to discuss yaoi pairings:

I would argue that shows like Hetalia and Oofuri are NOT about homosexual relationships. (Of course I do not deny that there are plenty of shows that ARE about such relationships.) One has to be looking for yaoi overtones, and purposely reading them into things, in order to see them in such anime series. An example is the popular Tajima-Hanai “pairing,” when they certainly didn’t even seem to me to be especially close, nor to spend much time together outside of practice and games. Or to take an extreme example, look at the relationship between the Hitachiin twins in Ouran. Even though they do act as if something beyond brotherly love is going on, unguarded moments between them convince me that it’s just that — only an act. But anime, as I’ve said earlier, is like a magic mirror. We see what we want to see, for better or worse. But while I wish I could shed more light on why so many people seem to want to read sex into every story, no matter how much they have to extrapolate in order to see it, I’m afraid this is as far as my understanding goes.

“Hold up, Kaoru. They think we actually DO all that?” “I told you not to ask, Hikaru!”

So, Torin, these are some of our ideas.  As you can see, you’ve hit on something about which both R86 and myself have a lot of thoughts – much more than we have time for in this short blog post.  Thank you for the food for thought, and I hoped we helped to clarify some (through we probably actually just added to the noise).

How about you readers out there?  How would you respond to Torin’s question?


38 thoughts on “Untangled: Why Are the Anime and Cosplay Communities So Preoccupied with Sex?

  1. I have to admit that, as an anime viewer, I’ve become increasingly tolerant of sexually deviant aspects of the fandom as time has gone by. There was once a time when I would have been creeped out by ideas of yaoi, shotacon and incest, but the constant fetishising of these elements in anime culture has desensitised me to their moral implications. It’s not that I would outright condone any of these things in a real-world context, but I get the feeling that this kind of thing should bother me a lot more than it actually does. I suppose as long as people keep in mind the difference between fantasy and reality, they can like what they want. But common decency and less objectification of others as sex objects would be good too, yeah…

    1. Thanks for bringing this up – we definitely become desensitized to it all! I think Tumblr is a good example for me – when I search for anime illustrations, there are often hentai ones in the bunch. I scroll past and teach my eyes to ignore it. I think that’s an appropriate response, but it also indicates desensitization. I’m also a little bit that way in regards to fanservice, though I’m still sensitive to shows that cross some sort of invisible boundary in my mind.

  2. Interesting, and you make several valid points (many of which I am becoming increasingly tired of myself, as you may have gathered from some of my crankier comments re fanservice).

    That said, they are points that need to be generalised: this isn’t just a problem with anime fandom.

    It is worth remembering the pairing that originated the term “slash”: Kirk/Spock.

    One of my (sometimes) guilty pleasures is Twisting the Hellmouth (it seems I have a weakness fot BTVS crossover fanfic, who knew), and there’s plenty of it there as well, and in many (most or all?) of the other fandoms that pop up there.

    This is, in a sense, a corollary to Rule 34 of the internet: if it is popular, sex will be written into it. No exceptions.

    1. That’s for providing some broader context, John. I’m not really a “nerd” in the way the term is applied – my fandom is centered right on anime, with little regard for Star Trek, Dr. Who, etc. It’s interesting and important to note what you’ve mentioned.

  3. I’m a huge Hetalia fangirl, and, I have to admit, it gets old when every time I try to look up something on the show I get half a dozen homosexual pairing pics, topics or videos. All anyone seems to care about is their OTP.
    I don’t think the rise in over-sexualization is limited to the anime fandom; however. Everywhere, people are becoming less restrained with their ideas about sex. Look at all the women reading “50 Shades of Grey.” How normal is it for some guys to look at internet porn on a regular basis? It’s everywhere, it just manifests itself differently within the anime community.

    1. I think you’re definitely right (I should have asked you to comment on this question, too!). I think that with the rise of community through the Internet, we share these sexualized thoughts more than ever – as you mention, there are fewer restraints now and more freedom, for the better and worse.

  4. Hi, I’ll put my in opinion in, shall I?

    Hello there, Torin.

    Yes, it’s true that the anime community can be… preoccupied and enamored with sex or, for a more accurate term for the discussion, sex appeal. But, for me, it;s not a matter of being an anime fan that can make us be enamored with sex appeal in the characters we see in our favorite anime shows. It’s just a matter of being a fan. Or, better yet, a fanatic. The latter being more inclined to let their imaginations run wild. The latter must be the kind of people you’ve been encountering.

