Sex Should Be More Prominent in Anime

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I know what you’re thinking. “But how could sex be any more prominent in anime?! There are ecchi shows being released every season, and sexual fan service/tension has been a staple of even the most innocent anime out there! Why would you want to add more?!” I can see why one might assume this based on the title of this post alone. Though, perhaps, one should take it in a more literal sense.

There should be more sex in anime; the actual act of two (or more, why not?) characters performing sexual intercourse. It will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever happen, but I think a more liberal mindset on the topic could benefit the medium (along with others stringent about it) in a multitude of ways, whether carnal or artistic.

While my pessimistic attitude towards its representation in anime may lead one to believe that sex has never been a proponent in anime ever, there are a few anime that I’ve seen that use it outside of audience stimulation and just for the sake of it. Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt is basically the antithesis to the anime medium’s straightforward conservatism regarding the topic, and therefore doesn’t entirely count to what I’m trying to argue. And, of course, ecchi-harem shows and the like are simply used for audience stimulation. I’m referring to anime who use sex as a means of improving the product, or giving an added boost of “realism” (relative term) to the characters or the narrative focus.

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White Album 2Tsurezure Children, and Speed Grapher are all examples of anime off the top of my head that encourage the use of sex as a means of something more than erotic stimulation. Before digging into them, I’ll give an obligatory spoiler warning to those who haven’t seen them and would like to go in blind—more specifically to White Album 2 and Speed Grapher.

White Album 2 is a pretty good anime. I’ll throw that out there first thing; go check it out. It’s also notable for the opening scene of its last episode, which “shows” (relative term) sexual intercourse between two of its three main characters. The tension up to this point is caused by the male lead forming a romantic relationship with one of the two female leads, while secretly harboring a more stable connection with the one he isn’t sharing that commitment with. The sex involved is a testament to how strongly he (and she, additionally for him) feels for her, and a betrayal of his morals when concerning his relationship with the other woman. During the scene, his cell phone goes off, signaling a call from said current girlfriend. He waves it off.

Its execution is also commendable, as a sole violin (or whatever woodwind instrument) plays a somber tune whilst the activity is ongoing. It portrays the act as bittersweet, as the two who truly feel most loved within each other’s arms are perfectly aware that the decision will destroy their bond with the other female lead, with whom they share a deep friendship and band with. It stirs an emotional despair within the audience for the emotions these characters cannot control (because they’re hormonal teenagers, and it’s justified) while also painting a picture of how committed they are to showing it. Sex in and of itself is a lot more damning than a kiss, a hug, or sweet words, with its use here becoming the ultimate point of no return that ends the carefree relationship these three at one point lived within. Muah!

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The use of sex in Speed Grapher is a little less romantically charged (and effective, though that’s likely attributed to the quality of the series). The male lead has a stalker in the form of a female police officer who’s known for violent altercations. Somewhere around the mid-point of the series, she kidnaps him and rapes him while he’s unconscious in an attempt to receive some direct affection from him, affection he is never willing to give. This (hopefully) isn’t a case of sex for the use getting the viewer aroused, but a more psychological reasoning for the strange and obscene mannerisms of an uncanny character. For as bland as Speed Grapher is altogether, sex made a particularly memorable scene stand out from the rest.

Likely the most straightforward example is the use of (almost) sex in Tsurezure Children, where a specific couple becomes tempted into doing so for the sake of proving to one another that they’re mature enough (and close enough) to handle it. Such is the industry (and within the context of the scene), the moment is constantly interrupted by the mother of one of the kids, primarily for the sake of humor. Sex can also be used for a plethora of comedic situations (not including the “Are they having sex in there?! I’m gonna barge into a room where they’re doing something that’s not sex!”), as well as show the realism present in teenagers around the world. Teenagers like sex. Too many male protagonists scoff at sex as though it’s a poisonous substance, which is why male leads such as ones from High School DxD are so refreshing. It makes a more relatable and more realistic representation of the target demographic to have characters think of sex within a romantic or sexually-tensile situation—male or female.

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Though simply stating that sex should be more prevalent is a danger of letting a slippery slope evolve into a wave of sexual acts being shown for the sake of showing sexual acts. It’s hard to find an adequate balance of what is and what isn’t too much of a particular “trend” or activity present that could improve the quality of entertainment, and it also depends on the preferences of the creators themselves, as well as who they’re directing their art to. Would a series such as Kimi ni Todoke be better if the main couple-to-be were to have sex in the end? Is a manga like Domestic na Kanojo better for having two strangers have sex in the very first chapter, only to have their relationship build from there? The use of sex and how prevalent it is in comparison to the atmosphere or feel of a subject could be ripe for criticism, regardless of whether or not the industry it aligns with is so devoid of it. I suppose the sole argument I’m trying to make it that sex should appear when sex can be naturally assumed, instead of prolonging the inevitable by having the characters act like cowards or outside of their respective personalities. Could I see Taiga and Ryuuji from Toradora! having sex in the end? Absolutely. Could I see Takeo and Yamato from Ore Monogatari!! having sex in the end? Probably not.

