Sexuality, Motherhood and Power in Japanese Pornographic Animation

University essay from Lunds universitet/Centrum för öst- och sydöstasienstudier

Abstract: Japanese animation is a vast new field for the Western scholars of Japanese culture for it is a fairly modern popular culture phenomenon. Being a multi-dimensional cultural medium, anime (as it is known both in Japan and in the West) pays homage to one particular kind of animation, which has been made notorious due to its explicit content and violence in relation to female characters, - "hentai" (or pornographic) animation. The explanations for the extremely brutal and misogynist character of this type of animation do not vary much: it is routinely argued that the very existence of violent pornographic animation is the expression of the patriarchy exercising its control over Japanese women. Indeed it might appear to be so at the first glance, but the great variety of female characters in these films and the very fact that it is often a woman who is the main powerful protagonist suggests that there could be a more subtle and complex picture of the Japanese pornographic animation. My aim is thus to try to understand what could be standing behind this bloody and sexually charged scenery. Since my research material was of visual nature, I used the (post)structuralist semiotic theory. I came to conclusion that while hentai films undoubtedly portray women as submissive and/or subject to violence and abuse, the same films envision these woman as eventual saviours of the world, which is, to my mind, both celebration and negation of female subjectivity and agency. This amalgamation of simultaneously positive and negative elements is predicated upon the role of the mother in both public and private realms and the dependence of the Japanese economy on the socially engineered role of the woman as "good wife, wise mother"

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