    Long story-short: you become a fan because you saw something in the series or in the characters that makes you want to invest your time with them. And, somewhere along the way (I don’t know at which point, it just varies from fan to fan) you get this crazy idea of putting them in scenarios for the hell of it. This is where fanfics, fanart, and fanon discussions spring from. Even the sexual ones. It’s a natural fan reaction, though, like I said, the output differs from fan to fan.

    Also, the anime community is not just the only fandom that indulges in these things. Have you seen the fan communities for other forms of media? Like, let’s say, the Supernatural TV show fandom. Demonic images aside, you might also be freaked out by the amount of homoerotic/incest fanfics and fanarts about the main characters. Or the Doctor Who fandom, most especially the audience that follows its sister series Torchwood where omnisexual (you read that right, OMNISEXUAL) main character Jack Harkness is canonically known to nail anything that moves and fans consider it one his most attractive characteristics.

    I can go on and on with this.

    Torin, I hope this enlightens you.

    TWWK, I hope this gets your reader gets this message.

    Thank you, feel free to contact me for any follow-up comments.

    1. I forgot to mention this little fact when I had posted this: we also happen to be natural perverts, even despite our best efforts. Hence our interest in the media’s depiction of sex and sex appeal and all the images that it helps conjure up in our heads.

    2. I agree about this idea not being limited to anime. You see the exact same ideas in other fandoms. Outlets like Tumblr and others have given individuals, more than ever, an opportunity to indulge in their fantasies. When I first got into anime, I can’t think of many sites other than roleplaying (though this not through a site – through an email group instead!) and fanfiction.net. Now, the possibilities are almost endless.

  5. Ah. You’ve touched on an interesting subject here, Charles.

    First, a bit of a positive spin on this. I’ve met a LOT of people in the anime community that are entirely open about both sex and sexual preferences. This has been (at times) weird, awkward, and uncomfortable for me. But, learning to cope with these things has been a *fantastic* exercise in accepting differences for me. I’m reminded of a phrase you used in one of your posts some time back: “Hate the sin, love the sinner.” I’ve learned to accept people for who they are, and as a result I’ve found that a lot of them are really, nice, kind, “good” people. They happen to have some odd quirks, not all of them entirely acceptable, but good people nonetheless.

    And that – learning to accept people – has been the best change I’ve ever made in my life.

    Returning to the issue at hand, however, this is something I’ve noticed quite a bit lately, and not just in the anime community. It’s become a socially acceptable thing – in some minds and cases, even a good thing! – to be open about your sexual preferences. Sex is still a cool, edgy thing for a lot of people, and now they can talk and express feelings about it with almost zero consequence. The result is not always pleasant.

    Myself, I’m all for accepting someone’s sexual deviance (on the conditions that it is still a consensual act between two people of similar age – though I’ll admit some of what lies on the fringes of that definition scares me), in part because I believe I can do more for them by accepting it, and in part because I simply don’t care and have no right to judge. When it comes to talking about these things with others online, I. . .can understand, certainly. If you really needed to talk about this part of yourself, whether to validate, “fix,” or just sort through your feelings on it, and you couldn’t do it on the internet, then that would be ridiculous. Where else can you have this kind freedom to explain while retaining anonymity?

    But when it comes to doing this at cons, in “real life,” it becomes something entirely different. We’ve learned (or at least, been taught) that it’s okay to talk about sex and express on feelings on it in a variety of ways. On an anonymous, overly populated medium like the internet, that can be okay – you can be found by many, and just as easily ignored (even image searching, if you’re on a site where explicit content can be found, chances are you were there for explicit content of a different variety anyway – while this isn’t a rule – which I think goes back to the non-judgement approach I brought up earlier). Physically seeing someone, though, is an entirely different matter. You can easily forget that the tiny picture of a head (or just as often abstract art) represents a person; when that person with their “real” face and entire body are in front of you, that’s an *entirely* different matter.

    The biggest difference, of course, being that they cannot be easily ignored. They are a human being, clearly and plainly in front of you. While I don’t judge people, I do hate hearing about their sexual exploits; on the internet I can ignore them, but in a non-digital capacity I consider it highly inappropriate, if not inexcusable. And yet, they seem to act much the same both on and offline. That’s my (apparently very long. oh dear) take on “why” – people aren’t adapting their expression to different medium of interaction.

