WTF?!? Japan – Eroge/Visual Novel Pet Peeves

Haganai_shark

Against my better judgment, I decided I’d like to write a review on the game Daibanchou: Big Bang Age. You see, Daibanchou is an eroge with RPG elements. For those of you who don’t know, an eroge – sometimes called a hentai game or H-game – is a Japanese video game that features erotic content, most often with anime-style artwork. So you can probably see why I’d be hesitant to post something like this in a public forum. This is not that post, by the way. Look for the review/final impressions in my next post, which should hopefully be up not long after this one. This is more of a warm-up for that review so you can understand my head-space while I was playing it.

To be honest, I don’t play very many eroges or visual novels in general; I think I’ve only ever played about five in total, but that’s not to say I’m not overly familiar with them because when you’re inundated in the culture, you tend to pick up on a lot of things. Truth be told I’m kind of a sucker for an attractive character design and am compelled to discover the character’s origin. Researching trivial things is kind of my forte.

How can I say no to this face?

How can I say no to this?

Personally, I tend to find them a bit tedious and trite in a lot of ways. CG stills of sex scenes do very little for me and the cringe-worthy dialogue and narration describing the sexual encounter in detail does even less for me. But as you may know, many of the romantic-comedy anime shows out there these days are actually based on preexisting eroges that have been stripped down into one route and with all of the sexual content completely removed. These are often referred to as harem shows, and they usually end with the protagonist either choosing one specific girl or never settling and keeping the possibilities open for all of the harem candidates. So sometimes it’s tempting to check out the other story possibilities the multiple routes provide, while also potentially satisfying one’s curiosity as to how all the sex factors in.

That having been said, I have a few problems in general with these sorts of games and I kind of wanted to clear the air and explain why. That’s kind of why I created this blog in the first place (to air grievances, not discuss eroge). Granted, it’s probably a bit unfair to put this under the WTF?!? Japan banner, but given that it’s somewhat related and I’m about to crap all over the eroge format, it seemed only fitting.

In brief, here are some of my own personal dislikes that I find difficult to endure while playing H-games. Some of these could also apply to hentai shows as well. Obviously some people may have differing opinions, and that’s fine, but these are mine:

1. Assumes all girls mature at the same rate – I’m not sure why this bothers me so much, but it has always been one of my biggest pet peeves with eroge. As you probably know, visual novels usually consist of several different routes to take based on the choices the player makes when given the opportunity at several intervals during the course of the game. The decision made often leads to a deviation in the story, most often in the form of settling on one specific romantic choice, or “conquest” as they’re often sexistly referred to, amongst the multiple girls. Oh, and most games involve high-school-age characters.

So to clarify, what I mean here is that in all of the routes, the male protagonist will eventually have sex with the often-virgin female, which means that if one were to think of the multiple conquest branches as parallel timelines, each girl would decide to give away their virginity at around the same time. This has always bothered me because it assumes that all girls, despite their obviously differing personalities, will decide that they are mature enough or ready for sex at exactly the same time. Reality doesn’t work that way; some people are early-bloomers and others tend to wait until some time after high school, while others don’t believe in premarital sex at all. My perspective on this may seem weird to some, but it’s something that bothers me because it feels like it goes against the concept of individualism.

On a related note, in most cases the female characters don’t seem overly bothered by the male protagonist giving it away left and right, they’re just disappointed that he hasn’t slept with them yet (which inevitably doesn’t last long). Essentially, jealousy is a very foreign concept in these games and the male protagonist never faces any consequences for his philandering ways. I understand that this is pure male fantasy, but it’s not very realistic and again assumes that all girls are cool with this sort of thing with no digressions of character individualism. It just rubs me the wrong way.

2. Little choice of initial heroine – As an almost universal rule, I have often found that the “primary” heroine for most visual novels and harem anime is usually the most annoying or least likeable. This is why playing the original material can be satisfying because it allows one to experience what the story would be like if the male protagonist focused on one of the more likeable characters. It helps satisfy that fantasy “what-if” scenario that is the backbone of fanfiction.

