“Studying Hentai in a Western Context"

Presented By: Aurélie Petit, Concordia University

While one can agree that anime and manga studies have now an established place in Western academia, one specific subfield has yet to be sufficiently tackled: Japanese pornographic animation, often miscategorised in Western languages as hentai. Some of the most developed works on the subject have been done by McLelland (2005), Galbraith (2011), Carbone (2013), Pruvost-Delaspre (2017), Hernandez (2017), as well as my own research on the analysis of the French reception of hentai (2018). Drawing from these last two works cited, which both navigated the consumption of hentai within a Western context, I will demonstrate how studying hentai, as an animation object, complicates what is classified as pornographic within the discipline of porn studies, as the hegemonic definition of pornography insists on the required realism of the sexual spectacle (Williams; 1989). Through the lens of the French reception of hentai, from its first distribution on VHS by Manga Video with Urotsukidôji in 1995, to the 2018 French anime-inspired pornographic web series Peepoodoo and the Superfuck Friends by BoobyPills, I aim to suggest a disciplinary focus on a historical approach to the reception of such a singular animated object. Moreover, I will argue that the understanding of the popularity of hentai in Western cultures have to be strongly grounded within the history of distribution of anime and Japanese media. Finally, I aim to interrogate how introducing hentai into the field of anime studies in Western academia (something that has been lacking as of now) might raise methodological questions about what we, as scholars, canonized as constituting the history of anime.