    Though, I realize this only answers one half of the question. . .the alternative answer is that people went (or are going) through this period of free exploration and discussion, and they found a lot of people thought it was okay to talk about sex in its various forms. It then becomes the “normal” thing for them to do, which I feel is still an issue of not adapting their communication to the medium (or social context).

    Hmm. . .good luck parsing that. For now, though, it’s all I have. Cheers!

    1. Great response, John! You brought up a very interesting point – the difference between the Internet and reality when it comes to indulging in our preferences, desires, or likes (ships!). Certainly, what we imagine is one thing and what we do is another – unfortunately, it seems like cons become a convergence point, not just for the “good,” for unseemly words and actions.

      Still, without making any particular judgement, we do need to think about what we consume and what we spit back out, for the sake of ourselves and our development as much as for anyone or anything else. I’m reminded of Christ’s teachings regarding our heat and regarding the sins in our minds as well as though we commit physically.

  6. Fans fill in the blanks. A lot of anime steers clear of going too deep into romance, to the point that you’re lucky if the main couple of a story shares a kiss after 24 episodes. Most stories that sell excel in creating sexual tension, not resolving it. Not something unique to the anime fandom, though. There are more romance stories on fanfiction.net than stories of all other genres combined.

    Why can the above fan activity tend to the extreme? For one, the anime fandom is one of the most net-based ones out there. The Internet takes away the shame in many things, as it offers a large degree of anonymity. It also forces you to encounter the views and behaviours of all kinds of people from all over the world – you might not be used to them/not like them, but spend enough time with them, and you’ll stop caring as much. Lastly, anime does deal with entirely fictional characters, so there’s very little guilt involved even with the wildest fantasies.

    1. Thanks for the insight, Cytrus. You’re, of course, on point. I’d add that the “guiltness” feeling is magnified because so many others are going “to the extreme” as well. If they do it, why can’t I?

  7. I don’t have much of an input to give. But I would want to say this: just reading this has been very stimulating and very refreshing. Kudos to the creators of this space and a special thank you to everyone here who has given input. It was a very refreshing and mind-provoking read and not to mention, a good wake-up-call.

    1. Thanks for the kind words! Our writers here try to dig deep into spiritual and religious aspects related to anime and, in this case, fandom. And our readers are even more valuable – they usually have greater insight and expertise than we do!

  8. It’s gotten to the point where I take it with a grain (A whole shaker actually!) of salt when some reviewer or forum poster waxes loud & long about the yaoi/yuri content of a show. In the past, I put off watching some shows because of this only to later find the poster was really saying more about himself than the show.

    Ex. Lucky Star. For several years I stayed away only later to find “It wasn’t so”. The Konata character is merely (overly) obsessed about aesthetic points. Though it’s obvious with the Hiyori character (And only in expression through her work in doujins.), her sense of shame & embarrassment gives one hope for her. Nowhere did I see anyone actually “hitting on” another.

    In spite of a review in a recent issue of Otaku USA, I’m going to take in Hetalia. I’ve learned to ignore the “wish fulfillment” of others.

  9. As someone who is very tolerant (perhaps even TOO tolerant) of this topic and at times can even enjoy these potentially immoral conversations with my atheist anime friends, I’ll add a very important factor that hasn’t been mentioned yet. The question is complex so this is only one facet of the answer, but it is an important one nonetheless.

    The truth of the matter is the target audience of anime is such people. Sure we may love anime for all kinds of other reasons but in the end, who is most supporting the anime industry? Otakus who want that kind of stuff. The average BD sales are what, on the order of 3k copies? 10k is successful and anything past 30k is insanely popular.That’s not a lot in the grand scheme of things but these are the people supporting the industry: people who like yaoi, yuri, lolis, and sexualized material in general. Studios WILL aim their material at such people, if only for the sake of sales. As a result, people who value this stuff are inevitably going to be attracted to anime which already has a fanbase geared toward this material, a brutal cycle for people like us.

