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Hentai: a history lesson and 7 series that defined the controversial porn genre

Nothing strings porn and fantasy together more famously than hentai. So here’s a little history, plus seven of the best hentai series that upped the genre’s cultural significance.

Under its western label, hentai is a sub-genre of Japanese manga and anime. But hey, you’ve probably already heard of it. Like Pokémon, it’s a branch of Japanese entertainment that’s found a global audience. However, hentai is vastly different in its content. So you’ve been warned, this genre is 18+ and not for the faint of heart.

Defined per its “sexually explicit images and plots” by the Oxford dictionary, hentai utilises the medium of animation to depict sexual fantasies and storylines. These fantasies, often far more outlandish or specific than what can be explored in live-action porn, placed hentai as the second most searched term in Pornhub in 2019.

Hentai
Image: Yokosou! Sukebe Elf no Mori e

Hentai Definition

The definition of hentai is far more complex than its perceived meaning today. If we look at the Japanese characters of the word, hentai means ‘curious condition’ (変態). It’s that feeling of unexplained desire that really taps into the core of what hentai is.

In the 18th century, the term was also used to explain metamorphosis, or noticeable change, such as the moon’s shape. Around the 20th century, hentai was paired with the word ‘seiyoku’ (性欲), meaning sexual desire. However, colloquial speech has shortened the term to its accredited meaning today.

Studio Orange Producer Yoshihiro Watanabe explains it best:

Whether you’re a hentai veteran looking to scope a new show or are just dipping your toes into the genre, here are seven of hentai’s most culturally significant series. And yes, some hentai series are morally myopic due to their choice of fetish, so we’re keeping anything problematic off the list. No lolicon picks here.

1. Baka Dakedo Chinchin Shaburu no dake wa Jouzu na Chii-chan♡

Image: Baka Dakedo Chinchin Shaburu no dake wa Jouzu na Chii-chan♡

Aired: June 2017 – ongoing

Where To Watch: Hentai Heaven

Baka Dakedo Chinchin Shaburu no dake wa Jouzu na Chii-chan♡ is hentai for the mainstream. With a resonant tale, the series explores Kouta, an average-looking dude who lives alone and likes a girl way out of his league. Shiinera (the girl) begins to give him a chance, and against the odds, the two pair together for some steamy hookups.

The show is undeniably vanilla, but that’s its selling point. It’s a fantasy that most guys have, and here it is, playing out in tempestuous fashion. For those new to hentai, it’s an excellent place to start.

2. Enbo

Image: Endo

Aired: November 2003 – 6 Episodes.

Where To Watch: Hentai AHO Streaming

If you’re someone that needs their porn story to be a little more complex than pizza deliveries, this one is for you. Don’t get us wrong, there’s plenty of sex involved, but it actually serves the story instead of vice-versa.

In this six-episode sex drama, Kazuhiko devises a plan to win his stepmother over (yep, Enbo covers the stepmum kink). However, by the end, Kazuhiko’s expectations and secrets bear a severe cost. Expect twists and turns, both narratively and physically speaking.

3. Koinaka: Koinaka de Hatsukoi x Nakadashi Sexual Life The Animation

Image: Koinaka: Koinaka de Hatsukoi x Nakadashi Sexual Life The Animation

Aired: April 2016 – 1 Episode

Where To Watch: Hanime TV

Koinaka digs up a lot of fantasy tropes buried deep in the chasms of adolescence. Two sisters? Tick. Childhood best friend? Tick. The silent, mysterious type? Tick. If these perk your interest, it’s definitely worth checking out.

The animation is smooth and goes for a very cute style, and the characters are always comedic when they can be, making for a lighter viewing experience. As far as the sex goes, it’s pretty standard, but the characters make them shine.

4. Pretty x Cation the Animation

Image: Pretty x Cation the Animation

Aired: March 2016 – 2 Episodes

Where To Watch: Hanime TV

Pretty x Cation the Animation is another beloved hentai that puts you in the shoes of a ridiculously fortunate protagonist. The story explores the passionate, clumsy romances of young love, with beautiful animation that even features the lewdest of content: hand-holding.

Jokes aside, this show actually gives the female characters personality and agency, which is tragically lacking from a lot of hentai. So if you’re looking to live out your first relationship goals, look no further than this.

5. Boy Meets Harem The Animation

Image: Boy Meets Harem The Animation

Aired: October 2014 – 1 Episode

Where To Watch: My Anime List

At some point, we’ve all stared at someone and thought, ‘if we were stranded on a desert island, would we fuck?’

