Hentai manga to take the world

Toshio Maeda

A work by Toshio Maeda

TOKYO (TR) – Toshio Maeda is doing some touch-up work on a drawing of a female athlete possessing muscular arms and perky breasts that bulge from around her tight-fitting blue bikini. He begins on her face and scrolls down his 2-in-1 computer screen and digital drawing tablet, making small additions to her already highly detailed form.

Just before he advances the drawing stylus down to work on her lower half, the bespectacled 49-year old explains that most of his fans don’t like looking at simply a muscled woman. He then grins and taps the stylus once more. The screen regenerates with a large phallic protrusion from her crotch area. “So I like doing something different,” he says.

For decades in Japan, the detective, romance, sci-fi, and sports stories typically found in manga serials have simply been a means of enduring a long train commute or passing time on a lunch break. But today the twists and turns that take place in these surreal worlds are gaining a following overseas, a trend that makes Maeda very pleased.

Maeda’s work, whether it be a 20-page manga or an anime video, is classified in the genre known as hentai, or perverted. Though there is a certain level of perversion in many forms of manga, in hentai perversion is the point. Storylines are secondary, or, perhaps more realistically, tertiary.

Hentai content concerns sexual situations in nearly any grotesque or violent possibility imaginable. The average piece begins with the action being akin to standard AV movie fare and then slowly morphs into a smoky sea of mayhem featuring busty young girls being sucked, fondled, bound, and penetrated by any of a dozen various appendages emanating from an alien, samurai, schoolmate, or any other living creature that might happen into the scene.

Nearly two decades ago, Maeda’s landmark comic book series “Urotsuki Doji,” featuring the first modern use of the tentacle as a tool for female molestation — a point of great pride for Maeda — cemented his place in history as the contemporary pioneer of the craft. Sales for the series totaled over 2 million volumes.

Toshio Maeda

Toshio Maeda

The tentacle master’s opus was subsequently made into the anime feature “Urotsuki Doji: Legend of the Overfiend.” With this release in English, Maeda’s legend grew around the world. The Erotic Anime Movie Guide claims, “No other title apart from ‘Akira’ has been so influential in the English-language market.”

Mainstream forms are undergoing a similar trend. This month Shonen Jump launched an English version of its best-selling weekly Japanese manga in the U.S. Publisher Shueisha has joined Viz Communications, Inc. to deliver such popular ongoing series as “Yu-Gi-Oh!,” “Slam Dunk,” and “Dragon Ball Z” in a monthly volume for American readers, primarily teenage boys. Initial runs will number 250,000 copies — an unprecedented circulation for such a publication.

This comes fresh on the heels of such recently successful Japanese anime features as “Pokemon” (and its seemingly endless marketing in trading cards and action figures) and Hayao Miyazaki’s “Princess Mononoke.” The latter gained accolades from Hollywood with its unique animation being seen as a true innovation in filmmaking. This year Miyazaki’s “Spirited Away” took the coveted Golden Bear at the 52nd Berlin International Film Festival Award.

For Maeda, his international audience is much more select. The artist’s latest anime home video series “La Blue Girl,” where young female superheroes band together to fend off the continual advances of man and beast, appears in a half-dozen languages.

Even though some manga has been available in the U.S. for over 10 years, Maeda sees Shonen Jump’s arrival as a potential introduction of his work to a wider audience.

“I think it’s great,” the artist says of the move overseas by the mainstream publisher. “After the audience in the U.S. reads Shonen Jump-type of manga, when they grow up, they can read our style of manga, X-rated manga, or manga stories for adults.”

Toshio Maeda

Toshio Maeda

Should Shonen Jump be a success, the potential market could be huge. Roughly 3,000 manga artists in Japan put ink to paper to crank out nearly 50 weeklies, bi-weeklies, and monthlies. Of these, about 10 can claim a circulation of over one million for each issue. The total annual sales of 600 billion yen amount to one quarter of Japan’s entire book market.

The challenges, however, will likely be numerous. For one, the storylines are different. Standard American comics, like Batman, Spiderman, and Mighty Mouse, have a hero – it is good versus evil. Manga stories are more complex, and, aside from exaggerated scenes of fantasy, violence, and sex, tend to not be too dissimilar from everyday life. Many of the most popular comics are made into evening television dramas.

Capturing the imaginations of American readers will also be a difficulty for Shonen Jump, which generates a readership of 3.4 million each week in Japan. The cultural mindset in the U.S. dictates that comic books are for children. In Japan, there is a manga title for nearly every age group.

“It is letting off steam,” Maeda says of why adults can be found in nearly every public setting in Japan leafing through page after page of their favorite manga. “We read it as a regular book.”

The reason for this can be traced to the work of Tezuka Osamu and the environment in Japan immediately following the Occupation in the 1950s. At that time, there were very few televisions. Adults, as well as children, demanded to be entertained at a reasonable level of sophistication, and Osamu delivered with the adventures of the tremendously popular Mighty Atom.

Hentai’s roots date back much further. “The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife,” an Edo Period (1603-1867) ukiyo-e woodcut by Hokusai, shows a reclining and unclothed woman being wrapped and violated by octopus tentacles.

The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife

The Dream of the Fisherman’s Wife

Though a motorbike accident a year and a half ago left him with a limited ability in his drawing hand to apply the proper pressure needed to draw with ink, Maeda can use his computer to create various characters and the script for his next anime feature, likely to be completed next year.

No matter what happens with Shonen Jump the content of Maeda’s work will not be compromised. The cutting edge will always be his drawing board. Like most artists, he believes his best work is ahead of him, and scoffs at any suggestion that “Urotsuki Doji” is his masterpiece.

In spite of requests from fans for samurai or ninja warriors to be included in his stories, Maeda says that his work will always focus on his concept of art. “Over the hill” is how he describes any artist who changes his style to meet the trends of the day.

“I have a priority to my taste,” Maeda explains. “I just want to do what I want to do. You must understand that Shonen Jump is only a seed. It is up to manga artists to cultivate it in our own way.”

That might mean a world that will one day find itself at the mercy of a tentacle embrace.

Note: This article originally appeared in November 2002 on the Sake-Drenched Postcards Web page.

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Posted by on November 19, 2008. Filed under Society. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

4 Responses to Hentai manga to take the world

  1. Pingback: Taking manga to the masses | The Tokyo Reporter - News, Features, and Photos from Tokyo

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  3. Walter Post Reply

    September 5, 2010 at 11:43 pm

    Toshio has opened his official website. Is that awesome or what?

  4. Pingback: Akihabara sleaze to be targeted in countdown to 2020 Olympics | The Tokyo Reporter

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