    Anime and VNs have the unfortunate association with hentai and eroge, respectively, but such fears are not completely unfounded. Sex sells, to put it bluntly. For example, Kara no Shoujo is the most well-received murder mystery VN of all time. The anime adaptation? A hentai made for cheap, easy money. The “ecchi genre” is a very blatant attempt to monetize fan service at the cost of good storytelling. But guess what? It works. LNs in general have by far the most bland writing in the culture yet they sell for having the static tsundere, classic childhood friend, pointless trap, underlying yuri tones, and most importantly, a boring, average MC that otaku males can relate to. The majority of people who buy this stuff are the ones being called into question here. Interestingly enough, the VN industry, most known for its eroge and dating sims, has begun to move away from sex (if only a little) as they’ve found if they write really good stories, people will buy it whether it’s 18+ or not.

    Now, this is lessened in the Western countries but the fact remains that anime has material with the thought of such audiences in mind and the same kinds of people will be attracted to it. It is a fact that people who are put off by fan service and sexualized material are in the minority of anime fans. That said, cosplaying itself is a whole different matter. From what I’ve seen and heard, cosplayers who dress “like that” are the minority. It’s a classic case of the uncommon negative leaving the strongest impression in your memory. It’s like how people ask why Christians hate atheists…we don’t but there’s certainly a minority that does. If the question is why the community is most attracted to said cosplayers, well, I don’t think there’s any real mystery there nor is it limited to anime communities: the public likes sex appeal. If the question is simply about the cosplaying community, then the answer is not much different than the aforementioned explanations.

    To answer the question succinctly, because these personalities are a defining characteristic of the community; they are the ones financially supporting the industry. Are they the only ones? No. Are there anime that don’t aim for these audiences? Yes. Regardless, they are a huge part of the culture, a large portion of anime aims to please them, and thus, it’s a cycle of these people supporting this industry (and it’s not just anime BDs…) and studios using that money to continue getting sales in the most surefire way possible. For better or for worse, anime has evolved to cater to these interests for the sake of sales; of course they are a major characteristic of the community.

    Now, I realize despite my long explanation, I never really answered the question of why people are like this in the first place. I think that’s a very complicated and almost unfair question to ask, why is someone the way he is, why does someone like the things he likes? I guess I’m not being helpful at all when I say, I don’t really care about it? For me, I just accept that’s how some people are. If I had to give a reason, then maybe because they are sinners like everyone else and that’s just how their sin has manifested? Because in the end, the question is, why do people sin, right?

    1. Kaze, thanks for the insight. Certainly, we’ve forgotten that aspect of the conversation – the fanservice/ecchi/etc. exists because it makes money. Plain and simple. Those who revile it, or even though that find it simply distasteful, are indeed the minority. Most either enjoy it or just ignore it.

      Regarding cosplaying – I just came back from a large con, and I was actually surprised to see a lot less skin than I thought I might. I wondered if it just differs from city to city. The con in the more liberal city in which I reside is a bit overwhelming when it comes to girls cosplaying with itsy bitsy outfits (and in the middle of winter). This larger con, like I said, was more the opposite – and in the middle of the summer to boot.

  10. There’s a book called Otaku: Japan’s Database Animals that has a theory that might help. The author thinks that fans attach themselves to the characters of a series rather than the series of an artistic work. He calls this chara-moe, and he uses Rei from Evangelion as an example. The plot has Rei as an emotionless sort of thing, but otaku looked at her, and fell in love with the character as a character, separating her from the plot.

    The fans then create things that he calls simulcra; things that aren’t completly new, but aren’t entirely derivative either. They use the characters as vessels for their own stories ad desires. The biggest desire is sex, and the characters get turned into sex dolls, for use of a better word. That’s why Anno had that infamous scene in the beginning of End of Evangelion; the fans use the outward appearance and some of the traits to sate their own needs while ignoring the actual story.

    The hardcore fans consume it differently, and this is why you get something like sports manga, where the fanbase has little to no interest in the actual sport; they just are really into the characters and their traits, and make them dance to their own tune. Sex is predominant because the otaku by judging characters by chara-moe really only has the appearance and the traits that they find attractive, and without the plot to hamper this, the average fan has little else to create.

    So this is why the focus on sex. Even in things you wouldn’t expect to find sex in; the otaku likes the character more than the plot, and recasts them. Some studios notice this, and make money off of it; this is why Gainax will put Rei and Asuka in bunny-ears, or spin-off the series as a normal drama (which is what many fans really wanted over the actual story.) Sex is just so primal to the average fan that it dominates when they do recast it.