You may now retract the fingered shield from your eyes and calm your blushing cheeks, for my article is nearly at an end. Sex is an activity that should not be manipulated for profit or hidden out of fear of unruly behavior—hell, with Japan’s supposed population decline, I’d think they’d want to make sex more prominent in daily life. As a fool with a romanticist’s heart, sex is a beautiful catalyst for showcasing the ultimate bond between two people. Of course, it could also just be a timekiller, a deranged message for help, or the key to unleashing evil upon the tangible world. Whatever sex is used for, I only wish the artistically-minded creators behind the medium I’m so fond of could incorporate it more to help build upon the potential impact that their series could exhibit.

9 thoughts on “Sex Should Be More Prominent in Anime

  1. There’s some others where sex happens. There’s Rah Xephon, where the girl with a serious crush on the hero sleeps with him, then dies horribly in battle. There’s His and Her Circumstances, about halfway through, since the destined couple has SERIOUS ISSUES, and the show changes focus to other characters shortly after this. Ai Yori Aoshi has sex between the destined couple in the second season.
    There’s one about a guy who works for a flower shop woman while temporarily possessed by the ghost of dead ex husband, name escapes me.
    There’s also Please Teacher, where the characters are married. and a couple other characters who get engaged and get it on.
    So sex in anime isn’t completely non-existent, but its not usually broadcast on their TV. Direct to video OVAs are harder to make money from when you automatically limit sales to over 20 (legal adult in japan). So anime without sex are much easier to profit from and thus sex in anime is seriously rare.

    • “There’s one about a guy who works for a flower shop woman while temporarily possessed by the ghost of dead ex husband, name escapes me.”

      Oh, shit, you’re right! I just saw that anime last year and completely forgot about that.

      I realize why sex is limited within the anime industry and how it goes through the legal processing system and profit concerns. In the end, everything about the business of anime is about profit. I’m just arguing that there should be more, profits be damned, to make for more realistic and/or romantic and/or impactful series for anime viewers to indulge in. I already noted it will never ever, ever, ever, ever, ever happen, but wanted to get my thoughts out on it. Thanks for the insightful comment and for reading!

      • If you limit anime to Japan then you are right. However, when you consider that Avatar was American anime, and all the DC comics Batman anime were clearly anime rather than just cartoons, and next consider the new Voltron, which is American anime by the same Avatar guys, theres serious potential for anime to be created OUTSIDE Japan, without its limitations. This means we might see a good serious anime with sex etc in the style of Brazilian Scifi combined with a telenovela, and redubbed with English and other languages. It isn’t like the technology is out of reach of a basic computer lab. Even rendering at typical anime levels isn’t unreasonable with a small crew of people, and Japan has been outsourcing around 1/3 of its work to Vietnam, noteworthy for shows with girls who are chestier and more flirtatious than the stuff from Korea. Its a short distance for Vietnam to take their existing production teams to contract stories from other countries in the typical anime style. So never ever is overlooking the potential of other players with looser broadcast standards.

  2. I kind of don’t mind the absence of sex. To be honest, while I don’t avoid things that include sex, I prefer it when it is implied rather than shown. Mostly because once you know two characters are going to have sex, unless some amazing plot changing conversation occurs during the act, it is just dead story time. I kind of feel the same in books. I read romance novels (in amongst everything else) and find myself regularly just skipping through the pages containing sex scenes. Not because I’m offended or put off (given I’m reading a romance novel) but because the story gets put on hold while the writer shows off how beautifully they can phrase the moans and caresses. Of course, I’m kind of feel the same way about excessive setting description or overly long fight sequences being described in detail.
    Still, the point is well made that avoiding two characters having sex because of censorship concerns is also kind of unnatural given how many romances barely get to a kiss in anime.

    • Agreed, and well said. To compare, there’s plenty of examples of action and combat and such all being used to further the story and the characters, but there aren’t that many of sex being used in a similar way. Indeed, most of the worst action-based stories suck so badly simply because that is where they fail: the action becomes a flashy (sometimes disturbing) placeholder instead of something important and relevant.

    • Leave it to Karandi to say what I was thinking before I had a chance to (and I concur about fight sequences, too!). ;-p There are times when sex, or even more intimate experiences in general, are more powerful narratologically when they are implied rather than shown. In fact, this may be part of the reason that anime, as a Japanese art form, treats explicit depictions of sex as transgressive (which of course does not mean they don’t happen): Historically, Japanese narratives and poetry make a point of communicating *very* obliquely about sexual encounters, even when it’s absolutely obvious what going on. Murasaki’s medieval “Tale of the Genji” is pretty much about a royal Casanova conquering noble women—and it’s absolutely beautiful how the sexual encounters are ‘dressed’ in poetry and nuance, to a degree rarely found in Western literature. Not saying that’s the only reason, but I do think it plays a part.

      If I had to summarize your post in a phrase, Kapodaco, it sounds to me like you’re asking for a shift in the *attitude* towards sex from anime: not so much for ‘fanservice’ or similar, but to strengthen the story itself. I would wholeheartedly support such a shift (not that the anime industry will ever ask my advice!). 😉

  3. The narrative of sex in a story enriching it rather putting a bright red sign in the middle of the road halting the story for simple fan service is a view I agree with and you explained your points deeply and thoughtfully.

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