But sometimes a visual novel will force the player to play through the primary heroine’s route before any of the other girls can be unlocked, causing it to take that much longer to scratch that “what-if” itch with the preferred heroine. That can be very frustrating and I much prefer games that allow the player to choose whichever path they want from the get-go.

No. Just no.

No. Just no.

3. Lack of focus – A lot of visual novels feel like they’re literally narrating a person’s day-to-day life, so it feels like a lot of extraneous details are included that would normally be excised in a novel or movie. As a result, we get long, drawn out stories with far too many seemingly unrelated tangents. This sort of thing tends to bore me. It’s like reading The Lord of the Rings when Tolkien will go on for three pages describing a bunch of trees. They’re beautiful trees, I get it, but please get back to the main focus of the story. I’m a big fan of efficiency and hope to find as much in the stories I read.

4. Anticipation leads to let-down – Most often it seems as though eroges are designed with the primary purpose of unlocking sex scenes, often through multiple play-throughs or by making the right decision, with the story feeling a bit secondary. As an achievement whore with the personal issue of desiring immediate satisfaction, this means that I feel compelled to unlock all of said scenes in the quickest, most efficient way possible. As such, the anticipation of getting to these inevitable sex scenes distracts me from the story being told, and then I inevitably find myself bored with the scenes once I get to them, because as stated previously, still images of sex do little for me. I am very much a visually stimulated person, and I prefer to see the action, not have it narrated to me with a flat, unchanging picture behind it.

It also doesn’t help that the male protagonist rarely puts up any sort of resistance to the sexing from girls that are not his girlfriend or romantic interest of choice. They just go with the flow without so much as a “maybe we shouldn’t be doing this” or even actively pursue the “affair” as it were. This makes the protagonist a bit of a selfish and unrepentant ass which certainly diminishes any respect for the character and as a result dampens the player’s mood while watching the h-scenes.

The scenes also feels extraneous, as mentioned above. Unless the sex is the plot, the details of what goes on between the characters in the bedroom is of little consequence to the story. That’s why Hollywood movies often use an artsy montage sex scene to simply give the general impression of the sexual encounter rather than going into a ten-minute-long porn-style sex scene. And please note that I said minutes, not inches!

Best of both worlds?

Best of both worlds?

It pulls the viewer out of the story and would just feel out of place.

As a result I usually just end up fast-forwarding through the narration during these parts just to get back to the story, in anticipation of the scenario that will lead to the next unlockable. That’s actually the weird part. I’m more curious of the situations that lead to the sex rather than the sex itself – in games of course, not reality. It’s all about the build-up, the thrill of the chase more-so than crossing the finish line. So if anyone has ever played these sorts of games, they’ll know that there is the option to replay these scenes in the Extras/Gallery menu once they’ve been unlocked. But these replays never include the build-up to that moment, even the brief conversation that occurs immediately prior, so it’s difficult to fully comprehend the context surrounding the scene the player is watching. Sure, for most people the sole purpose is to have something to fap to, context be damned, but I don’t operate that way; I prefer the context.

Context is important!

Context matters!

5. Ridiculous scenarios for sexual encounters – Unfortunately context isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be. In order to fit in the sex scenes, sometimes with the protagonist bedding multiple women throughout the course of a game, often-times ridiculous scenarios are presented in order to facilitate them, such as the female slipping and coming face to face with the dude’s crotch, only to have her inexplicably unzipping his pants a second later. It’s a bit juvenile and feels more like a teenager’s fantasy that anything resembling realism. Then again, these games are probably aimed at teenagers and young twenty-somethings anyway, so it’s probably fitting. I just find it seriously takes away from the immersion when I have to smack my forehead in disbelief.