    I think this is also why it transcends anime. Pretty much every fandom has this to some extent, even WTF ones like the Bronies. There’s so much sex because fans co-opt characters to express it.

    1. Excellent explanation, as expected…maybe you should post about this?!

      I certainly get what you’re saying. That’s what I do, to an extent. For me, characters in anime almost always supersede the plot – I can deal with mediocre plotting in anime, but I can’t deal with characters to whom I’m not intimately connected.

      1. Thanks. I don’t think I could do more than restate what the book says, and badly. If you can deal with a dry academic tome, I recommend borrowing or reading it. It says a lot about the fan mindset, whether otaku or here in the states.

  11. Lots of interesting comments on this post. My disdain of extreme fanservice is readily admitted. It does seem to appear that more current anime is focused more on sexualizing prepubescent girls than it is telling a story. Sometimes I will start watching what could be a great story but am turned off completely because I have had enough of panty shots, faux sex sounds from a regular situation, enormous breasts on a 12 – 14 y/o; frankly it creeps me out. Therefore, I tend to gravitate towards things with as little fanservice as possible or if it does have fanservice, its not overpowering to the point of disgusting me. Its just a large portion of the anime fandom enjoys it so it will continue to be produced in copious amounts as long as its selling.

    1. UGH. I wonder if we have Evangelion to blame for the popularity of sexualized adolescents? It drives me crazy! And what really is troubling is that I think those that will defend and celebrate this imagery are stronger in number and devotion than those who oppose it.

  12. I think it’s less about sex and more about love. Take K-on! for instance. Mio and Ritsu clearly have strong feelings for each other. It is entirely possible that the mangaka intended for their relationship to be romantic, but his editor wouldn’t let him for whatever reason. So the fans have decided to take it upon themselves to show the world how much Mio and Ritsu love each other.

    1. I can’t comment on K-On!, having only watched the first season. But I think this is the point – certainly sometimes something is meant. I’m watching My Teenage Romcom SNAFU (or some related title!) this season, and the main character has some feelings for a classmate who looks and acts like a girl, but who’s actually a boy. I would understand how those in the fandom would make that connection.

      But…say, Itsuki + Kyon? That tells more about the shipper than the relationship or series.

  13. I honestly haven’t the faintest why some people have such interests. As for Torin, I watched part of Axis Powers Hetalia and loved it (some episodes I’d consider almost fit for children). The show rarely bothers with actual fanservice, though I can see how some people would take the slightest bit of overtone and stretch it out into a full-blown desire to pretend two characters are in a relationship. I personally loved the comedic treatment of historical events.

    I was thinking about an issue similar to this in terms of Katawa Shoujo, which you’d discussed before ( http://beneaththetangles.wordpress.com/2012/01/06/katawa-shoujo-and-a-how-to-guide-for-referring-to-individuals-with-disabilities/ ) and which (if it counts as a game) is easily one of my all-time favorite games.

    The characters do sometimes get involved in sexual relationships early in their dating lives, but unlike in most cases where I’ve seen depictions of this sort of approach to sex, Katawa Shoujo didn’t completely try to glorify or glamorize it. There wasn’t really a spoken “this is too early” message, but sometimes that element did complicate the in-game relationships before the characters involved were ready to deal with those. I accordingly felt that that was much more realistic than “half a dozen conversations, then sex, then happily ever after,” which games such as the first Mass Effect gave me a strong impression of trying to promote in-universe.

    God bless, friend! =) (Oh, and I really like your blog banner. I just now noticed it.)

    1. Hmmm…this is an interesting idea you bring up. From what I’ve read of Katawa Shoujo, I’d probably be inclined to agree. Maybe it’s more consistent to real life – and maybe more to what many would like out of real relationships. It might even be healthier then what’s shown in other games.

      God bless you, as well! 🙂

  14. I do not think sexual preoccupation in anime fandom is the result of an increased tolerance or acceptance of sexual deviance; quite the contrary, in fact.

