Hentai History: Why Tentacle Porn?

Introduction

You’ve all heard it before. You mention that you like anime, only to be met with a, “you mean those tentacle porn cartoons?” - and I’m sure only some of you say yes. But why are tentacles and and other monsters so prevalent in hentai anime and manga? To answer your question, today we’ll be looking at some hentai history and the reasons why this particular genre of anime came to be. Don’t worry, we’ll be keeping it as safe for work as possible, so there’s no images to dodge!

The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife

Tentacle porn isn’t exactly a modern idea. In fact, it’s argued that the first example of erotica involving creatures from the deep dates back to 1814, in the form of a woodblock print by ukiyo-e artist Hokusai, titled The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife. So how did that go down? Apparently pretty well, as it is considered Hokusai’s most famous shunga (Japanese erotic art) work.

So how does it compare to more modern tentacle hentai? Well, the first thing you might notice is that the woman seems to be having a pretty great time, unlike the unwilling victims in a lot of today’s hentai. She is also portrayed with more realistic proportions, and (shock horror!) body hair - both common features in shunga. As we can see from these types of artwork, Japan wasn’t exactly shy about its sexuality back then. So what happened?

A Censorship Loophole

Well to sum it up, censorship happened. And I’m not just talking censorship that happened way back. In fact, distributing “obscene materials” is still against the law in Japan today. So what makes something “obscene”? According to Article 175 of the Criminal Code of Japan, pretty much everything. Ever wondered why most guys in anime don’t have nipples (and why Yuri!!! On ICE almost never aired)? Censorship. Wondering why there’s little-to-no no body hair on most anime characters? Censorship. So what about genitalia? Nooooooo! Protect the public’s eyes!

It’s mangaka Toshio Maeda who is claimed to be the pioneer behind the idea of using tentacle porn as a way to dodge censorship laws. However, it has been pointed out that the first use was actually in the 1987 anime adaptation of, not his original 1986 manga, Urotsukidouji, and that he didn’t use it himself until Youjuu Kyoushitsu (Demon Beast Invasion) in 1989. In any case, his argument was that tentacles are not genitalia, and that the act between a human and a creature isn’t sex, meaning that tentacle hentai no longer fit the legal description of “obscene.” Sneaky.

It Sells? Run With It.

So the origins of tentacle hentai seem to be a mixture of Japan’s rich erotic history and a porn-y backlash against ridiculous censorship laws, which are still in force today. But this still leaves a question unanswered - why is there so damn much of it? Well, the fact is, tentacle hentai sells. In fact, it apparently sells especially well in the west, where many people seem to have a holier-than-thou attitude about it. Go figure.

As for why it sells, your guess is as good as mine. We could say that the media attention the genre received, despite mostly being negative, piqued people’s curiosity. Maybe viewing a woman being taken by ominous, giant tentacles is a way to take yourself out of the sexual equation, or if you’re a woman, provide an outlet for your sexuality which, in Japan, you’re pretty much not allowed to have (hence the high rate of non-consensual sex in anime). Or maybe the creators and viewers are just really into the fantasy of having sex with sea creatures. Whatever the case may be, it’s not my place to judge. Hey, whatever rocks your boat my friend, just keep the octopi fictional.

Final Thoughts

So there we have it, a taste of hentai history for you all. Did you know about the history behind tentacle hentai? How do you feel about the genre? More importantly, how do you deal with those people who think that all anime is tentacle porn? Let us know in the comments, and if you have any other questions about anime porn, we can always bring you more hentai history! Until next time, stay away from the giant squid, kids.

Ellyn Barnes

Editor/Translator

Author: Ellyn Barnes

Gudetama goods collector with a soft spot for seiyuu and an undying love for Matsuoka Rin. When I'm not smashing out the latest news in the office, you'll find me holed up at home watching anime, playing rhythm games, and sobbing because Miyano Mamoru exists. Other interests include reading far too much bad BL and occasionally trying to create stuff.

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