6. Japanese version is censored – This one is more of a principal-of-the-matter sort of thing. I don’t believe in censorship when it comes to fully-consenting adults. If I have a problem with something, I can choose not to watch it. But Japan has this strange law where all genitalia must be censored to a certain degree for all media, including porn. That means all porn will have genitals pixelated or outright whited out, or in the case of manga and doujinshi (fan-made books), very tiny, almost-useless censor bars placed atop the holes of said sexual organs. I personally find the notion of censoring porn to be ridiculous because the whole point of porn is to watch a bunch of naked people make the beast with two backs (or multiple backs depending on your fetish), so it’s not like someone will accidentally see a penis that they weren’t already expecting to see. Games imported for the American market will be uncensored, but none of the copies sold in Japan are allowed to be.

I'm having flashbacks to scrambled porn!

I’m having flashbacks to scrambled porn!

7. Need to cater to multiple fetishes – There are many different sexual fetishes in the world, no matter how strange, lewd or disgusting; that’s a well-known fact. But the advent of the internet has allowed people to share their fetishes with the world, allowing us all a glimpse of just how many people share similar fetishes, as well as providing us with the ability to satisfy those fetishes with the click of the mouse. Therefore, what titillates one person may have no effect on another, and vice versa.

Games are in the business of selling as many copies as possible to make money; it’s as simple as that. Therefore, in order to cater to the largest possible audience, the game designers throw in as many scenes satisfying as many different fetishes as possible, ranging from oral, bondage, anal, orgies, lolicon or shota and even scat or urine fetishes in some cases. If that’s your thing, great, you’re in luck. But chances are a lot of people might not be into that stuff and so it becomes more of a turn-off for them, just as those that love some of the more wayward fetishes may think the same thing about the other fetishes. In order to appease a larger number of people, players must put up with sexual situations they may not be comfortable with or may find disturbing, sometimes involving their favorite character, which can be a bit disheartening.

8. Rape is way too prevalent – As the title suggests, rape is one of those fetishes that gets visited a lot in Japanese hentai. Yes, it turns some people on, but I don’t feel it’s appropriate to portray a criminal and deeply traumatic act so light-heartedly, and certainly not in great narrative detail as they do. It certainly doesn’t help that a lot of the time, the female being raped ultimately begins to enjoy what should be a traumatic and abusive experience, thereby implying that it’s okay since she liked it in the end. It is not okay! It never is!

Sad but true.

Sad but true.

We often play games to get away from reality, and unfortunately rape is a very real issue. The statistics show that one in four women have been or will be raped in their lifetime. That’s an obscene number, and personally, I don’t want to be reminded of such a terrible event while I’m trying to enjoy entertainment. If it feels necessary for a story then so be it, but the sheer prevalence of rape and the detail ascribed to it in these games is simply disgusting and ruins the impact for when it is needed from a narrative standpoint.

9. Sudden personality changes during sex – This is probably my biggest pet peeve when it comes to hentai. Once-sympathetic male protagonists often become dominating assholes during sex scenes while even strong females become extremely submissive by constantly whining about being embarrassed about everything. The female’s response, while annoying, is at least understandable given the patriarchal culture of Japan. That is where these games originate after all. That doesn’t justify it, mind you, but it does explain it.

But it’s the males that really stick in my craw. It seems that more times than not a well-meaning guy will get a swelled head (two to be precise) and let his confidence from being in a sexual situation turn him into Captain Dickhead, forcing his way on the women and being borderline abusive. There’s a difference between being the instigator or dominant one in an intimate situation as opposed to be a controlling and forceful douchebag. So as much as the women may beg the protagonist not to do a certain act, such as anal or even climaxing inside them and thereby raising the chance of pregnancy, he’ll just do whatever he wants, usually while being verbally dismissive or outright mean-spirited. It feels kind of rapey, in my opinion, and lowers my respect for the character. It doesn’t help that the females are often overly-obliging, putting up little to no resistance after the initial “no.”

So there you have it. As stated, everyone has their own opinion on these sorts of things, though. Take it or leave it, this just happens to be mine.