    Focusing primarily on fans in the USA, consider that there have been extensive measures taken regarding the regulation of sexual practices over the past 30 or so years (e.g. the sodomy laws in the deep south, legislation in Texas regarding the sale and use of dildos, the Defense of Marriage Act passed by the Clinton Administration, the recent passage of Plan B in California which mandates the use of condoms during certain sexual acts, etc.). The political landscape in the United States regarding sex over the past three decades has been dominated by social conservatism and radical feminism has caught on in academia, susequently adding an authoritarian perspective to more “Liberal” views of sexuality. Also, as sociologists Neil Howe and William Strauss have pointed out, the “Millennial Generation” (b. 1982-approx. 2000) tends to have a less liberal view of sex than their [largely Boomer and early Xer] parents had at a comparable age and sexual trends for the generation have leaned more towards abstenance, in part fueled by a culture of elders that were trying to clean up their own youthful excesses through use of harsher legislation.

    How does this relate to the sexual view of U.S. otaku? The culture that the younger generations now have been raised with has been rather intolerant towards open sexual expression, resulting in a generational effect leaning towards a more casual, yet less nuanced view of sexuality. While I too find it troubling to an extent, it’s not because of the abundance of sexual content; it’s because of the pervading juvenile view of sexuality – you know, talking about yuri pairings in a silly, relaxed, almost joking manner yet going “ewwww” at fanart of two characters having sex or at aome hentai animation.

    As for me, I have never had much of a problem with fanservice in general; I have a proper place for sexuality in my fanhood, both within official media and fanart, and sexual depiction is just part of the ride as much as depictions of struggle, sorrow, and triumph are for me. I do not obsess over fanservice nor does it inheritly disgust me, though there are certainly things I disapprove of with regards to fanservice such as shotacon and lolicon. This is why, for example, I can be a fan of Strike Witches, not be hung up on how the girls aren’t wearing pants, and appreciate the show for things like the oft-entertaining interplay between characters (especially Gertrud and Erica – “Hartmann! Get up! Are you going to sleep all day?”).

    One last thing: if you want to understand the general attitudes of the Millennial generation regarding sexuality in the media, I suggest you check out the book “Millennials and the Pop Culture”; it may be a bit old – it was published in 2006 – but I think you may find that many things still apply today.

  15. Good question and good post!

    I, too, get a bit annoyed when I want to enjoy Hetalia among fellow fans… preferably without the inappropriate fanart. Unfortunately, that seems to be a tall order, so I just enjoy the show and characters on my own and make sure I don’t search for them on Google images (especially if children or my parents are around).

    Honestly, I don’t think the anime community is much different from the rest of culture when it comes to preoccupation with sex. Granted, I’ve not spent much time exploring other communities, but even among my Christian friends, inappropriate jokes are more common than I’d expect. Like Charles said, America seems to be going in an “anything goes” direction. I’ve recently become aware of how desensitized I’m becoming myself, and much of it has come from sources other than the anime community. I’ve had to take steps to counter the desensitization, such as unsubscribing from a Youtube channel that indulges in too much swearing or sexual joking.

    Still, the most disturbing thing I’ve seen on the topic came from comments on a character page in the Anime-Planet database. The character was evil. Disgusting. The kind of guy I wouldn’t want to be in a mile radius of even if he were locked up. He abused and almost raped a girl in the show (that episode got a whole lot more mature than I expected). I was shocked to find that not only did a couple people list him under “<3", but one also commented basically that the villain should have raped the girl long before. This goes beyond preoccupation with sex and really does concern me. I wanted to believe the commenter was playing a sick joke on readers, but I don't think he was. It's disturbing to think that people like him could have a foot in the same communities I'm in, online or offline.

  16. Hello Everyone, this is my first time here. First I want to say Hi, My name is Paul and I’m Christian Mangaka Artist and an Otaku. Hi Torin, I read your post and the comments that had followed and everyone has made great comments about the problem of Hentia, Ecchi, Yuri, Shotacon, ect. and why it is so. Let me share with you what I had discovered. When I first started learning to draw Manga, like most others like yourself, I was drawn passionately into this artform. To make a long story short, it was because God showed me an avenue for teaching people the gospel to others. In my journey, I began to learn why so many of us are taken by this artform. Because Manga and Anime is drawn as such. The characters are wild and exotic, they offer everything we want to be, and we associate with them. They live the adventures we desire, and we get to share in their world as it is presented to us. Watching anime or reading Manga puts us in the adventure, we share in the sucess or the failures. We are somehow apart of the moment, no matter what the story presented to us may be. That’s how I learned to draw my characters, and so I was extreamly successful in teaching children at our church.