Boy Meets Harem takes this daydream to the max because, Hentai. A plane crash leads the survivors to a tropical island, where of course, there’s only one male survivor and plenty of females. The rest can really be left up to your imagination. The island makes for some gorgeous scenery, and the characters are just as stunning. We’d recommend this one if you’re into group… activities.

6. Amakano

Image: Amakano

Aired: February 2016 – 4 Episodes

Where To Watch: My Anime List

For the casual hentai viewer that wants a healthy balance between dialogue and sex, Amakano is a perfect choice. Taking on his grandfather’s advice, protagonist Yuuki navigates three relationships, learning the lessons of what it means to have a girlfriend.

The animation is bright and engaging, the setting is charming, and the characters are as attractive as ever. Of course, the sex scenes won’t rock your world, but they aren’t forgettable either.

7. Lover In Law

Lover In Law hentai
Image: Lover

Aired: April 2008 – 2 Episodes

Where To Watch: Hanime TV

At long last, we arrive at the best affair-focused Hentai. In Lover In Law, circumstances find Tsutomu living with his brother’s wife, to whom he quickly becomes attracted to. The characters are fleshed out and aware of their decisions, making the devious acts unfold all the more thrilling.

Despite the cheating, the characters are actually respectful and consensual, which is always commendable for a hentai. Keep an eye out for the vibrator scene too. Things get pretty interesting.

Is hentai banned in Australia?

In late 2020 it came to light that the importation of hentai – a pornographic genre of Japanese manga – is being blocked by Australia’s Border Force (ABF). The ban pertains to physical material only – not online hentai as seen on sites like unhentai.com.

The news came from Japanese adult retailer J-List, who posted a statement to their website alerting customers to the recent change.

hentai banned australia

J-List serves as an online retailer for international customers wishing to purchase Japanese products. The company specialises in otaku goods, anime, and manga (which also includes sex toys, cosplay, and figurines). Yet two weeks ago, the retailer took to their blog to outline recent changes to their ability to import products into Australia.

“Australia’s customs rules have made the news time and again, like when actor Johnny Depp was told to remove his dogs from the country or they’d be put down,” the website started out, jokingly referencing the time when national embarrassment Barnaby Joyce threatened to remove (or even kill) Depp and Amber Heard’s two Yorkshire Terriers after they were illegally brought over from California.

“Now Australia is killing off any chance of waifus entering the county because we’ve had to stop shipping there,” J-List continued. In hentai and manga, ‘waifus’ is a fictional female character to which one is attracted.

The statement goes onto reveal that the company had received a call from DHL Japan the week prior, informing them that “Australian customs have started rejecting packages containing any adult product”.  This includes any products marked +18, such as hentai, sexual figurines, and onaholes (basically a Japanese version of a fleshlight).

DHL advised J-List to stop sending adult products to Australia effective immediately, and any orders which had already been placed were returned to the retailer the following week.

“The best way to avoid getting anyone’s hopes up of receiving something new, shiny, and for adults only is to cease shipping adult products to Australia,” J-List conceded.

Whilst there doesn’t appear to be any clear explanation behind the ban, J-List quotes the ABF website, which offers up a broad definition of items which constitute “illegal pornography”, and are hence banned from being imported into the country.

“Publications, films, computer games and any other goods that describe, depict, express or otherwise deal with matters of sex, … in such a way that they offend against the standards of morality, decency and propriety generally accepted by reasonable adults are not allowed,” the website describes.

hentai banned australia

The most likely reason for hentai’s sudden inclusion in the ABF’s definition of illegal pornography seems to be due to fears that it enables the entry of child pornography into the country.

It comes after it was discovered earlier in 2020 that videos and comic books containing sexual images of children (including child rape) were being sold in Australia, prompting two South Australian politicians to call for a review of classification laws. A few months later, the AFP also revealed that the largest-ever number of child sex dolls had been intercepted on their way into the country in the first half of this year.

Yet, many are calling the move hypocritical – citing the recent controversy involving the sexualised depiction of children in Netflix’s Cuties which is still available to stream in Australia – and even racist. Some have claimed that anyone caught with the material can now face harsh penalties.

Whilst some characters depicted in hentai may “look” underage – much in the same way that some actresses in western porn might too – hentai is in no way synonymous with child pornography.

In reality, the heavy-handed approach of a complete hentai ban reeks more of the kind of pervasive conservatism which currently resides in the nation’s policy-making. A hentai ban for this reason is basically the equivalent of banning all porn entirely because child porn exists.

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of explanation surrounding what’s going on, and whether there’ll be any review of these new restrictions – even more reason why we so desperately need things like diversification of media and increased political accountability in this country, in order to shift the veil of information obscurity.