    Learning how to draw Manga, I wanted to study from those who drew it the best. So I bought my resources, the majority of my study books, from Japanese artists. Boy did I get a lesson in culture! The Japanese Anime and Manga community are big on westerners society. And so when they see something in our culture thats big, they run with it! But also they are a culture of their own. Make no mistake about it. That includes behaviors and cultural norms that are very traditional. While they enjoy the excitement of the western culture, they keep to their traditions. Also the majority of their culture is not Christian based at all, but are deeply embedded in their own beliefs. Also, they are quite proud of the fact they are the masters of the Manga art form and to be in their ranks to their standards, you practically have to be Japanese. I have had heard it from their culture, unless you studied Manga in Japan, you are not truly a mangaka artist. No, I never have been to Japan, my title a reflection of what I do as an artist.

    So, I said all that to say this. In order to truly understand what the issue is with Hentia, fanservice, yaoi, yuri, ect, and with cosplay and why they do what they do, it’s important to do the one thing it’s hard for any of us in America to do. Shed our Westerner viewpoints and look at Anime and Manga from the Japanese view. Manga and Anime has been embedded in their culture since the 50’s. Astroboy was the first anime production from Japan, and they got alot of ideas from the Western artists like Walt Disney. It has grown ever since. In America, it’s a 300 Million dollar a year industry today. And like many of the commenters suggested, sex sells, and Westerners spend the dollars, so Anime and Manga artists caters to it and are very rich because of it. But in their culture, this is cultural norms and is an obsession. In the Akrakabar District, (I know I didn’t spell that right but if you do a little homework, you will find it on the internet) in Japan, the entire district revolves around it. They built and displayed a life size Gundam character. They have created huge likeness of Anime Characters and are seen all over the district that are as big as houses. I even read about a young lady who makes a living making Cosplay costumes for people.

    Cosplay is nothing more than people who have such affinity to their beloved anime and manga characters, that they like to dress up like them and show off. It’s like you or me going outside and dressing up and playing cowboy and indians, except they are extream about it! They are not really sexualizing it or having some fetish. They just enjoy dressing up like the character they beloved. If you go to a country themed night club in anytown in America. You will see men and women dressed up as cowboys and girls. That’s a form of cosplay. If you went to an AnimeCon you will see cosplay. Try going to a Science Fiction and gaming Convention. You will see cosplay there too. Some of these people are obsessed with being klingons! So, along with the other comments made about you question about why do people get into hentia, yaoi, yuri, and other deviant anime artforms, you have to look at the culture it’s coming from, and you have to shed your western views to do that. That is what I have learned myself, while learning about how to draw the artform. I do recommend that if you do get involved with the how to draw manga books, that you stick to the books written by american authors. They tend to keep the westerner restraints in place. The original Japanese authors will not have the same restraints and when they show you how it’s done, they include ALL the details.

    I do hope that my input helps shed some extra light on your question. Good luck Torin! Always seek God and His word in all that you do.


  17. I immediately thought of Hetalia. So, so much. A wonderful friend of mine who is very tolerant of these things in real life is just as appalled and repulsed by what I would call a misuse of an otherwise mostly innocuous series as I am.

  18. Rule of thumb: if two people are ever on screen together at any time, chances are someone out there ships them.

  19. I personally hold liberal views about LGBT, but I really hate incest. It bothers me that incest shipping has become mainstream in so many fandoms. I love Frozen but it disgusts me that “Elsanna” has become such a popular ship, ugh. One reason why I’m one of the very very few people who prefer the Utena manga to the anime is that there’s less incest(Nanami barely even exists, and Anthy and Akio are shown in one panel sitting very close to each other in private in a way that looks questionable for siblings but it doesn’t full on unambiguously say they’re having sex like it does in the anime). Though even though I support gay rights IRL, I’m not totally comfortable with the way some fans fetishize yaoi and yuri. That “het is ew” attitude you see especially on Tumblr sometimes is pretty annoying and doesn’t make a lot of sense to me; in some of the more yuri/yaoi-oriented fandoms, there are those who accuse you of being a homophobe even if you ship straight couples as well as gay pairings. I have an acquaintance on Tumblr who was cyber-bullied for the horrible crime of shipping Utena/Touga instead of Utena/Anthy.

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